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J Mase III Headshot

#AllyFail, a Poem on the Shortcomings of Allyship

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How do we challenge our allies around race? Around gender identity? This is a poem I started writing after a very well-meaning white cis-gay person made a joke about me teaching him how to twerk. As a trans person of color, there are so many times during my day when I am challenged to exist in a space not designed for me. For some, this poem may ring very true, for others it may make them very uncomfortable. Either way, it is here. Below, you can watch a reading of it, or read the actual text.

#AllyFail

You are the kind of ally that would rather ask me how to twerk than how to pronounce my name
You are the kind of ally that doesn't know what cisgender means but loves staring at my chest before you address me
You are the kind of ally that makes me wonder who my enemies are and trips over words like transphobia and white supremacy
You are the kind of ally that will practice your sassy black woman voice in the mirror
but cross the street when black folks pass by you on street corners
You are the kind of ally that just showed up to help gay people have fancy weddings
You are the kind of ally that wants to take pictures together just for advertising purposes
You are the ally that calls my family's neighborhood up and coming
but would never want to bring up the word gentrification
You are ally on white horse
seemingly scooping down to rescue me from my own depravities
You are the kind of ally that shops only at wholefoods
You are the ally that doesn't realize being gay won't save you from your white privilege
You are the ally that tells old black men how adorable they are
You are the ally that sends me links to articles you've only read the title to
You are the ally that will think "gosh, this couldn't possibly be a poem about me"
You are ally, waving righteous sword that loves to hear me tell a sad story over and over again because vicariously living my pain gives you some street cred
You are the kind of ally that thinks intersectionality uses too many syllables
You are the ally that thinks it's okay to describe someone as having the nerve to be both big AND black
You are the ally that loves the texture of my hair
You are the ally that thinks fucking me is the same as fighting for me
You are the kind of ally that thinks you are hilarious when you rap
You are the ally that writes depressing poems in my honor but never fully gets my complexities
You are the ally that has enough time to google celebrity sex tapes but not rules on allyship
You are the ally that celebrates don't ask don't tell because kids that look like you will never be forced to cross seas to bomb kids that look like them just so they can have some of your fictitious "freedom"
You are the ally that thinks being accepted is the same as being understood
You are the ally that laughs way too hard at my jokes
You are the kind of ally that will share a poem like this on YouTube but will never listen to the words
You are the kind of ally that doesn't understand the problem with words like minorities
You are the kind of ally that believes being on food stamps for your adult Americorps position is the same as a 10 year old brain eating itself for nourishment
You are the kind of ally that thinks I talk too loud when I am angry
You are the ally that thinks rape is funny because it hasn't happened to you
You are that ally that thinks saying you are colorblind is a compliment
You are the ally that thinks believing in systemic oppression is an option
You are the ally that will fuck up my pronouns but think it's okay, cause we're friends
You are the kind of ally that will need to appropriate some yoga after this poem
You are the kind of ally that will only remember that last line about yoga in this poem
You are the ally that never has to progress, because you have already proclaimed yourself to be
my ally