In Part 2 of this Q&A feature, AACTE consultant Jane West, a former teacher with a doctorate in special education and 30 years of policy experience in the nation’s capital, and Holmes Program Alumna Ashley L. White, assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin and 2019-20 Joseph P. Kennedy Fellow, share their mentoring/mentee relationship and how it has evolved over time to address race. (Read Part 1.)
Q: Describe a good white ally.
White: This is not an all-encompassing definition and I am not the monolithic expert—I am speaking from my experiences in dealing with White people all my life, some who get it and many who do not. Allies of any kind have to accept the reality of system and practices that have put them in a position of privilege while disenfranchising others (e.g., the notion of heterosexuality or “able-bodies” as superior forms of existence). Allies must value the whole over the self. Allies must recognize that if one suffers, all suffer, even if not immediately. Allies must embrace their ignorance and lack of understanding in order to counteract these.
As it pertains to the subject of racism in society, racism in education, White allies have to accept the reality of racism in every system and they also have to accept that no matter the topic, particularly as it relates to education, issues of race cement long-standing inequities that cannot be resolved without centering the issues of race. In other words, White allies don’t avoid our country’s foundation, which is built upon individual and systematic racism for the gain of the dominant class. White allies must learn to be quiet when Black and Brown folks are speaking about their experiences and perspectives. White allies must learn not to interrupt and to question themselves, especially when they feel defensive, undermined, or fearful. White allies have to stop hiding behind rhetoric of equity and understanding when their actions demonstrate the very opposite. White allies have to be willing to ask questions, not to prove they are right, but because they know they are wrong.