I consider myself a white ally. I know I don’t get to pick this for myself. It is not a label but an action. I need to back up my attempts at anti-racist thought with behaviors. Trust me, I am well aware of my shortcomings as an ally: I have never been to a protest, march, or rally on behalf of people of color. I don’t write nearly as often as I should about questions of race. I rarely collect my people. Sure, I start conversations about race with my friends, I call out my family when they say utterly stupid things, and I try to make absolutely certain that everyone on all my social media platforms knows where I stand on racism. I try to retrain my brain whenever possible, educate myself, and question my problematic opinions.
But I know I could be a lot better. There were protests in the last few weeks for Michael Brown and Eric Garner, protests that I should have gone to. There was a conversation with a friend that I gave up on halfway through because it was too hard. I know that at least one person in my family still holds to the belief that African American Vernacular is incorrect English, and I’ve stopped trying to correct them.
There are easy excuses. I’m tired. It’s hard. I’ve tried already. These are bullshit.
But where I hit a fence is this: that conversation that I gave up on last week? It wasn’t because I didn’t want to figure out how to get my point across, or because I thought my friend was entitled to their opinion. It was because my anxiety and depression took over halfway through and convinced me that if I didn’t agree with him, he would hate me and I was being a bad person. Like a very capable and competent adult, I spent a few hours crying instead of being the good ally I was trying to be.
The reason I didn’t go to the protests? The fatigue from my depression has been catching up with me lately and I’ve been sleeping 10+ hours every night. I haven’t been able to get out of the house to do even the basic tasks I need to complete for my own life. I tried to convince myself to get there, and I couldn’t escape my own malaise.
I don’t know if this excuses or exempts me from certain forms of allyship. Probably not. I don’t know if the intersection of my mental illness and other causes changes how I should behave in situations like these. Probably not. But I also don’t know how to practice self-care and prioritize my health while also working hard for others.
This all sounds like excuses to my ears, but I know there are others out there who expect themselves to always be the perfect activist. The conversation needs to be had.