Myth of the Perfect Social Justice Ally

August 8, 2014 at 1:21 am Leave a comment

Thanks to the internet, there are lists of “How to Be a Good Ally” directed towards members of many different social advantaged groups: whites, heterosexuals, men, middle/upper class people, able-bodied, neurotypical, and cisgendered (that’s non-transgendered) people. While that’s fine and dandy and many of them do give good advice, I still don’t call myself an ally. There is way too much baggage attached to it, and activism is already hard enough!

There is myth of the perfect ally held among white & class privileged people, and its why I find white anti-racism groups to be hostile to newcomers, certain exceptionally enlightened white people think they can do no wrong and jump on other people when they mess up. Good intentions are no excuse for ignorance, prospective allies are told in every possible type of ism-fighting group. It’s not my responsibility to educate you, use Google if you have a question!

Now, I can understand impatience and distrust from people of various non-dominant groups. Many of them who have fought long and hard in the trenches know there is no magical exceptionally enlightened cadre of white folks, men, heterosexuals etc. I realize as a person with various privileges, I will have to prove myself again and again, and some people will never completely trust me. I don’t blame them. But it is extra hypocritical and annoying to get this from people who have the same privileges- and often more privilege than me. What’s so special about them? They went to the right grad school and studied with Cornell West or Judith Butler? They’re teaching in the South Side of Chicago? They’re good anarchist vegan Buddhists? They betrayed whatever dominant group they belong to, and have suffered mightily for it?  Please. Whatever they’ve done, they too are the product of a racist/classist/everything else-ist society, and they continually need to unlearn that. They’re only one slip-up away from losing that book contract or speaking gig about diversity issues. Gee, that sounded kind of bitter. Yes I admit that maybe I’m a little jealous of career activists. But my point stands- there is no perfect ally!

I suppose if I didn’t belong to any non-dominant/oppressed groups, this empathy would be a lot harder for me. But I know many times, reaching out to non-autistic people, and even autistic people who have a negative Autism Speaks view autism, is hard. I don’t have the luxury of brushing them off and telling them to “just Google it” when they ask me questions that seem ignorant. I try to meet people where they are. Sometimes I get frustrated with people who claim to support people with autism but go about it in (I think) the wrong way.  But I try to set aside my anger and explain how I feel.  And I have to deal with difficulties of communicating with a neurotypical each time I do that.

Every “ism” is different, every person who experiences and benefits in different way from each “ism” is different. We all have our journey we have to take in understanding that. Some people won’t get very far on those journeys, but they won’t even be able to start if we won’t talk to them.

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Entry filed under: Autism/Asperger's, Class, Feminism/Gender, GLBT, Politics/Culture, Race/Ethnicity. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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