In this day and age, if you aren’t an ally of any marginalized group, then you are doing it wrong. But just because you give yourself the title of an ally does not mean that you are doing it right. Although everyone shows their support for specific movements, and it seems like the latest “trend” to join in, these movements do not exist solely for your ego. Being an ally is about giving these group a safe platform and shining a light on issues important to them and their existence.
After seeing several disagreements between so-called allies and members of marginalized groups, it occurred to me that not everyone knows what it means to be an ally. Here are some tips on how to be an ally that people like.
- Take a back seat. If you are not apart of the community, then you are not the one to drive, nor be at the front of the movement. I know some movements hit close to home, but if they are not directly affecting you, you must learn to take a backseat. Sometimes your loved ones fit into groups that you do not, and you are part of the privileged group, so logically you want to help. The best way to do so is to let them take the lead.
- Listen. One of the most important tasks you have as an ally is to listen. Listen to what the community’s goals are. Listen to what they need you to do. Listen to their preferred strategies. Listen to them when they tell you that you are doing or saying something wrong. No one know the needs of the community you claim to be an ally of better than they do.
- Uplift their voices. I remember the first time I head the phrase, “speak for the voiceless.” As a thirteen-year-old, that sounds like something everyone ought to aim to do. I cannot tell you how wrong that idea is. Allies should not be the voice of anyone. Whatever community you are trying to help, I assure you, they have voices themselves. Instead of taking the spotlight for yourself, work on keeping their platform safe so they can speak their truth.
- Know when to speak up. Most of the time, as an ally, you are in the background. It is something you have to accept. So at what point do you get to speak? Any form of protest or civil disobedience. That is where allies come in. Protect people from law enforcement – especially if you know that being arrested will not significantly impact you, or if you know that they will not touch you. Another example is calling out attackers. If someone is saying something racist or homophobic, etc. in public, step in and call them out. Call out loved ones when you hear them making ignorant and hateful comments.
It can be difficult to face criticism for the way you have been doing things, and you might go into self-defense mode. Understandable. But do not call yourself an ally if you refuse to make changes that will be beneficial for you and the communities you claim to stand for. Just remember, AS AN ALLY YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO HELP, NOT SPEAK FOR THEM.