As the holidays approach and liberal white women, along with their obviously racist white women sisters, journey to visit families; or dine with their liberal friends discussing the latest books, films and maybe some politics, they are comforted by the misheld belief that they speak truth to racist power and do nothing themselves that contributes daily to the marginalization of minorities. Your white friends probably pat you on the back for your bravery and strength; for being an ally to minorities, but are you an ally?
For liberal white women politics and reality can and do exist separately. There is the online social justice warrior you and the “I’m on my way to work with my chai latte” you. Similarly to how a white person who votes for lawmakers and representatives that target marginalized communities oftentimes can and does have minority friends, the liberal white women will vote for lawmakers and representatives that seek equality for minorities but will not, personally, have minority friends and will even use their privilege and entitlement happily to the detriment of a minority.
What’s The Difference?
Not much. The only difference between a liberal white female and a “South Park Susan” is that Susan is obvious in her racism. Their kind don’t hide behind a societal curtain of etiquette.
It looks good, doesn’t it? That thin veneer of civility that masks your racist sentiments is what separates you from your primitive white sisters who display none of your graces and social etiquette. You don’t tell racist jokes at social gatherings. Not anymore.
Change Must Happen In The World
Laws, like language, changes according to the behaviors of the people in the country. There is a difference between affecting change and effective change. The former could cause some change either for better or worse; while the latter is positive change — what we are and should be striving for. One is mere influence; the other is shaping a future we want through action.
Recently, while working through an organization, I began assisting a liberal white lady. She ranted how “white people don’t decide what’s racist” and talked about how she knows she has privilege and is trying to be a better person. I went over an agreement our first day (which she signed) stating the minimum hours required per week (2) and that cancellations, while understandable, should not be excessive. She explained she wouldn’t be cancelling and we agreed on a schedule twice a week for an hour each. Over six weeks there was a total of 6 hours where I came to help her, 6 were canceled.
I also explained to her, since I have other clients, that I can’t come if someone is sick in the home because if I get sick I’ll have to cancel my other clients who don’t want me showing up to their home ill. She said she understood how selfish and inconsiderate it is to behave like that.
Now when, after the last 2 cancellations, I requested she call me to talk and I started to explain to her that 6 cancellations in six weeks was excessive, she became defensive. She stated that cancelling a session with a week notice “wasn’t cancelling” and that it was my fault because “I wouldn’t accommodate her” (even though I offered her an online alternative to avoid cancelling which she deemed “not convenient”) and that the last two times when I didn’t come because someone was sick was “my problem” and not hers.
I explained no matter when you cancel an appointment it is still a cancellation and tried to point out that choosing between working with one person and getting sick and losing eight others was not a choice but decided to no longer waste my breath. Her entitlement and privileged attitude toward a minority female was on full display so I simply told her that I would contact the organization and request they find her someone else. This made her furious and she yelled, “I was going to do that anyway!” and hung up on me.
For those who aren’t seeing the full problem, let me explain. First, she downplayed her previous 4 cancellations which ‘didn’t count’ in her mind as real and decided to focus on the last two so she could specifically lay the blame on me. It was the fact that I wouldn’t come that was the problem. And, even though I told her in the beginning that she wouldn’t be able to reschedule in person sessions since I was booked, the problem was still that I wouldn’t “accommodate” her. She also tried to feign ignorance about the 2 hour a week minimum that I went over with her at the first session and got her signature on.
Second, the financial strain on me was significant. When I schedule someone for a specific time, that spot is reserved for you. I had potential new clients who wanted those specific times she had and I turned them away because that spot was reserved for her. Her cancellations in 6 weeks cost me a lot of money right in time for the holidays. The fact that she was unwilling to see or not caring that she was financially hurting me is textbook white privilege and entitlement as was the fact that she avoided responsibility by shifting the blame to me.
This was a liberal white lady — a supposed ally in the fight for equality — who didn’t walk what she talked and, unfortunately, there are a lot of you out there. Equality and empathy are abstract or broad terms to you, but when it needs to be demonstrated in your narrow world, you fail.
This is why the fight is challenging. Laws follow real world changes in behaviors and not enough of you are changing. Once enough of you go out of your way to be uncomfortable, to accept responsibility and truly change, laws in society and rules in the workplace will change quickly and effectively to reflect the people. Until then, we are on a hamster wheel, continuing in circles because the problem that needs to be dealt with is being ignored in the real world in favor of your comfort and your convenience.
When you see an “ally” behaving like this call it out.
I’m hoping, after speaking with my organization, that they will address the problem, but I’m not optimistic. If they don’t — when you don’t — it reinforces their belief that they are privileged. In my situation it also tells her, if the organization does nothing, that the problem was indeed me and not her.
If you are the one being called out, you are not an ally. Take the time to sit with that and actually talk to minorities about what you can do each day to become one. Even if you aren’t being called out, doesn’t mean you’re an ally. It’s far more likely that any wronged minority is too worried about what they may lose to speak up, and any fellow white liberal is either just like you or too comfortable to risk making an issue.
Start going out of your way to be uncomfortable. A lot of minorities are tired of doing the work and losing so much every time we confront privilege. It’s time you pulled your weight, not just online but everyday — out in the world.