It seems that every single group of people gets their own month, their own week, or their own day. I mean, what do white people get, outside of the Oscars? Why don’t WE get a month? Well, there are a couple reasons. But I recently read an interview with Chris Rock that illuminated something about race, and really gender and sexuality as well, that suggested to me that straight/white/men need more of a focus than they are currently receiving.

I’ll give you the relevant text from the interview:

When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it’s all nonsense. There are no race relations. White people were crazy. Now they’re not as crazy. To say that black people have made progress would be to say they deserve what happened to them before.

What Chris Rock is saying is that, in regards to race, white people are the ones doing the progressing. Black people have always been human, with the capacity for intelligence and emotion that was long ignored in them, and to phrase race relations as black people making progress is to give the illusion that black people are the ones improving, whereas the opposite is true. White people have made great strides in becoming less moronic about the human beings that surround them, and it is white people who need to be the ones to continue to make great strides.

So why give us a month? Feminists have long argued, probably rightly so, that men do not take women seriously. There’s the old chestnut of the female executive saying something at a meeting, being ignored, and then a male colleague repeating her exact idea and being listened to, often taking the credit. It happens. However, if progressive change is to be made, would it not be logical for a male ally to be a prominent mouthpiece for the feminist movement? If feminists want to be taken seriously, and women aren’t taken seriously, why not use a man?

The artist Macklemore wrote a song called Same Love that advocated for same-sex relationships. It was a considerable blow in the fight to overcome homophobic cultural norms, but it received a great deal of criticism from gay-rights activists because Macklemore is straight. A suggestion I read was that if Macklemore wants to be an ally to the gay-rights movement, he should push homosexual rappers into the limelight, rather than hogging it for himself. Regardless of the impact that Same Love had on our culture, it was rejected by some of those that it was trying to help.

Is the goal not to overcome prejudice? Who cares who the messenger is? Well, some people do.

There is term called the Great White Saviour, and what this refers to is a white person, typically portrayed in films, that comes to care for and fight for either the Noble Savage, or the Oppressed Minority, or whoever it happens to be. You get the idea. Ol’ Whitey rolls in to town, and the great guy that he is, saves the minority and is revered as a hero. What this signifies is that white people are honourable, compassionate, moral beings, and minorities are weak and unable to do anything about their own condition.

This, of course, could apply to any such dominant figure, such as a straight person rapping about gay rights, or a man advocating for feminism, etc.

Do the voices of the dominant detract from the voices of the oppressed? Can we only ever steal credit? Comparing Hollywood’s crushing inability to properly convey progressive messages to the real-life work of advocates is a little unfair. Like relates to like, and the dominant group is going to relate most to others from the dominant group, and it’s the dominant group that needs to change. In my personal experience, it was Dr. Jackson Katz that was my first, real introduction into the world of feminism. He’s a man, by the way, if the name wasn’t a big enough indicator. The message was an important one, and because it was delivered by somebody I could relate to, I was able to listen.

If the message is good, why not pick the messenger that the people most needing to hear it will listen to?

Post-script: I am aware that this is not a new idea, and that many social justice advocates are desperate for the voices of allies. Maybe if there was a month celebrating those allies, the quieter ones would be more likely to pipe up?

I’m also not trying to disparage the work that minority rights activists do. We wouldn’t have any allies at all if they weren’t doing all the heavy lifting.

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