The following thoughts about being an ally are adapted from the wonderful book Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice edited by Maurianne Adams, Lee Anne Bell and Pat Griffin (Routledge Press, 1997).
What is an ally?
An ally is a member of a dominant group who rejects the dominant ideology and takes action against oppression out of a belief that eliminating oppression benefits everyone. But that is only a small part of the rich and diverse contribution that allies offer. An ally is a person who takes a stand against social injustice directed at target groups.
- men who speak out against sexism
- white people who speak out against racism
- heterosexual people who speak out against heterosexism and homophobia
An ally works to be an agent of social change rather than an agent of oppression. They are confident in their own social group membership, and comfortable and proud of their own identify. They take responsibility for learning how oppression works in everyday life, and listen to and respect the perspectives of those who are oppressed.
Allies acknowledge unearned privilege and status, and work to eliminate or change privileges into rights that all people enjoy. Allies recognize that unlearning oppressive believes and actions are a lifelong process, not a single event, and they welcome opportunities to learn.
Allies are willing to take risks and try new behaviors. Some allies may experience fears of their own as well as resistance from other people, but they are willing to take risks despite these obstacles. Allies act against social injustice because they believe in righting wrongs and in making the world a better place for all. They are comfortable making a connection between themselves and every other person, and they know that in other circumstances or spheres they might be (and perhaps are) among the oppressed or vilified themselves. They are willing to make mistakes and learn from them; when they are unsure of something, they are willing to ask questions and respect the answers of those whose rights they support. They are willing to be challenged and confronted about their own behavior and attitudes, and they are wholly committed to taking action against social injustice in their own personal spheres of influence, as well as in broader spheres -- social, political, or professional -- whenever the opportunity arises.
Allies understand the connections among all forms of social injustice, and believe they can make a difference by acting and speaking out against them in their daily lives. Allies also work to cultivate support from other potential allies, and take care of themselves to avoid burnout.
If you think you might be an ally of our community, we welcome you and hope to see you soon.