I have never found being a white ally to have benefits to me personally. In fact, it’s kind of sucked. I see what you are saying. White people are treating this cause like a charity, and then they get to feel benevolent for their trouble, but the minute any real change happens. Boom, folks will shut it down. If you’re a real ally, I don’t see how it is positive though. It has always been a nasty experience for me.
Beginning with growing up in public housing in the 80s, before we moved into a rental dump in an even poorer part of the city, I had genuine friendships with black people because we lived together, but it was not always a good experience. It also really wasn’t an era of allyship, because I was too young to understand oppression or privilege. To me, it looked like I was treated badly. One friend’s mother clearly hated white people and gave me the evil eye whenever my friend talked me into coming over. This same friend’s brother sexually assaulted me, and the rumor went around school it was because he was giving me a VD to get even with white girls. Yes, he did give me crabs.
In our neighborhood, I was beat up more than once, had a knife pulled on me (actually, it turned out, it was pulled on my best friend standing next to me, but she ran away so fast, I was left staring at the blade and the person behind it), and got made to feel like I was trashy. On the other hand, I also made lifelong friendships, met lots of people who were not prejudiced, and so goes my time as a friend.
My time as an ally, something I had to learn about in college to understand, has been pretty crappy. It has cost me friendships (with white people, but hey they were apparently racist, so let em go), cut off an entire side of a family to me for decades now, and it has cost time. A lot of time. Talking, always talking to other white people about what racism is, how we benefit and especially lose from it, and facing the daunting reality that most people don’t want to hear it. So you keep on, relentlessly, to the point where some white friends laughingly say, “We get it. We get it. It’s just not our cause.” To which I say, “This isn’t a cause to me. This is a matter of making a society I would want my children to live in.”
The most concrete example of how I understood my liberation was tied up in the liberation of others, especially black people in my life experience, relates to welfare. My family was on it almost all my childhood. Welfare was so piddly, so starkly nothing to live on, that we went hungry, cold (or too hot), just miserable, dammit. I learned that the reason we had to suffer so much is that white Americans stereotype welfare as a black program, so their racism causes them to cut the welfare benefits to the bone. Voila, there’s the direct harm to me. Racism toward black people caused our welfare benefits to be woefully inadequate. But that’s the most concrete example. The harm to one’s psychology and soul to have an oppressive society and what it does to one’s humanity to be an oppressor is scalding.
Maybe that’s how you tell you’re an ally. It’s boring, repetitive, requires a lot of patience, self-examination, and time, and people will not like you. But, you know it’s worth it.