"The system of white supremacy was not created by anyone who is alive today. But it is maintained and upheld by everyone who holds white privilege - whether or not you want it or agree with it"
- Layla Saad (Me and White Supremacy)
Frequently asked questions
Q1. Why did you call yourselves 'White' Allies Network - why not 'All Allies' or just 'Allies'?
A. For similar reasons it is appropriate to emphasise 'Black Lives Matter' rather than 'All Lives Matter'. 'All lives' - people of all skin colours - need to work in harmony to defeat the scourge of racism - 'all lives' need to be involved.
Q2. What right have you got to call yourselves 'allies' to people with black, brown and yellow skin? That is for them to decide - whether you are true allies or not.
A. You're right. As Layla Saad says: “Allyship is not self-defined – our work and our efforts must be recognised by the people we seek to ally ourselves with”. As our strapline says - being true allies is something we aspire to, and we are not claiming that we are already there. Our vision is that we will earn that label in the eyes of people with black, brown and yellow skin by what we do and say as we stand with them against racism.
Q3. Isn't the White Allies Network just another form of 'white saviourism'?
A. There's a danger it could be, but we're determined not to fall into that trap.
Q4. Surely you are going to need to learn from people of different skin colours about these issues, so will need to include them in your meetings?
A. Absolutely right. All meetings are open to all and will include 'open spaces' in which everyone will be welcomed to join the conversation. In these spaces, we will all hopefully learn from people who have different skin colour to our own. In some meetings will also create 'separate breakout spaces' where white people and people of colour can talk more openly and vulnerably about their understanding and their experiences in pursuit of greater understanding.
Q5. You talk about creating 'safe spaces for white people to learn' about racism. This world is not a 'safe place' for people whose skin is not white - this is not a 'safe' issue. Why should white people have a 'safe space' when it comes to addressing racism?
A. All our meetings are open to all and will include 'open spaces' where we can dialogue together on these issues to help ensure our meetings don't become 'echo-chambers', starved of diverse viewpoints.
Q6. Isn't this just 'virtue signalling' - creating a 'safe' talking shop for white people to talk about the issues that looks good but achieves nothing?
A. We certainly hope not. But this is something our Council of Reference will help us with. Our aims are not just to educate ourselves but to agree individual and collective action that, together, we believe will make a difference.
Q7. Who is the White Allies Network predominantly for? Who can attend its meetings?
A. This network is firstly for white people who are willing to ‘do the work’, to educate themselves on the issues and to learn what it takes to be effective allies against racism. But we also need people of colour to engage with us in this learning process. This is why all our meetings will include 'open spaces' where we can all talk together about the issues.
Q8. If some of your meetings will include separate breakout spaces for white people and people of colour, who are you defining as 'white' and 'people of colour'? What about people who are mixed race? Or people who don't see themselves as Black or Asian or of having black or brown skin? Are they welcome too?
A. Anyone is welcome in the separate spaces for white people if they recognise they may benefit from white privilege by having lighter coloured skin than people who are visibly brown or black. This may include some who are bi-racial or multi-racial or others that pass as white.
Q9. You talk about a Council of Reference - what exactly is their role in White Allies?
A. Our Council of Reference is there to guide our activity and ensure we are keeping on track towards our aspiration of becoming true allies with people of colour against racial injustice.
Q10. You are using the term 'people of colour' on this website. Why? This is not a universally accepted term and is less used outside the US. And isn't 'white' a colour, anyway?
A. There doesn't seem to be a universally accepted term at the moment. In fact any term is flawed as it is categorising a diversity of peoples and putting them all in a large box. BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) and BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) are becoming less used for this reason.
"While the racist status quo is comfortable for me virtually 24-7 as a white person, challenging the status quo is not. Building the racial stamina required to challenge the racist status quo is thus a critical part of our work as white people."
- Robin Diangelo, author of White Fragility
(from the foreword to Layla Saad's 'Me and White Supremacy')