The Problem of “Ally-ship”

Unfortunately, the far-right brush off our attacks with derisive laughter. Our attacks are only harmless words, to them, because they embrace the behaviour we are condemning and like to make us angry. 

The only people willing to listen and accept our grievances are our own guilt-sodden allies, made vulnerable, ironically, by believing whole-heartedly in equality and the need to build a fairer and more egalitarian society, and thus unable to deny their own privileges. Often affluent, educated and frequently described as “white”, guilt is their familiar territory. 

Our allies are used to sorrowfully admitting their guilt and having that feeling soothed away by activists eager for their continued support. Those days have gone, though. On them, the activists’ furious verbal assaults can finally have an impact. We can see our interlocutor flinch (if our webcams have a high enough resolution.) We can hear a querulous and defensive tone enter their voices and words. We might even effect some change as our wounded white, cis, middleclass friends, often in positions of influence or administrative power, try to change society’s discourse and practices, to prove to that they are not prejudiced and right-wing by 

And having an effect is vital to activists. Our shouting needs to do something, because otherwise it’s all just words: self-justifying, self-righteous hot air; virtue signalling, while the same old unequal planet keeps turning; fiddling while Rome burns. 

This is the thinking that leads to the Critical Race theorists’ hatred and torment of their own virtue-signalling white liberal allies: Black feminists’ hatred and abandonment of “White feminism”, Robin DiAngelo’s entire literary output, and of the fallacy of “White Privilege” itself. 

Online Racism and Critical Race Theory: it’s all just forms of bullying and vengeful counter-bullying: ways of exercising power to prove to ourselves that we have agency, influence and affect in a crowded world.

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