Academic journal article Harvard Journal of African American Public Policy

W.A.I.T. (Why Am I Talking?): A Dialogue on Solidarity, Allyship, and Supporting the Struggle for Racial Justice without Reproducing White Supremacy

Academic journal article Harvard Journal of African American Public Policy

W.A.I.T. (Why Am I Talking?): A Dialogue on Solidarity, Allyship, and Supporting the Struggle for Racial Justice without Reproducing White Supremacy

Article excerpt

Laura Misumi graduated with high distinction from the University of Michigan in 2009, double majoring in political science and Latin American and Caribbean studies, with a minor in Asian/ Pacific Islander American studies. As co-chair of the flagship Asian American student organization at the University of Michigan, Misumi worked with fellow students on Asian American issues and how they connect to multiracial issues of immigration and workers' rights.

Upon graduation, Misumi worked on the "Clean and Safe Ports" campaign with Puget Sound Sage in Seattle through the Center for Third World Organizing's Movement Activist Apprenticeship Program, and served as an AmeriCorps volunteer Youth Civic Engagement Specialist at the United Teen Equality Center in Lowell, Massachusetts. Before law school, she served as a National Teaching Fellow and Family and Student Engagement Lead at Van Buren Middle School in Albuquerque, New Mexico, through Citizen Schools. Misumi was a public interest law scholar at Northeastern University School of Law, a member of the National Lawyers Guild, co-chair of Harvard Law School Asian Pacific Law Students Association, representative on the Committee Against Institutional Racism, and vice-chair of communications for the Student Bar Association. She is currently the Home Care Law Fellow at the SEIU. She loves food.

Geoffrey Leonard is a native New Yorker. He studied anthropology and English at Goucher College, where he earned a BA in 2008. From 2008 until 2010, he did Hurricane Katrina recovery work, serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA, community outreach officer, and case manager with Rebuilding Together New Orleans, and a housing tester with the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center. Between 2010 and 2012, Leonard worked as a legal advocate at the Urban Justice Center's Homeless Outreach and Prevention Project, where he represented welfare and food stamp recipients at admin- istrative hearings to contest illegal denials or withdraws of benefits. He also helped organize the Urban Justice Center's staff union under UAW NOLSW Local 2320, and served on the unit's first bargaining committee.

He is currently pursuing a dual degree in law and public policy at the Georgetown University Law Center and the McCourt School of Public Policy. As a student, Leonard has been an active member of the Georgetown Law chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, serving at various times as their treasurer, communications officer, and member of the steering committee. During school, he was a Peggy Browning Fellow at the DC Employment Justice Center, interned at Make the Road NY, and clerked with the SEIU. After graduation, he will be replacing Misumi as the Gleichman Fellow for Home Care at the SEIU. He loves cats.

On the Role of Allies in Organizing Against White Supremacy

LEONARD: In thinking through the role of allies, two things. First, I think that anti-racist and anti-oppression work should be led by the folks who bear the brunt of racism/oppression. So when it comes to amplifying Black voices in the struggle against anti-Black racism, I think White folks and all non-Black people doing ally/ solidarity work should be playing a supporting role, not trying to lead.1 Which is hard for us as White people, because we've been told our whole lives that our opinion and sense of self is central. So, stepping back, shutting up, and realizing that you're there if you're useful and that's about it, is really challenging.

Second, I think that there is room for White people to lead anti-racist work in the White community and I think that's really important. I think of the Stokely Carmichael critique of White liberals hiding out in the Black community because the White community is, say, hostile to their ideas of racial justice and it's just like, "that's cute," but it's super counterproductive.1 There's another Stokely Carmichael quote about White folks needing to organize their own community.2 The major force driving anti-Black racism and White supremacy is the extent to which White people have gained material and psychological benefits from White supremacy and then denied its existence through the entire ideology of White supremacy. …

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