Hello White Friends, Here’s A Few Things To Consider To Be An Ally
To put it mildly, society isn’t exactly fun when you’re a part of a marginalized group. There’s room for improvement in nearly all aspects of life. Society can’t get better unless we also have as much help as possible for our causes — Particularly you as allies — Thus, I have a short list of things to consider my Caucasian friends, mutuals, and peers alike.
The subject of focus today is your allyship for our causes. This often comes up in conversation/discussion among us. We often ask ourselves; are my well-to-do Caucasian friends just that? Friends?
Or do they consider themselves allies? How do you (our friends) gauge if you are, aren’t, or if you need to be a better ally. So, what follows are just a small number of things to consider if you really want to help.
This help requires a lot of you, understandably. You’ll have to address certain aspects of your life you probably aren’t aware of — Namely your privilege and societal awareness.
Side Note: You may find this to be judgmental of your interactions. That's not the purpose this series of though. The purpose is if you want to be an ally it carries weight. Because we want your help and you’ll need to know what that means.
Allyship is part and parcel to achieving greater social awareness and change in our society. In order to better challenge some of the harmful beliefs that are common in our culture, allies are needed to help further critical dialogue and mobilize towards social progress. — Feminist Human Alliance
The first is challenging how you hold yourself accountable. This starts at a very base level. It begins at home with your close relationships. Now some cold truth. Please understand that being the partner, relative, or friend of a person a part of a marginalized group doesn’t mean you’re an ally.
This may sound harsh but there’s a simple reason for this. Your partner/friend’s social position doesn’t change with our without you. Now what does help is if you speak on these matters. After all movements and causes start off small.
You may have a number of reasons why you never address these societal issues. The decision to never speak about it doesn’t allow you room to grow. You miss the opportunity to challenge and deconstruct your social position and privilege. This empowers yourself to recognize what’s wrong and challenge it.
The best ways to equip yourself for a discussion is…to start. There’s no better space than home and with close relationships. Now if your partner or relative chooses not to speak about it, that’s fine. Just act of extending a hand better prepares you for eventual conversations.
Just the act of trying to gain perspective increases your capacity to meet the subject. This practice of holding yourself accountable overtime will allow the ability to jump any mental hurdles. Then we can start having real conversations together.
This is perhaps the most important point I’d like to impart. What your is level of engagement like regarding our societal issues? What I mean is do you speak on it? On any level? Do you use your social media to share stories? Do you protest? Do you bring up these issues among your own Caucasian friends, relatives, and mutuals?
So let’s say, the answer to a lot of these questions is no. Simply put, that’s a problem. Why is this a problem? Visibility. Visibility helps us recognize you are an ally and not just a friend. What if you are actively looking at a problem and want to help? Now, we all may not comment on your engagement but just seeing that is encouraging. Never deny the impact of a shared story or social media post.
Let’s examine another aspect, you do engage but you only do so with our own posts and discussions. Perhaps this is where you only feel comfortable to speak on these matters — That in and of itself is a problem. Again we arrive to the matter of visibility.
Allow me to share some thoughts from myself and others in regards to this practice. The implications here are a few, one of them maybe you have a hurdle of fear.
A fear of perhaps scrutiny from friends, family, and etc. To receive societal scrutiny that’s not universal accepted…I think that’s something we might sympathize with. Those are valid feelings but then again ask yourself; why are you getting push back?
The other implication is that you’re engaging in a space that you find “safe”. By all means, speaking in a safe space is well within your rights. However this means you like to discuss these very serious maters when you’re comfortable. This is a luxury we don’t have when we want to seriously address our injustices. You may never hear this outloud but we notice and it speaks to us. It doesn’t really help us. Your voice is within an echo chamber that’s not reaching ears it could.
There’s another implication regarding engagement to consider. Let’s say you never speak or hardly acknowledge these issues - Again for a multitude of reasons you have a right to - Now even if you have just 1 friend, mutual, and etc that’s marginalized, that silence says a lot. Trust me and we make note of it.
The key to being a better ally also requires a lot of clarity. A lot is an understatement but I just want to emphasize that importance. Take care before taking participation in conversations that maybe more nuanced than you may realize. Keep in mind that societal issues intersect numerous cultures, ideologies, layers upon layers, and more foreign to you.
We ask you really analyze first before offer your perspective. I’ll use a recent example I came across on my social media channels. The issue involving Kanye West and his statement of slavery being a choice. I, as well many other black peers were quite angry about this. We expressed this openly.
So what happens when you lack some clarity? The aforementioned looks like a “celebrity issue” to you. When it comes to recognizable people of minority groups in the public eye, it’s never simply a “celebrity issue”. Unfortunately, that person represents us on a grand stage. They represent us within our own communities and to you. So any problematic views or actions reflects poorly upon us.
Another opportunity for clarity is that our experiences and injustices can’t be quantified. So when open dialogue about certain aspects of our cultures please refrain from “needing proof”. The proof is from us and others that have lived those circumstances. - From microaggressions to the most damning of interactions.
If you would like to chime, you’re welcome to do so. But understand all (ALL) societal issues are multi-dimensional. For clarity’s sake, will also ask you to simply listen. There are a number of intricacies you really can’t empathize with. Intricacies that have no equivalent experiences. You may want to draw upon something to impart empathy but honestly it would be best to not.
We ask that you take that time to really absorb what’s being said. To miss any nuances could be considered dismissive. Yet, when you have clarity, you can really help move conversations forward.
Now, at this point you may feel that this has been very judgmental. This wasn’t the intent. If you want to be an ally for any cause it asks a person to re-examine themselves. We all have to grow and change (for the better). Thus we arrive to understanding.
Your understanding will need to be adaptable, perhaps even ready on a daily level. The reason being is that marginalized issues intersects gender, sexuality, identity, economics and much more.
When you to take inventory of that fact, it’s clearly daunting. Having an understanding ready to change accordingly helps address almost any of the most sensitive details. To support and help the marginalized is to help entire lifetimes, experiences, voices, and etc.
Having a fluid comprehension will help you in this journey. It will help really reach that point where we can expect. Your understanding will naturally grow overtime when you’re actively consider the other aspects of allyship I mentioned earlier. Then we can see you on the same page.
Where are my accomplices when judgement comes down? Are you here to get this “sentence” with me? — Felix Thompson, activist
For Your Consideration
This may have been uncomfortable to read for many of you. It may feel like an attack. This was never my intention as mentioned earlier. I wanted to share what we really need these days. Days where bigots are in full display and able to hold office. Days where it simply sucks to be a person of color, trans, queer, and not the default.
Now, if this sounds like too much for you, you’re well with your rights to not consider all these things. We know it can be mentally taxing. Being an ally, aware, or even an activist asks a lot from a person. It’s a life time commitment because the work doesn’t stop until societal issues are fair and equal.
Please understand, I’m not saying your friendship and companionship isn’t appreciated.
We do appreciate your friendships, it’s highly valuable to anyone. However you know what’s far more valuable for the marginalized? Having more allies.