5 Ways to be a better Ally
Updated: Jun 9
As members of a heavily marginalised community we are aware that change to the larger systems in place can not happen by us alone, therefore it is important we have allies who will also fight for the behalf of human rights as a whole.
Essentially this article was aimed at non-black people but as I review my thoughts I realise that this information is also very important to all people who aim to becoming better allies to other marginalised communities.
In the Cambridge dictionary Being an ally is defined as a person who helps and supports someone else. They are often not a member of a particular marginalised community but are willing to help end the oppression of those in the marginalised group.
Like all things, this work is a constant process and allyship can be interpreted differently to different people, sometimes it can be tough to know where to start or you ask yourself "how can I help?".
This list is not the only way to go but you can use it as a starting point.
1. Touch Base
Far too often it takes an act of discrimination to happen before allies remember to check in with their friends, try to check in with your friends even when no act of discrimination has happened. Offer support, comfort and listen. Ask them what do they need and try to be there for them in all the ways possible. And respect people's right to privacy, space to grieve, and time for self-care. Respect your friend's choices to take time for them. They may not respond to your messages of solidarity right away, and need their time to be respected and valued.
2. Do Your Research
Naturally you want to understand the most you can about your friends community, traditions, reasons why they face what they face, etc, but don't rely heavily on them to be your 'expert'. There is a vast amount of free resources available online, Google is really your friend, do your best to inform yourself before you ask others to explain to you.
We are all learning all the time, and it is OK to ask questions but make sure you have solid relationship with that person who is comfortable to want to guide you and be ready to accept that some people do not want to discuss those things with you.
3. Listen and Give Space
You've seen listen repeatedly in this article because it is truly important. Be quiet and let your friend speak, try not to offer up your own thoughts, or comment on every situation with your own perspective or go out your way to show how 'educated' you are. Too often allies feel that they are helping by speaking up for marginalised communities but a more powerful tool is to give space for that community to speak. Let them lead the way because they lived the experiences they are referring to, support them and use your resources to put them on a platform for their voices to be heard - in other words, give them the microphone.
4. Use Your Privileges
If you consider yourself to be an ally, then it is important to recognise you are coming from a place of privilege. Allyship is a process to progress, you will make mistakes along the way, take responsibility and use it as a learning time to do better in the future.
As you continue to listen to your friend, learn how you can use your privileges to support them in your private life. Even though it can be scary, stand up when you see injustices, find other allies or organisations you can work with and hold each other accountable, do the administrative and legislative work to implement structural anti-racist policies to make change, use your resources to uplift the marginalised community but remember to give space to the voices already leading the way.
5. Donate Your Money or Time
Your help can come in many forms but sometimes the simplest ways are the most effective. If you think your expertise can benefit your friend then do offer your time. Maybe you can help them pay their bills, or cover necessary costs, identify organisations that align to your with your goals and give what you can.