Doing my Master of Social Work program here in Toronto has been an eye-opening experience so far. Ryerson University uses a specifically anti-oppression framework in their program, which is part of the reason I chose it, what with my history of activism and having worked at PTS where we talk about anti-oppression on an ongoing basis. In this process, I’ve come to a revelation: I’ve been looking for cookies.
I’m not talking the sugary kind that you eat (although if any of you cute queers wanted to bake me some I wouldn’t be opposed 😉 ). I was looking for ally cookies.
Ally cookies, for those who don’t know, is a somewhat mocking idea that marginalized folks have used to discuss the recognition that privileged folks try to get for essentially as Kayla, the volunteer and programs coordinator calls it, “not being a douchebag.” So much so, that jokingly PTS through the years has internally talked about instead of cultural competency workshops instead “How not to be a douchebag” workshops.
I’m an activist by nature, fundamentally I believe that one needs to actively engage in the creation of change. That creation can come from many different avenues other than marching on the street, but I do that too. And no, I don’t think activist is a dirty word. As a result I genuinely believe in the importance of anti-oppression and challenging the multiple marginalizations within gender, sexuality, race, ability, profession, class and more.
As a result I try to advocate on issues even where I am privileged, including importantly race. Now racism is a very real issue that needs to be discussed and challenged in the queer community, which is why I was so happy when QPOC-IT started. And those of us who are white do, in what I know to be true, have a role to play in that. But, that role is one of ally working in solidarity instead of white saviour.
Often I find myself calling out racism in a conscious attempt to stop the oppression that exists. However, at times I mess up as I look for recognition from people of colour for what is essentially just being a decent human being. I take up more space at times calling out racism then people of colour who are there, which only further reinforces the racism that exists in some ways. Perhaps this comes from white guilt or settler guilt, perhaps it simply comes from arrogance, but I definitely need to sit back and be quiet more often.
So what I suggest for myself and others is that we put away looking for ally cookies. In the queer community we have many different factors that marginalize us and let those of us with more privilege, not work for, but work in solidarity with marginalized folks. So no more ally cookies for me, but if you ever want to have a date some time we can eat the other kind.
Former Education and Outreach Co-ordinator
Toronto Queerism Columnist