Allyship isn’t activism. Stop pretending it is.

I’m not praising white allies for the bare minimum

Aysha is frustrated with the white allyship culture at Queen’s.
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I’ve been at a white institution for three years now, isolated from diversity and fighting battles every day to be allowed safety and comfort. Somehow, despite the casual and not-so-casual racism, the toughest thing about being at Queen’s has been the people who call themselves my allies.

I absolutely hate white allies.

I hate the way they look at me, with vague pity in their eyes. It’s always present, whether they’re ‘checking in’ on me after another horrific hate crime occurs on this campus, or congratulating me for my bravery after I have an outburst in a classroom discussion reflective of the trauma they played a part in inflicting upon me.

I hate the way they think they can relate to me. I hate that allies on this campus will send me cute resources on anti-racism, as if I don’t live out the experiences they’re enlightening me of every single day. I hate that they think they’ll ever know what I go through, and I hate that they have the nerve to tell me I should wake up to the circumstances of my own identity. It’s like they’re saying, “here you go, curry muncher, read these woke articles and tell me I’m one of the good white people.”

I hate what they do to me and my community, snatching up the limited opportunities there are in diversity and inclusion. I hate that they apply for internships in this area. I hate that they don’t realize how fucked up this is—that they can be paid for addressing racism, effectively profiting off its existence as white people.

I hate that they tell me they’re disheartened by the unpaid labour of BIPOC in creating equity and don’t understand that those of us who do this work don’t want to stop doing the work. We want to be the ones who are paid for it, and we each individually could do a better job than any white ally.

I hate that they don’t realize, no matter how much reading or listening they do, that they will never know more about racism and anti-racism than we do. 

I hate that they always feel they should be rewarded for completing the basic requirements of allyship which are, for me, akin to the basic requirements of being decent human beings.

Allies will educate themselves about anti-racism, and they’ll broadcast it on Instagram for the next several weeks. They’ll say, over and over again, how difficult it was for them to self-educate and see themselves as an oppressive other for the first time in their lives. They’ll then eat up Instagram likes, eat up positions on equity clubs, eat up chances to speak in public about their allyship, and, in general, eat up all the clout they can get. And they will paint themselves as martyrs in doing so—brave faces to represent a movement they co-opted.

I hate that allies can get away with committing the same microaggressions as regular racists, but never have to admit to wrongdoing.

I hate that they will exploit my experiences of oppression on a live Zoom call, asking me to explain to them why myself and other BIPOC are not simply learning tools for their university experience, and that afterward they will message me thanking me for the education I provided.

I hate that they don’t apologize. I hate that they instead apologize for everyone around them—because they would never do anything racist—and then continue exploiting me.

I hate that they gaslight me. I hate that they police my tone whenever they think I’m going too far. I hate that they make it so clear their ‘allyship’ is entirely dependent on BIPOC keeping their composure—saying, in a completely calm and inoffensive way, that BIPOC need more out of the society which they’re forced to serve.

I hate that their allyship is dependent on me using a calm and sweet tone of voice when I ask them to see me as a human being.

Allyship does absolutely nothing for BIPOC, yet allies continue to pretend it’s some form of activism. They continue to seek rewards for their behaviour and they seek those rewards from BIPOC—in the form of our praise, our emotional labour, and our livelihood.

Allies get scholarships. Allies get paid positions. Allies get praise.

The BIPOC who have been doing the actual work are objects allies use. We’re the poor victims they’re graciously defending. We’re Asian children and they’re the white parents who adopted us to seem more cultured while refusing to let us speak our own language.

I don’t want to speak for all BIPOC. Maybe some have had a good experience with allies. Maybe there’s a definition of ‘ally’ I’m missing, and my disdain for white allies is just a product of attending a white supremacist institution.

Either way, to the white allies at Queen’s I’m talking about—I see you.

I see the damage you inflict on BIPOC. I see your refusal to be held accountable for your racism. I see you gathering ‘woke points’ for your own gain. I see you going home to racist grandparents and not saying a goddamn word in defense of the people you claim to care for, because you’d never educate other white people the way you educate us.

I hear you, arguing with me about the ways you oppress me. And then I see you, a week later, telling your white friends what you’ve ‘discovered,’ never giving me credit nor apologizing for dragging me through hell. 

I see you, and I’m absolutely done with you. Please stay out of my message requests and please stay out of the rest of my life.

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