Fake Allies

It’s time to play one of my favorite games!
COUNT THE WAYS!
How many problems can you spot?

I have lost patience with fake allies.

Fake allies: those who step into a marginalized group’s safe space, clear a spot to sit, and begin to tell the members of this marginalized group why they’re here, what they’re doing wrong, and what they should be doing – all while silencing members, yelling at them for disagreeing, and becoming outraged when these members finally show the infiltrators the door.

I will try to give those who don’t wish to read any further the overall message of this post:

If you must approach a marginalized group’s space, follow these steps:

  1. Knock on the door.
  2. If no one responds, verbally or otherwise, do not knock again, just leave.
  3. If someone *responds, acknowledge who you are.
  4. Say a brief, positive **message for the members.
  5. Leave promptly.
  6. Do not step into the safe space.
  7. Do not even put your hand back to the door of the safe space.
  8. Go away.
*This response may be calm and understanding – or angry and profanity laden. And there is nothing you can do about it. Do not retaliate, or cuss them out as you walk away. Understand that the anger is justified. You did just trespass private property after all.
**This message should not be a lecture, critique, suggestion, or the like. It should not consist of your opinion. It should be a short, uplifting statement. For example: “I see the struggles that you all are going through and it’s really messed up. Stay strong.” This statement is concise, affirming, and supportive without being long-winded, condescending, and disapproving. Now quit loitering and leave already!
If any of these steps seem troublesome – DON’T GO NEAR THE SAFE SPACE! IT IS NOT YOUR SPACE!
Marginalized groups build these spaces for a reason. It’s the only place where they can come together and share their experiences, frustrations, and struggles – safely. What makes this a “safe” space is – quite simply – that NO members of the majority, oppressive group are present.
Oh look at me being an angry black woman. How about I give you an example with a little less bias.
Meet Fallie!
 
Fallie is a female, twenty something, heterosexual college student. She feels deeply connected to the LGBT community. She is an active member of her school’s LGBTQA organization. She has written countless papers on LGBT history. Her best friend is Spacie, a female, twenty something, homosexual college student.
 
Spacie goes to a weekly meeting where lesbians on campus can hangout and discuss personal and communal issues every Tuesday. This Tuesday Fallie finally asks Spacie if she can go too.
 
Fallie: Hey Spacie, can I come with you to your meeting? I really want to better my understanding of the challenges lesbian college students face.
 
Spacie: Sorry, Fallie, but these meetings are separate from the organization’s meetings for a reason. This is a time where we can come together and freely express our concerns and pains in an open environment.
 
Fallie: Yes! And I’m all about a free, open environment!
 
Spacie: I know you are, Fallie, which is why you’re such an active part of LGBTQA, but these meetings are just for us, you know?
 
Fallie: But I don’t understand? I’m an ally! I just want to be as supportive as possible.
 
Spacie: You are an ally! And the most supportive allies of all don’t try to join these meetings. They stay outside and make sure no campus group, faculty member, or anyone else tries to take these meetings away!
 
Fallie: Wow, Spacie! I get it now. Go enjoy your meeting! I got your back!
*End Scene*
Make any sense?
Wow. I’m really impressed by how chill this example this. How about I show you an example that’s a little more raw.
And yes. Even this reaction is okay. Just check out the blog. The owners are explicitly establishing a forum for people of color and people of color only. And then this woman still decides to ask why she can’t get in the club? Her decision to send this message – not the response – is what’s actually aggressive.
Just this Friday I ran into a fake ally situation.I would like to further elaborate on this tumblr post.No, I was not so horribly offended by this man’s comment. In fact, I really wasn’t offended at all. I’ve been told this before, I know it’s stupid, I’m not shaken up in the least. What did set me off was that he started an argument between the blogger and another man, clearly stirring up hurt feelings which could all have been avoided if he never stepped into her space to begin with.

No one was asking for male advice. No one was asking for any type of suggestions from men.

These women were rallying around one black woman who just got her heart broken by a guy who showered her with promises and then put her on the hook so he could stroll about as he pleased. We were all showing her support by sharing our experiences and the pieces of wisdom we’ve collected through the pain.

Then this dude joins the thread and says:

“You said it perfectly, to be blunt we are men and from the dawn of time, be it women or food, we love the hunt. There is something amazing about pursuing the woman you love! There is only one additive I want. When the man does pursue you, you need to respond…that doesn’t mean “give in” or make it easier for him. It means show him the pursuit is appreciated and you are grateful. Make him see that you love his pursuit as much as he loves pursuing you. That will grow your love and keep it burning strong…mark my words!!!”

T R A N S L A T I O N

“Oh hey, yeah, that was some good advice – but she’s just another silly black woman. Listen to me! I’m a man (I know right? Good for me for taking some time out of my privileged schedule to talk to you ladies) and I know what you all are doing wrong. See, it’s the man who pursues the woman, and it’s the woman who has to show the man she’s interested. BUT NOT TOO MUCH INTEREST OR SHE’S A WHORE! BUT NOT TOO LITTLE INTEREST OR SHE’S A TEASE! And no man wants either of those women. Do exactly as I say, and you all won’t be lonely little black girls anymore! Trust me! I’m a man!”

Then I begin to read the blogger’s responses and the rebuttals, and I’m done.

So I did my best to concisely and efficiently read him for filth.

His response was as expected:

“Sorry. You feel that way…no worries, I won’t bother you any further. I have nothing negative to say in response. You’re feelings and thoughts are real and yours. I’m not a judge and won’t comment to the type of person I assume you are. I wish you the best and I am truly apologetic for offended you with my post. Thanks :)”

T R A N S L A T I O N

“Sorry you’re such an angry black woman even though I was nice enough to show some sympathy and try to help you. I won’t try to help any of you again since clearly you are all unintelligent and unappreciative – and those are your own feelings and opinions which you’re entitled too, I guess. I’m starting to see why black women are so unwanted now, but I’m not a horrible person so even though I’m totally judging you I won’t straight up say that you’re angry and unloveable – I’ll just hint at it. I hope you don’t die young because I’m not a monster after all, and I’m sorry that you rejected my gracious help. Thanks for fueling the stereotype *smiley face to show other people who read this thread that I really am such a nice person and have no idea why this random woman yelled at me when clearly I was helping*”

Unfortunately, he failed to see the issues with his comment. Beyond the fact that this “advice” is as old as patriarchy itself, beyond the fact that he compared women to food – he stepped into a space he had no right to enter in the first place.

What this man failed to realize even after my comment is that our pain and exhaustion did not need another lecture. We came together for a reason. You don’t tell people how to not catch on fire when they’re already burning alive.

If he really wanted to help, he would’ve asked what was wrong and listened.

These black women don’t need men, but they do still want men, as we are only human with human desires. And for just this once the last thing that we could handle was a man barging in and telling us what to do. We just wanted a man to hold us and listen.

If you see a marginalized group and want to be an ally:

1. Acknowledge the struggles and pain of the group members.
2. Acknowledge that these struggles and pains are true and present.
3. Listen to what the group members are saying.
4. Call out negative comments and misconceptions of the group and correct them.
5. Cite your sources when you correct these misconceptions.

6. Acknowledge your privilege and that the only reason why you know these comments to be false is because of members of the marginalized group who opened up and told you about them.
7. When the group members rally together, don’t rally with them – watch their backs.

I’d say regardless of the topic, listening first is always golden advice.

Shut up and listen.

It can save your life. It can save someone else’s.

This is,
MAB
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