By Tami Warren
A verb is described as an action, state, or occurrence and forming the main part of the predicate of a sentence. Being an ally is a verb; your taking action is required. It takes courage and awareness to call out racism and bigotry. When engaging in dialogue, be armed with knowledge, not defensive posturing. I encourage reading and absorbing the lessons of Michelle Alexander, Jane Elliott and Peggy McIntosh. We are on this journey together, apathy or cynicism to racism prolongs its stay. We are all connected, whether we want to be or not. There is no middle ground on racism. There should be no debate on the impact of systematic racism. Responding to Black Lives Matter with all lives matter is an omission of intellect and fact based decision-making. When elimination of racism is predicated solely on hope rather than action and intellect the challenge of ending racism becomes one of measured empathy rather than tangible results. I am not depleting the value of empathy; compassion and generosity cannot be under appreciated. However, circular conversations about racism do not advance forward, instead it stalls at a place of comfort and convenience for the white majority. These conversations usually conclude with white people being filled with promise, as they have discussed racism using largely innocuous language that makes them feel comfortable.
It was a spectacle to behold whenever I observed white women deny taking action on what they knew and understood was racist, by allowing it into spaces that were suppose to be professional, educational or at a minimum neutral. The vast majority of white women refuse to hold other white women accountable, they choose to look the other way, supporting the power structure established by white men in the proliferation of racism by direct action or silence. I implore white women to be accountable and not enable racism. White women must get over themselves and their unnerving internal fear of the possible sensations of guilt, shame or the horror of sharing culpability in the continued structural impact of racism. This is not about blame or shame; it is about recognizing your privilege (a word most white women find more difficult to stomach than carbohydrates) and standing with Black women. We can accomplish great progress together if white women are able to grow beyond the denial of systemic racism and its impact and accept that although white women didn’t ask for the upper hand or an advantage over Black women, they indeed do have it.
Peggy McIntosh wrote, “After I realized the extent to which men work from a base of unacknowledged privilege, I understood that much of their oppressiveness was unconscious. Then I remembered the frequent charges from women of color that white women whom they encounter are oppressive.” Self-reflection is tough work, allowing yourself to take a rigorous view into your own actions and thoughts can be painful. But the insight gained is worth it. Black women have lived having our very being denied, our bodies considered property, our children taken, our culture erased, our beauty evaluated as unappealing. Yet still, Black women stand ready, not resentful, to work with white women. May I ask that white women take a step away from ego, away from defensive shadows, away from denial and hear our voices, and our stories? Black women have had no choice but to hear white women, making their battles our battles, as we historically have supported white women through struggle and strife. Just as white women encourage the voices of each other, they too must encourage the voices of Black women.
Being a women is far more than having a vagina or mammary glands. When women hold back one another to sustain and promote the status quo, women are inevitably are holding themselves back. White men may dominate and have power over the majority of industry and government, however women are capable of overcoming this dominance, bringing equity. William F. Buckley stated, “Freedom breeds inequity,” he was wrong. Freedom cultivates justice inequity does not grow in a true democracy. I say to white women, Black women are not your enemy, Black women are your equal. Do not comfortably coalesce with white men who see corporations as being a person, while not seeing Black people as actual people. Corporate personhood should be an oxymoron, not a protected status. Oh yes, the long fought struggle of corporations against all the odds for their respective civil rights, as a majority white ruled court deemed racial minorities of not deserving protection as corporations do. Embracing financial quiescence in the face of racism is immoral. Women, we are better than this.
In 2010 during his stand up special Charmageddon Hal Sparks said he is vehemently against use of the word pussy to describe a weak person, because the vagina is the tougher of the two genitals by a long shot. Sparks is right, testicles are not tough. Let’s stop buying into this as well. The next time someone exhibits behavior that could be described as strong or tough, don’t say you’ve got balls, instead state with unwavering pride, “You’ve got vagina.”