Being a good ally isn’t always easy. I’ve made plenty of mistakes over the years, both in words and actions, and I can only hope to do better going forward. Even as a black woman it’s important for me to recognize my own privilege and to try to understand where others are coming from.
A segment from this weekend’s Melissa Harris-Perry really got to the heart of what it means to be a good ally and it was certainly a helpful reminder. MHP begins the segment with a helpful primer on how to be a good ally:
Don’t demand that those you are supporting produce proof of the inequality they are working to resist.
Do recognize that the shield of your privilege may blind you to the experience of others of injustice.
Don’t offer up your relationship with a member of the marginalized group as evidence of your understanding.
Do be open to learning and expanding your consciousness by listening more and talking less.
Don’t see yourself as the Kevin Costner in Dances with Wolves. Or Tom Cruise in The Last Samari. You are not the savior riding to the rescue on a white horse. Do notice that you are joining a group of people who are already working to save themselves.
Do realize the only requirement you need to enter ally-ship is a commitment to justice and human equality.
Key quote: “The rights that you take for granted are not valid unless you fight for the same rights for others.” Michael Skolnik
Transcript after the jump.
>>> this morning my question. why are so many people working so hard and still barely making it. mr. plus, the dozens of men starving to death on purpose. and what you don’t know about political icon angela davis. but first, are you a good ally? good morning. i’m melissa harris perry. 48 years ago this month americans watched as video of the day that would become known as bloody sunday was broadcast live to television screens across the country. on march 7th 650 people attempted a protest march to the state capitol building to advocate for voting rights. as the cameras rolled the peaceful protesters, just six blocks into their march were stopped at the bridge and violently attacked by alabama state troopers. the televised images of american citizens tear gassed and beaten with clubs sparked outrage as viewers watched in horror. among those was a woman who did more than just watch. and joining the people who answered the call was a married mother of five from michigan. this 39-year-old teamster’s wife divided her time between raising children, attended classes and being an activist. she worked to bring attention to education and economic justice issues. but only days before she arrived in selma, a boston minister was beaten to death by a group of men armed with clubs, but stilt viola came, joining thousands of others who knead the four-day walk escorted by the national guard from selma to montgomery. during the march viola volunteered as a driver for the southern christian leadership conference, shuttling marchers back and forth between the two cities. one night she was driving accompanied by a young black lcsc activist when she was spotted by a group of kkk members. they pulled up next to her and shot her in the head, killing her instantly. this monday was the 48th anniversary of viola east death. >> she went to alabama to serve the struggles for justice. she was murdered by the enemies of justice who for decades have used the rope and if gun and the tar and the feathers o terrorize their neighbors. people who could otherwise remain wrapped in the security of their privilege but instead choose to align themselveses with no such haven. a coalition who includes those who are not the primary focus by moving frit the margin to the mainstream. they can be forgiven for not rolling out the rainbow carpet for rob portman when he announced his shift from adversary to ally. he already knew for two years ability the sexual orientation of his son who inspired his evolution. which makes democrats jumping on the bandwagon especially late to the party. both hillary and bill clinton waited until the winds of popular support were at their backs. at times a challenge of controversy, but the shift in the idea of marriage equality from radical extreme to ordinary acceptance may have less to do with what brings an ally to a table to what they do once they get there. first shlgs don’t demand those you are supporting produce proof of the quality. do recognize the shield of your privilege may blind you to the others of injustice. don’t offer up your relationship as evidence of your understanding. expand your consciousness by listening more and talking less. and don’t see yourself as the kevin costner as dances with the wolves. you are not the savior riding to the rescue on a white horse. do realize the only requirement you need is a commitment to justice and human equality. and remember the example of viola who most enduring was not that she gave her life but the way that she lived it. a friend warned her against the danger and in response she said schismly i want to be a part of it. the professor of political science at columbia university and publisher of color lines.com. michael is the political director to hip hop pioneer russell simmons. and dave is sports editor for the nation. this is the work that you do. what is your rule for being a good ally? >> my first ennumber one rule is to remember the last thing that you said that the job of a good ally is not to save anybody but to create the conditions to assert and grow their own power. that means making room for the voices of people. and it means defending those people when they decide to assert the power and draw down the backlash that any assertion of power by an oppressed group of people draws down. there is one exception to the rule, which is that if you are encountering someone in grave physical danger or under the attack that needs to be sblupted in the moment, that may be a saving moment. otherwise generally you’re just making space, really. and providing defense. it’s about being the flank rather than getting in front. >> this point about space. when president obama at the inauguration uses the long waj of talking about gay brothers and sisters, to me this is a making space moment. let’s take a listen to that. skbl our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law. for if we are truly created equal then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. zh you have this amazing moment when the president is making space. you eni were talking about your dear friend who i am so impressed with. >> yeah, bren don and i go back to our ucla day kids when we were young kids. i’ve watched his tremendous growth as an ally to the lbgt community. the rights you take for granted are not valid unless you fight for the same rights for others. when i stood up for trayvon a year ago, if i can put my hand out a tax key cab will not pass me by. no one will ask me to pay before i eat at a restaurant. if i walk through my neighborhood with a hoodie on, then i have to fight for those young black and brown young men to have the same rights that i have. >> that is about a recognition that you do exist. she would say the perfect trifecta. the straight white guy. so i got privilege. i got to do something with it. >> this question of bren don and those in the league, it looks like to me that part of where we need to go for our gay brothers and sisters is when folks who sort of represent the most normative, you know, straight white men or very masculine black men that we see in sports, for example, when they’re acting as allies and we have seen this before, right? >> absolutely. that makes it so important when athletes submit a brief to the supreme court saying we stand for lgbt marriage equality. the role that brendan played in the state of maryland. conspira conspiracy? i don’t know. sorts is one of the ways that masculinity is socialized. when you have people who say wait a minute, my definition is not hetero normative, then that has a tremendous power, and it speaks to this what i think is very important when we talk ability what it means to be a good ally. part of it also has to be saying to people you’re not doing this out of pity. you’re not doing this out of charity. you have to see it as also self interest. we have a better society if young black children in chicago can have a good education and go to schools. we are a better society if our lgbt brothers can live in peace. if our sisters, daughters, mothers can feel safe. >> it feels to me like part of what will sometimes happen in the question of being a good ally is when other movements are called onto be allies. so we’ve seen, for example, some resistance in racial civil rights movement to align with lgbt movements. then we see the president making space, a lot of folks coming on board. then all right hrc. all right, glad. you guys now have to make that a res recipricol relationship. how do we make the calls? >> it’s a simple principle. an injury to one is an injury to all. if we imagine ourself in any situation thinking of that one rule, what can i do in the situation to be in solidarity with someone who is being injured? whether through oppression or through an individual human action, what is my responsibility as a human being to insure that another human being’s dignity is not looked down upon. >> yeah, a good union principle. we love having you here. stay right there. when we come back, there is somebody working on that. the pastor who made marriage equality his mission when we’re back. hi,