Sunday, February 1, 2015

Allies Behaving Badly

Examples of behavior I have seen in the last few months from 'allies':

  • A group of mostly White women start a Facebook group for Black Breastfeeding Mothers that the white women admin, and never miss an opportunity to promote their agenda of diversifying a specific breastfeeding support group.  I have pointed out that what they are doing constitutes an ethical breach (admining a group for Black women when they are White AND using the site to promote their agenda of diversifying their own group, which may not be consistent with an agenda of supporting African-American breastfeeding mothers.)
  • Watched a for profit company try to invade an urban African-American community to make money while framing it as 'economic empowerment' when it was more like 'economic exploitation'
  • A woman of color in another city contacted me to inform me she had co-written a grant with an ally, one that required a woman of color in a leadership role.  When the grant was received, she was promptly removed from her position working with the project.  There are now no voices of color on the project, even though the funds are aimed at programs for Black women.
  • I have seen countless groups scavenge for funding aimed at programs for Black women, even though these groups have no ties whatsoever to the Black community.  I have watched them scramble to get any Black face they could find on their committees and use these people mercilessly to push their own agendas.
  • I have seen Black run community-based organizations and coalitions quietly step aside in writing for these same grants for fear of stepping on the toes of those in power.
  • I have seen individuals of color elected to top ranking positions in clearly White organizations, so that those organizations can claim diversity, when all they really have is one lone person of color floundering in a leadership role in which they alone are expected to do the work of making significant change throughout the organization to promote diversity, when these organizations clearly have no desire to change anything, except how the top leader looks.
  • I have seen organizations talk the talk, but refuse to walk the walk.
  • I have seen all manner of disparities pimping. 
  • I have seen so called allies argue down people of color telling them their ideas for what is best for their communities, and instead pushing through their own agendas.
  • I have seen small groups of peoples of color struggle as they were torn between meeting the needs of their communities on one hand and please the White purse string holders on the other.
  • I have seen 'allies' write grants so that they get paid to recruit VOLUNTEERS of color into birth or breastfeeding work in efforts that are clearly not sustainable.
  • I have seen organization claim to want to be anti-racist without a willingness to invest in the hard work of actually becoming anti-racist. 
  • I have seen organizations approach communities of color only when they need something from them such as a focus group for a report to legitimize the work they are doing.
  • I have seen so-called allies never question their motives, their tactics, their presence in communities of color or call themselves into account for their lack of progress or change in those communities.
  • Shamelessly appropriating and cannibalizing Black culture when it suits the need.
  • I see people of color sidelined, marginalized, made invisible, disregarded, silenced, and worse for trying to help their own communities through the vehicle of dominant culture organizations holding dominant culture values.  Their opinions are not sought out, nor are they highly regarded within those organizations for the value they bring.  Far from it.
  • I have had groups approach me to talk or do a webinar, as a check off for their diversity to do list, without any interest in actually changing the organization.
  • "Helping" Black mothers by attacking aspects of Black culture, and inviting them to question the wisdom of their elders in inappropriate ways.
  • I have seen program managers brag about the numbers of low level workers of color they have recruited, when those workers don't make a living wage, receive benefits, or even have fulltime hours or job security.  The managers recruiting them of course, take all those economic niceties for granted.
  • I have seen many allies expect people of color to change to come be with them, but have seen none willing to change to be culturally appropriate to enter communities of color.
  • Allies will volunteer to do work in their own communities, that they must be paid to do in communities of color.
  • I am getting scads of invitations to talk for 'Black History Month'
  • Allies will scramble like crabs in a bucket to get monies aimed a communities they know nothing about.
I could go on, but I think you get my point.  All of this amounts to the same thing.  Folks that are supposed to be helping us are instead helping themselves and preying off us.  Feasting on our slowing decaying and disparity-ridden bones.  Health inequities = Social and Economic and Healthcare and Reproductive Injustice  A system such as this could have only evolved in a supremely racist and oppressive society.  An entire class of educated and employable folks make their living feeding off the poor and peoples of color and call it social benefit.  How did we come to this?  More importantly how do we get out of it?  I have an upcoming webinar on February 17, 2015 with Preclarus Press called, "With Friends Like These… 10 Steps to Creating Mutually Beneficial Relationships with Persons and Organizations of Color".  Stay tuned and keep listening.  I'm hoping that allies will want to do better, once they know better.

For my brothers and sisters toiling in the trenches, starting in February, I will offer a monthly conference call that you can join.  Watch my Facebook page for details.  We will problem-solve with one another on how to exist and manifest effectiveness and excellence in racist and oppressive organizations and or systems.  The calls will be limited in numbers of callers, so it will be on a first come, first served basis.  That way we can address one another's issues in greater depth. We will create our own brain trust and self help group to address issues commonly encountered by people of color working in the birth and breastfeeding fields.  If this describes you, please join us.