With every passing day, the list of white people invited to the proverbial cookout seems to grow. It’s a joke format that can be a fun exercise in processing the tedium of white supremacy. But it’s also an important, nuanced commentary on cultural identity and the concept of allyship. During Solange’s live show, for example, she jokes, “Let’s see who can get an invite to the cookout,” before leading the audience in a dance-along that directly, and lightheartedly, addresses racial dynamics.
Earlier today, I found myself alarmed by a screenshot circulating on Twitter that suggests some the cookout conversation may have jumped the shark. The post shows a screenshot from a Facebook post featuring three people wearing merch that proclaims them to be “invited to the cookout.” It’s unclear whether the image is legitimate or not. (A reverse Google Image search suggests that the photos could be mock-ups from a custom merch site.)
Either way, I’d just like to clear one thing up: Much like love, allyship is an action. It is not passive or stagnant or easy. It is, as groups such as the British Columbia non-profit PeerNet and the Anti-Oppression Network explain, “not an identity.” For a person of privilege — race or gender or sexual identity or ability — to be a true ally means engaging in “a lifelong process of building relationships based on trust, consistency, and accountability with marginalized individuals and/or groups of people.”
In other words, you cannot invite yourself to the cookout, no matter how banging your potato salad is.
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