My journey to ally was one that took a lot longer than you would think it would for a person as smart as myself. (I blame the brainwashing.)
As an ally, I understand that being an ally isn’t a status, it is action through activism. And as such, in moments that others may ignore or disregard, I find it important to teach.
I had an opportunity one beautiful sunny day, when there was a question posed in my presence. “Why can’t there be white pride?”
My first reaction was to ignore the question, walk away, and to avoid the person for the rest of my life.
But I then realized that I love this person. And as an ally I knew the answer to his question. Most importantly, as a straight white cisgender person it was my duty to explain to this other straight white cisgender person what the word pride means in the stated context. Because that is how progress is made; allies making their area of privilege a place that doesn’t tolerate ignorance, even if the ignorance seems harmless.
Pride is a funny word. Most often it’s used to talk about a sense of deep pleasure derived from one’s own achievements or the achievements of someone with whom they are close. I am proud of myself for going back to school, I am proud when my children get A’s on their schoolwork. I am proud of various things ranging from my dog not peeing on the carpet to awesome personal achievements.
When we talk about pride with regards to one’s race, sexual preference, or gender identity we aren’t referencing pride in one’s achievements. I am not proud to be a female because I have unlocked a female status. I haven’t earned my straightness. I haven’t achieved whiteness. These are natural nominal variables that make me who I am. They are part of my identity which I like, and I use them to describe myself on occasion.
I have a deep sense of joy when thinking about my heritage. It is a blend of Italian and Anglo-Saxon that has enriched my life with love and wonderfulness from my grandparents’ homemade spaghetti dinners, pizzelles, holiday traditions, and understated privilege throughout my childhood. I am not ashamed of who I am, but I don’t have ‘white pride.’
You can be happy you are white, you can be happy you are straight, however that isn’t pride in the same sense of black pride or gay pride.
This is the important part. When individuals - who have been systematically oppressed by society - express pride, it is because they have fought back against the societal forces that have discriminated against them. It isn’t that they are just happy they are gay or transgender or an ethnic minority. It is an expression of self-affirmation that is deeply rooted within a civil rights movement.
Pride is the positive stance and affirmation of minority individuals who have fought to build a community of support, to be in a place where they are the default, where they gain confidence and support from people who they relate to that don’t aim to bring them down. This use of the word pride is not for the majority, but for the oppressed, marginalized minority.
The reason why our society doesn’t have a white history month, a straight pride parade, or a men’s week on campus is because straight white men are the default in our society. Which doesn’t mean that straight white men are horrible or don’t deserve to be happy to be themselves. It means that those who are not the default must fight a system that is in place to discriminate against them each and every day through micro- and macro-aggressions.
The idea of white (or straight) pride is a form of conservative backlash against groups of people who have been gaining ground against social stigma and shame.
Yes, be happy that you are you, regardless of your identity. However, if you are in a place of privilege, as the majority always is, don’t use your space to oppress others by lashing out when they use a word to fight oppression. That perpetuates the harmful culture that is killing our fellow human beings.