Can we talk? Really talk?
Because I’m so sick of the word “ally” and the expectations that come with it that I don’t know what to do.
When some Black men want to get play on Twitter, they all of a sudden become feminist allies. When some White women want sisters to overlook their Miss Anne shenanigans, they trot out the word allies. Marginalized people who hold something of value to privileged people who don’t want to reckon with that privilege in an honest way are never short on “allies.”
And the latest “ally” to show his natural-born ass is Professor Steve Friess.
*Cue Liv slapping Friess’ picture on the wall at Pope & Associates*
Friess is a White, gay man who is hurt — I say, I say, he is hurt, y’all — that a Black woman would dare accuse White, gay men of cultural appropriation.
Friess writes over at TIME:
White gay men as a group could be the truest friends black women can have in American society. No alliance is perfect, but this one has the potential, if nurtured properly, to reconfigure the stories of race and gender. White gay men — once intensely vilified but now able to harness our white male privilege for good, having learned what being on the outside is like — are a conduit through which black women can work against both countervailing forces that push them down.
There is no question white gays have intrinsic advantages over black women in American society. Sure, we’ve taken our lumps, but black women certainly win the sweepstakes of oppression by a landslide. It is, in fact, this basic difference — race — that has enabled us to blitz through our civil rights movement in head-spinning fashion, while black women continue to face painful economic and political hurdles. Why did gay rights go from fantasy to entitlement in a blink of the historical eye, even as other oppressed minorities fend off efforts to deny them the ability to vote or obtain a decent education? Because so many of the gay men (and women) who came out were white and, thus, already embedded in the nation’s most powerful institutions.
No! You don’t say?
Friess closes with this zinger:
Still, cultural alliances like this are rare and should be treasured, not chastised. Black men didn’t have one. Neither did Jews or Native Americans. Arab Americans sure don’t. But through some fluke of cosmic association, black women have kindred spirits in white gay men. Don’t push us away.
First and foremost, Friess needs to know that we don’t have to do a damn thing but be Black and die. Seriously, he might as well have ended the piece with “or else…”
Or else…we won’t have your back.
Or else…we won’t defend you from racism.
Or else…we won’t protect you from misogyny.
Or else…we won’t ensure that your humanity is valued.
What Friess seems to not realize, or thinks we’re too stupid to realize, is that’s the reality as it stands.
Some White, gay men are looking at Black women through the same patriarchal lens as some Black, straight men. They want us to save them first and they promise they’ll be back.
If Friess is really an ally, he wouldn’t have spent an entire article highlighting how White, gay men have seen the Promised Land while Black women fight, backs against the wall, against oppression.
A true ally would say some version of, “You know what, I could use this space to rant about how much Black women need White, gay men to thrive in this country, but instead let me say that Sierra Mannie was right. Some, not all, White, gay men want to mimic pop culture performances of Black womanhood, but they don’t want to share their burden.”
When was the last time White, gay men spoke out collectively about the street harassment of Black women? What about the disproportionate number of Black girls who are sexually assaulted before they turn 18-years-old? Have they been on the front-lines of the healthcare debate, since Black women are more likely to die from aggressive forms of breast cancer and during childbirth?
Have they collectively spoken out about anything that is solely for the empowerment of Black women or are they seeking refuge in Black culture until the political storm passes?
Don’t get me wrong, there will of course be overlap of cultures on various levels. In fact, what’s really happening in this moment is Black, gay male culture being appropriated by some Black women, who are then having that culture appropriated by White, gay men.
We can’t store a specific performance of Black womanhood in bubble-wrap so it’s safe from prying eyes. What we can do is demand that our supposed “allies” not use patriarchal scare tactics in attempts to silence our voices.
If this is truly an alliance that “has the potential, if nurtured properly, to reconfigure the stories of race and gender,” then the White gay male community needs to prove it by standing up for Black women.
And not just when “Single Ladies” comes on.