An ally is a person who actively supports and advances the inclusion of marginalized groups through conscious and intentional efforts. Actionable allies play a vital role in social justice. Although this list is by no means comprehensive or perfect, here are several ways to become an actionable ally.
Actively listen to marginalized communities
The first step of becoming an ally is to listen. Listen to the experiences of others to gain an insightful perspective on how they navigate through life. Going to your friends who are a part of marginalized communities may seem like the best resource, but make sure you aren’t overwhelming them with too many questions at once. They shouldn’t have to bear the sole responsibility of having to educate everyone around them. There are many ways to begin listening outside of your inner circle.
To help educate students and employees, Augusta University’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion offers Safe Zone Training. The interactive, online training was designed to develop, enhance and maintain culturally competent and supportive environments on Augusta University’s campuses for individuals who identify as LGBTQ+, as well as heterosexual, cisgender individuals who care about diversity, equity and inclusion.
Include people of color in your personal life
Everyone doesn’t have a diverse and inclusive inner circle. It’s difficult to claim allyship to a community when you have no close relationships inside that community. Whether you’re at school or at work, try to make sure to be welcoming of friendships from all and not only groups you identify with.
Also, beware of using people for “token” friendships. These are relationships that are only maintained to make a person seem like an ally. Consider this if you think you may have a token friendship: Does this person feel welcome to come to your home, around your group of friends or family? If you are unsure of this answer, then you may have some work to do in this area.
Treat all people with dignity and respect, even behind closed doors
Being a good ally is more than a social media post. It’s the actions we choose every day to make the world more equitable for those around us. If your allyship only exists online or when you’re around people of color, try to take the next step and show your allyship in your private life. This means taking risks to challenge loved ones and other family members on their implicit bias. Ask yourself, “Who am I when no one is watching?”
Acknowledge your own biases and do the work to change it
Everyone has implicit bias. Acknowledging your own requires time and effort and it will make you uncomfortable. It’s time to have those uncomfortable conversations with yourself and do the work to take on some of the burdens of discomfort that some communities constantly deal with.
The Office of Diversity and Inclusion is a great resource to begin finding opportunities to learn about bias and how you can do the work to change. Whether it’s attending events, forums or researching material online, you can find multiple resources to educate yourself.
Call out any misrepresentations you find
Marginalized groups are often misrepresented in society. As an ally, it’s always great to use your position or platform to call out any misrepresentations of groups. These depictions may be masked, often through comedy or romance, but don’t let that distract you from their harmful nature. These misrepresentations can reinforce negative stereotypes and the victims may deal with microaggressions (thinly veiled, everyday instances of racism, homophobia, sexism, etc.). Sometimes microaggressions can come out as insults or ignorant comments.
Amplify and uplift marginalized voices
Use your platform and positions to help uplift and amplify the marginalized voices in your life. In so many ways, marginalized groups are silenced or excluded. It’s understandable how you may feel anxious about saying the “wrong” thing. Sometimes, you will say the wrong thing as you educate yourself on becoming an ally.
Don’t feel discouraged if you get corrected. That’s a part of the process. We are all in this together, so let’s focus on keeping the change going.
To hear more about what Augusta University is doing to fight against systemic racism, discrimination and social injustice, listen to In the Wild’s “Stand up for anti-racism” episode.