As we begin our series on important terminology in the inclusion, diversity, equity and access space, the first stop is A. A is for Ally.
When you think of allyship, what words come to mind?
Option 1: Help, support, acknowledge?
Option 2: Learn, reflect, commit?
Option 3: Change, understand, act?
Let’s go with Option 4, all of the above.
An ally is a person who actively takes steps to understand, support and uplift others intentionally and consciously. Allies understand their own privilege and are aware of intersectionality and how different aspects systemically and/or socially impact others.
Let’s break this definition down to understand some of the key aspects. I highlighted several words in the definition that I feel are important to discuss; active, support, and intention.
Although ally is a noun, allyship is an active verb. Being an ally requires you to be diligent about your own bias, privilege, and intersectionality. It means recognizing that there are people who face adversity in life and understanding how you may contribute and how you can help others experience less of it.
Throughout our lives, due to the media we consume and the people we surround ourselves with, we may find it challenging to objectively look at our own deeply held beliefs. An ally will actively try to recognize how societal structures affect people depending on race, ethnicity, gender, identity, orientation or other intersectionality. An ally speaks up and stands alongside those experiencing inequity. An ally actively advocates for others.
Being an ally means acknowledging and supporting others through words and actions. Support requires motivation and energy; it means using your power to help create change in a way that is respectful. Some ways that you can show your support include:
- Joining online groups or forums where people share their knowledge and experiences;
- Having conversations with groups of friends/family members who want to learn more about how they can support marginalized individuals;
- Finding professional organizations and workshops that specialize in improving the lives of marginalized individuals;
- Expanding your social network to include members of different communities with different views and opinions.
When we talk about supporting marginalized communities intentionally and consciously, the objective is to be open to learning, growing, listening and understanding.
Those who choose to be allies will make mistakes and will have to spend time learning about things that are difficult to understand. Making the intentional choice to step out of your comfort zone may not be convenient or popular, especially when you have to give up something you love like a club, a friend, or an opportunity- requires a lot of awareness and intention.
Remember, being an ally is not a single experience, like marching in a parade or participating in a protest; it’s also not a one-time contribution or an item you can check off a list. It involves challenging your thinking, opening up to new perspectives, reevaluating your experiences and listening. Allyship is an ongoing process and a lifelong journey.
I’ve included some resources that may be helpful to understand the term ally a bit better:
- Ally Action Plan: Free Guide [IDEA Forum]
- 5 powerful steps to becoming a better ally [Better Up]
- Guide to Allyship [Amélie Lamont]
- How Can You Be An Effective Ally? [The University of British Columbia]
- How to be an ally in the workplace: 13 ways to do it [Ideas.TED]
Do you have any questions, comments or thoughts on being an ally? Leave a comment below and lets discuss.