I wake up every day, check Twitter, and panic. This is my morning routine, and has been for the last few months: waking up, forgetting about what’s been going on, and getting a rude awakening from my own personal black mirror. From a self-care standpoint, this is a terrible routine, but in a sick, twisted way, I feel it’s my responsibility to be attuned to daily horrors, the newest short-sighted, terrifying tirade by our president, the newest executive order, the latest unqualified person to become the most powerful in their governmental field, the newest act of violence, or silencing. To stay informed is to stay nauseous.
But, on another level, I feel entitled when I do this. After all, these horrors aren’t directly affecting me, as a body of privilege. Does my panic and fear drown out those who are far more at risk of being affected? I’ve been doing a lot of searching and, honestly, yes. It does. I am of the belief that resistance is necessary, but I cannot be the face or the body of the resistance, to fight quietly and in support. It’s a difficult line to toe, but, with my privilege and entitlement, I personally need to figure it out. Maybe it’s obnoxious to share this, it’s a struggle far less significant than so many others during this time, but if I turn it outwards, maybe other potential allies (and allyship is a process, never quite earned, and so easy to perform the gesture of it without putting in the significant work) will ask themselves these kinds of questions.
On November 9, 2016, I was thinking about the phrase “do the work,” and how I exactly could do the work, with these necessary restrictions. I wanted to help those around me, and to try and do so with the least amount of arrogance and self-aggrandizement. There isn’t an easy answer, but what I’ve found is relatively simple, though not as simple as raising ones voice for what one thinks is right.
One must listen more than they speak.
We, the privileged, have and continue to be the dominating voice in most forms of discourse. The loudest, the most frequently articulated. Look at any comment section anywhere, and you can find long passages of people with privilege explaining, and rationalizing, in terms that are, at least superficially, logically sound, for the priority of some voices above others, of some bodies freedom above other peoples, chocking that up to “differing opinions.” In fact, that term, “differing opinions,” has been the blanket that has obscured systemic and white supremacist forces for the entirety of its existence. When things are as simple as a manner of perspective, irrational things can be put into rational terms. This is the prime weapon of the forces of marginalization, of white supremacy, of keeping systems of privilege in place. In taking something irrational, and put it into rational terms, these irrational rationalizers have become a ubiquitous presence.
Seeing evil put in rational terms, well-meaning allies combat that rationalization in kind, with their, our, own rational terms, statistics, precedent, and evidence. While this is well-meaning, it is doomed to fail on impact, because everything rationalized can be proven, and disproven, and proven again; and when something obvious is disputed and supported within infinite echoes, it is the voice of dispute, the irrational-rational, that will win. Because we are privileged, and we have learned that our voices are valuable, we are inclined to speak far more than we are to listen, and it is second nature to raise our voices, to scour the internet, to find “facts,” to meet people on their terms. When you combat, say, someone’s claim that Islam is a violent religion with statistics that say otherwise, you are opening that argument, a silly, scary, irrational argument, to rational debate, giving equal weight to a side that is patently wrong. This is the sinkhole allyship often finds itself falling down.
But how do we combat this tendency? It’s in the systems that we live in, ingrained in our voices, in our lives. These tendencies to drown out the marginalized, even when attempting to do good for the world, is a tough one to shake off. But it is something that must be shaken off. So we must listen. Listen to the people around you. Listen to those who do not share our privilege, the priority of our voices, are bodies, our movement. Internalize the words, the language that will have a positive impact, uncover what we may be doing that is misguided, and actively fight against that urge. Speak up only with the consent of those who we have drowned out. Never stop fighting. Never stop doing the work. But listen.
I may not stop myself from my morning routine, waking up, looking at my phone, and discovering all the hells that await, but every morning, I try and remember what allyship takes, how easily it goes astray. Rather than shouting, I try to look for the voices being the most drowned out. Then I try and listen.