On Being An Ally

Updated: Aug 6

 I am researching and learning so I can moderate a panel on criminal justice and police reform.


What I have found is enough to make me despair. 


The facts don’t lie. In the United States, people of color, particularly if they are Black, as well as those suffering from disabilities, are disproportionately impacted by the criminal justice system.

 

The roots of this unfair and crushing system are in racist policies that began centuries ago and continue to this day.


I hope to turn my despair into action. 


Part of this work means understanding  what it means to be an “ally,” a word that is overused and often misunderstood. 


A great resource on this topic is at https://guidetoallyship.com/.


Here is some of what I learned:

Anyone has the potential to be an ally.


Because an ally might have more privilege, they are powerful voices alongside oppressed ones.


You can be an ally even if you don’t fully understand what it’s like to be oppressed for your race or ethnicity, gender, sexuality, ability, class, religion, or other marker of identity.


It means you’re taking on the struggle as your own.


Saying you’re an ally is much easier than actually being an ally. Saying you’re an ally looks good on paper, especially if you’re never questioned about your inaction.


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. 


SOME OF THE DOS

  • 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

SOME OF THE DON’TS

  • 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 assume that every member of an underinvested community feels oppressed

I would  add a few more items:

Ask yourself:  How can I help? 


There are many resources and ideas out there so you can find ways to be an ally that work for you. 


I think the time is now. There is no reason to wait any longer. I am ready to be an ally and help make change happen. 


I believe this change will happen because the desire to be an ally is coming from a place of love.  


It is a love of and for community, Black lives, and real justice.


We are very excited about a new monthly program, in collaboration with Christine Lewis of Spoken Word Yoga. 


We call it W.A.K.E. (Wisdom Action Knowledge Enlightenment).

 

It will give you the tools to go deeper in self-exploration and understanding so that you can turn outward with positive action, whether personally, in your family, in your community or the world. 


More details coming soon!


SWC’s goal is to be inclusive and open and to give you ways to feel grounded, inspired and empowered.


We can’t wait to welcome you!


With love and light, 

Denise