Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and you took…
- The one free from prejudice and racism
- The one that lacks diversity among your daily encounters
- The one free from discriminatory stereotypes
- The one without the worry of your children’s encounters with law enforcement
- The one with adequate care during labor and delivery for both you and your child
- The one free from impregnable, systematic oppression
- The one with accessible educational opportunities; financial or otherwise
- The one with reliable access to a wide variety of nutritious and affordable foods
- The one with adequate resources for your mental well-being
If any of these above statements apply to you, you likely lead a life of privilege. Now – before you get #triggered, maybe take the time to really look at things from a different perspective.
You have to acknowledge the challenges that women of color face.
The first real step is realizing and recognizing that because you were born a certain race, your life had better opportunities than those of a different race. If you need me to point them out to you, please feel free to message me.
As the month-long celebration of African-American heritage and history ends, we desperately need to continue being the allies we would want for our sisters of color. Subsequently, the allies we hope our children will be for generations to come.
Before you assume I am coming in with some ‘white savior’ complex – ready to save the day, I’m not here to tell any person of color what you need. I am a Caucasian woman and therefore will never understand what it is like to be a woman of color. And unless you are a woman of color, neither will you. No matter what your perceived circumstance or condition may be, it does not compare to a racial difference. It is not your job to understand what it is like to be a woman of color; your only job is to be a beacon of support, to offer empathy, and act as a true ally.
It’s worth noting that you can have good intentions and still be ignorant. Just because you ‘mean well’ does not give you a free pass when it comes to your behavior or words. Do your best to use your ears more than your mouth, and never assume that you know how someone else is feeling.
Nothing is going to change unless we get real with ourselves and with each other, like REALLY real. The personal journey getting to this place of revelation; it won’t happen overnight. We need to be willing to learn and grow, and to continue learning and growing from here on out.
It is healthy, as white women, to take a deeper dive into some of the subconscious racial prejudices that we may be harboring. Things like: locking our car doors when they get close or wondering what they are doing in your environment. When we truly see people as equals, we treat everyone as equals. This does not mean you “don’t see color.” That kind of mentality is the opposite of progress. You cannot be an ally without recognizing diversity.
Seeing people as equal means giving them the respect and consideration a human being deserves; it means treating others the way you would want to be treated.
Be aware that you should not expect a warm welcome with open arms and enthusiasm. We, as white women, have a lot of making up to do. For years, we have stayed silent in our comfort zone while our sisters of color bore the burden of our faulty systems. You should anticipate feeling uncomfortable as you face your shortcomings. These uncomfortable moments will likely increase your empathy for other groups, who experience it with much more frequency. But if that’s what it takes for us to achieve true equality, then a little bit of discomfort is a small price to pay.
The very fact that you are able to choose whether or not you’re uncomfortable speaks volumes about the privileges that you have in your life. In no way, shape, or form is your level of comfort a bigger priority than the basic human rights of fellow human beings.
How can you better support your sisters of color?
For starters, (and I can’t stress this enough) you DO NOT need to ask your African-American friends how to advocate for them. If you take away anything from this, I need you to fully understand that it is absolutely not their responsibility to teach you how to be an ally.
…Instead, here are a few basic actions I encourage you to do:
- Be wary of cultural appropriation. An example would be wearing your hair in box braids. Just don’t. This particular hairstyle was utilized as a means of survival for slaves in the Caribbean, who would create detailed braid designs to emulate a map that would lead them to potential freedom. You cannot ‘borrow’ culture, and put quite simply: it’s offensive.
- Invest in your girlfriends of color and their experiences. One example would be the vast differences in your labor & delivery experience. When it comes to our sisters of color, we must make sure that proper care is given. Demand it! The mortality rate among African-American women, during childbirth, is significantly higher than Caucasian women. This is not due to any complications of genetics, but rather a denial and refusal of care and resources. These are core issues among our institutions, and it’s important we work to fix them.
- Be aware of when you are intruding. African-American women are more likely to give up their space, whether it’s while passing others on the sidewalk or seated at a board room table. If you are a witness to this, instead of using it as an opportunity and filling it yourself, use your efforts to help restore her position in that space. The only way we will achieve true equality is when we all succeed.
- When you see injustice, speak out against it. This one is plain and simple. If you see someone being treated wrongly, do your best to make it right. Get involved as if you are defending your child being bullied on the playground. You will never regret efforts made toward doing what is just. My girl Anna said it best, all we have to do is the next right thing. That means what’s right for everyone.
When you view the inequality between men and women, there’s an even larger gap between men and women of color. On average, Black women in the U.S. are paid 39% less than white men and 21% less than white women. For generations, there have been systems that have hindered the success of people of color. We have the responsibility of changing and shifting these systems in order to benefit society as a whole.
If we continue to ignore the struggles of our sisters of color, we are no better than that of a man using and abusing his privilege for power. I mean, that guy sucks, right?… I surely don’t want to be that guy.
Before you put on your perfectly knitted pink pussy hat and talk about gender equality, think about the last time you helped to empower someone who was not given the same opportunities you had. If nothing comes to mind, you are essentially mirroring the same inequality you have been fighting so hard to destroy.