A couple years ago, I was asked if I was okay after another unarmed Black person had a fatal, avoidable encounter with white men. That was the first time I was ever asked that by a person who was not Black. She went on to tell me that she was an "ally." I was stuck in that moment, caught off guard. When her words set in, and at first I thought it was considerate. I know a lot of people are still "learning," but as I had more time to think I realized her asking that was more about her than me.
There's a way to show support to those outside of our immediate culture and communities. We can empathize and show compassion to anyone in any creed, nationality, culture, belief system, etc., but in doing so what are our motivations?
To non-Black employers, when you ask your Black employees how they are after yet another episode of racial hatred, are you just hoping they don't quit because they're the best workers? Do you allow compensation inequity based on race? Do you pigeon hold Black employees because they're "too difficult" to work with when really they're enduring subliminal racism by colleagues on a daily basis? What is your intention?
I understand that some people have to learn what America was truly built on, but it is not the responsibility of Black people to make you feel comfortable about what's going on in the country we may love but has not loved us in return. Blackness was forged because our culture and histories were stolen and bonds were utterly destroyed, but that history isn't allowed in the education system. We see glamorized tales of enslaved people being called "volunteers". We see lies painted in pretty pictures talking about how Natives giddily moved to reservations to make room for their "new friends." It's disgusting really. Now don't get me wrong, I strive not to be a hateful person. It's so unbecoming and it's against the principles on which I live my life, but I would be lying if I said it is easy.
What are you limits in being my "ally"? Are you down for the cause until it costs you privilege? Or do you want to dismantle the system of oppression using your unearned privilege given to you as a birthright? What happened before us is not our fault on any side, but for what we do we must answer. Will you do what's right even when it upsets your parents and grandparents?
If you're my ally, show me. Check your intentions and patterns before you ask that simple question filled with so much nuance.