As a white, cis-gendered, privileged woman serving as co-chair of our DEI Committee, it should be no surprise that the concept of allyship is often top-of-mind for me. What does it mean to be an ally? What is allyship? Is it a label, a badge, or an identity? Is it an external signaling of one’s own internal moral compass, or a statement that you are ideologically opposed to an -isim? A quick Google will provide a myriad of similar definitions of of allyship and ally, but common among all of them is not a description of identity, but rather of implied action.
Ally is a verb. It should not just be used as an identity; it must translate into action. It is a skill to be actively practiced. Before doing so, it is critical that you reflect on why you want to be an ally. This consciousness is imperative to your ability to actually help, and not harm, those around you. If you’re curious as to how you might begin this journey, look to the white allies Showing UP for Racial Justice (SURJ). SURJ operates from a place of critical awareness of how race and racism function in America and demonstrates this through specific targeted action. Their website includes organizing tool kits, as well as information about how to begin dismantling systems of racism.
Here are some beginning steps you should take to become an ally:
Reflect on why you want to become an ally
Research ally-groups in your community
Become educated on the issues impacting those you wish to be an ally with (not for!)
Here are some examples of allyship in action:
- Educating Yourself: Read books, watch documentaries, and listen to podcast authored by individuals from these communities.
- Listening Actively: Listen to the experiences and concerns of marginalized individuals without judgment. Provide a safe and empathetic space for them to share their stories.
- Amplifying Voices: Lift up the voices of marginalized communities. Share their perspectives, achievements, and struggles.
- Interrupting Bias: When you witness bias, discrimination, or microaggressions, intervene respectfully but firmly. Address inappropriate comments or behaviors and explain why they are harmful.
- Supporting Inclusive Practices: Encourage and advocate for inclusive policies and practices within your workplace, community, or organization. This can include supporting diverse hiring practices, accessible facilities, or diverse programming.
- Challenging Stereotypes: Challenge misconceptions about marginalized groups when you encounter them in conversations or media. Provide accurate information and promote understanding.
- Participating in Activism: Join or support movements and initiatives that aim to address social injustices. Attend protests, sign petitions, and contribute to causes that align with your values. Advocate for changes in policies and laws that perpetuate systemic discrimination. Engage with legislators and policymakers to promote equitable policies.
- Learning from Feedback: Be open to feedback about how you can be a better ally. Acknowledge your mistakes and use them as opportunities for growth.
- Acknowledging Your Privilege: Continuous acknowledge and reflect on your own privilege and biases. Use your awareness to inform your allyship efforts.
- Taking Responsibility: Recognize that being an ally is an ongoing commitment. Take responsibility for your role in promoting equity and inclusion and stay engaged in the process.
Allyship is not a one-time action. It is not a Facebook post, or a re-tweet, or a self-appointed label. It is a continuous journey of education, support, and advocacy. It is about actively working to create a more equitable and inclusive world. Join me!