One ally can be extremely powerful and make a difference in someone’s life -- but imagine the power of a community of allies. If a large group of people can come together to amplify the voices of others and create a better environment for all, that’s when we can start to see tangible progress in equality. Together as a community we can make BHHS feel safe and comfortable for ALL students.
ALLYSHIP is an active and consistent practice of unlearning and re-evaluating beliefs and actions, in which a person seeks to work in solidarity with a marginalized individual or group of people.
Highlights from the GUIDE TO ALLYSHIP.
(An open source starter to help you become more thoughtful and effective ally)
To be an ally is to….
- Take on the struggle as your own.
- Transfer the benefits of your privilege to those who lack it.
- Amplify voices of the oppressed before your own.
- Acknowledge that even though you feel pain, the conversation is not about you.
- Stand up, even when you feel scared.
- Own your mistakes and de-center yourself.
- Understand that your education is up to you and no one else.
WHAT IS AN ALLY?
An ally stands up and take on the problems borne of oppression as their own, without remove or distance even if they cannot fully understand what it’s like to be oppressed for their race or ethnicity, gender, sexuality, ability, class, religion, or other marker of identity. Being an ally doesn’t necessarily mean you fully understand what it feels like to be oppressed. It means you’re taking on the struggle as your own.
WHY ALLIES ARE NECESSARY?
Anyone has the potential to be an ally. Allies recognize that though they’re not a member of the underinvested and oppressed communities they support, they make a concerted effort to better understand the struggle, every single day.
Because an ally might have more privilege and recognizes said privilege, they are powerful voices alongside oppressed ones.
THE WORK OF ALLYSHIP
Being an ally is hard work.
Many would-be allies fear making mistakes that could have them labeled as “-ist” or “-ic” (racist, sexist, transphobic, homophobic, etc). But as an ally, you’re also affected by a system of oppression. This means that as an ally, there is much to unlearn and learn -- mistakes are expected. You need to own this as fact and should be willing to embrace the daily work of doing better.
As an ally, you need to own your mistakes and be proactive in your education, every day.
If you refuse to acknowledge that your words and actions are inherently shaped and influenced by systemic oppression, you’re setting up yourself to fail.
Lack of self-awareness is not a trait of an ally. You’ll be complicit in the oppression of those you intend to help. If you choose not to understand this, but label yourself an “ally”, you’re essentially a wolf in sheep’s clothing. You’ll find ways to infiltrate vulnerable communities and wield far more power than someone who is outwardly “-ist” or “-ic” because you’re “trusted.”
Just as society will not change overnight, neither will you. Here are some important do’s and don’ts to consider as you learn, grow, and step into the role of an ally.
- Do be open to listening
- Do be aware of your implicit biases
- Do your research to learn more about the history of the struggle in which you are participating
- Do the inner work to figure out a way to acknowledge how you participate in oppressive systems
- Do the outer work and figure out how to change the oppressive systems
- Do use your privilege to amplify (digitally and in-person) historically suppressed voices
- Do learn how to listen and accept criticism with grace, even if it’s uncomfortable
- Do the work every day to learn how to be a better ally
- Do not expect to be taught or shown. Take it upon yourself to use the tools around you to learn and answer your questions
- Do not participate for the gold medal in the “Oppression Olympics” (you don’t need to compare how your struggle is “just as bad as” a marginalized person’s)
- Do not behave as though you know best
- Do not take credit for the labor of those who are marginalized and did the work before you stepped into the picture
- Do not assume that every member of an underinvested community feels oppressed
Contributed by Presley Pizzo.
While mistakes are to be expected, what’s the best way to go about resolving them.
Imagine your privilege is a heavy boot that keeps you from feeling when you’re stepping on someone’s feet or they’re stepping on yours, while oppressed people have only sandals. If someone says, “ouch! You’re stepping on my toes,” how do you react?
Because we can think more clearly about stepping on someone’s literal toes than we usually do when it comes to oppression, the problems with many common responses are obvious:
- Centering yourself: “I can’t believe you think I’m a toe-stepper! I’m a good person!”
- Denial that others’ experiences are different from your own: “I don’t mind when people step on my toes.”
- Derailing: “Some people don’t even have toes, why aren’t we talking about them instead?”
- Refusal to center the impacted: “All toes matter!”
- Tone policing: “I’d move my foot if you’d ask me more nicely.”
- Denial that the problem is fixable: “Toes getting stepped on is a fact of life. You’ll be better off when you accept that.”
- Victim blaming: “You shouldn’t have been walking around people with boots!”
- Withdrawing: “I thought you wanted my help, but I guess not. I’ll just go home.”
In reality, most of us naturally know the right way to react when we step on someone’s toes, and we can use that to help us learn how to react when we commit microaggressions.
- Center the impacted: “Are you okay?”
- Listen to their response and learn.
- Apologize for the impact, even though you didn’t intend it: “I’m sorry!”
- Stop the instance: move your foot
- Stop the pattern: be careful where you step in the future. When it comes to oppression, we want to actually change the “footwear” to get rid of privilege and oppression (sneakers for all!), but metaphors can only stretch so far!
Reacting in a fair and helpful way isn’t about learning arbitrary rules or being a doormat. When we take the politics out of it, it’s just the reasonable thing to do. Still, it’s hard to remember in the moment, because these issues are so charged in our society. As such, it may be helpful to reframe the situation so that you don’t feel defensive.
You may have noticed it’s easier to handle being corrected about something you didn’t know if you’re grateful for and even open to the opportunity to learn rather than embarrassed to have been wrong. Being able to let go of your ego is an incredibly important skill to develop.
Try starting with “Thanks for letting me know” to put yourself in a better frame of mind. If after you say that, you need to take some time to think about the situation, that’s fine, too. Just remember that this isn’t about changing the other person’s frame of mind. They’re allowed to be upset about being oppressed.
10 WAYS YOU CAN BE AN ALLY
- DON’T LAUGH. Let others know that jokes and comments based on race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity, etc. are not funny.
- SPEAK UP! If you feel safe, let those who behave disrespectfully know that you don’t appreciate it.
- CHALLENGE BYSTANDERS. If you feel safe, let spectators know they are not helping.
- DON’T “GET EVEN.” Responding to meanness with meanness won’t help matters.
- BE A FRIEND. Show kindness and support to the targets of negative behavior.
- INVOLVE ADULTS. Tell a teacher or counselor about ongoing incidents and get support at home from parents and family members. You can report anonymously on normanonymous.org.
- BE NONJUDGMENTAL. Demonstrate to others that you are willing to listen and talk with an open mind.
- BE INCLUSIVE. Ensure that your language and behavior are respectful to all people.
- BE SELF-REFLECTIVE. Be aware of your own prejudices and work to change them.
- TAKE ACTION! Speak out against bias in your community and in the media
RACE & CULTURE