What does it mean to have an ally?

Christina Greer Ph.D. | 7/26/2018, 12:03 p.m.
I was recently reading about the racist and homophobic past tweets of Major League Baseball Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Josh Hader.
Dr. Christina Greer

I was recently reading about the racist and homophobic past tweets of Major League Baseball Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Josh Hader. The 24-year-old pitcher has had his degrading tweets resurface and he says he is embarrassed by what he wrote roughly seven years ago. He further states he was a kid then and just tweeting “what was on his mind” at the time. I guess while I think about community building and Black uplift, he thinks about white power and the degradation of others.

What disturbed me as much as his tweets (which unfortunately have become more and more common among celebrities and people in the public eye) is the standing ovation he received from his fans on approaching the field after the tweets resurfaced. Essentially, thousands of fans in the stands knew about his antics and the hurt (and fear) he caused various communities, yet they still felt the need to stand up and show Hader that they support him and indirectly what he said. Looking at the people in the stands, I saw age and gender diversity among the white fans and likely some class diversity as well. Thus begging the question, in times like these, who can we trust to be our allies in the struggle against white oppression and 21st century racism?

I was always told that an ally is someone who would have my back when I am present, but more importantly, when I am not in the room. As I looked at the thousands of fans co-signing hate speech, I wondered how many people truly believed that Hader had done nothing wrong versus those who did not feel comfortable enough or have enough courage to stay seated and ask those around them just what exactly they were cheering for. I would like to believe that someone in the stadium had the heart to do so, but I have yet to read any of those stories.

At this present political moment, a time where more and more Americans believe we could be headed for a new Civil War, what do we expect from those we call our allies? When members of the right wing are heavily armed and consistently tout their Second Amendment right to bear arms as an intimidation tactic, what is the responsibility of an ally to confront these individuals? I wish I had an answer. We know (and have known for decades) that the state is more likely to protect white citizens first and ask questions later when Black Americans are involved. We have seen it throughout this summer at swimming pools, barbeques and lemonade stands across the country. However, I will keep asking myself what I need from my allies and what I need to do to be a better ally to other groups who need my voice, not just my silent support.

Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University, the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream” and the host of The Aftermath on Ozy.com. You can find her on Twitter @Dr_CMGreer.