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An Open Letter to My Performative Allies

As the old saying goes, "the road to hell is paved with good intentions." - and the road to performative allyship is paved with a hearty dose of self-righteousness.

By Paige HollowayPublished 4 months ago 4 min read
An Open Letter to My Performative Allies
Photo by Edgar Chaparro on Unsplash

Dear performative morons, 

I write this letter with the utmost respect for your intentions, though, as the old saying goes, "the road to hell is paved with good intentions" - and the road to performative allyship is paved with a hearty dose of self-righteousness.

Your activism and allyship, born out of a desire to rectify inequality and injustice, is commendable. You use your platforms, large and small, to bring attention to the multitude of issues plaguing marginalized communities - a role that is both vital and courageous in a world where so many prefer to look the other way. Yet, there's a saying among the marginalized communities you advocate for: "Nothing about us, without us."

Ever stumbled upon an article or blog post that made you drop your morning coffee, aghast with incredulity? It happened to me today when I bumped into a post festooned with the rainbow shades of the Progress Pride flag, whose author professed to be "woke as all get out." It's a curious phrase, isn't it? Like announcing you're the most humble person in the room.

According to her, criticisms of "wokeness" are nothing but a right-wing dog whistle to justify prejudice and discrimination against marginalized communities. The writer passionately declared, "Everyone knows there are people on all sides who prefer to categorize others rather than address the arguments. The point of being woke is knowing that, while the debates over issues rage, there are people being denied life in all its fullness." Admirable sentiments, indeed, but as I soon discovered, the conversation was somewhat one-sided.

While I understand what she was getting at, let's not kid ourselves. Every marginalized group in America knows there's more to it than this writer has asserted. In the words of philosopher Taylor Swift, perhaps liberal allies should recognize that, "It's me, hi, I'm the problem, it's me."

In other words, I fundamentally disagree that it's a solely right-wing propaganda campaign that has resulted the distortion of what "wokeness" really means. Many people that claim to be woke are self-serving allies that have hijacked legitimate civil rights movements for social currency. 

"Woke" was originally a term in AAVE that meant "to be alert to racial prejudice and discrimination." Today, white, educated, well-off faux liberals have latched onto the concept to make themselves feel better about their privileges in society, often to the detriment of the people they claim they're advocating for.

It reminded me of many experiences I have had doing damage control when my "allies" overstep for progressive virtue signal points. For example, my coworker Emily, an affluent MSNBC and Merlot addicted white woman, decided to crusade against homophobia on my behalf. 

She reported a black colleague to HR for alleged homophobic comments against me. (Spoiler: the comments in question were not ill-intentioned and my black colleague was also bisexual.) The incident had me running around the office all day, extinguishing the fires of misplaced activism, to save my colleague from undeserved disciplinary action. The tragicomic part was that Emily, in her misguided zeal, never once asked me how I felt about the situation or whether I wanted her to intervene. 

This incident, and my more recent encounter with our blogger, highlight a recurring issue in the discourse on 'wokeness.' Increasingly, it seems, well-intentioned allies are committing the sin they denounce: silencing marginalized voices.

Our blogger, in her fervor to combat the misuse of the term "woke," ends up doing the same, silencing opposition and curating a unilateral discussion. She says, "To them, I say, you are identifying the wrong people as 'woke.' Or, you're miffed that those of us who are woke intend to hold accountable those who push hateful rhetoric" (MomzillaNC, 2023). But, who defines what hateful rhetoric is and isn't? And who gets to determine who the 'wrong' and 'right' people are?

For the record, I am all for progressivism and social justice. I cheer for empathy, inclusivity, and anti-oppression. However, I also vouch for humility, active listening, and acknowledging the nuances in every story. So, dear reader, if you ever find yourself armed with the shield of 'wokeness,' remember: it's a dialogue, not a monologue.

Perhaps next time, before we hurriedly pull the 'woke' trigger, we could take a moment to ensure we're not inadvertently causing harm. As my experience with Emily shows, there's a thin line between advocacy and misplaced activism. We all might do well to tread carefully, for even the most well-intentioned actions can result in the opposite of what we intend.

If the aim is to foster a society where everyone has a voice and is treated with dignity, then the concept of social justice should encompass everyone's perspective. Isn't that what it's all about? Ensuring everyone can share their story, engage in dialogue, and contribute to a more inclusive and equitable society. 

It's not about 'us' versus 'them.' It's about 'we' - all of us, navigating this world, trying to make it a better place, one conversation at a time.

Exhaustedly yours, 

A Token Lesbian


About the Creator

Paige Holloway

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