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Fake Ally vs. Accomplice: How to know which one you are

Black History Month is upon us and performative allyship can be seen everywhere.

Companies like Costco, Target, and Bath & Body Works stamp “Black History Month” all over their ads without any intention to turn over those earnings to Black people.

So, how can companies and individuals be sure their effort to support Black people is effective and how can they know their “effort” is not translating as fake?

Jeremy Scruggs, assistant director of Black Pan-African Cultural Resource center, explained how these companies’ fake allyship comes across as counterfeit.

“You can’t simply go to Canva premium and put on the African clipart on a product,” he said. “That poor effort shows that there needs to be more diverse hiring in corporate rooms.”

And this is what “Black Twitter” was screaming about on Feb. 1, during a Bath & Body Works product launch for Black History Month which according to the company, featured an “African motif in a modern way.” This print was stamped on their already existing scents and it came off as a weak attempt to show solidarity for Black people.

A Black woman-owned candle company (@shicandco) was among those calling out the company on Twitter and said, “It’s disgraceful that you slapped on some tacky labels with the same scents thinking the black community should be proud of this.”

User @maya_meeshaangelou, a freelance artist and writer, added a comment about the situation as well.

Black users on Twitter could recognize this generic pattern was in poor taste and reflects that there are few if any, Black people in corporate rooms where these design decisions are being made.

Scruggs added his opinion on the Bath & Body Works fiasco, “It also harms your company. It backfired on you, and shows you won’t invest in actual people who can give you real feedback.”

Fake allyship from corporate companies can be seen, but what about individuals who are fake allies? How can someone tell the difference?

According to Scruggs, the real difference between an ally and an accomplice is that a fake ally knows about issues concerning Black people but doesn’t know where to begin or why they should get involved.

However, an accomplice has self-awareness and has a concrete purpose to fight for Black rights. They also demonstrate a heartfelt desire to make a change and have a genuine and constant connection with the Black community. An accomplice listens, knows when to stand up, and more importantly when to sit down.

“Also understand your lane,” Scruggs said. “It doesn’t mean you can’t support their issues, but know your place and when is the right time to get involved and when to sit back and listen.”

Scruggs recognizes its trendy to support Black lives, but Black issues and the Black experience is not a temporary fad. It is an everlasting movement that requires more than 28 days of awareness a year.

If taking interest and learning more about Black culture appeals to you and you are interested in being an accomplice, then attend Black History celebrations, take Africana Studies courses and like Scruggs said, “do a heart-check”, meaning analyze yourself internally and ask ‘Am I really passionate? If so, why? What are my intentions?’

It is never too late to unlearn the lies we were taught since grade school about Black history but true reflection is followed by applied effort. Be an accomplice, not a fake ally.

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