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For generations, people of color have experienced marginalization in practically all areas of their lives. In the spirit of unlearning systematic oppression, now is the time to learn how to stand with black, brown, and other colored bodies in their struggle for equal rights and opportunities.
In the conventional sense, allies are accomplices with equal resources who work collectively for the greater good. However, in issues where racial equity is concerned, this definition is found wanting — black and brown communities neither have the same access to resources nor gain similar advantages.
Learning the Role of an Ally
Acknowledge your white privilege and recognize how bigotry is denied, downplayed, and even justified. Understand the associations between racism, economic matters, sexism, and other types of injustice.
As you do so, don’t be defensive or tone-deaf by claiming not to “see color.” To do that is to fail to acknowledge the divisions that exist and diminish the individual experiences of POC.
If anything, it dismisses the issues as something insignificant, and if you can’t see it, you can’t fix it. Here are helpful pointers to avoid as an ally. Don’t:
Expect POC to Open Your Eyes
No single person is an advocate for all black and brown experiences or can speak on the realities of people of color. The adventures of a Filipino woman in the entertainment industry will be drastically different from a black man in the corporate world. There are multiple resources to gain knowledge from, use without expecting POC to bear the responsibility of educating you on what it means to be a minority.
Presume You’re an Ally
It is a title that’s earned, not merely adopted. It means you’re prepared to take on responsibilities and march arm-in-arm with black and brown communities. Your impression of how your activism as an ally probably doesn’t line up with the communities you’re advocating to see you.
Instead, consider changing it to “attempting or working towards becoming an ally.” The difference in the language used is minor but reflects your eagerness to learn and be corrected.
Being accustomed to privilege may, even if subconsciously, lead one to think that they have all the answers and solutions. If you don’t check yourself before addressing issues of race, you may find yourself in this trap and end up sounding distasteful, where you may have been genuinely trying to help. It often leads to distrust if you go in with a “White Saviour” mentality and seem condescending.
While you open up conversations about inclusivity, diversity, equity, don’t try and speak up for anyone. Instead, admit that you don’t know all the answers and show a commitment to learning.
While there’s no “right way” to stand up against racial injustices, there are several ways you can show up as an ally.
Be Part of The Solution
Don’t just call yourself an ally, act like one. Be consistent in your actions and interactions. Speak up because silence is complicit, and when in the face of racial injustices, your silence can be deafening.
It looks different for different people. Attend a resource meeting, confront people who mistreat or discriminate against POC, or take a public stand like joining peaceful marches. Use your influence in the rooms you’re in to:
- Challenge companies to review their management policies; salary equity, appraisals, voluntary and involuntary exits
- Steer adopting of organized interview guides and diversified panels
- Influence inclusiveness in meetings that are held to take into account all versions of opinions
- Callout passive-aggressiveness
- Dismantle your own biases while tackling
The first step is to learn about what POC go through and what you can do to help. You’ll have to continually learn and unlearn certain biases to become a better ally. Find resources to help you with this to get a broader understanding.
Enquire about the aspirations of the black and brown colleagues at your workplace and consider them when relevant opportunities arise.
Check Your White Privilege
Understanding your privilege is crucial to appreciating how race and racism affect an individual’s life. Once you have that in your mind, you’ll be able to use that privilege to create spaces for POC to speak up for themselves at work.
The work starts within your circles. Use the platform you have to promote equality and demolish racial biases and injustices in your communities. Have the uncomfortable conversations needed and work towards effecting actual change. Great allies not only stand for justice but assist in dismantling systems and traditions founded on oppression.