In Honor of Black History Month, Eff Your Performative Allyship

Earlier this week, my Facebook feed reminded me of that time, back in 2018, when members of Congress donned those AME Zion children’s choir kente stoles and kneeled on the capital floor.

And I thought about how, four years later, we still can’t get Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act. We got Juneteenth passed as a Federal holiday, but there’s a simultaneous effort by 36 states to block any teaching of an American history that helps students even understand what Juneteenth means. 

As we sit waiting for President Joe Biden to nominate the first Black woman to the U.S. Supreme Court, I am silently praying for strength and fortitude for sis, knowing we need her to blaze the trail, but acutely aware that I couldn’t be nobody’s first nothing. We don’t even know her name yet, but we’re already seeing attacks on her credentials.

The affirmative action card. The “dR. kInG dIeD sO pEoPlE wOuLDn’T bE jUdGeD bY rAcE!” card. And I’m reminded that Black women always have to work twice as hard, be thrice as good to even have the honor of being mentioned so we can be insulted and publicly humiliated. Because before Dr. Jill Biden, Michelle Obama was the most educated First Lady in history, but we still had to hear about bare arms and how she wore her hair (in the beginning), and see caricatures of her and her husband portrayed as monkeys. 

And I’m reminded of how much performative allyship we’ve seen — from kente cloth stoles (I will never, ever forgive y’all) to Black Lives Matter protest selfies — without any real change. Of how Black people, and especially Black women, are simultaneously never enough and continuously too much for a country that never intended to embrace us as human. Five-fifths. Whole. 

Y’all don’t get tired of tormenting Black people in our own homes, churches, schools?

I sat down to pen the first blog post in my Black history month series this year — focusing on prominent and contemporary Black HBCU thinkers — against the backdrop that several historically Black colleges and universities had received bomb threats this morning. Again. For the third time in 2022 — and we are only on the 32nd day of the year.

Y’all don’t get tired of tormenting Black people in our own homes, churches, schools? In spaces created just for us — because you don’t want us in yours, and half the time, we don’t even want to be there. But when our prosperous towns and institutions of upward mobility are burned down or constantly under attack and the neighborhoods to which we were historically redlined are riddled with environmental hazards, we aren’t left with much choice. 

I am tired. Of lip service. Of performative gestures.

I am tired. Of lip service. Of performative gestures. Of everyone wanting us to rally for every cause, save every election, then relegating us to the ghettoes of “diversity work” when our purpose has been fulfilled, the box has been checked. I’m tired of people who would smile at me and compliment my children’s manners while relegating children who look like mine to school systems that don’t see them, reflect them, consider them or want them.

On this, the first day of black history month, I urge folks to take a look around and figure out how to make a real difference. How to elevate and center the voices and lived experiences of Black people — no more white diversity panels.

No more white women being bestsellers unpacking their white privilege while Black authors are continually ignored. No more hiring the one Black teacher and burning him out in the first three years because you wanted him to solve all the discipline issues, climate issues, chair the diversity community and find last-minute steppers for the Black History Month assembly.

No more tokenism. No more elevating mediocrity while crying about affirmative action (looking at you, Amy Coney Barrett). No more questioning the credentials and actions of the first Black Vice President of the United States when you can’t name 3 before her. 

No more. 

No more standing in the middle, safely not rocking the boat while whispering private words of support. No more being more devoted to order than justice, no more false peace by way of ignoring tension. No more “shallow understanding from people of goodwill.”

In the words of Jay Rock, “you either with me, or against me (yo).” 

Happy Black history month. 

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