Being an ally: Group organizes people for racial justice

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- ABC7 News Anchor Kumasi Aaron spoke with Carla Wallace, a civil rights activist and co-founder of the Fairness Campaign and Showing Up for Racial Justice about what it means to be an ally.

"I tend to not use the word allies," Wallace said on ABC7 News' special 3 p.m. newscast. "But, you know, okay with it. I think too often allyship has white people thinking that our role is to help people of color, almost a good-hearted, you know, 'We have to help you because you're in trouble,' and I believe that it's actually about standing together for justice for all of us."

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Wallace says throughout the history of this country, Black communities have been targeted from the beginning with slavery having built the wealth of this country. She says at this moment and throughout history, there has been and is disproportionate violence by police against Black communities.

"This is about what kind of communities do we want to live in," Wallace says. "It is not about what I consider an unequal relationship, which is helping someone, but it's about standing side by side in solidarity, and joining the demands that will actually create safer communities for all of us."

Wallace says at Showing Up for Racial Justice, or SURJ, they are called finding mutual interest which she believes will improve the country for everyone.

"It's not something we're doing for other people," Wallace says. "It's something that we're fighting for together."

ABC7 LISTENS: 'Allies in Action: A Bay Area Conversation'
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Watch ABC7's hour-long discussion about the importance of allyship in our communities, "Allies in Action: A Bay Area Conversation."



Wallace says there are still challenges.

"One is that white people have been taught in this country, that anything that is gained by Black communities or other communities of color is something that we are going to lose from instead of understanding that throughout history when the doors have been open, wider for Black equity the society has become better for all of us," Wallace says. "And in particular, we look at the way that economic injustice also impacts people who are poor, working class and white, white people with disabilities, LGBTQ people who are white, the way that the system also says to marginalized white people, 'You don't belong here and we're going to keep you down,' we feel like it's really powerful to help people see that we have a mutual interest in joining with Black, Brown and Indigenous leadership, instead of seeing ourselves as losing something when people of color gain."

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Wallace says she helps people navigate that challenges by teaching them how to have difficult conversations.

"One of the things we have found is that, that white folks do not want to talk to other white people about race and racism and so we support people to have those hard conversations. Sometimes it's in their families. In fact, sometimes the families are the hardest conversations and they have to start somewhere else first, like maybe with coworkers or with other white people in their, in their faith spaces, you know, at their Sunday gatherings. And so we help people learn how to have those conversations in ways that build a bridge and do not try to just prove how woke a white person we are, and drive other white people away, but instead to use questions. You know what, 'What makes you think that?' 'Where did you learn that?' And to try to get people on a journey of understanding that racial justice is in our interest too," Wallace says.

Wallace says she encourages people trying to have those conversations to meet people where they are, and listen as much as they talk.

"That is hard work," Wallace says. "It can be frustrating work. But we do not need to be leaving that work on people of color to do, that is our work to do. And we need to take it up in a responsible way."

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Wallace says that's why SURJ believes in growing organizations and having people do the work collectively.

"Being Lone Ranger's out there thinking we're going to make a difference is not the way things have changed in this country," Wallace says. "It has always been because people have joined together to fight for the change that we need."
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