Four Essential Keys to Being a Strong Ally for Racial Justice

Allyship has been an important topic in our recent national conversations about racial justice. 

Allyship has been an important topic in our recent national conversations about racial justice.  SHUTTERSTOCK

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

COMMENTARY | Everyone can do something to support racial justice. Here’s how to start.

Racial justice activists have long worked to create communities where all are welcome and can thrive. For decades they have worked to obliterate the mindset that people’s race, gender and class determines their value. While there have been moments of triumph and hope, there have also been moments of grave disappointment. There have also been moments of questioning, where we question what we can do to make our communities and our society a better place.

Following the police killing of George Floyd that line of questioning moved beyond the communities of color that have traditionally led racial justice campaigns to white Americans asking how they should be supporting Black and brown communities in their struggle to end systemic racism. This support—often referred to as being an ally—has been an important topic in our recent national conversations about racial justice.  Yet as much as the term ally has been bandied about, misconceptions abound about how exactly an ally should support marginalized groups. Allow me to set the record straight and discuss the four key actions that allies should commit to do.

  1. An ally commits to see. It’s easy to be engulfed in one’s own life. No one is problem-free, and without intention we can become so self-absorbed that we lose sight of the people around us and what they might be experiencing. While it’s easy to focus on that which is readily apparent, or limit our gaze to personal circumstance, an ally understands that their gaze must extend beyond themselves. They work to see what is said and what isn’t. They are intentional about empathizing with the experience of others. Most importantly, they understand that seeing isn’t the same as acting and allyship requires both.
  2. Next, an ally commits to speak. How many times have you witnessed injustice or inequity and refused to speak? Have you ever witnessed something that was clearly wrong, but you remained quiet because it was not your ‘fight,’ you weren’t sure how you’d be received, or you were immobilized by fear? An ally pushes through these barriers and puts themselves in the position of the person harmed. They advocate even when doing so could compromise them personally or professionally. In my book, First and Only: A Black Woman’s Guide to Thriving at Work and in Life, I talk about how allies have spoken up for me and used their privilege to improve conditions for me in various work environments. While this is notable, an ally is concerned with the individual as well as the group to which the individual belongs. This means that rather than helping in isolated and disparate circumstances, support for the group is ongoing.
  3. An ally commits to listen. Regardless of one’s experience and training, a person can never be an expert on someone else’s experience. This means that listening is imperative. Allies are willing to be wrong. They are willing to accept that their experience isn’t the universal experience. They are willing to acknowledge that just because it didn’t happen to them, doesn’t mean the “it” isn’t happening. For these reasons and more, allies commit themselves to listening. They listen when they believe they are right, and they listen when they receive feedback that indicates they have gotten something wrong. They don’t presume to know all the things all the time. They commit themselves to being life-long students. Allies understand that listening isn’t a one and done occurrence. It’s a life-long commitment.
  4. Finally, an ally commits to learn. An ally knows that good intentions are just that, good intentions. Intentions don’t inoculate against harm. Further, there’s a difference between intent and impact. Having noble intentions doesn’t shield one from making mistakes. As such, an ally commits to learn as much as possible, understanding that being an ally requires a commitment to lifelong learning. An ally understands that they never get to the point where ‘they have arrived.’ By virtue of having a different experience, of being in a different social location, an ally’s work is perpetual. One of the most frustrating things is someone who presumes to be an expert on my feelings without walking in my shoes. For instance, as a single mother, it’s always exhausting when married colleagues say things like, “I feel like a single mom because my husband is on travel.” My inward response is always, ‘your husband will return from their travels,’ ‘in an ideal world, you have someone to share the emotional burden of raising children or maintaining a household budget, etc.’ Allies try to understand this nuance and work hard to see and name their own privilege.

As you think about the world around you, you may agree that there are more problems than any one of us can solve on our own. While there’s only so much we can do as individuals, we can all commit to being better allies. Because it requires such commitment, and most people want things that are quick and easy, there is incredible demand for good allies. Most importantly, being a good ally has much more to do with having good intentions. It’s all about being willing to see, speak, listen and learn.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.