Trying to be an ally has been a learning experience. I started out thinking I could do no wrong as long as I cared about whatever community I wanted to support. I put so much faith in my ability to empathize that I assumed it gave me license to defend a cause in any way, and I didn’t think twice about speaking over other people or acknowledging that I can never truly understand someone else’s experience just because I watched a moving documentary about it. As long as I genuinely cared, I reasoned, how could I go wrong?
I’m still learning, but I now realize it’s not that simple.
One lesson I’ve learned only recently is that I don’t have to be part of everything in a community I want to support.
I repeatedly see this issue come up whenever a marginalized group tries to have a space or a conversation of their own. One of the most recent examples was the Twitter campaign #BlackOutDay, where Black people shared pictures and stories about themselves to celebrate Black beauty. The campaign was so popular that it’ll now become a tradition for the first Friday of every month, with the next one happening April 3rd. But on the first day of it, many white people called the whole thing racist and complained that a “White Out Day” would’ve been shut down instantly.