What it really means to be an ally.
June 2020 has been a rollercoaster of emotions. With police brutality, systemic racism, gender discrimination, and LGBTQ+ rights on top of everyone’s minds, you might be wondering what meaningful steps you can take to fight oppression. The term “allyship” has been gaining traction as more people recognize their privilege and the unique position it gives them to support marginalized groups. This is great because allyship is central to creating lasting change. Movements like Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ+ Pride rely on allyship for its ability to bring the conversation to the source of the oppression (people with privilege). So what does allyship entail, and how can you be an effective ally? First, let’s look at what people often mistake for allyship.
Allyship is not…
- Absolving yourself of bias simply because you have LGBTQ+ and/or BIPOC (Black/Indigenous/people of color) loved ones in your life
- Making a public statement or posting on social media without following up with concrete action
- Contributing a one-time donation or attending one protest and believing your work is done
- Asking a member of a marginalized group to teach you about these issues
- Assuming everyone who is BIPOC or LGBTQ+ feels oppressed or wants to talk about it
- Listening to other people’s experiences without judgment
- Doing your own research to learn about LGBTQ+ and BIPOC history, the many contributions these communities have made to society, and how they are adversely affected by systemic oppression
- Identifying your own biases
- Understanding how you have and are benefiting from systemic oppression
- Learning about how oppressive systems work and how they can be fixed (ex: equitable housing, food sovereignty, police reform, etc.)
- Using your privilege to amplify and support marginalized voices, businesses, and organizations
- Setting aside your discomfort and not making your participation about you
- Calling out oppression when you see it, even if it means having a tough conversation with your friends, family, or colleagues
- Recognizing that this is a journey and each of these steps must be practiced on an ongoing basis
Helpful resources for allies
- Anti-racism content provided by the Canadian government and Forbes
- PFLAG and GLAAD allyship guides to support the LGBTQ+ community
- Male allyship toolkits from Geek Feminism and the Center for Women and Business at Bentley University
- There are many more, so don’t stop here!
You might find most of this will come naturally to you after a while. However, it’s important to keep in mind that allyship is complex, and you might mess it up sometimes. That’s okay. Be patient with yourself, learn from your mistakes, and keep the bigger picture in mind. Each action you take brings us all closer to a more just world.