Defining Allyship in #BlackLivesMatter

I think we can all safely agree that things feel very uncomfortable right now. In the midst of the discomfort, I feel an intense sadness. I think it is worth saying we must all do our own work and take personal responsibility to educate ourselves so we can do better. This is what I am trying to do and will continue to do so. I believe so much that we are good people and we collectively want peace and to be free to pursue happiness. To quote writer Julio Vincent Gambuto "We are a good people. And as a good people, we want to define — on our own terms — what this country looks like in five, ten, fifty years. This is our chance to do that, the biggest one we have ever gotten. And the best one we’ll ever get."

This quote is taken from this article: "Prepare for the Ultimate Gaslighting" which was a piece reflecting on Covid-19, though I feel it can be applied to the current landscape of #BlackLivesMatter and the social and political conversations and actions happening right now.

While I believe we all want peace and we all want the freedom to pursue happiness, I recognize that the tools given to each of us are not all created equal. 

It's a bit like someone saying "You can have this delicious cake right here... but person A you get a fork, it's beautiful stainless steel and shiny (and new!) Person B, you get a plastic spork. Person C you get this plastic knife. Person D, well sorry, we ran out of utensils but this wooden popsicle stick will probably do the trick!"

I think it is perfectly ok for you to recognize that from the beginning the system isn't set up fairly for everyone to get a chance at eating the cake. Recognizing this doesn't make you a bad person. 

If you are white, most likely you are given the beautiful shiny fork. Not all the time, but well like a lot of the times. I am an immigrant woman of color and I can say with my upbrining I might be given the plastic knife, maybe even the spork on occasion if I'm going to be really honest with myself because I grew up in an interracial household. I recognize this. Despite the fact I have experienced racism myself, I recognize that the tools given are not all equal for the desired result: eating delicious cake! 

I have started to do my own research and to look into myself and ask "Am I racist?" No, no I'm not.

But am I anti-racist? Well, here in lies the discomfort for me. And perhaps you share in this discomfort with me. It's OK. We're here, we're aware, and we're going to take steps forward. I won't ever claim to have all of the answers or even any or be an expert on any of this. Truthfully, my own journey and personal story of acknowledging how I have experienced racism in nuanced and large ways is something I am (painfully) going through right now and will be for awhile.  

I'm ok with the discomfort. What I'm not ok with is tearing people down. Please, let's be kind to one another. 

A friend of mine shared this link: "7 Ways To Be An Effective Ally For The Black Community, Because Virtue Signaling Is Not It" and I found it so very useful! It lead me to a lot of different resources and most notably to a woman named Rachel Cargle, a public academic, writer, and lecturer. 

I watched her Ted Talk "Coming To Terms With Racism's Inertia: Ancestral Accountability" and in it she defines what it really means to be an ally for the black community. 

Knowledge + Empathy + Action = True Ally

"It's these three things you must bring together in order to truly show up in solidarity. Taking out any part of that equation lends either to the ego or to performance" - Rachel Cargle

She does not tell you WHAT knowledge (she says Google still works people...) Nor does Rachel tell you WHAT KIND of ACTION to take, just that all three must be present or the equation does not work.

Is it fair to assume we all must know by now what empathy is and how to practice it? But I will define it because empathy is often confused with sympathy.

the ability to understand and share the feelings of another

1. feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else's misfortune

(There is a second definition, but for the intent of this post, I am just posting the one above)

So to be a true ally, we cannot simply just be sympathetic.

Let's take it back to my cake example. I don't know why I love referencing food, maybe it's because I am always hungry, but if you are practicing empathy you will recognize that not only is it unfair that you have been given the advantage of the shiny new fork, but you will say "Hey friend, why don't you use my fork? I know that popsicle stick isn't that useful and you seem frustrated. Here take my fork. That cake looks delicious! Enjoy it!" 

Yay, cake!

Sympathy in this example looks like this: you're looking around at everyone, recognizing that everyone has different utensils and think "Awww, those people got popsicle sticks. That's so sad (but, OMG thank God I have this awesome fork though!)"

I hope my cake analogy doesn't offend anyone, especially avid collectors of cutlery and bakers. It's not a perfect presentation, but as I'm writing this, it is what makes sense in my pastry loving head.

For me, writing this post is how I am trying to be an ally. I may not be doing it perfectly or even "how I'm suppose to" but I am trying in earnest. I also know Adored Vintage is a place for beautiful and lovely things and it will always be that, but I do think it is important for us to be uncomfortable sometimes but feel like it is safe to ask questions, to learn, to grow, and to become better together.

I have no room and space in my heart or in the sphere of Adored Vintage for hate and shame. Love, kindness, an openness for understanding and ability to forgive and understand that we all have our own journeys and stories so we may move forward towards a kinder more beautiful world where #BlackLivesMatter. That is what I am for. 

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” - Maya Angelou

BTW, here is another article I found useful in educating myself, written by Rachel Cargle for Harper's Bazaar: Black Lives Matter Explained.

I am not here to shame, call out, or make assumptions about you in regards of how you research your knowledge, practice empathy, and take action. I wish and hope the same for me, but I understand that right now some people would rather focus on being critical instead of focusing on the intention and desire to become an ally.

We are all in this together friends. What is important is we all realize what the common destination is. How you get there and what time you get there, well I can't control that nor do I have the right to, though I might text you and be all "Hey, you still coming?" or "Hey did your car break down, I'm worried about you, you said you were going to be here a couple hours ago...everything ok?"


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