Last Updated on August 7, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 872
Week three, titled “Allyship, tackles the topics of white apathy, white centering, tokenism, white saviorism, optical allyship, and being called out/called in.
Day fifteen focuses on white apathy, which Saad defines as white people’s way of protecting themselves from owning up to their complicity in white supremacy. Much like white silence, white apathy isn’t neutral, as it perpetuates oppression borne out of white supremacy through passivity and inaction. Intentional non-action—such as white apathy and white silence—can often be just as dangerous as intentional and pointed acts of racism. Examples she cites of white apathy include not taking responsibility for one’s own antiracism education, using one’s own introversion or mental health issues as an excuse for not doing anti-racism work, and trivializing the effects of racism or what one can contribute in helping to dismantle it.
Day sixteen focuses on white centering and begins with a quotation from Charlie Rose’s interview with African-American and best-selling author Toni Morrison from the 1990s:
I have had reviews in the past that have accused me of not writing about white people . . . as though our lives have no meaning and no depth without the white gaze. And I’ve spent my entire writing life trying to make sure that the white gaze was not the dominant one in any of my books.
Like Morrison, Saad points out that white-centered narratives are often seen as universal, classic, or timeless. In contrast, narratives concerned with or revolving around Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) are criticized as dissenting or less relevant. Examples of white centering include the overrepresentation of people with white privilege in art, books, and films. White centering can also be seen in the responses to topics like #BlackLivesMatter, #AllLivesMatter, #BlueLivesMatter and in the whitewashing of historical events (as seen in the American holiday Thanksgiving). Recognizing and disrupting white centering is one of the ways in which one can challenge white supremacy and its bid for dominance.
Day seventeen focuses on tokenism. Saad shares her experience with the school board of the British curriculum school her children attend. After raising the issue of the teaching staff’s lack of diversity, Saad was referred to the school’s “token” teachers of color. The problem with this is that the school only hired enough teachers of color to satisfy the “look” of diversity; they did not work toward real diversity and inclusivity. Tokenism, Saad maintains, is a tactic used by brands, organizations, and even individuals to perform or give the appearance of sexual or racial equality, even when it is not present. It is the use of BIPOC as token props and objects to protect one’s self and further one’s agenda. Examples of tokenism include brand tokenism, storytelling tokenism, and relational tokenism.
Day eighteen focuses on white saviorism. Saad references Nigerian-American writer and photographer Teju Cole’s 2012 article “The White-Savior Industrial Complex.” In the article, Cole brings attention to the rising phenomena of people with white privilege travelling to and “volunteering” in developing countries in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. The problem with volunteer missions and programs such as these is that they overlook or disregard the historical and cultural contexts of the spaces they enter. Worse, volunteers and missionaries often do not acknowledge how certain problems and issues of developing countries stem from white supremacist colonialism and imperialism. Examples of white saviorism in media can also be seen in films such as The Blind Side, The Last Samurai, and The Help.
Day nineteen focuses on optical allyship (otherwise known as performative allyship or ally theater). Saad shares her experience with being invited...
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to speak at a spiritual women’s festival in the UK. She declined the invitation when she found out that the festival did not intend to hold meaningful and challenging conversations about race but wanted to use her voice to appear more “diverse.” This is an example of optical allyship: the use of tactics and behaviors such as tokenism, white centering, and white saviorism to create the illusion of allyship. Examples of optical allyship include tokenizing BIPOC, prioritizing symbolic activism (such as the use of hashtags) over real activism, and co-opting activist terms simply to appear “woke”.
Day twenty focuses on being “called out” and “called in,” which are useful methods of calling attention to and correcting harmful or problematic behaviors. While calling out is a public indictment of individuals among members of often progressive, activist, or radical communities, calling “in” is done in private. In this chapter, Saad addresses how a person with white privilege commonly reacts to being called out or called in versus how they should react. Examples of wrong or inappropriate reactions include denying one’s actions, tone policing BIPOC, and becoming overly defensive. Saad explains that being called out or called in is a normal and inevitable part of doing anti-racism work, one should not perceive it as a personal attack but, rather, an opportunity to become a better ally.
Day twenty-one asks the reader to think about what they have learned so far about their own personal relationship with white supremacy. Readers are also asked to reflect on what they think their biggest challenge is in doing anti-racism work.