Grace Kube, Chapter Member at University of Wisconsin School of Law
Ally. Activist. Aware. Forward thinker. These are all words I would have used to describe myself. However, the process of acquiring these labels does not result in some final achievement — the idea that “I have put my work in, and now I am done.” The process is just that, a process. It is a journey and not a destination to arrive at.
I’ve called myself a White ally for a long time, but I don’t think I fully understood what that meant until my experience at If/When/How’s SCPOC Working Group retreat. Throughout my experience at the retreat, I was stretched, challenged, and forced to grow in a multitude of ways. Many things I learned there have left me with profound new thinking, but none so much as this idea of “solidarity is a verb.” Being an ally means so much more than believing in equality or the rights that others are fighting for. It means actually joining the fight in whatever way I can.
As an ally, not only is my job never finished, but my job is not to simply sit on the sidelines. There is little difference between not actively furthering racism, through overt actions and words, and tacitly watching or sitting by while it happens. To live in solidarity with those oppressed, I need to act. This can be through techniques such as calling out instead of calling in. I know that White silence is damaging; I want my brothers and sisters to know that I am there with them, fighting the battles that I as an ally need to fight.
Everyone has a different role in this battle for racial justice. I am starting by getting involved with student groups that support and center people of color to see how I can best leverage my power and privilege as a White person in service of marginalized communities. I have just joined the Latino Law Student Executive board, for example, and am committed to working alongside the other board members to bring awareness to issues that this community faces. In general, I need to be willing and ready to stand up and speak out when necessary. Equally important, I need to give people of color the place and space to be heard, and I need to listen. This fight is not, and has never been, about me and how “good” of a White person I can be. This fight should always be about the injustice and inequality of the country we live in and those who are affected by it most.
Throughout the retreat, I discussed with like-minded people the challenges that come with being in solidarity with people of color. I shared my struggles with feeling like I needed to be an expert on these issues, as though I needed to prove how much of an ally I was to others. Being able to openly discuss my insecurities and embarrassments proved invaluable to me. I had never realized how internalized this idea of being a “good White person” was in me. At first, I was reluctant to admit my struggles and internal biases, but If/When/How gave me a platform to air them out and work on them. Being able to recognize in myself the signs of White supremacy has led me to better fight it. Despite having felt oppressed from other intersections in my life, such as being female, I can never know the pains and struggles of a person of color. White oppression is a window into the oppression of people of color, not a mirror. It is time to step back and continue working on myself as well as the situation around me.
Now, about a month after the retreat, I am still getting more comfortable with the journey. However, I am able to recognize that it is a process and not something I just suddenly achieve. This reframing has allowed me the space to grow and improve. Before, when I pictured solidarity as a destination to arrive at, I was under the impression that I had “maxed out,” in a sense: I did all the right things, learned about all the right issues, and now I could move on. Reimagining solidarity as a verb has reminded me that this fight will take constant diligence. It means action. My job is never finished and my learning should never cease. I will never stop fighting for racial justice.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or position of If/When/How.