Learn how to be an ally for marginalized groups by recognizing your privilege, using your position or status to combat systemic oppression or discrimination, and being active and outspoken about issues such as racial injustice, transphobia or homophobia, and ableism.
What Is an Ally?
An ally is defined as someone who recognizes their privilege and chooses to share it by speaking out in support of a cause and using their position, status, or resources to empower those who are underprivileged or marginalized. Allyship is a critical strategy for dismantling oppressive systems in the workplace, higher education, politics, and society as a whole.
"Allyship" is a term used by activists in many initiatives and communities, including BIPOC communities, LGBTQ+ communities, and the Black Lives Matter movement, and it can mean different things to different people. An ally is someone who uses their privilege in the workplace to advocate for a team member who is discriminated against.
Why Are Allies Important?
Allies can demonstrate meaningful support and take action against inequality, as well as use their own privilege to empower marginalized groups of people seeking social justice. Regardless of ethnicity, sexual orientation, or disability, allyship is a critical step in bringing people together for a common goal.
Allyship can also help allies gain a better understanding of and empathy for the needs of marginalized groups, as well as teach them about their own privilege. Engaging with the history of disenfranchised groups, for example, can open the door to serious discussions about race and the systemic racism that affects the Black community and other people of color. It can lead to a better understanding of the issues that these communities need assistance with as they fight for racial justice.
Six Tips for Being an Ally
There are numerous steps you can take to become an effective ally for oppressed groups and marginalized individuals. Remember that being an ally does not imply "saving" a community, but rather collaborating with them, elevating their voices, and taking mutual action based on the community's goals. It's also important to remember that you're only one person, so don't be too hard on yourself as you work to eliminate your own biases. Do your best, even if you make mistakes along the way to becoming an effective ally. Here are six pointers to get you started:
1. Be forthcoming about your privileges. Privileges are any advantages you have that are superior to others in a community. Allies may be granted privileges based on their abilities or talents, as well as gender, wealth status, education, or race. Allyship entails helping to level the playing field by sharing your opportunities and resources with those who do not have the same advantages as you. Consider how others may be disadvantaged, and use your advantage to open doors and raise the voices of those who are less fortunate.
2. Champion diversity. Historically, many marginalized groups have been excluded and overlooked in positions of power in the workplace, politics, and many other areas of society in favor of white men or white women. An ally will recognize this disadvantage and racial inequality and use their privilege to help their less fortunate peers and coworkers.
3. Do your research. Before taking any action, learn about a community, initiative, or movement so that you are not simply assuming their interests. There is a wealth of information about activism available online, such as podcasts and documentaries. There are also many anti-racism resources and books that you can add to your toolkit for becoming an anti-racist ally. Resist the urge to seek assistance and information from members of the marginalized group, and instead conduct your own research online to learn about their history, struggles, and current needs. If you don't fully understand a group's needs, you might end up doing more harm than good.
4. Listen. The best way to learn how to support a marginalized group is to listen to what that group has to say. Be available to them when they need to talk, be their confidant when they are struggling, and approach them with the mindset of learning rather than telling them what they should do. Remember that this isn't about you, and you should never promote your own allyship or compare your struggle to theirs. Instead of commiserating with your friends and colleagues, choose to amplify their voices over your own.
5. Take action and speak out. Being an ally entails taking action and speaking out when you witness discrimination, racism, sexism, or ableism in your community. Being an active and outspoken ally is especially important if you have privilege or hold power. Allyship work may look different for each group, so think about what kind of activism or advocacy is most beneficial to the people you're trying to help. Consider how your privilege allows you to advocate for those who are less fortunate, and don't be a bystander in their time of need.
6. Watch for microaggressions. Microaggressions are actions or words that appear innocuous but actually perpetuate negative stereotypes or further marginalize underrepresented groups. A microaggression is failing to learn or use the correct pronouns for someone who is transgender or in the LGBTQ+ community.