I’ve pretty much grown contemptuous towards the idea that people in positions of privilege have the right to label themselves “allies”.
First off, you don’t get to define yourself as such, thats something other people do for you, and just because someone DOES call you an ally in their particular struggle doesn’t mean you have the right to call yourself an ally to all people in that group.
Being an activist for a couple years now without getting burnout has really put me in a lot of fucked up situations but its also given me some pretty keen insights into how privilege works in these dynamics.
Now this term is some loaded, feel-good bullshit. White activists with ego problems like to drone on about the importance of intersectionality in their blogs and such but the tone with which it takes belies the obvious fact that none of them have ever actually worked with any people of color who aren’t tokenized.
There is this deep desire by many people to complicate what is actually really simple to understand. There’s also subconscious reasons for this (white guilt for example) but that may be the topic of another post…
Essentially I am criticizing “intersectionality” because I see it as being mainly used by white liberal activists to pretend they have some affinity with the depressed, downtrodden of the world when in fact their understanding manifests in them doing some pretty racist, offensive shit. For example, when I was a younger me there was a public forum on “Gentrification and Intersectionality” held in a predominately black neighbourhood in my town. Guess the race of most of the attendants? Thats right, they were mostly white. In fact the only reason there were any black people in attendance at an event that actually was about an issue of importance to them were because they were invited by some of the white attendants (me and a few friends). Oh and those black people in attendance? They weren’t random people, they were members of the NAACP who actually weren’t officially invited to this public forum. Rather interesting I must say. But it doesn’t stop there. One white professor speaking at the event made the participants in the audience “pretend” to be another race. He actually asked white attendants to “act like they are black” and asked the few black attendants to “act white”. When some of us actually objected to this kind of “exercise” on the grounds that it was inherently racist and actually wasn’t teaching anyone shit.
But it wasn’t meant to actually raise anyone’s consciousness. The term ‘intersectionality’, much like ‘kyriarchy’ is about silencing dissent from mainstream (malestream, white) ‘radical’ politics, not actually challenging people to have some fucking empathy or honestly address what marginalized people are saying about the nature of their oppression. People get to go home after their little exercises to their privileged bubbles, detached from the lives of the people they were just appropriating so they could exorcise their white-guilt.
Now I go back to how white people (like myself) continue to make complete dicks of themselves in regards to how their anti-racist sentiments and activism manifest themselves.
You don’t get to call yourself that, and even if someone calls you that, its a rather egotistical way of looking at yourself to define yourself as such. You also don’t get to assume then that because ONE person calls you that you suddenly are an ally to all members of said oppressed group of people. You don’t get to boast about being a decent person who empathizes with other people’s suffering. I mean, really, how fucking lame is that? How pathetic do you have to be to get an ego boost from it?
THE PITY BRIGADE:
Lastly there’s the people who instead of wanting to make actual change for women experiencing racism, class oppression via capitalism, having been prostituted, women defined as “crazy” due to their experiences with male violence / survivors of male violence, choose to feel sorry for us, pity us instead.
Instead of offering support, encouraging our leadership, supporting us when we speak out about our experiences, honoring the work we are doing we’re treated as if we are PR disasters and hopeless victims that need saving, or that are too far gone to be “saved” but serve as a cautionary tale to all those women “choosing” to prostitute themselves, etc.
Yeah, intersectionality as I’ve experienced it as a person who actually faces multiple forms of oppression that INTERSECT and fuck my life up is BULLSHIT.