In light of recent conversations around Black Lives Matter Protests, being an ally to marginalized communities is the new “woke” thing to do. All of a sudden, white people understand the plight of people of color, men understand women’s oppression, and straight people understand LGBTQ+ experiences.
Everyone speaks up for everyone else’s oppression, to the extent that people are speaking over others, instead of speaking up for others. Often, this leads to uncomfortable situations, especially for closeted LGBTQ+ people who are only out to a few people. The aggressive desire of saviors to publicly call people out for being homophobic, racist, and xenophobic without any context of the situation has led to unnecessary misunderstandings.
For example, closeted folks often make references about the LGBTQ+ experience around people who they are out to. Often, self-proclaimed “allies” to the LGBTQ+ community would overhear this and publicly confront them about their comments and accuse them of being “homophobic” for talking about the experiences of the LGBTQ+ community, falsely assuming that they are straight. This has led to public outings of closeted members of the LGBTQ+ community, which is both unfair and insensitive to them. For example, Author Becky Albertalli was forced to come out publicly after being criticized for writing Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda because people assumed that she was straight.
The publicness of confrontations represents the performative nature of the savior’s actions. They crave social recognition for defending marginalized communities. They post a black square on their Instagram in solidarity with Black Lives Matter but don’t do anything to raise awareness for police brutality after Black Lives Matter stopped trending. These people are also missionaries who travel to developing countries to convert people under the guise of community building. This is an instance of saviors taking the moral high ground; they think that they are better than the people that they are “saving” because of their religion. In reality, the communities that are being “saved” have their own culture and religious values, and do not need to be indoctrinated with the values of another religion.
On the other hand, allies listen to the experiences of other communities. They do not speak over and speak for these communities but use their platform to amplify the voices and experiences of others. They don’t refer to marginalized communities as “voiceless” but create a stage for their voices to be heard. Allies do not expect social recognition for their allyship, nor do they limit their allyship to social media trends. Allyship is long-term because it is based on empathetic relationships between people. Allies do not pretend to relate to the struggles of a marginalized community; they acknowledge that listening to something is not the same as living through it.
Allies also ask questions to improve their own understanding of underrepresented communities. They also do their own research to learn the history of these communities. However, they understand that not every member of a minority community feels oppressed and that minorities do not want to participate in the Oppression Olympics – a competition to determine who is the most oppressed on grounds of sex, gender, race, socioeconomic status, etc.
With the advent of the Biden Presidency, more conversations about intersectionality are in the works. Allies are an important part of liberation movements; enslaved people were liberated with some assistance from white abolition movements. Women were able to acquire the right to vote partially through the platform of their male allies. Historically, allies have worked to raise awareness for different causes within their own demographics. In order to raise awareness today, it is important to be cognizant of the fine line between being an ally and being a savior.
Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!