Our Happy Hour on February 22 drew our community closer as we dove deeply into the topic of “White Privilege and Allyship.”  Our guest speaker was Sydney Richardson-Gorski, a California native turned DC transplant who is an advocate for:

  • Youth in the juvenile justice system
  • Lower pharmaceutical drug prices
  • Repeal of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

Sydney is also a member of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Election Protection Team.

Perhaps the reason many were drawn to participate was that the precursor to the Happy Hour was something that everyone could agree with: White Privilege is awkward. It sure didn’t stop us! We went full speed ahead into one of our most engaging and authentic Happy Hours yet.

The structural nature of this topic is something that we all need to acknowledge. Sydney noted that white privilege is “deep and insidious” and the more we deny its existence, the worse it will get. The gap keeps growing. For example, because of the historic, systematic oppression of black people, the average wealth of a white family is $171,000. The wealth of an average black family is just one-tenth of that: $17,150.

“It’s policy, not personal,” Sydney said. In other words, throughout history, the white leaders who shaped this country did so in their favor. There is a limited menu served to black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) and a flexible, almost “all you can eat and whatever you can eat” menu provided to white people.

Two examples of this throughout history include:

Redlining, which occurred from 1934-1968. While $120 billion went toward new housing, less than 2 percent of that went to housing for non-whites. And 75 percent of redlined neighborhoods still struggle with poverty today.

The GI Bill, which was in effect from 1944 to 1956. A total of 9 million veterans received $4 billion in unemployment benefits and were given 4.3 million home loans. Black veterans did not receive these benefits and missed out on this “once-in-a lifetime” opportunity to build wealth.

Going back to the “deep and insidious” point. Sydney asked us a simple but eye-opening question: “When you go on vacation and there is shampoo and conditioner provided, whose hair is that for?”

We are at a point in time where we cannot choose any longer to look the other way when Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) are being oppressed. Ultimately, we need to find ways to be consistent and action oriented when it comes to being allies for the BIPOC community.  History repeats itself because we forget to acknowledge and amend the wrongdoings of so many people before us.

So, what can you do to be an ally?

  1.  Acknowledge your privilege and use it for positive change
  2.  Do not expect to be educated by others
  3.  Avoid “color blindness” and performative allyship (e.g., Instagram black squares)
  4.  Speak up, but not over
  5.  It’s not about intent, it’s about impact

Other ideas around Allyship:

  1.  Donate to or join a cause
  2.  Find or start a book club or “white space”
  3. Follow activists and organizers
  4. Decolonize your bookshelf (and your Netflix too, while you are at it)
  5. Attend town halls and other government happenings to ask about issues facing marginalized communities
  6. Call out friends, family, coworkers, bosses and everyone in between

Sydney closed the Happy Hour with an impactful quote from Dr. Martin Luther King: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

So, get out there and make your mark!

Email us to hear more! We have tons of resources available on this topic, thanks to Sydney and the rest of the team.

By Jiana Bowie

See the presentation in PDF format (565 KB)

February Happy Hour
Racial Justice Resources & Recommendations (PDF)