All last month NAFC group focused on what it means to be an ally. We hosted a book discussion about being anti-racist, we defined terms, and we interviewed our young allies and their BIPOC peers at Newtown High School to better understand what it means to be an ally. We challenged our followers on Facebook by presenting difficult, real-life situations and asking, “What Would an Ally Do?” Knowing how important it is to listen to our BIPOC friends, we sought out feedback from them as to whom they consider to be real allies.
The hope is now, after that deep dive into allyship, we can take time to reflect.
Reflect on your own hearts and motivations and actions.
Do you consider yourself an ally? Do you consider yourself an anti-racist? When you think about the scenarios we discussed on our Facebook page or are faced with similar situations in real life, are your actions different than what you know they ought to be?
Actions are hard. Doing the work is risky. Putting yourself out of your comfort zone can be scary and the repercussions are very real. One common theme among those who consider themselves allies was that they need to be more prepared for impromptu conversations. Having conversations with people about race and racism can be stressful if you are not sure where the conversation is going to end up. Standing up in a group as the rogue voice NOT joining in on racist conversations or microaggressions can be scary. This is why allies need to keep on listening and learning. This way, when we come up against those situations we are prepared and ready to support our friends.
However, you simply cannot consider yourself an ally unless you are willing to act like one.
I sent out an anonymous survey asking our BIPOC members of NAFC about their experiences with racism, both in the work place and out in public. Just like the younger generations I interviewed earlier in March, there was a general consensus that unless we are willing to listen to their experiences and actually speak up in response to what happens around them, all of the reading and discussions about hypotheticals mean nothing.
This is not to say that we have not seen allyship in action within our NAFC group. For the month of February, a group from NAFC reached out to the local schools and set up Black History Month bulletin boards which strongly reflected and announced to students that Black History is American History. In response to this bulletin board, someone in the community demanded that these boards be taken down and asked if they could put up Blue Lives Matter bulletin boards in their place (or in response afterwards). This led to an amazing article written by Linda O’Sullivan about WHY people respond to Black Lives Matter with Blue Lives Matter (and why it is problematic).
Wendy Leon-Gambetta began a book discussion about Ibram X. Kendi’s “How to Be an Anti-Racist”. She also wrote blog articles breaking down the definitions, vocabulary, and ideas in the book so that those who were unable to participate in the discussions could still understand what the book was about and why it is important to work towards being anti-racist.
Finally, we saw many allies stand up against racism within our school district when we listened to a Black mother confront the Board of Education about her endless fight for her son against racism in the schools and the continued silence towards her when she brought it to the attention of the powers that be. As soon as people heard her words and witnessed the lack of empathy from the Board members (members who have acted empathetically in the past over issues which matter to them personally), allies immediately wrote letters to the Board. They also challenged how the minutes reflected the woman’s words (spoiler alert, her words were watered down and her call out to the Board’s lack of action was described in the minutes as “a disagreement”). They have also committed to attending the next Board of Education meeting to speak up again for more actions when racism happens in our schools.
Allies are doing the work.
Allies are stepping up.
Newtown Allies mean business.
So, I will wrap this up with a direct challenge.
Are you an ally?
Are you anti-racist?
Will you speak up on behalf of others?
Will you listen to the experiences of people who experience racism and actually believe them?
If you speak but do not act, you are essentially doing nothing.