Ally Testimony: ‘What we Share’

Margaret Szpakowski, Editor in Chief

I didn’t talk to my friend of color about race for five years, so the fact that I’m writing an ally letter now is mildly laughable. It’s not that I didn’t realize we were different races. It’s not that I didn’t want to be an ally.
It’s that I didn’t know how to bring it up without making it worse.
I didn’t want to make it seem like that was all I thought about when I thought about him. We are the following: sharing a seat on the bus, sharing headphones with his music that I never thought I’d like but can’t stop listening, sharing Percy Jackson books reread far too many times, sharing lunch table card games, sharing teachers who lose their minds between the two of us, sharing a friendship that is the most consistent I’ve ever had.
We are not the following: sharing a race, sharing a skin color, sharing words that make us flinch and looks that make us want to hide and places we don’t think we’d be safe going.
We both have words that make us flinch and looks that make us want to hide and places we’re not sure we’d be safe going. But we don’t have the same ones, and we don’t have them for the same reasons.
No matter how close we get, how much we intertwine our pasts and presents and futures, there are some things that can’t be shared. I will never know what it is like to be my best friend.
But there are some things that can be shared. The most important of these are words. In June, the country was fighting a war against itself again, because people who look like me keep hurting the people who don’t, again. So I shared some words with my friend.
It was awkward for me. It was probably awkward for him, although he isn’t as much of a fundamentally awkward person as I am. But at the end, the only regret I felt was that I had waited so long. I let my fear get in the way of making a connection. Because it’s not his job to start that conversation. He might not have felt safe starting that conversation with me. It’s the job of white people like me, those of us who want to be allies, to start those conversations with our friends. To ask them what they need. To tell them we’re going to listen to them if they need to rant. To tell them they don’t need to talk about race with us, if they don’t want to. We don’t see them as our Asian friend, our Black friend, our Latinx friend. That’s not what we want our friendship to be defined by. We want our shared friendships to be defined by sharing a bus seat, sharing headphones, sharing books, sharing lunch, sharing teachers. But to get to the things we share, we have to acknowledge the things we don’t share.
Because when we acknowledge what we don’t share, we share a purpose of making this school better. I don’t want my younger brothers to not know how to talk to their friends. I don’t want this silence to overwhelm my generation the way it has so many others. I want us to be better than that.
That starts with talking about it.