Today I learned the phrase Optical Allyship. Latham Thomas defines optical allyship as “allyship that only serves at the surface level to platform the 'ally,' it makes a statement but doesn’t go beneath the surface and is not aimed at breaking away from the systems of power that oppress.” It is akin to performative activism. This perfectly describes my hesitancy about using this platform to express my outrage and sorrow.
I am witnessing a lot of re-posting without thought or direction. I am trying to discern where my voice fits in appropriately so that I do not add to the cacophony. I would like to share where we stand as a company and where I stand as a person.
My fear is that this wave of white outrage will blow over again, as we have witnessed in the past when Black men and women are murdered by the state. To me, this moment isn’t about making ourselves feel better or promoting our brands. The time has passed of doing the bare minimum or what feels easiest in order to relieve some guilt. What has become obvious with the horrific murder of George Floyd and the others who have preceded him, is that we aren’t doing the work we need to do. By we, I mean my fellow White community. This is not me trying to make you feel shame or guilt, it is a call to action.
I believe that the antidote to feeling helpless or guilty is to make some anti-racism commitments to which you know you can adhere. Everyone’s threshold is different here, but I urge you to push yourself a little farther out of your comfort zone while still being realistic about what you can uphold. I have taken the time to read, to donate, but most importantly to LISTEN.
I believe silence is violence. I am a white woman of privilege. I am aware that I can drive down the street - at any hour of the night - and have two broken tail lights and an expired registration, and not get pulled over. Yet, I frequently see POC pulled over and sitting on the curb in handcuffs while their cars are searched. Moving forward, one of the commitments I’ve made is to pull over and record with my phone anytime I see a POC pulled over by the police. This is one small way in which White bodied folks can hold the police more accountable. And to take that a few step further, to speak up loudly if necessary, and as @sonyareneetay says when White folks ask how they can help "you need to throw your White body on that officer and save that Black man's life."
Here are some resources which have struck a chord with me personally and I would like to share with you. This is an incomprehensive list and I encourage you to continue to research, read, and seek out other opinions and strategies.
Some of us are more versed in the realm of white privilege than others, if you are new to this conversation, welcome! Here are some excellent resources to get your gears turning on how you might participate in and benefit from white privilege: “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh.
This opinion piece by Johnathan Capehart in the Washington Post - Dear White People, Please Read “White Fragility.”
And the book White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo
A poignant essay written by Eddie S. Glaude Jr. George Floyd’s Murder Shows Once More That We Cannot Wait For White America to End Racism
The very difficult required read Between The World and Me by To-Nehisi Coates. I did not make it through this book the first time but can no longer allow myself the privilege of looking away.
I encourage you to contact your local bookstore for book purchases.
Are you having a hard time talking to loved ones about the protests? This guide by Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) calls in white folks around the violence and property destruction narratives. We found it to be detailed and focused on a compassionate exchange of ideas.
Thank you all very much for taking the time to read our letter. Stay strong.
Jennifer & the team at Pennyroyal