At PantheaCon 2016 I’m giving a talk on allyship. At the end of the talk I am offering up these steps you can do to be a better ally. Here there are for reference:
1.Educate yourself – There is a whole internet out there. There is no excuse not to research an issue. This does NOT mean hitting up the person you know in the oppressed group and telling them to educate you or blaming them when they won’t. There is a whole internet. When in doubt google the ‘ism’ and oppression or privilege to get started on good resources. Keywords – it’s a thing!
2.Don’t speak for someone else. Raise up the voices that wouldn’t otherwise get heard. Link to PoC. [How annoyed do you get when someone speaks for you?]
3.Stay in your lane. The best example I’ve heard is about Bill Cosby. A white woman asked a WoC about a conversation they saw on social media. Their response was ‘it’s okay and you should talk about his misogyny and the rape but don’t weigh into the argument about his black respectability politics or about what damage he’s done to other black men. That’s not yours to talk about. If you want to START a conversation with your friends about the misogyny that’s good but don’t wade into a black space and try to get them to explain it to you or explain it to them.’
4.One of the biggest problems in grant funding is that granters always want a study done first to ‘determine what a community needs’ and then nothing changes and the money is gone. Communities already know what they need and how best to deliver it. How annoyed do most of us get when we’re told how best to do our jobs every day by someone who has watched for five minutes and we do it all day every day? Same thing.
5.If your personal circles, in person or social media all look like you, or sound like you, or come from the same background as you and the same politics as you? Then you need to broaden your viewpoint. It’s really easy to sit back and be an expert (see #4) about something when you live in an echo chamber. Spice it up a little.
6.Spaces like this one where you can come ask the dumb questions. Where you can bitch your heart out in a ‘only’ space is good for you and for them. It let’s you have a place to vent and be safe to talk about your stuff.
7.Two ears, one mouth. I personally try to listen twice as much as I speak. And that’s active listening, empathizing. Tell me more. Swallowing back the ‘but that can’t be true’ statements.
8.When you melt down from shame (and it will happen) you take up space and all the air in the room. You have literally drowned out the other conversations, almost always those of you have harmed. It is not the job of those people to walk you through it and look after you and remind you are a good person or valuable or that you don’t deserve those things. Shame is not a sustainable power source. You can’t learn when you are stuck there. Accept it and move on. Do better next time.
9.There is a saying in the social justice community about cookies. When you’re a kid and you do a good thing you got a cookie or a pat on the head or an attaboy. Don’t go looking or asking for one here. That’s not what this is about. Borrow from the Jewish tradition of good deeds. The highest form of them is one no one knows about. Now this doesn’t work exactly with humans and allyship but the bigger idea does. Don’t show off that you’re an ally. Don’t put yourself in the front of the group photo to show off how elightened and non ist you are. That’s missing the point.