Educate Yourselves For A Change
This is probably going to be one in a long line of posts that repeat what I’ve said before, because apparently some people don’t listen, but part of it is that I am constantly these days encountering white people who just don’t know where to look.
It’s not all white people. Let me start off by saying that, but for those who are out there who want to educate themselves, who want to learn how to be better allies and supporters, and for people of color who are just coming into their radicalized selves, this post is for you.
If you want to be someone who is remembered, like me, then make noise, tell the world who you are, and demand they pay attention.
If you want to be someone who changes the world however, don’t expect that the entire world is going to know who you are, until they need to know who you are.
When I worked at the church very few people knew me other than as my mother’s daughter. I started joking that I was “Devon, Jonquil’s Daughter,” Hall, and everyone laughed when they heard that joke, but it wasn’t funny, it wasn’t intended to be actually.
“…it’s just another one of those things I don’t understand: everyone impresses upon you how unique you are, encouraging you to cultivate your individuality while at the same time trying to squish you and everyone else into the same ridiculous mold. It’s an artist’s right to rebel against the world’s stupidity.”― E.A. Bucchianeri, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly,
When I was at the church everything I did was watched. Where I went, who I hung out with, who I was allowed to hang out with. I always had to look over my shoulder because I never knew who was watching and what they’d say to my mom. I started dating a truck driver once, and someone told my mom he was a Hell’s Angel because I told them he owned a motorcycle. The people in that circle were VERY strict on what was allowed for me and what was not.
And if I broke rules I didn’t know existed, I paid for it often in big and humiliating ways.
I’m not just her daughter anymore, I had to rebel from that label, and I did so with open arms, eyes, and wings spread wide. I have no interest in being someone’s daughter if I don’t set the world right for myself in the process.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my mother, and my community, but that community nearly killed me. I wasn’t Christian enough, I wasn’t white enough. I wasn’t quiet or respectful enough, I was constantly making it clear I wanted to escape. Nothing about me was enough, and when I was enough there was always some small hair out of place.
If you want to change the world, start by accepting the people around you are not all the same. You can’t just walk into a Black, or BIPOC community and decide that you’re going to be an ally. That’s not enough anymore. You have to let us decide if we even want you as an ally, and that starts with doing the work.
But how do you do the work when everyone in the community is judging you? We have to get rid of this idea that allies are born. They are made, cultivated, created out of relationships and friendships with people. If you want someone in your life you’ll fight like hell to make sure there is room for them in your life, that’s just a fact.
You have to be the kind of person who knows when it’s time to speak up and when it’s not. We’re not asking to be allowed to break the rules, we’re just asking for a little patience and kindness. We’re asking for respect, and to get paid fair wages for fair work.
I remember one Christmas some volunteers got angry with me because they were there to “work,” and there was no work to be done. We had too many volunteers, so I suggested they eat with our guests, which wasn’t good enough for the white man, so I smiled politely and said “then you can go home and relax. We’re good.”
That wasn’t very polite, and I got called on it but what did they expect me to do? We were overflowing with love and I wasn’t going to let them wreck Christmas for all the people who had gathered. Sometimes “Doing the work,” means sitting down and having a meal with someone you wouldn’t bring home. Sometimes it means bringing them home.
Sometimes it means, being an ally. Being uncomfortable for a few moments so someone else can be comfortable forever. I remember another time we had a whole family, mom dad, a couple of kids, and a baby, with nowhere to go. So we reached out to our NA community and found them an apartment that night so the kids wouldn’t be taken away.
Everyone on this planet has something else that someone else needs, all that it takes really is deciding what you’re comfortable giving up so that someone else can have what you think you need. Maybe it’s a television, maybe it’s an apartment.
Somewhere in your circle is someone who has something they can give up, and so you talk to your friends, your family, YOUR allies, and ask them “I have this need, who can provide?” it’s not just paying it forward, it’s more than that. It’s remembering our tribal roots.
My best friend is a white man. A man who has always encouraged me to believe that I could be more, not because I was Black, he didn’t even know for the first few years of our friendship (Thank you internet), but because he is a person who loves, openly, and freely, and because he chose to love me. That’s the best kind of allyship a Black woman can ask for, but if you want to be that kind of person, you might have to understand that Black and BIPOC people take more work than our white counterparts.
Understand that for many of us life is a series of neverending traumas, imagine being a fourteen-year-old Indigenous kid, knowing your ancestors, your cousins, were just found as dead bodies under the schools they were forced to live in. That’s traumatic.
Imagine being the Black girl who is both fetishized and abused in equal measure by white supremacists in every corner of her life, with no hope things are going to get better. That’s traumatic. We have traumas that come from our own lives, and the lives of our ancestors, and try as we might, we sometimes pass those traumas on to our children.
If you want to be an ally, you have to know that as an ally it’s only your place to speak when it’s your turn to speak. More often than not we need you to listen, to hear us, to really let us be the center for just a little while in your life. Maybe it’s an hour, maybe it’s a weekend, but for too long, too many of us have been in the shadows, and now that we’re coming out of that world of darkness and pain, we need to express ourselves without your interference.
It’s hard work being a white person who wants to help and doesn’t know how, and I get that. I really do, but I also know what it feels like to be an ordinary human who wants to change the world with the added scarification of having people hate you because of the color of your skin, or your gender, orientation, size, and abilities or disabilities.
I get hated from all corners of the world simply because I exist without apology because I refuse to apologize for existing. Can you live in that light beside me? If so let’s go we have a lot of work to do, but if not, then please get the hell out of my way.
I don’t have the luxury of holding onto toxic relationships anymore, that shit almost got me murdered, and I don’t say that lightly. I was very nearly a murdered and missing Black woman in Canada, I put my life on the line to tell my story so that if something happened to me people might care. That’s what it means to be me, so if you think you can do that you can try, but if you can’t then let me take the lead and I’ll show you what needs to get done.
You can start by saying hello to your Black and BIPOC neighbors, getting to know them and asking them what they need.
Sending all my love,
Devon J Hall