In Our Pursuit Of Making Things Right, We Must Be Prepared To Get Things Wrong
I believe two things: One is that being neutral in a climate like this is dangerous. Neutrality implies indifference, and you simply cannot be “indifferent” to systemic racism, racial injustice and white privilege. The second thing I believe is that, especially at the moment, we cannot put the onus on Black people to do the arduous work of helping white people identify our own privilege, we cannot make them shoulder the burden of providing us with the tools to unpack a problem that we created.
But if you believe those things to be true, then you must also realistically expect that sometimes, in your pursuit of growth and effective allyship, you’ll get it wrong. I’ll get it wrong. I’ll fall short of meeting the moment. I’ll fuck up. And here’s the secret sauce: If the movement you are fighting for is telling you that something you are doing isn’t working, then you need to be willing to stop, listen and then pivot accordingly.
Otherwise you run the risk of what Jia Tolentino calls “virtue-signalling”, which is when you post something with genuine expressions of sympathy, while realising that what you’ve done is only microscopic in terms of its impact on the overall cause and, inescapably, an attempt to signal to the rest of the world that you’re a good person. This is a time when we must not convince ourselves that “intentions” hold more weight than “impact”. Your intentions are irrelevant when it comes to effective allyship. As Rachel Cargle put it, “If you accidentally step on someones foot, you don’t say ‘Oh stop crying that wasn’t my intention’. You apologise, acknowledge the pain you caused and you try to exist more carefully and intentionally.”
Just because I know that I have blind spots, doesn’t mean that I won’t continue to discover new ones. This work will be perpetually uncomfortable, and considering that it’s my whiteness that has insulated and protected me from a lot of this in the first place, I think that a bit of discomfort is probably a good thing.