A Callout on Allyship, A Long Time Coming

Allyship is the continuous commitment to social justice work on the premise that we restore the lost privileges and denied rights of the marginalized: it is the living and breathing verb of action, not the stagnant noun of self-adulation and immediate gratification. This is a call to action because your continued apathy is a metastasis to the remainder of society.

This is a campus-wide callout to the Lawrence community. We have a problem with allyship on this campus and the dominant identities of white, cisgender, male, straight, upper-middle class, thin body type, Christian, able-bodied, citizen-status, etc., are not doing enough.

Students, staff, faculty and administrators can do more collectively. Being nice and requesting the privileged to do more is degrading and we should not be asking when you should be acting.

To the paid individuals of Lawrence University: you can do more. Any stress you feel from our holding you accountable is tiny compared to the collective suffering we deal with just to survive. We see you tokenizing POC, women, LGBTQ+ folk and other marginalized identities in your circles to do the burden of the work. It is disgusting and dehumanizing. To the white men of academia: it is your duty to be proactive in social justice work. Just because the US education system catered to your needs doesn’t mean that that system was a moral or an effective one if the goal was to tap into the intellectual capital of American society. To the white women of Lawrence: if your feminism lacks intersectionality, then your white feminism is just white supremacist. To the able-bodied folks of the Lawrence Community: your curriculum and advice is meaningless if it is not mental and spiritual health-inclusive.

To the Christians on campus: your spirituality is stained if you are not actively engaged in social justice work to protect your siblings of Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Baha’i, Pagan, etc., faiths. To the folk who do not have to work multiple jobs or were born in the United States: your confusion about why international and domestic POC members of our community do not “get it” is rooted in the same white supremacy that divides us into segregated ethnic groups for the benefit of white men. To individuals who are privileged enough to maintain a thin body type: your image does not represent what is normal, nor should it. Do not confuse good health with a thin body type, as trendy tabloid magazines and telemedicine are not the arbitrators of wellness and healthy living.

Are you stressed from reading that, dominant identities of the Lawrence community? Good. The stress you feel is a tiny drop in the ocean of marginalization that many of us must live through without having support spaces or even the social right to speak out without being threatened with the loss of our humanity and well-being.

Where are the white students in social justice circles on this campus? To the white allies on campus already committed to social justice work, it is your duty and your time to start mentoring younger aspiring white allies. Remember this: it is not about you or what you can benefit from. This is not about your resume or social approval on this campus. Social justice work was meant for you to pay reparations for the cruel injustices caused by many of your ancestors. Do not be paralyzed by guilt — be mobilized by it! Reinvigorate your White guilt and tears into tangible action that POC can count on on this campus.

To the white folk on campus: you may wish dearly for Martin’s Dream in your experience with POC, but do not pretend that dehumanizing injustices waged against POC in this country since its birth have made that possible by 2017. No. The day when individuals of all creeds and all corners of humanity can join hands in unity is the day when white supremacy upon the sound of its last thrashing falls to the ground, dead and no longer able to oppress a single person again. But even this is a dream, an ideal, a standard to aspire to. To achieve the dream, our reality must follow in pursuit.

You benefit from the power structures of white supremacy, Christian religiocentrism, patriarchy, global anti-blackness, vulture capitalism, and heteronormativity. These power structures were not your making, nor your original intention, but you do benefit from them. Thus the realization of being the beneficiary of these toxic structures provokes the next question: “What are you going to do about it?”

Will you stand idle as tragedy befalls the marginalized, as unqualified and self-adulating individuals win election after election only to serve moneyed interests and systems of power? Or will you grow a spine, act upon your humanity and stand between the marginalized and their oppressor, not as a White savior, but as an individual of ingrained commitment?

This is all flowery language for the same thing. In a world that is slowly realizing the skeletons in its closet while fascist and eugenicist-based groups are incorporated into positions of power, what will you do? How many times do you need to see the same news coverage of the violence in Myanmar, the shooting of black teens in the United States, the crumbling infrastructure of Puerto Rico and the mass migrations of environmental refugees from climate change before you act?

Time and again we are told we must cater to white interests or the interests of those who are dominant in society, that we must speak nicely to those in power to get breadcrumbs to enjoy the promised rights of the Constitution and everything that came after.

Let us be clear here — this idealization of the majority opinion is blind to the mass suffering of the marginalized people of the United States and the splintering of ethnic groups from connecting with one another in solidarity to protest.

It scares us as dominant identities to relinquish certain things we take for granted. But on this campus, giving little is not giving enough. To the politically liberal majority on campus: you are not practicing your liberalism until you align it with the perspectives of those who are marginalized in society. To the white and other dominant allies, you have a race, class, gender identity, sexual orientation, faith, body type, education status, etc., problem.

As marginalized students, many of us feel choked almost by the amount of whiteness that plagues student organization in terms of their programming all the way to the expectations placed on marginalized students.

For the groups on campus that focus on any level of civic engagement: you have a problem and it has to do with being inclusive to marginalized voices, delegating the work to dominant identity folks more and respecting self-care with academics in relation to student programming work. More and more of us are leaving your spaces because you are burdening us with your work and guilting us into thinking that we do not care about engaging with our vote when clearly, we are railroaded with most of the work when it comes to anything with diversity. We aren’t your tokens and until you fix these issues, you have an ethnocentrism problem of multiple class identities that needs to be addressed.

For the groups on campus that focus on service learning: are you honestly surprised to see a hyper-concentration of marginalized students in some volunteering opportunities but barely in others? Where is the education required for student volunteers before they engage with marginalized communities in Appleton area or abroad, outside of the US? Why are there so many white students glorifying their volunteering with Instagram accounts and Facebook profile pictures? It is dehumanizing to see people entering nations like it is a vacation. A quick pro-tip: if the marginalized community is not complaining to your face about this, it is because in this power dynamic they are dependent on you for helping their communities.

Fellow Lawrentians: you need to talk about issues of diversity more and you need to wind back on how much you depend on tokenized and marginalized friends to give you all the answers.

CODA, LEDS, LIT, PEDAL, SAASHA, MARS, DIFA, HDI, LU Roosevelt Institute, LUCC, etc., are all student-led organizations on some level with decades of educational material and specific skill sets that they are willing to share with the campus.

So the next time we see fellow students, staff, faculty and administrators calling themselves “Liberal” or “Allies” but not acting their self-proclaimed name, you do not get to be upset when we call you out right then and there. Usually individuals committed to a specific task focus more time on getting the task done than on congratulating themselves.