Allyship is an important part of any movement. It’s far easier for people in positions of power to ignore something when it’s just small portions of oppressed groups speaking up. Having people with far more privilege make noise with everyone else gives the movement a leg up. That being said, there are far more privileged folks who want to be allies than ones who actually are. Allyship isn’t just a tweet or a social media bio with a leftist acronym. It’s important to make sure you’re fighting on behalf of the oppressed groups you say you ally yourself with.
Allyship Starts with Introspection
Part of being an ally means taking a look inside of yourself, and dismantling mindsets that are still a product of capitalism and colonialism. For many self-proclaimed allies, this can be difficult, as it requires making radical changes to your behavior that you might not have noticed beforehand. And that’s okay! It’s far more admirable to admit to yourself that you’ve participated in harmful systems and grow from it, rather than doubling down. All of us can be proponents of such ideologies, but it takes listening to others in marginalized communities to know what we’re doing wrong to take allyship to a more meaningful level.
Hold the People Closest to You Accountable
Another pillar of allyship is learning to hold others – including your close friends and loved ones – accountable. The behavior that you excuse or dismiss says as much about you as anyone else. Many “allies” believe that as long as it’s not being said in front of marginalized folks, then it doesn’t matter. The truth is that it’s still perpetuating a harmful ideology put in place by those in power. It’s one thing to hold yourself to a certain standard when there’s someone there to bring you up on it. It’s another altogether to hold yourself and others to said standard because it’s something you truly believe in.
Listen and Learn
The most important thing you can possibly do to be a good ally is to listen to marginalized folks when they say something is wrong. “Ally” isn’t a label you can put on yourself and expect to be welcomed in with open arms. “Ally” is a label you earn. It’s a label that comes after putting in the work of allyship and proving that you’re willing to try. It’s a sign that you’re willing to listen and stand fighting with marginalized communities, even when it’s not in your best interests to do so. These communities saw their movements become a social media trend, just to watch the same people do things a year later that are directly harmful to them. They know how to find people who mean what they say, and they know exactly what performative activism looks like.
This is not to say that the small things aren’t helpful. Most times, it’s these small signs of allyship that people are most familiar with, that let people in marginalized communities see that they’re safe with you. That cannot be the be all, end all, though. For years, these people have spoken and not been heard, so when you make the choice to be in their spaces, you let them talk.
If you’re going to call yourself an ally and provide a safe space for people in marginalized communities, then listen to what they have to say.