An ally is someone who acts with other people to end oppression and achieve equality. I think we can all agree that the help of the privileged is instrumental in the fight against discrimination. However, I believe that the work of self-proclaimed ‘allies’ has occasionally become harmful to the overall goal of equality.
The word ‘ally’ has, in some cases, become an excuse to dominate conversations and drown out the voices of the communities they claim to be lifting up. This isn’t a ‘call-out’ piece designed to scold those amongst us who struggle with how best to support and engage in activism. Nobody is getting ‘cancelled’. If you’re reading this — we’re on the same side! But we’re also human and flawed and even the best intentions can be misconstrued. Here are some statements that I believe are important to keep in mind for allies.
By becoming an ally your job is to pave the way for marginalised voices to lead the conversation. There are situations where your privilege can allow you to exist in spaces where the oppressed cannot, and then it is important to speak for those who are silenced – but, wherever possible, try to pass the conversation over. As a cis woman, I’m tired of cis men being praised for stating the most rudimentary ‘feminist’ views. You think women deserve rights? That’s great! You don’t deserve a medal.
2. EDUCATE YOURSELF
It is not the job of every marginalised person to lay out basic facts about their oppression for you. It is great that you are interested and I am sure that they will usually be happy to talk to you; but it’s important to familiarise yourself with the language and actualities of these people’s struggles before you add ‘ally’ to your Twitter bio. Don’t know what a TERF is? Google exists.
3. HOLD YOURSELF ACCOUNTABLE
Everyone makes mistakes! Own them. You have to listen, apologise, and most importantly, do better going forward! Acknowledge the criticism and weave it into your future actions. Please don’t use the label ‘ally’ as a defence of your actions. You are not immune to being racist because of your black friend.
It is so important for people to get involved with activism in any way they can. Every small action is a building block that creates a foundation for real social change. Get allying!
[Maddy Docherty – she/her – @maddydocluvs1D]
[Photo credit: Samuel Kubani/AFP via Getty Images]