I joined Out Boulder County as a board member committed to naming and dismantling the whiteness that governs queer spaces in our community. I came to lead a transformation -- not to help Out Boulder County be more inclusive of queer and trans people of color (QTPOC) -- but to center the lived experiences of QTPOC in our work. So far, I have been surprised and inspired by how the [predominantly white] leadership of our organization is committed to fostering difficult conversations about racism and whiteness. I feel proud to say that I am part of an organization that enacts intersectional advocacy now more than ever.
But we still have a long way to go. Out Boulder County has historically reached out to and supported mostly white queer and trans folks. That said, it is likely that the majority of people who are reading this identify as white. I want to use this opportunity to talk to you about what it means to show up for people of color in the wake of the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. I want to talk to you about how to disrupt a cultural and political climate that systematically erases and harms people of color. I want to talk to you about how we can build a movement at Out Boulder County that centers QTPOC in queer advocacy and liberation.
How to be a Better Ally to People of Color
Strategy 1: Listen to people of color.
When people of color tell you about our experiences with racism, do not ask us to prove it or to justify our reactions to it. Trust that we are the experts of our lives. Learn from us when we are willing to share our stories with you, but do not assume you have a right to hear them when we are not ready to share them. Ask the people of color in your lives how we are doing. Tell us that you love us. Hold space for us.
Step 2: Speak up.
If a white person in your life espouses racist or white supremacist views, call them out. Remember that choosing to ignore such comments or actions means that you are complicit in the reproduction of white supremacy. Push into your discomfort. Therein lies what it looks like to be a true ally to people of color.
Step 3: Step up.
Move past your righteous anger into action. Call your representatives (most of whom are white like you). Donate money to antiracist efforts led by people of color. Educate yourself. Learn the white supremacist and racist history of queer and trans culture. Wield your white privilege honorably.
Strategy 4: Step back.
Be aware of how much space you take up in queer and trans advocacy work. Where QTPOC are absent, ask yourselves why. Work to make spaces more accessible to QTPOC and lift us up into leadership roles when we get there.
Step 5: Reconsider the term ally.
Read this revolutionary work from Indigenous Action Media: http://www.indigenousaction.org/accomplices-not-allies-abolishing-the-al.... Regard ally as a verb, not a noun. You cannot claim the term ally for yourself; QTPOC must bestow it upon you and we have the right to revoke it at any time.
Step 6: Remember that QTPOC exist.
Ultimately, the liberation of white queer and trans communities is tied to the liberation of QTPOC. Sixteen trans women of color have been murdered in 2017 alone, and not one of their deaths has received the media coverage afforded to a band of torch-wielding white supremacists. When you wave your rainbow flags high, remember this.
Moment by moment, white allies can commit to doing better. In fact, that is the only way meaningful, lasting change ever really happens. By listening to the experiences of people of color, leveraging white privilege to disrupt racist ideologies, and deferring to the lived experience and wisdom of QTPOC, white people can move closer to becoming the kinds of allies that QTPOC need in these terrifying and uncertain times.
Krishna Pattisapu, Member of the Board, Out Boulder County