FACEOFF: ‘Woke’ white allies should defend their friends of color


Photo by Lauren Sanchez / Hilltop Views

A young woman protests agains White Supremacy at the Capital.

Lauren Sanchez, Viewpoints Section Editor

Being a person of color in a country like this is exhausting. It may seem like a wild concept but experiencing things like racial discrimination every day can lead to depression and other mental illnesses.

A study titled “Racial Discrimination and the Stress Process” from 2009 found that there are clear links between mental illness and racial discrimination. The study surveyed 174 black people who were asked to record each instance they faced racism or negative events followed by general feelings of anxiety and depression.

The study revealed that those who faced discrimination in one form or another reported “higher levels of negative affect, anxiety and depression.”

That being said, you can imagine the sort of stress a Mexican-American woman is under in this political climate. Of course, I can’t blame all problems on everyday discrimination, but boy does that contribute to it.

So, imagine how it feels having white peers who claim to be “woke.” You talk with them about the problems you as a minority face and for the most part they seem to get what you’re going through. They even add in their own input and some of it is new information you never realized yourself. It can be so affirming knowing that a person of privilege is actually aware of your struggle.

Someone knows that I have trauma linked to what I’ve experienced as a person of color? Revolutionary!

But then the unavoidable happens: racism. It could come in the form of an off hand microaggression that people who are uneducated about these issues may not notice or it could be a straight up slur. Either way, it happens, and your woke white friend happens to be there.

But this person, who appeared to know so much about your struggle as a minority, says nothing.

I pride myself on how independent I am. I was raised in a family full of strong, women of color who taught me to be self-reliant. But the truth is, I’m tired.

It’s so exhausting having to defend myself not only in academic settings, but also in personal settings and professional settings. There is never really a moment where a person of color doesn’t have to deal with discrimination, whether it be veiled and passive or as blunt as possible.

So, woke white people, why can’t you step in?

I don’t need a white person who is well versed in the complexities of being a Mexican- American woman. I don’t need you to take a course focusing on Mexican-American women’s issues. I don’t even need you to know how to make tamales.

But standing up for your friend who is a person of color is as easy as telling the aggressor to back off. It doesn’t even have to be that aggressive if the person making a racially charged comment is your friend. You can calmly pull them aside and tell them why what they said isn’t right.

Stepping in like that relieves the stress put on people of color. It’s nice to sit back and not have to deal with discrimination for once. Discrimination deals a heavy emotional burden and, though it may be hard for you as a privileged person to address it, imagine how hard it is for the person actually being discriminated against.

If you can’t? Well, then you’re just a fake white friend and, frankly, you can do better.