During the pandemic, there has been no shortage of hate crimes, racism, sexism, homophobic and transphobic attacks and legislation, and the list goes on and on. Now more than ever the world needs more allies. Ally is a word that has been thrown around a lot in the past few years, but we don’t often talk about how to be a good one. Here are four pointers to help guide you:
1) Don’t Be Defensive
Although you may call yourself an ally, there may be times when you’ve unintentionally done damage and someone may call you out. When people get defensive, it takes away from the learning opportunity. Accept people’s experiences and traumas as accurate and have empathy. In other words, if someone says your comment is racist, believe them. Gaslighting someone about their experience is violence and has no place in allyship. If you do become defensive, an apology goes a long way.
2) Be Authentic and Vulnerable
Many people struggle with this one because it requires a lot of humility. At times, a good ally may feel uncomfortable speaking up or jumping into action because the situation may be unfamiliar. Sure, it can be awkward and difficult, but imagine how the oppressed or marginalized person or group feels. Be genuine and make sure not to speak over or drown out the voices of the people you want to uplift. You don’t have to be a perfect ally, mistakes will happen, but don’t let it deter you from showing up. Allyship is a lifetime commitment to showing up for folks, not just when you feel like it or when it seems trendy.
3) Ask Questions and Be Patient
Be transparent when you don’t know what to do or say in a situation. Ask questions to better understand how you can be more helpful and effective. Acknowledgement means a lot. Hold space for people and reach out to them when events happen. Don’t try to force them to talk about it or immediately express their needs to you, wait until they are ready to do so. People need time to process and understand the traumas they experience.
4) Be Productive, Not Performative
The efforts of allies will not always be seen. Allyship sometimes happens behind closed doors and involves speaking up in spaces where the marginalized or oppressed have not been invited. Recognize your privilege and use it for good. Have the courage to speak out and don’t look for praise or a reward for doing what is right. Be selfless and intentional. Make note of what you want to accomplish and don’t lose sight of that goal, even if peers or family members who are not allies ask you to back down. People are depending on you.
Although this list is not exhaustive, I hope it will help you be a better ally to whatever community, movement, or cause you want to support!
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