Seven white college students sit around a dorm room at their private university playing King’s Cup when a Jack is pulled. The rule of choice? End every sentence with the N-word. Everyone nods and the game goes on with laughing, screaming, and the vulgar word flying around every ten seconds. There weren’t any African Americans in the room, so it doesn’t count, right?
Wrong. When this happened to me at the beginning of first semester, I didn’t know what to do so I did nothing. I did not want to say anything in fear of my new friends saying, “So what? It’s not like they’re here.” Even as a minority myself, I could not bring myself to say anything even though I knew I should. I felt exactly what any sane student would: Uncomfortable and afraid of being challenged, teased, and laughed at. I mean, why should I stick up for them if they’re not in the room?
Maybe that’s exactly why I should stick up for them. They’re not in the room. Minorities typically do no have a voice in all white spaces. Therefore this is where it is important for allies to be their voice. It would not have been difficult for me to start a small social movement and learn what kind of people I want to surround myself with. Just by saying, “Hey, that’s kinda racist!” or “Shouldn’t we come up with another rule that doesn’t offend people?” I would have been able to let my new friends know that I don’t stand for racism. I could have seen who also was an ally against racism based on who protested the rule with me. The most difficult thing about being an ally is giving up the privilege you have in a majority space. By standing up for African Americans, I put myself in a vulnerable position to feel the struggles they go through. An important step to being a good ally is recognizing your privilege so maybe giving up your privilege to feel some of the struggles of the group you support will make you an even better ally.
Why did so many people feel comfortable saying a racially degrading word over and over again during the game, yet I can’t even bring myself to type it out? I’d like to consider myself an anti-racist ally or even a victim of racism. But how can I give myself these titles if I clearly haven’t earned them? It doesn’t matter what I think, if I can’t publically stand up for the minorities I consider myself to be an ally of. In the future, I need to be more conscious of earning the ally title instead of assuming it is given to me because of the opinions I have. My voice can be heard and can make a difference even in a room with only seven people.