Saturday, May 03, 2008

On "allying," some collected thoughts, such as they are

(for ABW's Carnival of Allies)

First of all, the ranty bit, as excerpted and slightly modified from an earlier post (sorry for the repeat, regulars):

There's this, okay, -message-, I've been picking up, not just in the latest mess, but in a number of contexts, race-related and otherwise. (You can get an idea from skimming downward). Covertly and sometimes overtly, it goes roughly like this:

Oh, you can't possibly MEAN what you're saying. You're not really interested in -this-, are you? You're just putting it on. You're acting out of -guilt.- You're not one of THEM. You're one of US. You're just trying to be trendy, aren't you? Cool. More Radical Than Thou. Looking for "cookies" from, uhhhh, whoever's giving them out this week. Anything and everything but YOU MIGHT ACTUALLY MEAN WHAT YOU'RE ACTUALLY SAYING. And, further, you can't possibly LIKE -those people-, not -really.- They aren't actually, sorry! I mean THEY are in fact -really people-, which is a -really- radical idea and I still can't quite get my head entirely 'round it but I'm -really- trying; it helps if I maintain that THEY are just like me (only not quite as Advanced).

As opposed to, garsh, I don't know, I like -some- of "these people" as PEOPLE, and therefore, by listening to them and getting to know them, I give a fuck when they say "ouch, this hurts," even if it doesn't seem to directly affect me (at first). Because

a) actually, as it turns out, most of the time if I look a step or a half-step ahead, why yes in fact I AM quite possibly next for the chop, say hello Pastor Niemuller,

b) besides, HELLO, how on earth do you expect people to be interested in YOUR righteous cause if you never return the fucking favor? Because you're Universal and they're a sideline and they should just wait patiently for you to get your rightful piece of the pie and THEN they might get a crumb? Because you think you're the only game in town? Wrong on both counts, and it's high time you got a clue.

c) those are my FRIENDS and LOVED ones you're talking about, you fucking zits. And/or at minimum, people I respect and like and want to hear what they have to say for -themselves-. PEOPLE.

And yeah, thing is, I do get why this might seem...not enough; we're talking about -structural- shit, after all, right? not just petty high school sniping over who's friends with whom. And yet...I'm increasingly convinced that actually, it DOES matter, this let's say "individualistic" approach, quite a bit.

Here's the thing: people do tend to respond most strongly to shit that resonates for them on a personal level.

And I’m going to go in a slightly different direction from the usual conclusion to this, i.e. “damn, I’m/we’re shallow and we suck, I Will Work Harder at intellectually understanding such and so, because it is my Duty,” maybe more: okay, I’m not feeling such and so terribly viscerally. Why not? Is it maybe partly because–in some cases at least–I don’t actually -know- any of the people directly affected by such and so?

And if not–maybe, does it make sense to go, “huh, maybe I could get to know ___ on a more personal level. Seek people out. Talk to people -as- people over the long haul, as an end in itself. Make real connections, not just ‘oh, i want to LEARN from you.’ See if the world maybe isn’t a little bit bigger than I thought, and maybe make some friends** along the way.”

Because, ime, once you do that, the “difficult” stuff often becomes a lot easier to understand. Because, now it’s not just some abstract issue. Now, it’s personal.

And, as we all know, "the personal is political."


**generally, a term I find myself using a lot more than "ally," unless the context really calls for the latter.


Sarah J said...


what you said.


Dw3t-Hthr said...

I am reminded that my most common gloss for "You're being PC" is "You don't really believe that, you're just saying it to get a cookie."

Rebecca said...


Octogalore said...

Great post. "Make real connections, not just ‘oh, i want to LEARN from you’" = right on. To me that's the best way to be an ally, which is why I too like "friend" better unless ally's just a better fit.

The people making that rant are probably ones who don't get it on a visceral level and also don't get why anyone else would. Their great loss.

Claire said...

I'm glad you're around. =)

Lady S said...

Yup, ally to me implies some sort of exchange along the lines of 'I'll support you if you give me your knowledge'.

Whereas friend is mutual.

PhysioProf said...

As opposed to, garsh, I don't know, I like -some- of "these people" as PEOPLE, and therefore, by listening to them and getting to know them, I give a fuck when they say "ouch, this hurts," even if it doesn't seem to directly affect me (at first).

No wai! They just can't take a joke!

thene said...

**generally, a term I find myself using a lot more than "ally," unless the context really calls for the latter.

Me'd frankly seem odd to declare myself an 'ally' of people I've been sharing life with for bloody years.

Trinity said...


I love your "friend" discussion, though I thought I might point you to the fact that a few of my commenters don't, and I think they've got good points (though I'm still not sure I agree):

comments to this post

belledame222 said...

Just to note: it's not that I mean I say "friend of group _____," like "Friends of Wildlife," it's more, I tend to enter into these conversations alongside someone whom I do actually consider a friend. but mostly I don't end up really needing to self-ID at all. fwiw.

Trinity said...

Belle, yeah, that's exactly what I thought you meant. Did you get the impression I thought something else? If so I really ought to edit the post -- what I meant was "how about thinking of this in terms of 'so and so is my friend,' and what follows from that, rather than 'and how do I tick off the Black Folks tickbox?'"

That's what I both liked and didn't like about the comments -- I thought they understood that both you and I meant actual friends, but were then asking whether we have ally duties to people we dislike strongly -- eg. do I have ally-duties to someone like Apostate, despite not liking her at all and thinking she's usually wrong?

belledame222 said...

o i see. it--nngh. Well--I don't know that I have "ally duties" to her [or anyone] -personally.- If I think she has a point about something, then I think it's a good thing to say so, even if I don't happen to like her personally. But that's not really exclusive to this stuff, I suppose...

If I think someone's being a bigot against group ___, and so and so is a member of group ___ and is being jumped on, and I happen to dislike so and so, yeah, sure, I still think it's the right thing to do to say to the bigot, no, you're wrong to say ___, and here's why. Still not really feeling the need to call myself an "ally" as such there, per se. If that makes sense. It's more: look, it's the right thing to do.

belledame222 said...

so, but yeah, I guess this is really most of it: I don't really go around calling -myself- an "ally." I'm not necessarily saying it's never a useful term, away with it. If there's a meeting, let's say, and the people running it want to make it clear that it's not exclusive to people who are members of group ___, then if they say, "[people who are ___] and allies welcome," then I know it's all right for me to go.

but apart from that, I just always feel a bit weird about it, I guess. "I am an ally"--it makes me feel like we're about to go fight WWII or something.

andyj said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Trinity said...

Yeah, Belle, I think you're right. I just also think, well, elle has a point with her coalition building thing: sometimes we do make *alliances*, where I don't mean by that word that I know what this other ally-thingy means, just generally. And I think elle had in mind that since "ally" is really ill-defined, sometimes people expect others to ACT like friends, cos being a real ALLY is y'know GETTING IT TOTALLY AND NOT FUCKING UP, least the way some folks talk about it. So I think she was saying hey, sometimes I really am working on a coalition not promising I SHALL HEAR YOU YOU THE MIGHTY YOU, which some whiny dramaloons do pull now n' again when they're not getting HEARD!! o Maud.

andyj said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
belledame222 said...

sorry, Andy, you failed the blogwarbot test.

belledame222 said...

o all right, one wouldn't want to be accused of "censorship," would one. for anyone who's miffed at missing andy's brilliance, here 'tis, enlivened slightly:

Thet deedn't teke-a yuoo lung. Su, zee beeg qooesshun thet yuoo ere-a effreeed zee poobleec see-a: vhy shuoold unybudy help oor elly veet yuoo effter seeeeng yuoor vurk? It cunteeens nutheeng. Und zeen yuoo merch ell oofer zee blugs leeke-a yuoo hefe-a zee reeght. Um de hur de hur de hur.

and now, I really must insist you either play "Melancholy Baby" or say something interesting, if you want to keep posting here.

Trinity said...


littlem said...

**generally, a term I find myself using a lot more than "ally," unless the context really calls for the latter.

*cries a little*

*pretends she wasn't, straightens up*

As for those "other" people *smirk*:
I am an X-Men fan.
Sometimes I really feel Magneto.

Frequently, those are "one of those times".

littlem out.

belledame222 said...

MAgneto is awesome, although, the hat, well...

still, can't argue with Ian MacKellen.

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