Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Toothpaste Shoepolish, or, Own your Shit

So, I was pretty damn hard on several of you guys last night about your responses to the #BayBridge action by black.seed  along the lines of "hey, I'm an ally, but I don't have to agree with every action, that doesn't mean I'm not well intended"

The dialogue went pretty much like it always does:  I'm hard on you because I believe in you, I know you're one of the good guys, you're just not yet aware of your own priveledge and need some more work on intersectionality. Here are some resources, I know you'll get it. How do I know you'll get it?

Because every argument you've ever used has come out of my mouth too.  And I had some folks who love me enough to thump it into my head when I was being stupid, superior, and privilege-blind without even realizing it. I've often been known to mutter "I should just put toothpaste in my shoe polish so at least they're minty fresh when I shove my foot in my mouth."

And last night, I fucked up too.  As I was having social justice conversations in half a dozen places, I committed a doozy myself. 

I came across this amazing album of the protest, shot by Brooke Anderson Photography: Stills of Our Stories & Struggles and just flipped my shit over this photo

I saw it, it resonated powerfully with me, I could relate to it,  and given the lack of data I could find, I made a stupid assumption:  that this was a white individual offering support to a BIPOC protester. I went on to wax poetic about how perfect an analogy it was for being a white ally. One some level, I *wanted* him to be white so I could better relate. 

Yeah, I was wrong as can be.  I was contacted privately and let know (more politely than I deserved) that both individuals in the photo are black, and were both active participants in the protest. I made an assumption about the racial identity of the masculine-presenting individual based on the color of his skin, and assumed he had to be 'just' an ally.  I am in the wrong, and I apologize.

I was wrong, and I'm owning up to it. I fucked up, there's no other way to put it. I'm pulling the essay I wrote yesterday about the photo series, and I'm correcting the misinformation anywhere I posted it.  This is how we do it. Because it's not "if" we're going to fuck up, it's "when".

How we handle it when we DO fuck up is what matters. That's where we're tested, and have to overcome our own defensiveness, desire to blame it on ignorance, and talk up how good of an ally we are the rest of the time.  If we get our feelings hurt for being thumped, start tone policing, and talking about "why are we being attacked for our good intentions" and take our ball and go home, we've failed.  We have to stand up, brush off, accept what our mistakes were, learn from them, and move on with the intent to not make that mistake again and learn how we can apply it to avoid other pitfalls.  That's the mettle of an ally

Check out the album. Donate to the black.seed legal defense fund to get these folks out of lockup and back into action. Own your shit and keep on fighting.

Mintily yours,

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