Once upon a time, the word “ally” used to mean something, but it has since been co-opted and corrupted. Fair-weather friends, white guilt mourners, corporations, and vapid celebrities/politicians have taken the word and abused it for their own benefit. It has become a term that “others” folks and pedestals ourselves. Ally seems to suggest that WE’RE different. It gives US more power. It allows OUR sorrow to be heard. Says that WE need to be the ones to stand with the oppressed to make a difference. Ally is a loaded term that carries with it images of long Facebook rants, online petitions, political photo ops, and celebrities singing “Imagine” instead of actually changing shit. Anyone can be an “ally” but not everyone can stand as a brother, sister, or non-binary comrade in a fight. I argue that all of us (white people especially) should cast the word “ally” aside in the pursuit of social justice.
I’m aware that I have used the term “ally” in past posts and those pieces will remain untouched for full transparency. I changed my opinion largely because Facebook friends have revealed just how useless the term actually is. The death of George Floyd was tragic and inspired a lot of folks to actively get involved, but goddamn did it also inspire some hackneyed posts that reeked of white guilt. Most of these friends have been silent about systemic racism and actively benefited from it, but HEY the change train is coming so hop right on. A long Facebook rant about how your family just doesn’t get it or how you’re very sad about white supremacy does not solve anything. White tears for how hard you have it these days actively harms the movement because it draws attention away from core issues. Real “allies” wouldn’t be posting about how the oppression of others is making them feel because they’d be too busy fighting alongside them. Does this mean you can’t share your views? Good question. Do your views make you seem like the victim here? If so, don’t share them.
Let’s talk about so-called allies in the fight for racial equality first. Black History Month is a time when billion dollar companies, politicians, celebrities, and slacktivists can come together and celebrate people they had to google beforehand. “Fred Hampton? He made peanut butter or something right?” If they aren’t Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr, or Malcolm X (with the one or two quotes that are white media-friendly) there’s a good chance that mainstream allies are going to forget about their contributions. Despite police brutality, systemic racism, and rampant discriminatory practices, people will latch onto Black History Month as a time of back pats instead of dealing with any of the issues above. Same goes for Indigenous History Month which Canadians love to celebrate while our cops murder Indigenous women in their homes, reserve lands have tainted water, treaties are ignored, sovereign lands are invaded, and Indigenous peoples make up 1/3rd of our prison despite being 5% of the general population. Plenty of “Respect Indigenous Sovereignty” or “Black Lives Matter” posts are shared with no teeth to back them up. Unsurprising.
Systemic racism is bad enough, but these people/companies latch onto LGBTQ+ causes just as much especially in June. Pride month is when shithole companies, banks, and police precincts will deck themselves out in rainbows and pretend as if they don’t stand against progress every other goddamn month. You wonder why we don’t want cops at Pride? We don’t want bank/business sponsorship? Isn’t that discrimination? Ask that to the victims of Canada’s “gay purge” which started in the 1950s and continued until the 90s and cost LGBTQ+ folks an estimated 9000 jobs. Who led this assault on human rights? The RCMP of course who keep up their track record of crap. There are also thousands of people you can’t ask because the cops have killed them for being gay or ignored their pleas as other bigots did the deed. Banks, big business, and politicians use Pride as a time to make money and buy votes. We’re expected to ignore their sins because they’re being “allies” right now. Pay no mind to the LGBTQ+ folks that are denied mortgages or hit with higher charges than cis customers. Turn your head away from the businesses that discriminate during the hiring process or offer a hostile workplace 40 hours a week. Your representative is wearing a rainbow boa so let’s forget about the bill they put forward to “protect family values” or “fund conversion therapy”. Often they are allies for show and nothing more.
“But you’ve mostly mentioned cops, companies, and politicians here. What do they have to do with the regular people who are allies?” I hear you saying through your computer screen. They are all intertwined in this discussion. The money makers and foot soldiers of the State are allowed to pretend to be allies because the regular public gives them leave to do so. We don’t call them out on their hypocrisy, we take their bribes and funding, we accept their “protection”, and all it costs is our soul. You can’t call yourself an ally of LGBTQ+ or BIPOC rights if you don’t expose this kind of systemic bullshit and the people who flaunt it. You posting a rant about why Black Lives Matter won’t do much if you’re also supporting companies/politicians/celebrities who work against it. Regular folks who tout themselves as allies need to think critically about where their allyship starts and where it ends.
The final issue with the word ally (beyond it often being fake) is how it makes some people feel entitled to help. As I stated in the opening of this piece, some perhaps well-meaning people want to change and help, but get hung up on their own issues and bring them to a table where they’re not welcome. They are filled with their own misconceptions, liberal bias, state-sanctioned education, and white guilt and feel as though they MUST help the cause and if you don’t accept their help it’s because you’re the misguided one. The picture above illustrates this perfectly. People let their beliefs and “hurt feelings” get in the way of actively standing beside their brothers, sisters, and non-binary friends in the struggle for liberation. Don’t do this. Abandon the “you” in the idea of allyship and maybe we can bring some meaning back to the word.
I wanted to write this piece because I don’t like feeling animosity towards people who I assume want to do some good. The idea of being an ally isn’t a harmful one and I sincerely believe (some) people are trying their best to make a difference. My problem is that the word has become an easy “get out of shame” card without any thought behind it. Anyone can call themselves an ally, but it takes real action to make yourself one. You can’t just paint a rainbow on a Starbucks window and say LGBTQ+ discrimination is solved. You can’t celebrate Indigenous History Month while actively supporting a pipeline through unceded territory. You can’t tell me Black Lives Matter one day and then show me a “police hugging video” the next. These may seem like small examples, but they are all harmful because they don’t solve anything and actively work against positive changes. You can be an upstanding ally by marching, going to actions, sharing important links/stories, GoFundMe donations, bail funds, challenging hateful opinions from friends and family, calling out hypocrisy from businesses, politicians, cops, and celebrities, and supporting LGBTQ+ and BIPOC businesses, artists, and activists. It’s your choice if you want to still consider yourself an ally, but really put some thought into it as you go. The word has lost a lot of its power over the years and should be reclaimed, but are your actions actually helping to do that? Are you being an ally for others or for yourself? Think about it and then get to work.
Thanks again for reading and I’m sorry for taking so long to post. June was a hellish month. Anyway, thanks and I hope to see you again. Solidarity, my friends.