||As a grandmother, I am deeply concerned about the state of the world and what I can do to make a difference in my local and global community. I believe that we, as women, can clearly see the divisions, problems, and issues within this country, but are divided by fear because of war, and by competition due to socio-economic conditions.
Women have the capacity to unify us all and lead us toward a better tomorrow, but in order to accomplish this we must clean house and empty our closets. We must not fall into the traps or use the same tactics that we have for so long accused our men of employing. I believe we must become better allies for each other.
Are women natural allies? I have asked myself this question many times in regards to my relationships with my mother, my sisters, and subsequently with women who I have called friends, sisters or allies. In many of these relationships, our hearts were filled with so much pain, struggle, and competition that we could not see the beauty in each other. However, in my ally relationships, through sharing and attempting to understand each other's stories we have come to know, respect, and support each other unconditionally.
My definition of an ally is someone who shows up, speaks up and stands up for you verbally or nonverbally, whether you are there or not. The image is of someone watching your back; they have your best interest at heart. Building lasting alliances requires being a dependable ally. A dependable ally is willing to listen, validate, support, trust, and respect someone else's experience or point of view without judgment or blame.
A dependable ally has no need to control situations, persons or outcomes, and is willing to be wrong. A dependable ally is open to learning from a variety of situations, both comfortable and uncomfortable. A dependable ally is open to hearing and feeling the pain of another without needing to understand or defend against it. A dependable ally is not adversarial; she understands how privilege and unequal access impacts the lives of women and girls in general and especially women and girls of color.
In 1995 I attended the International Women's Conference in Beijing, China. During a breakout session the women in our group from the United States were discussing what our agendas would be when we returned to our respective states. I suggested that white women and women of color work to build bridges so that we could better work together on issues of mutual concern. The facilitator ignored me and proceeded with her discussion without acknowledging what I had said. I got up and left. I found out later that other women in the group had pointed out to her that she had ignored me, which exemplified what I was talking about.
As a black woman, I would like to think that women know how to change what is hurting us as a people and in America, but at times I think that I may be wrong. As women, I believe we have forgotten that we instinctually know each other, and instead of remembering this fact, we allow our hearts to fill with fear, hate and separation. We distance ourselves from each other's fears, losses, tears, and pain. We don't want to look into one other's eyes; instead we look at the ground, the sky or anywhere else. Yet the eyes are where the wounds fester.
Our history is filled with examples of our inhumanity to each other, where our actions of hate and violence have caused pain and death to others and, subsequently, to ourselves. But in many instances it has not been just men acting inhumanely: women perpetuate hate and violence, as well. This is evident today when women and girls of color are invited to join organizations, groups, and movements, but are effectively silenced when concerns of race are brought to the table.
Women and girls of color must have confidence in their abilities and actions in order to positively impact their lives. This means addressing and empowering the personal, interpersonal, and political parts of their lives. It also means taking stands that may not be popular, and expressing anger, being willing to tell the truth, and being grounded, vulnerable, and courageous in the face of adversity. I have many times sat in board rooms, conference rooms, classrooms, and living rooms as a woman of color and watched how words can impact a situation, influencing assumptions, intentions, and actions.
I believe women of color must learn methods that change how we dominate and oppress each other. We must remove barriers and encourage full participation for all women in our society; learn skills that encourage teamwork, partnership, and collaboration; and learn personal and professional communication skills that actualize, and celebrate all women's and girls' talents in our global community so that we all succeed.
My conclusion is that women are not natural allies as much as we would like to think we are. My hope is that we will be able to understand this and come together for our selves, our children, and our men, and heal the wounds caused by the caustic actions and words that occur when we are in uncomfortable communications and situations with each other.
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