“Being a white ‘ally’ may not be easy.”
“Next time don’t say: I’m not a racist.”
I should turn away from headlines like the above. I know the story itself is a rebuke to white liberals like me: Purge yourself of all your own latent racism before you presume to call out racist extremists.
But of course, I read the full stories. And then I get mad.
I resent being relegated to the rear of the march for equality, as if my lifelong dedication to social justice is somehow not good enough for me to be a “white ally” today.
And why not? Because I’ve benefited from “white privilege”? Because I can never begin to understand the suffering and outrage experienced by Americans of color?
All true, by the way.
Because I have not attended a Black Lives Matter protest? Because the sight of scores of unmasked faces in this time of pandemic frightens me away?
Because I want to live to see my new grandson when or if I can safely travel out of state to visit him? And because that’s more important to me than re-validating my authenticity as a protester?
Because I devote most of my volunteer time now to strengthening our community newspaper, serving on boards of local community health organizations and standing up for ethics and transparency in government?
I should note that I feel welcome and appreciated in these groups, which I suppose makes my service to some degree self-serving. But then, I recall from my volunteer management career that all volunteers are at some level seeking validation and a sense of belonging. It’s human nature.
Faced with the current climate of white-shaming, I feel the urge to defend myself. As, what — one of the good guys? And to whom? Activists sacrificing more to The Cause than I do?
And why? Because for some of us the deadliest affliction of aging is not physical debility but feeling irrelevant?
So now I want to proclaim that there IS a difference between me and white-hooded cross-burners, and that for some true believers to dismiss willing white allies is to waste valuable political strength.
I learned during my recent city council term that building bridges and forging alliances with those who have different lives and values than I do is the only way to get things done.
It may be that all I have to give for The Cause right now — or more truthfully, all I’m willing to give — is a vote for Joe Biden.
And to me at least, we well-meaning outsiders need to forgive ourselves for not being the insiders we were in the civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1960s and ’70s.
So I won’t say I’m not a racist. But I do believe I’m a force for change.
Always have been. And in my life going forward, that feels right and good.
(Cheryl Everett is a Rio Rancho resident and former city councilor.)