Today we are joined by the remarkable Deja Rollins, speaking about performative allyship. Deja, a graduate student in Communications at UIUC, was the standout star of Karen’s TedX event hosted by U of Arkansas Monticello, and we’ve been working on getting her on the podcast for almost a year. In this conversation Deja talks about how white folks, particularly in the academy, talk the talk of “allyship” (especially during summer 2020) without taking any meaningful action, or sacrificing any of our money, ego, status, or institutional power. She makes the point that identifying as an “ally” is a self-identification actively claimed BY certain white folks (and not requested by Black folks), and, she says, if we’re “about that life then it’s on us to actually show up and do the work.” Don’t wait for Black bodies to be headlines to show up with hashtags. Don’t tell Black scholars their work on Black trauma needs to be “sexier.” White people: Recognize our continued possessive investment in whiteness, especially in academic spaces. We own space all the time; so the task is sit down and listen. White people: we own spaces of ease, so feel uncomfortable. Prioritizing white folks feeling “safe” (in all the endless anti-racism workshops) is a further violence and silencing. White people: we own the standards of evaluation, so vocally question the standards by which you are evaluating graduate students, job candidates, tenure candidates. Deja’s message: “If I can’t say outright this is bullshit, whiteness as a normative structure is whack as hell, a lot of performance and no action, if you can’t hear that, if i make you uncomfortable, that’s not where I need to be.”
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