6 Small Things You Can Do to Be an Ally
June 11, 2020
For those looking to stand in solidarity and be an ally in helping to stamp out racism, there are lots of small things you can do to help. In a world where all are responsible for creating equality and justice, it's time to step up and give as much support as you can.
For many of us, and especially for the well-intentioned White person, it can be hard to know where to begin.
It often involves breaking down your own identity, White privilege, and unconscious bias that comes with being a part of a dominant group (even if you don't feel that you're racist yourself).
And then building up others in an oppressed group who may not have had the same benefits as you've had growing up.
It's a tricky process that involves lots of self-reflection, but if we all give it a try then we will be one step closer to eradicating systemic racism.
We are the Land of the Free, after all. So, let's make it truly free for everyone.
We're going to try our best to break it down for you so that you know exactly where to begin and how you can be an effective ally in the workplace, at home, and everywhere in between.
What is Allyship?
Allyship is the daily practice of advocating for marginalized voices, bringing awareness to unconscious bias, and eliminating racial injustice.
Although people of color (POC) have traditionally experienced the most oppression compared to other groups (experiencing racism and discrimination from even others in a marginalized community), allyship aims to support and protect all marginalized groups. LGBTQ people, such as a trans person or non binary person, and people with a disability are also a part of the collective underrepresented group.
Because every black person, disabled person, or transgender person has experienced some kind of discrimination in their lifetime, whether violent or not. They experience injustices that white men simply do not experience and, for the most part, white women either.
These marginalized voices cannot move forward unless white men and women do their part in advocating for them, making space for them, and changing legislative policy that would otherwise perpetuate systemic racism.
It's not a small task and not everyone is up for tearing down The System.
And that's okay :)
Instead, you can have an effective allyship by standing up for the marginalized community in your day to day life. Whether it's supporting black employees in your workplace or encouraging gender expression in those around you, you can make a difference with one action at a time.
If you want more information on how to become an effective ally, then check out these resources:
- A Guide to Allyship
- Asexual Visibility and Education Network
- What is Classism?
- There Is No Such Thing As Reverse Racism
- Women of Color For Progress
Otherwise, here are 6 simple ways to become a better ally right now.
Start at Home
The most important thing to do right now and also one of the most challenging things to do is to start looking at yourself and unraveling your own institutional biases. We all have them and we all have work to do to break down those systemic beliefs. Understanding white privilege is a task all white-passing people can do to help. This will give us the inherent knowledge we need to change our own behavior and the education to help others around us change theirs.
After all, how can you advocate for racial justice if you don't quite understand your own unconscious bias or how you've benefited from being a part of a dominant group?
To get a better understanding of your own privilege, ask yourself these questions:
- How do you personally benefit or contribute to systemic racism, oppression, or heterosexism? (ie, how often do you disobey driving laws without fearing for your life? how often have people offered their help without asking instead of treating you suspiciously? how do holidays, traditions, and beliefs support your decision to be heterosexual?)
- Have you ever centered any racial inequality issues around your own experience? (ie, 'wow look how much I've grown, I'm so much better for it now' versus 'I want to understand my black colleague's experience better, how can I help?')
- Have you ever put the burden of education and allyship on others in an underrepresented group? (ie, asking your black friends to teach you how to be a good ally or playing the victim because you feel 'helpless')
- Are you able to recognize that you will never truly understand the experience of being a black woman or man, a transgender person, or a person with a disability?
- Have you donated to organizations that help fight for social justice by changing legislation to support marginalized voices and eradicate racial inequality? (If not, ACLU works in the courts, legislatures, and communities to defend the liberties of the marginalized community according to the US Constitution. Otherwise, you can review a whole vetted list at CharityNavigator.)
One of the simplest ways to start being an ally is to donate money to those who are working to turn the tide on racism. From the Black Youth Project 100 to the Equal Justice Initiative, do your homework and find a non-profit you support and donate if you can.
Support Black-Owned Businesses
If you're not comfortable with being a vocal advocate of the Black Lives Matter movement or with speaking out about racial injustice like police brutality, then opt to support businesses owned by black people. The black community doesn't want any favors. They just want your business, just like you give business to big corporations owned by greedy white men. This list of 180 black-owned businesses is a good place to start.
The same is true for other issues, as well. You can support businesses owned by LGBTQ people (or any other group that experiences discrimination).
You know the saying 'vote with your dollars'? Well, yeah. That's exactly what you'd be doing here and truthfully that'd make a faster impact than any policy change.
There are so many amazing books, blogs, think pieces and articles out there to help you on this journey. From Reni Eddo-Lodge and her book Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race to Robin Diangelo's White Fragility, and The New Jim Crow, there are a ton of non-fiction books on the topic. This resource guide on books to read to help be a better ally is another amazing place to dive right in. If you have small ones in your life, then look at introducing them early to books that offer diversity when it comes to character and plot.
Listen to Marginalized Voices
Listening to the lived experiences of others and making space is another one of the most important things you can do right now. From podcasts to video essays and interviews, do your research and take the time to hear people's stories in a way that doesn't put the emotional labor on them. Independent research is key right now. This list by Elle maps out some essential antiracist podcast listening.
Have Difficult Conversations
Try not to shy away from uncomfortable conversations about privilege and race with the people around you. The only way we can make a change is by overcoming the discomfort, getting to a place of understanding and guiding each other through. The key is to not be confrontational. As Ijeoma Oluo outlines in her sold-out book So You Want To Talk About Race, open the conversation with mutual understanding and respect. Ask questions and share your own experiences. The idea is to raise awareness and compassion one conversation at a time.
While all eyes are on the movement right now, there is every chance that momentum will fall. Don't let it. Keep going with the fight, keep educating yourself, use your voice and your privilege to help raise others up and constantly do the work to unravel your own inherent belief systems.
Tips from Guide to Allyship
Do you have any other tips for being an ally? Share in the comments.
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