• MJ Fievre

Calling out Perfomative Allyship with your Confident Black Kids

Allyship Performative allyship needs to be recognized and called out when it occurs. A performative ally is one who “talks the talk” but doesn’t “walk the walk.”


Kristina Gill, the coauthor of Tasting Rome, gives an example of her experience with performative allyship as it pertains to the publication of her book. On Instagram she detailed how the publisher of her book left her out of editorial decisions and left all of the decisions up to her white coauthor. She wasn’t even listed as a coauthor on the book, even though she had written much of the text. Gill was left out of the foreword notes, and in the post-publication publicity tour wasn’t invited to appear at events publicizing the book, while her white coauthor was booked for signings at bookstores and for media events. Gill’s contribution to the book was limited to a photography credit, and even that wasn’t respected in many of the post-publication press releases, where all of the credit was given to her white coauthor. Gill’s own agent didn’t stand up for her during the publication process, and later issued an apology for not making sure Gill got the credit she deserved. And several months after the book was published, Gill’s coauthor was given a second book contract without submitting a proposal, while Gill heard nothing at all.


In June of 2020, in an unrelated issue, several editors at Bon Appétit magazine resigned after it was revealed there was a pervasive culture of racism in the magazine’s hierarchy, including photos of one of the editors in brownface.


Some signs of performative allyship:


1. White fragility: When confronted with a racist action, the performative ally becomes defensive.


2. Virtue signaling: Making public statements that reinforce the idea that the performative ally was acting in the best interests of the person wronged.


3. Self-centering: The performative ally focuses the situation on themselves and ignores the harm done to the person of color.


4. Faux Ally benefits: The person who benefits from the collaboration with a person of color is the performative ally, usually to the detriment of the person of color.


5. Statements appear after being called out: We see this all the time, especially with the #MeToo movement, where carefully prepared PR statements and apologies are sent out, but very little actually changes.


6. Band wagoning: The performative ally moves quickly to gain support, often belittling or blaming the person of color that was wronged.


7. PR/Brand/Public image management: In a situation like Kristina Gill’s where the incident was made public, and there were publicists involved, a concerted effort to remake the performative ally’s image may occur.


A genuine ally knows that racism hurts everyone trapped in the system. They don’t look for credit or accolades. They look for and work toward real, lasting change, and they are willing to give credit where credit is due. Encourage your children to find their own allies by pointing out your allies to them.


-- A creator of safe spaces, and an initiator of difficult conversations, M.J. Fievre, B.S. Ed, spent much time building up her Black students, helping them feel comfortable in their skin, and affirming their identities. Her close relationships with parents and students led her to look more closely at how we can balance protecting our child’s innocence with preparing them for the realities of Black life. When―and how―do you approach racism with your children? How do you protect their physical and mental health while also preparing them for a country full of systemic racism? She began to research the issue and speak to school counselors and psychologists to find (and apply!) strategies parents and teachers can use with their children to broach uncomfortable but necessary topics.


M.J. is the author of Badass Black Girl, a daily dose of affirmations for Black Girls


“You'll come away from Badass Black Girl feeling as if you've known the author your entire life, and it's a rare feat for any writer.” ―“Mike, the Poet,” author of Dear Woman and The Boyfriend Book


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