When White "allies" are silent...
Updated: Jun 23, 2020
Lately, I have been uniquely disappointed in many of my White colleagues who falsely presented themselves as advocates and allies for the Black community. Actually, I’m really angry. It started with an email, soon after the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, in which I was wished a good weekend and asked my availability for a regularly scheduled biweekly meeting. The email made no mention of the continued danger of being Black in America; it just proceeded with business as usual. You’ve got to be at the height of privilege to pull that one off, right? I sent back a response that indicated I was traumatized and exhausted and that I was focusing on providing space for my clients and allies. I received a reply back that stated “let us know how we can help.” Maybe it hurt more because the previous meeting was one in which I gave a mini presentation on bringing up identity (race, ethnicity, religion, spirituality, gender, sexual orientation, etc) in clinical practice and encouraged my White colleagues to challenge themselves to have these conversations. I naively assumed that they would understand that this included with clients AND with colleagues. Or, maybe it angered me that I, the marginalized, was being asked by the privileged to teach them what to do.
But, the recent lack of acknowledgement by some of my colleagues of the ongoing racial trauma I and other Black folx feel, has made me have to face the reality of how much I shrink myself to make my White peers feel safe. How I increase the charm and fun personality, so as not to intimidate. How I quiet myself to avoid being labeled as aggressive or angry. How trying to be the “best” in a White world has made me only feel less than and not good enough. My anger and hurt were so deeply buried under a veneer of politeness that it was a major shock when I sat back and realized how much racism has influenced every aspect of my life. I can recall experiencing microaggressions and overt racism throughout my entire educational career. And it certainly did not stop since I have become a licensed psychologist. But, when I went to a White colleague to express my frustration that yet another White client had opted not to work with me solely based on my race, and that colleague responded with “not all White people...”, I should have known it wasn’t a safe space. Now, I refuse to enter that space. I refuse to go to any meetings. I refuse to make them comfortable. I refuse to save them from having to sit with their White privilege and come to terms with how they perpetuate implicit bias and prejudice. Racism is woven into the fabric of our society, and I refuse to take on the burden of helping White colleagues unravel those threads.