When an issue in an oppressed community is noticed on a large scale, suddenly everyone unaffected who disagrees with the issue is an ally.
These allies will post on Facebook, donate money to those affected, and even speak up or go to events that help the cause. Despite this help, it doesn’t change much past the moment because the ally is only an ally in that moment.
And that is where the real problem lies with the title of ally, because most wear it as a badge, but take it off when it isn’t convenient for them. Yes, any support is appreciated over prejudice, but when struggling with the troubles of oppression, consistent and altruistic support will always be valued more. If you want to call yourself an ally you need to commit to it, be an ally all the time, be educated on the issue, and listen to those you are defending.
If that sounds slightly daunting or uncomfortable then you’re doing it right. You shouldn’t pick and choose when to be an ally based off of what people will think of you. I’m not saying that to be an ally you must always speak up, but in general most of the time you should.
Most of the reason not to speak up is when someone is looking for a fight; don’t take the bait and don’t stoop down to their level. When you are in a conversation though you should almost always speak up, and this is especially true when you are with friends.
These are the people who are most likely to listen to you and actually retain what you are saying. It’s scary, because nobody wants to be rejected by their friends, but remember being an ally means fighting for something bigger than you.
When you do speak up make sure you are educated on the issues. The biggest trouble when fighting prejudice is misinformation. Take the time to research a little and make sure that at least some of the perspective you get is from someone directly affected. This will make speaking up easier, because when you fight prejudice, logic is going to keep you above the oppressors.
Too often pathos, emotional, arguments are used when regarding matters of prejudice, but often when facing someone who believes something that strongly the emotional side of that prejudice can only be addressed once the person can see the failure in their logic. You will also keep your integrity and reliability if you stay level headed and calm rather than emotional.
Now that I have addressed two of Aristotle's elements of persuasion, pathos and logos, it is time for me to address ethos. Ethos is the ethics side of the argument and is generally representative of someone’s character and what their word is worth.
This is why it is so important to listen to those affected by the oppression and let their voices be the loudest. They are the ones who know what the issues are, because they live the issues. To be an ally you need to realize that you are representing people who are not you and that means that you don’t have all of the answers.
If you do these things I want to personally thank you for being an ally. You are an important part of making change, but please be aware that being an ally does not make you a infallible. When someone says what you said bothered them or wasn’t supportive you don’t get to say that it is because you’re an ally. You need to know that when the oppressed critique allies it is not to push them away, but to make them better at what they claim to want to do.