Juneteenth: Active Allyship
When I try to find words of meaning, and struggle with what to say that’s not be said before, I almost always hold back, rationalizing it’s pointless to add my voice to the mix when I don’t have anything original to say. There are already so many voices out there with more weight than mine, I tell myself. It’s all been said. What difference could my one voice make? What could I possibly add?
I think of my whiteness and my middle-class status and my privilege. I think about our business, making and selling chocolate, and its utter lack of relevance to this conversation. I worry about making mistakes when I speak, saying the wrong thing, which is simply fear that fills my head often, and especially at moments like this.
But there may be one thing to say, and maybe only this. I can add my voice to the many who have already spoken. I can build upon their words, not by saying anything new, but by adding my name to the list of individuals who care, who want to build a better future for all people, who speak up to be an ally. For Blacks and Asians and Latinos and Indigenous people; for people of all abilities, for LGBTQ, for the poor and homeless, for the women and men and the non-binary. For the young and the old. I can add my voice to say I am with you.
Speaking Up + Speaking Out
And by adding my voice, perhaps I can encourage others to speak too. I can add my voice that says I am no different from you, and you are no different from me. We are interdependent. For as I recognize others, I recognize myself and know that adding my voice does matter. By speaking out, I can help others not feel they need to say anything new, anything original. It’s ok just to add your voice. Speak out in support of allyship.
Juneteenth marks a day of freedom. It celebrates the emancipation of those who were enslaved. It’s a day for revelry. By looking at our history, we can witness that we as human beings are evolving, we are making progress. We have reasons to be hopeful.
We know, however, that liberation didn’t happen overnight. We know emancipation, even as it is to be celebrated, is far from complete. We know there’s still a long way to go, for all of us.
I have a lot to learn. And I find that exciting as well as daunting. One article a friend recently sent me I found to be particularly helpful. The article is “How companies and individuals can use Juneteenth to practice active allyship” by Kiva Wilson and Dr. Evelyn Carter, Fast Company, 6.17.20.
This quote that resonated most:
“Right now, one of the most powerful steps people can take is investing in active allyship, making the ongoing commitment to use one’s privilege to take actions that create more equitable and inclusive workplaces. In this moment, it means that others—particularly white people—need to show up for their Black colleagues by listening, learning, and amplifying Black voices.”
So I join these voices in saying I want to be a part of the solution. I want to show up to make things better. I’ll find ways to do that, even if it’s selling chocolate in the kindest, most open-hearted way I know how. Even that. It’s small, but I know even that can make a difference. I’ve seen it.
The article also offers two questions to reflect on:
- What structures still exist today that perpetuate racial injustice?
- How might I be contributing to the problem?
I will continue to reflect on those questions, and instead of staying silent this year and letting others speak out, I’m speaking out too, in solidarity, in support, in allyship, in love, for that’s what it is. I recognize my voice as one of many, as one of millions, and revel in the knowledge that we are all really, when it comes down to it, simply one.