• Sara Selznick, Ph.D, Co-Founder of Thrive Collective

White Allies: It's Time for Black Folks to Lead

Updated: Feb 5

The national election is finally over. Black folks, once again, saved us from ourselves. And for now, there is at least lip service to supporting a Black Agenda (an agenda that should be everyone’s agenda). As the national election wound down, local elections geared up. So how are we showing up now, White people?


So far I’m seeing a lot of the same...


White Apathy.

White Silence.

Both to be expected.


White Centering.

Obvious.


Tried and true Tone Policing - a tactic used by those with advantage to silence those without, by focusing on the tone of the message rather than actual content…


That Black person is “too angry”

More people could hear their message if it was said “nicer”

Their tone is “so aggressive”

The language you use to talk about your lived experience is “divisive”.


Then, there is my favorite...Embedded in our DNA... White Saviorism!


White Saviorism is the assumption that Black & Brown People, Indigenous People, and People of Color need our help. This manifests itself in many ways, from outsiders coming into neighborhoods to “save” People of Color with some midnight basketball and financial literacy workshops, to our institutions handpicking representatives for communities, instead of allowing our most impacted, most disenfranchised, most marginalized communities to be the drivers of change in their neighborhoods.


Here in local politics, it looks like the ever so paternalistic and patronizing…

You’re getting suckered Black Community, and as the mostly White leaders of

Palm Beach County’s Democratic Executive Committee, we will endorse the

candidate we believe is best for you.


And we're back here… There is an urgent concern for People of Color when we see they are temporarily useful for our agenda and interest (like when we need their votes), otherwise we White folks are more than capable of knowing what is best for Black & Brown people - and that’s good ol’ White Superiority!


How many of you put up black squares on Instagram this summer, in a grand gesture of allyship (or Ally Theatre - the illusion of allyship without doing any of the hard work)? Some of us think being a Democrat is enough... voting for Biden separates us from the neo-nazi, white supremacists and their ideologies. We sure as shit needed the Black community in November, but how are we returning the favor?


Local politics affect us all. Many would argue they affect us more than national politics. They certainly affect poor communities and communities of color disproportionately. I’m going to throw out this crazy idea... White people, advantaged people, just listen to the communities most impacted, and do what is asked of us. Show up when called on; make calls when asked to; and influence networks towards justice. No questions asked. No justifications needed.


Let’s practice:


We trust your expertise in your own experience.

We can’t say it better.

We don’t know what's best for your community.

We don’t need to protect you from yourselves.

We are ready to show up and stand in solidarity even if doing so comes with risk.

The decisions you make will benefit us all.

WE WILL FOLLOW YOUR LEAD!

After all...We do owe you one, or two, or 450.


For me, a White Woman that lives on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive (but in the White part of town, so just 2nd Avenue), that means voting in line with the organized Black Community locally - Caruso, Boylston, and Frankel. And for those of you not in Delray, find your organized Black Community. They're the ones that have been organizing for decades, consistent in their engagement, and the watchdogs for institutional accountability.


For those of you wondering, “What if the Black Community gets it wrong?” We White folks get it wrong all the time. But we still start in every game, we still jump out first in the race, pushing what we believe is right, good, and true. Let the Black community play an inning or two. If things don’t work out, be there to hold our elected accountable, just like Communities of Color have for generations.


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