I've been thinking about alliance-building lately, and what role our… - AP Racism
Jun. 14th, 2006
I've been thinking about alliance-building lately, and what role our allies should play in our various respective struggles, and what roles I can play as an ally. As a non-white person, I want my white allies to educate white people on white supremacy, as a woman I want men to educate other men on male supremacy, and as a Palestinian I want my Jewish allies to talk to other Jewish people about the occupation of Palestine. I want these things because it is too exhausting for me to deal with anymore, because these groups aren't likely to listen to me in the same way they would listen to people within their group, and because a lot of the dialog people from those groups want to engage me in is manipulative and abusive, and mostly serves to reaffirm their own belief that they are good people and that I am overreacting. I think a huge thing that allies can do for us is just making themselves known, and letting other people in their group know what they stand for. That being said, I think that when people talk about being allies, there is a lot of problematic stuff that can come up from that, and often it just seems like a pat on the back for themselves, without any real action taken to further the cause of the people they are supposed to share an alliance with.
cut for length.
This weekend I went to the AMWAJ (Arab Movement of Women Arising for Justice) conference (was anyone else here there?), and attended a workshop on Building Alliances with African American Communities. I ended up being pretty disappointed with the workshop, but I am still working out the specific reasons for my disappointment. I was hoping to hear other's stories of community building and what worked/what didn't, etc. Most of the workshop consisted of speaking of the privilege that non-black people have, the pervasive effects of slavery, and the need for reparations. These are important things that a large part of our community has yet to recognize, I guess I was just hoping that it would be taken further. One thing that irritated me was the lack of inclusion of Black Arabs in the discussion, serving to further marginalize them and exclude them from the Arab community. I guess I don't see much hope for alliance building with African Americans when people who ARE Arab AND Black are left out of the equation from jump.
There are a lot of community groups out there that exist to help Arabs and new immigrants, and I would like to hear how they approached alliance building, and teaching people about slavery, public policy, media representations, etc. Like I mentioned above, I think it is important for Arabs (specifically light skinned Arabs), if we want to be allies, to educate other Arabs on white supremacy, the subjugation of black people, and where we fit into the equation, especially as newly immigrated people who are often the victims of racial profiling, hate crimes, prejudice, discrimination, etc.
This whole discussion also reminded me of a time in my Arabic 1 class several years ago, in which a woman asked the teacher how to say, "I am a Black woman," and the teacher responded that there was no equivilant word in Arabic, there were only words for "dark-skinned," and that Arabic-speaking people didn't distinguish between people in that way. The explanation she gave made it sound as if Arabic is a perfectly anti-racist language, but it's not true. The only Arabic word I know that means "Black" (as in "Black woman") is a racial slur that is pretty widely used among non-Black Arabs. And there is not an Arab woman around that will tell you that the lighter your skin, the better (unless she has very pale skin and the preferencial treatment is just normal to her). There's this whole denial of racism/colorism from a whole lot of Arabs, as if it will go away if we don't talk about it.
I guess I just want to hear any thoughts on this, any reflections from attempts at alliance building, etc. I would also like to pose the question to Black people here: what do you personally need from your Arab allies?