For months i’ve been speaking about the idea of #NotOnOurWatch as a movement worth joining.
i know a lot of people have been challenged by that and in their own ways are joining in [i know because i am having conversations with some of them and assume there are a lot more]
But i think it’s helpful to clarify something. Just read an article that suggested calling someone racist isn’t helpful at all in terms of reducing their racist tendencies. tbV and i have been grappling in different ways and to differing extents with the idea of aggressive responses to people who are trying to learn and engage with the race conversations and being shut down [often in what feels like a mean or nasty way] by those who have “been work” for so much longer etc etc…
So that is a thing. And we land in different places. And continue to wrestle.
But the point of clarification that i want to make is that i’m not sure #NotOnOurWatch is as much about the people being racist as it is about the people who are on the receiving end of racism. Or sexism. etc. In a country [and let’s be honest, world] where for too long people stood by and did nothing [or not enough] the idea of #NotOnOurWatch mentality and action is saying to the victims, “You are not alone in this. I am going to fight for you or with you.” And i think that is super important.
It IS also about those being racist/sexist etc letting them know that their activity, behaviour, words are not going to be tolerated or unchallenged. And hopefully when enough people start doing that, it will start to make those people think about their actions and so on. But that’s not the primary reason.
i think i only caught the back end of the “Stick a safety pin to your clothing so that people know you’re a safe ally type person” ridiculousness that happened i guess in Americaland last week.
And while i imagine it came from a place of well meaning [as a significant amount of bad ideas tend to do – meaning well should NOT give you licence to action bad ideas people!] it was super unhelpful and i imagine seen as quite patronising in some ways.
Do you want to know how to be a good ally to someone? BE A GOOD ALLY TO SOMEONE.
It’s the same as trying to prove you are not racist with words. Prove how you are not racist by not being a racist. Stop using racist words, defending racist actions and ideas, build deep friendships with people of other colour and work at your personal racism, but don’t try and verbalise how you’re not. That always comes across as defensive and unhelpful.
If i spend my life educating myself [about race, about the history of my country particularly when it comes to how different races were treated, about ways in which my presence, words or actions might be helpful to marginalised people] and then walking alongside people then i will naturally become someone who people know as an ally and i won’t have to worry about self-identifying. In fact, i’m not sure that you can self identify as an ally. i think it’s a thing other people realise that you are or have become and they have to say it.
i hope this helps. i really do think we need to figure out ways to be kinder to those who are only waking up to ideas of privilege or the need to get involved in race conversations. But at the same time everyone who comes from the side of privilege needs to realise that time is something they have to invest in this. Too many people display an attitude of laziness and want other people to educate them. i get emails all the time and i love helping people out, but it’s frustrating when you can do a quick google and find the answers yourself and then maybe ask me for clarification or dive a little deeper with me on some issue you’re grappling with, rather than expecting me to start you on your journey.
i have written and compiled a number of helpful resources for those of you who are wanting to learn and haven’t quite hit the google yet, so you can start over here as well as some other thoughts i shared a while ago over here [including why being colourblind is NOT the answer!]
i am super excited that this Friday evening we will be holding a Deep Dive Dinner conversation on Race with some of the leaders from St Johns church and that is something you can do with a bunch of mates [ask me how] – it really is mostly about being intentional and creating spaces for conversation with different people.
This isn’t rocket science, people, but it is vital. We have to engage, we have to be learning, we have to be listening. We have to get urgent on this stuff.