Written in conversation with Marley K., “Forget About Your Feelings, Your Racism Is Killing Us”. March 15 2020, 9 minute read.
There are two essential principles to which white people [especially white feminists] must commit if they intend to claim legitimate “ally-ship” with people of color.
1] Listen to expressions of pain and emotional hardship experienced by people of color without challenging those expressions or attempting to minimize their pain. Do not try to brush that pain away, telling the aggrieved person “you shouldn’t feel like that; we never meant it that way.”
2] Do not contradict the POC’s interpretations of what happened to them as racist. Whether the behavior being criticized was yours or someone else’s, whether there might be an alternate interpretation of the persons, whether the accused person did or did not intend to be racist, what matters is the person’s deep pain and anger. You’re not in a courtroom. No one is determining guilt or innocence. You are present to HEAR what is FELT.
That means not imposing your own idea of what someone should feel in that situation, because you’ve never been in that situation. You’ve never had to live black in a white world.
It’s really rather simple. Honestly, I don’t get why it is so hard for white feminists to understand, especially if they’ve paid attention to the toxic language men often use with women who are talking about their pain. The defensive language used by white people is structurally similar to the defensive language men often use when speaking to women who’ve been traumatized by men.
As should be obvious by the chart below, denials of racism and complaints about “false accusations” spoken by white women and men are structurally similar to the denials and complaints about “false accusations” women receive from men regarding their own expressions of pain over misogyny and sexual harassment.