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On Cross-People Fragility & Allyship

Updated: May 4, 2022

When you're bracketed and clustered into a fixist monolith, - Black, Indigenous, People of Color, more than duly stressing the range of supremacy with critical-mindedness, it's too frequently used to wash out into conflation, abstraction, and invisibility the interlaid macro-structurality of oppression cross-people.

What's more, there is an undergirding postulate ingrained into that conflating axis of Blackness, Indigenousness, and People of Color, that covertly, gingerly, and non-commitally hints to a confederacy of systemic co-resistance for and by the racialized.

Yet, that overture into cross-people resistance and allyship is not deservedly potentialized, because even that layer of counter-power is informed in parts by different regimes of coloniality. Coloniality will have it be so that even through our own wilfull decolonization, self-determining, and healing, we come to ghettoize and segregate agency. For instance, that's why too often systemic anti-Black racism is determinedly ill-construed as a Black-only matter and reality. In doing so, the resistance is weakened and deflected into a dead space of segregation where solely Blackness is to be mobilized into anti-coloniality.

So you see, cross-people resistance and allyship are commanding forces of anti-coloniality. What's preventing them from ever coming to pass full force is cross-people fragility, divisiveness, and internalized racism.

On de-segregating allyship

There is a missing link in all events, realities, and processes, anti-colonial: that is, cross-people resistance and allyship. Resistance is compartmentalized in a way that makes anti-coloniality an active force of supremacy. How? By segregating accountability to anti-racism and decoloniality as a responsibility only befalling those invalidated and delegitimized by it. Thus, anti-coloniality is made finite, marginal, small-scale, containable as a same-race-only reality rather than a systemic cross-people shareable responsibility.

Insofar as anti-coloniality remains clannish through own-race-only accountability and resistance, it remains brittle, unsustainable, self-defeating, and limited in scope. Too often we are conditioned to be part of the resistance in an own-race-only anti-coloniality and just as swiftly we are simultaneously triggered to revert back to compliance and complicity when anti-coloniality engages cross-people interests, positionalities, and resistance. In other words, if I am aligned with an anti-coloniality that decenters me, my story of resistance, my struggle, my peoplehood, I am conditioned to behave colonially by bringing myself to resist and not to engage because the visibilizing of another people's anti-colonial resistance is slanted as divisive against my own narrative. It's as if my agency where splintered, compromised, deflated into two halves that worked dissonantly at cross-purposes. Or so we are led to presume.

Thus, same as we are called upon to complexify race, critical-mindedness prevails upon us so to complexify cross-people allyship as a space of sanctity for all-around anti-coloniality, rehumanization, radical resistance, and global social justice. How? First, by creating new paradigms of allyship where depth, paradox, complexity, dissent, and contradiction radically define our engagement with a resistance partial to a smart and nourishing duality. That duality is simultaneously posited as 1) self-reflxive and own-race-centered and 2) a parallel space of anti-coloniality where we choose to decenter our own self, our own story of resistance, our own struggle, our own sense of peoplehood, and our own immediate visibility as co-resistor to co-create a new dimension of anti-colonial clout.

By underappreciating and actively denying and resisting cross-people allyship, we loose, self-defeated. But not only do we loose, we loose due to our complicity, our obdurate smallness, our lack of critical system-awareness and of strategic vision, and our cross-people fragility.

We're complicit in that when we segregate co-resistance as an own-race-only praxis. We are self-defeated when our strategic vision is so shoddy and ill-construed it holds no viability, no sustainability, because the burden of social transformation is forced into the agency of the disenfranchised. Such a burden ought to be systemically shared and protected as a cross-people responsibility and agency that demand allyship as its baseline commitment. We harbor and fuel cross-people fragility when we fail to harmonize different peoples' anti-colonial stories and legacies of resistance into a space of allyship fueled by depth, paradox, complexity, dissent, and contradiction.

What is true cross-people allyship

True allyship is always cross-people. If not, it is a misnommer for civically concerning oneself with joining and magnifying the self-mobilization of a people into self-determination. True allyship entails the following:

  1. staggered visibility

What that means is that within the macro-regime of systemic oppression, each people is oppressed and dehumanized in keeping with a micro-set of different parameters. In other words, all are not colonized equally, nor are they colonized entirely universally, or through the same sets of interlaid intersections. Furthermore, our legacies of resistance make it so that in certain areas our activistic mobilization and the determining fierceness of our obdurate militancy and resiliency have affored us privileges that are strenuously garnered and layered. Consequently, as disenfranchised folx, we are simultaneously structurally inferiorized and privileged through our system-defiance as co-resistors.

Thus, when harmonizing different peoples within the same space of allyship and self-determining, first, punctilious specificity is key. By being precise as to what the contextual economy of disenfranchisement and privilege is in a given community, we get a true-to-form lowdown of where to allocate visibility cross-people. The visibility that is ensuing and co-created is to be staggered and asymmetrical. Why? It gains from being staggered because visibility is being rotated by grounding into the primest of focus the one voice that is the most disacknowledged.

In other words, allies shan't be warranted the same entitlement to presence for the specific micro-set of disenfranchisement and privilege that they embody isn't universal nor is the same. Allies hail from different legacies of simultaneous coloniality and resistance and therefore their agency ought be framed differently through an asymmetry of multi-tiered visibility. In this fashion, allyship will call you at times to be unseen, muted, decentered, and de-prioritized as a voice. Allyship can be a posture of strategic effacement, of chosen inconspicuousness, of staggered visibility, of asymmetry, and of calculated invisibility.

What's more, to get the biggest bang for your buck, you want to strategize and purpose your visibility as an element that is time-bound so that all who stand for and within the co-resistance gain from being contextually un/seen and de/centered.

The beauty of asymmetry

It seems at odds with an ideology that is premised on producing equity and yet it is foundational to true insuppressible equalizing. It is akin to the difference between equality and equity (see below).

© Interaction Institute for Social Change | Artist: Angus Maguire

In equity, knowing our inalienable birthright to selfsame opportunities is markedly denied by the structural universality of supremacy, it is solely in allocating staggered and dysemmetrical agency and visibility that a state of mutual enfranchisement, rehumanization, recognition, and equity can be attained and sustained.

The beauty of constructing a space where asymmetry is indeed determinedly equalizing, is that the inhumanity and the brokenness of coloniality are ever so uremittingly acknowledged in a way that gives pause. In so doing, we come to cultivate a groundedness that is predicated on the permanence of our unsettling. That asymmetry forces into our critical-mindedness that possibility belongs to privilege and as we choose to reverse-engineer it, that new form of asymmetry stresses we aren't made equal and thus we disrupt by equalizing.

Asymmetry thus is a space of pungent unsettling and of uncomfortable truths where equality is not enough and where to assert equity with any clout asymmetry is paramount. Hence there is a definite energy of volitional silence, of empowering censorship, of free-willed erasure, and of intelligent decentering: because equity is not only about being seen, it is also about letting be seen. In the "letting be seen" of others there is a humility. In relenting and staggering your own visibility you learn to bring a richness to the scope of your enfranchisement by harnessing silences, semi-visibility, strategic absence, and external voices to sustain a space that is about the resistance you co-construct every time you are de/centered and unsettled.

Why disagreeing is so important

When you are dealing with true allyship there is an unlearning of complicity and fragility that is incumbent on you to carry through. Lisa Nichols talks about being carefrontational rather than confrontational. Applied within our context, carefrontation is:

  1. expressing and cultivating always a space for dissent, contradiction, and nonconformingness

  2. understanding dissent is not the same as disunity or antagonism

  3. an acknowledgement that we are granular, non-monilithic and shan't nor can't be contained within a unidimensional voice of resistance

  4. the healthiest way to produce critical-mindedness and other-awareness that add depth and clarity to how co-resistance is emotionally operationalized

  5. how richness, multi-dimensionality, and depth are brought to a discourse rooted in radical realness and openness that brings about inter-generational healing

  6. channeling dissent to break down into numerous positionalities the ways resistance will be empoweringly systemic in its dismantlement of supremacy

The day you stop cultivating dissent and problematizing it as an enfranchising agency is the day you've killed depth and multi-dimensionality out of the room, out of any space poised for equity and liberation. Dissent is a sanitizing force that brings us all always to rethink beyond the constriction and smallness of conformity and homogeneity in worlds of structural oppression.

Learn to be united together and apart

As allies and co-resistors, we have everything to gain from assuming a stance of unrelativity and non-comparison. Too often, one people's struggles are calculaingly pitted against that of another people's, so as to systemically cheapen and invalidate the legitimacy of their standing and the truthfulness of their lived oppression. That right there, that's coloniality for you. By fueling cross-people in-fighting, divisiveness makes the resistance collapse onto itself. It segregates whatever agency could have been garnered back into cross-people fragility, divisiveness, and internalized racism.

The stance of unrelativity and non-comparison means that the one thing we do not condone as allies is binary-centric comparison. Through unrelativity and non-comparison we house within the same space of authority, resistance, and legitimacy different categories of people that are mutually acknowledged and honored, yet not compared. Through comparison one is triggered to dissipate depth into a binary so uncompromising, so severe, punishing, and decontextualizing it produces and buttresses stereotypes. Through the stance of unrelativity and non-comparison however, dissimilarities are not conflated, they help us not overgeneralize the stories of oppression by making them into a blob that invisibilizes the people by blurring them into interchangeability, that is rendering them unacknowledged and effaced.

Overgeneralization colonizes how truly empoweringly visible we are: it pretends to make visible the unseen but in truth it solely diffuses visibility so much so that what is spotlighted is a stereotype, a blob, an abstraction, not an empoweringly self-determined voice of co-resistance.

So where do we go from there?

To walk the talk with the authority of those who are what they say with graceful relentlessness and searing truthfulness, here is a breakdown of how to be a true ally, a true co-resistor that complexifies and augments cross-people allyship in a space where fragility and complicity aren't allowed to curb or even touch our agency as allied co-resistors:

  1. use staggered visibility: because we aren't empowered equally we ought not to hold or share space nor be seen in the same way. In choosing when and how those who ought to be enfranchised are seen, we de/center the voices of resistance whose in/visibility is most servicing and most equalizing. Ask yourself: "What ought to be said and by whom for it to disrupt, equalize, and enfranchise what isn't?" "How much de/centered must I be to fully honor the voices that have to be visibilized in this instant and in this space of sharing and resisting?"

  2. use asymmetry: because equality is not enough we must disrupt to equalize. Who has to be semi-visible and relent frontfacing authority to create equity rather than equality? Ask yourself: "When is my silence my most affirming power as an ally?" "Whose voice and authority should I prioritize over my own in this space of strategic defiance and mindful resistance?" "How can I can be so invariably unsettled that my other-awareness prevents me from turning complacent, entitled, and subjected to the coloniality of my own fragility?"

  3. cultivate dissent: because carefrontation and dissent bring multi-dimensionality to true allyship. Dissent is the counteragent of hegemony; it is the hallmark of radical realness, openness, and transformation. True democracy protects and respects dissent; it is what keeps it honest, abiding, and equalizing. Ask yourself: "Am I so unconsciously biased against layering depth into othered voices beyond stereotypes that I resist them being fully free-thinking, dissenting, disruptive, and contradictory elements?" "In this conversation am I prioritizing fragility over the necessity of my own unsettling?"

  4. do not compare: because comparing leads to rewriting macro-systemic oppression as a blob wherein othered voices are invisibilized and interchangeably assimilated into stereotypes. Ask yourself: "Is the narrative I am creating allowing for different categories of people to be separately self-determined, equally legitimate and authoritative in their space of enfranchisement?" "Am I taking the path of least resistance by colonizing the narrative of a people by judging them against a standard of comparison?"

True allyship augments the enfranchisement of the othered by creating more spaces where our self-determination is centered through the consensual and free-willed decentering of our co-resistors. It is a dance into staggered in/visibility. The gifts of allyship are equity, liberation, cross-people healing, the de-systemization of supremacy, the de-segregation of opportunity, and untapped im/material wealth for the co-resistors, oppressors, anti/colonialists, and accomplices.

What's one thing you are going to do differently here on to make allyship an augmented power, reality, and dimension of anti-colonial resistance that is personal to you?

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