Moving from Actor --> Ally --> Accomplice
The ideas captured on this website, very much a work in progress, have been developed to support White people to act for racial justice. It draws from ideas and resources developed mostly by Black, Brown and People of Color, and has been edited by Black, Brown, and People of Color who were the only people involved in this project paid for their time. I recognize that categorizing actions under the labels of Actor, Ally, and Accomplice is an oversimplification, but hopefully this chart challenges all of us White folks to go outside of our comfort zones, take some bigger risks, and make some more significant sacrifices because this is what we’ve been asked to do by those most impacted by racism, colonialism, patriarchy, white supremacy, xenophobia, and hyper-capitalism. I believe that for real change to occur, we must confront and challenge all people, policies, systems, etc., that maintain privileges and power for White people.
STEP 1: Identify the racial justice organizations in your area.
Here are two lists of organizations (Black Led Racial Justice Organizations & A Partial Map of Black-Led Black Liberation Organizing) mostly led by “directly impacted” individuals (people who are most impacted by racist, xenophobic, and violent people/policies) and with missions to directly challenge institutionalized racism and White supremacy.
STEP 2: Explore the distinction between Actors, Allies, and Accomplices.
When Malcolm X was asked how white people could be allies and accomplices with Black people in 1964, he responded: “By visibly hovering near us, they are ‘proving’ that they are ‘with us.’ But the hard truth is this isn’t helping to solve America’s racist problem. The Negroes aren’t the racists. Where the really sincere white people have got to do their ‘proving’ of themselves is not among the black victims, but out on the battle lines of where America’s racism really is — and that’s in their home communities; America’s racism is among their own fellow whites. That’s where sincere whites who really mean to accomplish something have got to work.”
Keep in mind that as White people, whether as an Actor, Ally or Accomplice, we are still part of the 'oppressor class'. This means we have to be very creative in flipping our privilege to help Black, Brown and Indigenous peoples.
The actions of an Actor do not disrupt the status quo, much the same as a spectator at a game. Both have only a nominal effect in shifting an overall outcome. Such systems are challenged when actors shift or couple their actions with those from Allies and/or Accomplices.
The actions of an Actor do not explicitly name or challenge the pillars of White supremacy which is necessary for meaningful progress towards racial justice.
There is an excellent quote by Lilla Watson on need for Actors to shift to Accomplices: “If you have come here to help me, you’re wasting your time. If you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
The actions of an Accomplice are meant to directly challenge institutionalized racism, colonization, and White supremacy by blocking or impeding racist people, policies, and structures.
Realizing that our freedoms and liberations are bound together, retreat or withdrawal in the face of oppressive structures is not an option.
Accomplices’ actions are informed by, directed and often coordinated with leaders who are Black, Brown First Nations/Indigenous Peoples, and/or People of Color.
Accomplices actively listen with respect, and understand that oppressed people are not monolithic in their tactics and beliefs.
Accomplices aren’t motivated by personal guilt or shame. They are not emotionally fragile.
Accomplices build trust through consent and being accountable - this means not acting in isolation where there is no accountability.
Ally is typically considered a verb - one needs to act as an ally, and can not bestow this title to themselves.
The actions of an Ally have greater likelihood to challenge institutionalized racism, and White supremacy. An Ally is like a disrupter and educator in spaces dominated by Whiteness.
An Ally might find themselves at a social gathering in which something inappropriate is being talked about. Instead of allowing that space to incubate Whiteness, the Ally wisely disrupts the conversation, and takes the opportunity to educate those present.
Being an Ally is not an invitation to be in Black and Brown spaces to gain brownie points, lead, take over, or explain.
Allies constantly educate themselves, and do not take breaks.
Franchesca Ramsey’s Video:
STEP 3: Act
Commit to taking 3 actions in the next month, and share these with a trusted friend, colleague, or family member in order to increase your accountability to follow through on your commitment. Can you take at least one action in the next two weeks in the Ally or Accomplice category?
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