Calling Yourself An "Ally" Is Not Enough

Calling Yourself An "Ally" Is Not Enough

Stop with the empty words, and get active and educated.
421
views

Don't consider yourself an ally. You really shouldn't.

Why? It's an empty word, that describes what many see as a static state. Allyship, as I'll elaborate on in this article, should not be considered an identity or even a state of being. “To ally” means, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, “to give [your] support to another group or country”. It's a verb. Thus, when you participate in action on behalf of a marginalized group of which you are not a part, you are allying with that group. But much like one’s identity is not defined as a “shopper” because they once stepped inside Walmart, so too is one not considered an ally after performing a single good deed.

Too often, those with one or more privileges become allies– or at least, say they are– as a way of gaining social capital in a society that tends to laud pointless displays of ostensible solidarity that are ultimately devoid of meaning. Why wear a safety pin (which has become the ultimate in performative allyship) when you can take action against racist violence? Why simply wear a safety pin when you can educate bigots, so people of color don’t have to? The relationship of an ally to a marginalized group should not involve the ally getting credit for work they should be doing anyway, while those actually suffering oppression go without recognition.

A closely-linked trend in allyship is one in which the ally feels guilt and shame for their relative privilege, and seeks out an oppressed person to absolve them of it. Not only is this performative guilt counterproductive to the cause that an ally is supposed to be helping with, but it drains their marginalized counterpart of energy, forcing them to prioritize the guilt of the ally over their own wellbeing. An integral part of allying (the verb) with marginalized people is taking the burden of education on oneself. It takes time, and work, and the process of self-education and simultaneous unlearning of internalized oppression will never be fully complete. So-called “allies” need to stop navel-gazing and waxing eloquent about their own ignorance, and start listening to what marginalized people have to say. They need to stop performing allyship to make themselves feel better, and start acting in opposition to oppression because it’s the right thing to do.

For a long time, I wondered why these bizarre and unhelpful behaviors seemed to be endemic to allies as a whole. Then, I listened to the March 8th episode of NPR’s Code Switch podcast on the fraught territory of allies and safety pins, which inspired this article. A contributor on the podcast noted that a necessary factor that locates one as an “ally” is the ally’s privilege. White people are the only ones who can call themselves “allies” to people of color, straight people are the ones who function as “allies” to gay people. Allyship is a barrier between the oppressed and the oppressor.

So, by defining oneself as an ally to a certain marginalized group, a privileged person can simultaneously appear to be fighting against oppression, while benefitting from that very system. If oppression did not exist, there would be no more “allies”. They would not be needed. And that, I think, would make a lot of privileged “allies” very upset, indeed.

By all means, ally yourself with marginalized groups and fight on their/our behalf. But there is no need to identify yourself as an “ally” for the sake of boosting your own social capital. Educate yourself and others, amplify the voices of our most marginalized, and take action when your social position enables you to. No one is always, invariably an ally; that is an action you must take again and again. Remember, what we should be fighting for is a world in which privilege no longer gives some voices more strength and credibility than others; in which socially constructed hierarchies no longer dominate and ruin so many lives.

No one needs people to call themselves “allies” and call it a day. We need people who will fight the good fight because it is the right thing to do.


So, what should you do? First: get educated! Here are a few places to go:

Race / Racism / White Privilege

Very Basic (But Accurate) Trans Info

Intersex Issues

A (now-inactive but still available) blog written by a black woman on many intersecting oppressions / issues, featuring personal essays, critical academic work, and media analysis. An invaluable resource!

I have also written at length about queer/trans issues, disability / mental illness, and socioeconomic / racial inequality.

This is a very basic and non-exhaustive starting point for self-education about several (of many) issues. To further learn and grow, I recommend you take a college-level course on these issues, or at least check out a syllabus for such a course to find new reading material.

Cover Image Credit: Jon Yoon

Popular Right Now

I'm The Girl Who'd Rather Raise A Family Than A Feminist Protest Sign

You raise your protest picket signs and I’ll raise my white picket fence.
366194
views

Social Media feeds are constantly filled with quotes on women's rights, protests with mobs of women, and an array of cleverly worded picket signs.

Good for them, standing up for their beliefs and opinions. Will I be joining my tight-knit family of the same gender?

Nope, no thank you.

Don't get me wrong, I am not going to be oblivious to my history and the advancements that women have fought to achieve. I am aware that the strides made by many women before me have provided us with voting rights, a voice, equality, and equal pay in the workforce.

SEE ALSO: To The Girl Who Would Rather Raise A Family Than A Feminist Protest Sign

For that, I am deeply thankful. But at this day in age, I know more female managers in the workforce than male. I know more women in business than men. I know more female students in STEM programs than male students. So what’s with all the hype? We are girl bosses, we can run the world, we don’t need to fight the system anymore.

Please stop.

Because it is insulting to the rest of us girls who are okay with being homemakers, wives, or stay-at-home moms. It's dividing our sisterhood, and it needs to stop.

All these protests and strong statements make us feel like now we HAVE to obtain a power position in our career. It's our rightful duty to our sisters. And if we do not, we are a disappointment to the gender and it makes us look weak.

Weak to the point where I feel ashamed to say to a friend “I want to be a stay at home mom someday.” Then have them look at me like I must have been brain-washed by a man because that can be the only explanation. I'm tired of feeling belittled for being a traditionalist.

Why?

Because why should I feel bad for wanting to create a comfortable home for my future family, cooking for my husband, being a soccer mom, keeping my house tidy? Because honestly, I cannot wait.

I will have no problem taking my future husband’s last name, and following his lead.

The Bible appoints men to be the head of a family, and for wives to submit to their husbands. (This can be interpreted in so many ways, so don't get your panties in a bunch at the word “submit”). God specifically made women to be gentle and caring, and we should not be afraid to embrace that. God created men to be leaders with the strength to carry the weight of a family.

However, in no way does this mean that the roles cannot be flipped. If you want to take on the responsibility, by all means, you go girl. But for me personally? I'm sensitive, I cry during horror movies, I'm afraid of basements and dark rooms. I, in no way, am strong enough to take on the tasks that men have been appointed to. And I'm okay with that.

So please, let me look forward to baking cookies for bake sales and driving a mom car.

And I'll support you in your endeavors and climb to the top of the corporate ladder. It doesn't matter what side you are on as long as we support each other, because we all need some girl power.

Cover Image Credit: Unsplash

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

I Spoke With A Group Of DACA Recipients And Their Stories Moved Me To Tears

An experience that forever changed my perspective on "illegal" immigrants.

202
views

I thought I was just filming about a club meeting for a project, but when I entered the art-filled room located in a corner of the student common area, I knew this experience would be much more than a grade for a class.

I was welcomed in by a handful of people wearing various Arizona State hoodies and T-shirts that were all around my age. They were college students, like myself, but something felt different when talking to them. They were comforting, shy at first, and more driven than the peers that I usually meet.

As I began to look around the room, I noticed a good amount of art, murals, religious pieces, and a poster that read, "WE STAND WITH DREAMERS." The club was meant for students at ASU that are either undocumented or DACA recipients.

Photo by Amanda Marvin

As a U.S. citizen college student, you typically tend to think about your GPA, money, and dating. As a DACA recipient college student, there are many more issues crowding your brain. When I sat down at a club meeting for students my age dealing with entirely different problems as me, my eyes were opened to bigger issues.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program allows for individuals that crossed the border as children to be protected from deportation and to go to school or work. Commonly known as DREAMers, these individuals are some of the most hard-working, goal-oriented and focused people I have met, and that's solely because they have to be.

In order to apply to be a DACA recipient, it is required that the applicant is attending school with a high school diploma, or a military veteran, as well as have a clean criminal record. While being a DACA recipient does not mean that you can become a permanent citizen of the United States, it allows for opportunities that may not be offered in their home country.

It's no secret that the United States has dealt with immigration in a number of ways. From forming new policies to building a wall on our nation's border, we see efforts to keep immigrants from entering the U.S. every day. But what about the people who are affected?

As the club members and I began a painting activity regarding where we came from and how we got to where we are today, I began to feel the urge to cry.

Photo by Amanda Marvin

One girl described the small Mexican town that she grew up in and the family that still resides there. She went on to talk about how important education is to her family and so much so that it was the cause of her family's move to the United States when she was still a child. Her voice wavered when she talked about the changing immigration policies that prevent her from seeing her family in Mexico.

Another member of the club, a boy with goals of becoming a journalist, talked of his depression and obstacles regarding growing up as an undocumented student. Once he was told by his father that he was illegal, he began to set himself apart from his peers and became someone he did not think he would ever be.

All of my worries seemed small in comparison to theirs, and I felt a pang of regret for realizing I take my own citizenship for granted every single day.

Terminating the policy would lead to the displacement of about 800,000 people. We tend to forget about the human aspect of all of this change, but it's the most important part.

For more information about this club, visit https://www.facebook.com/USEEASU/

Related Content

Facebook Comments