I have a new friend, a white woman, named Dawn. In my approximately 20 year history as an anti-racism activist and as an organizer and public speaker regarding race relations, I cannot say I have known someone who has been as committed and as steadfast as Dawn. Her sensitivities, her understanding of the injustices of the world, especially regarding race is solid, is on point. Is ultimately refreshing.
I know a lot of white people who are allies. Who are accomplices when it comes to pushing back at anti-Blackness, the incarceration of Brown people, the hate being spewed at the Asian community. My consistent and documented presentations, marches, protests, and marches all consist of an ally or two or three who are white and focused on the cause at hand. I have been truly blessed and overwhelmed at times with the showing of this humble ally-ship.
I met Dawn at an event held in my hometown of Rockford, Illinois. It was a special event for all of the organizations and people who are doing activist or social justice work. She bought my book I was Born and Raised in The Rock (a.k.a. Rockford, IL). I asked her pointedly what kind of social justice efforts did she want to get involved in. She was unsure at the time but that seems like eons ago now.
Since then, Breanna Taylor was killed in her home, Ahmad Aubrey was shot and killed while jogging in Georgia, and George Floyd was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis, MN. A lot has taken place since then. A lot has happened in the realm of injustice in order for many of us to take stances or not. Dawn definitely has taken a stance. It is the local things she has been focused on and very involved in. Her activism is just right for the pressures of police violence and brutality currently taking place here in Rockford, Illinois.
White women do not have to be by our side, they do not have to put themselves in harms way, they do not have to donate money to help get protestors out of jail, they do not have to show up and film faulty or violent arrests by the police. Dawn is of a different breed. She has shown up in various and in multiple ways to show she cares. She is not loud about what she does, she does not brag about it. She simply goes where she needs to be, she makes friends, she steps back when she needs to.
I have definitely seen the opposite: white women showing up to be there without clarity, with a true feel for the causes, unprepared to center Blackness or support Brown people who have been targeted or wronged by the federal government. I have seen some white women show up one or two times then never see them again. This is not Dawn. She is always present. She is committed to the current occupation of City Hall in Rockford the May 30th Alliance make their voices heard and bring attention to the growing deaths of Black and Brown people at the hands of the police.
What I enjoy are the tough conversations, the deep diving discussions I have with Dawn regarding the history of slavery, racism, anti-Blackness, and sexism this country is known for. From a white woman’s perspective and a Black man’s research, learning, and traveling, it makes for the best composition of truth-telling and activism someone in my position could ask for. All of the relationships and the associations in between help paint a very clear picture of the ongoing story injustice and inequity BIPOC people experience in the United States.
Dawn is able to take her experiences into conversations and in groups where not many BIPOC people exist. She is better able to speak up or out for us when we are not in those spaces or conversations to speak about or explain what is happening to us. In my opinion, there should be more white women like Dawn on school boards and in classrooms where Black, Brown, Red, and Yellow children are first experiencing racism, discrimination, or sexism. Starting at the ground level, these kinds of white women should be available.
Ally-ship is not the easiest thing. Ally-ship is not something you can learn to do overnight. Being a white person in people of color spaces is often times challenging or discomforting. Ally-ship is earned just the same. Dawn has earned the right to be called one. I see her around the same people I have protested or been an activist with. She is paving her own way as an ally many can trust. May her ally abilities teach, inspire, and encourage other white women (and men) to show up and be helpful in the fight in all that is harmful and detrimental to the lives of Black, Brown, Indigenous, and People of Color.