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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Allyship



Voltron


When I was a child, I adored the Voltron television series. The synopsis of the show is as follows:


From days of long ago, from uncharted regions of the universe, comes a legend, the legend of Voltron, Defender of the Universe. A mighty robot, loved by good, feared by evil. As Voltron’s legend grew, peace settled across the galaxy. On planet Earth, a galaxy alliance was formed. Together with the good planets of the solar system, they maintained peace throughout the universe. Until a new horrible menace threatened the galaxy. Voltron was needed once more. This is the story of the super force of space explorers, specially trained, and sent by the alliance, to bring back Voltron: Defender of the Universe.


I was all in! A giant, colorful robot comprised of individual mechanized lions, which assembled to fight evil, was exactly what eight-year-old Deric was prepared to daydream about in school, until he could rush home and watch Voltron.


Cultural Marxism


As I grew older, I learned of a similar collectivist approach to fighting injustice when el-Hall Malik el-Shabazz described closed fist iconography by stating:


If I take my hand and slap you, you don’t even feel it. It might sting you, because these digits are separated. But all I have to do to put you back in your place is bring those digits together.


The rhetoric resonated with me to such a degree that I received a tattoo to represent the message of a fight against oppression. It was around the time of my tattoo that I learned of allyship— active support for the rights of a minority or marginalized group without being a member of it.


Years later, when thinking critically about activism and the concept of allyship, I realized that the Marxist ideas I was once taught addressed an impermanent issue—socioeconomic achievement or lack thereof. Moreover, proposed solutions to this complex issue seem to continually fail.


Some proponents of Marxism claim their proposed resolution “has not yet been tried” in any meaningful way and so Marxist principles are perpetually put to the test in societies unfortunate enough to convince the citizenry of the theory’s supposed exceptional merits.


During graduate school, when studying social work and at a time when I received my tattoo, I was introduced to neo-Marxism. Per one source, this approach is “said to incorporate several ideas and philosophies from Marxism including its critical theory, psychoanalysis and other such ideologies.”


Whereas Marxism mainly focuses on the oppressor-oppressed narrative in relation to socioeconomic status, neo-Marxism uses a similar critique of oppression though it can relate to race/ethnicity, sex/gender, able-bodied/disabled, and so on and so forth. Any disparity between the “have” and “have-not” groups may be viewed through this lens.


Although one source claims it is a “conspiracy theory,” I learned the praxis (practice, as distinguished from theory) of cultural Marxism when in grad school. Expanding upon this concept, a separate source states:


The most apt meaning of “cultural Marxism” is that the underlying oppressor-versus-oppressed analytical dynamic utilized in Marxism proper is re-appropriated out of the economic context and into the cultural context (see also, conflict theory, neo-Marxism, identity politics, and applied postmodernism). In many regards, this application of Marxian conflict theory to cultural phenomena is, in fact, what neo-Marxism is about and is also what Critical Social Justice is about, if in the latter case one reduces “cultures” to a sense of solidarity with and shared values and political aims within one’s identity groups, say like race, sex, gender, or sexuality.


Using a cultural Marxism approach, when Ibram X. Kendi purportedly stated, “When I see racial disparities, I see racism,” he presumably outlined black people as the have-nots (oppressed) and whites as the haves (oppressor).


If one chooses to deceive oneself by labeling it a “conspiracy theory” when others highlight the ideology of people like Kendi, so be it. In that case, as the saying goes, “The difference between a conspiracy [theory] and the truth is 6 months.”


Division


As one’s wealth may fluctuate over the course of life, the impermanence of socioeconomic status can alter who is the oppressor and who are the oppressed in significant ways. For instance, Kendi could be a bestselling author and retain wealth today though his circumstances could drastically change and he could be destitute tomorrow.


Up until fairly recently in human evolutionary history, semi-permanent characteristics such as that relating to sex were unchangeable. This controversial topic aside, it isn’t likely that someone like Kendi, a black man, can change his race, sex, etc.


Therefore, a system of division that can clearly separate the permanence of haves from have-nots is employed. Neo-Marxism, perpetuated by cultural Marxist dogma, appears to use the following classification:


Category 1: Majority vs. minority

Category 2: Dominant vs. subjugate

Category 3: Oppressor vs. oppressed


If one were to form a coalition of people to fight against the perceived majority, dominant, and oppressor class, one would first need to indicate who it is that doesn’t fit into the minority, subjugate, and oppressed class.


Information from the United States (U.S.) Census Bureau reports there are 75.5% white people in this country and females constitute 50.4% of our population. By this measure, the difference between male and female is negligible.


According to a separate source, 7.1% of the U.S. population identifies as non-straight. Using all of this data, one may conclude that straight, white men constitute the majority, dominant, and oppressor class.


Keep in mind that people with Kendi’s perspective apparently see racism, sexism, homophobia, and other perceived problems when merely observing differences in a population. Rather than a United States of America, this approach aims to divide people into enclaves of victimhood.


Allyship


What would the individual pilots of mechanized lions do if faced with perceived evil? They would ally against the enemy by forming Voltron.


Per one source, “Some advocates of allyship may define it in roots of activism, such as changing to more inclusive use of language, removing bias from hiring and promotion processes, and combating perceived forms of prejudice against disadvantaged groups.”


Alliances consisting of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and more (LGBTQ+) are formed. As well, black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) are united along identity lines. There’s even a flag as colorful as Voltron that represents the allied groups:



In this case, the signaling device for allyship apparently excludes straight, white men. Because allyship relates to protection for the liberties of supposedly oppressed groups without being a member of the collective, those for which the flag aren’t intended can still serve as allies.


While in school for social work, a number of my peers mistook me for a straight, white man—not knowing I am biracial. I was told that in order to be a “good ally,” I could essentially sit down and shut up when non-straight, non-white people spoke.


Additionally, I was advised that when in the presence of other straight, white men I could basically uplift non-straight, non-white people in various ways. I was further invited to give up my “privilege” by never competing with non-straight, non-white people in various capacities (e.g., job promotions).


Though my subjective experience is anecdotal and doesn’t necessarily constitute the norm, the appeal of allyship didn’t make sense to me and I doubt it does to some other people. Bigotry against one group of people by those who collectively formed Nortlov—the antihero version of Voltron—wasn’t something about which I was excited.


Recently, following the U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn affirmative action in institutions of high education, I’ve encountered bigoted remarks about straight, white men from a number of sources. Some of these declarations have come from straight, white men.


One supposes the individual members of Nortlov allyship perceive themselves as Defenders of the Powerless, reminiscent of Voltron: Defender of the Universe. However, those who wield metaphorical weapons of homosexism, racism, and sexism against straight, white males aren’t heroic as far as I’m concerned.


Conclusion


When I was young, I enjoyed watching Voltron valiantly battling opponents in good versus evil matchups. In adulthood, cultural Marxism appealed to me, because I thought of the world in the simplistic terms I used as a child—good on one side and evil on the other.


However, as I thought more about this myopic view, I realized how divisive it was to categorize people on the basis of arbitrary points of identification. Recently, I’ve observed allyship in action with overt hatred expressed against straight, white men.


Though I don’t disturb myself over the irrational beliefs of others—and I’d much rather hear the perspectives of bigots expressed than to have their viewpoints silenced—I wonder how the targeted so-called majority, dominant, and oppressor class is coping with overt bigotry.


Understandably, a person’s beliefs about being the recipient of expressed hatred could lead to unpleasant emotional and behavioral consequences. This is the sort of matter with which I help people in my practice. If you’re struggling, don’t hesitate to reach out.


If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.


As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.


At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!



Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW



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