Tags: community, discourse/language, inequality, social mvmts/social change/resistance, ally, oppression, privilege, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: In her article “Interrupting the Cycle of Oppression: The Role of Allies as Agents of Change,” Rev. Andrea Ayvazian defines an ally as “a member of a dominant group in our society who works to dismantle any form of oppression from which she or he receives the benefit.” In other words, an ally is someone who receives the benefits of systematic inequality but fights to eradicate those inequalities anyway. According to Ayvazian, allies can interrupt the cycle of oppression by using their voice to advocate for people who would otherwise be ignored or not listened to by the dominant group. This is why allies are important: they can evoke change in the places that oppressed groups are unable to reach. Such places include those where oppressed groups have been structurally marginalized, or places where oppressed voices simply go unheard. Ayvazian points to some of the difficulties involved in being an ally, and highlights how the role of an ally is often misunderstood. In this video, Franchesca “Chescaleigh” Ramsey proposes the following analogy to help viewers understand the role of an ally: “Imagine your friend is building a house, and they ask you to help. But you’ve never built a house before. So it’d probably be a good idea for you to put on some protective gear and listen to the person in charge, otherwise someone is going to get seriously hurt. It’s the exact same idea when it comes to being an ally…We need your help building this house, but you probably should listen, so you know what to do first.” Chescaleigh goes on to outline five tips for being a good ally, which include (1) understand your privilege, (2) listen and do your homework on the issues that are important to the communities you want to support, (3) speak up but not over the voices of the community members you want to support (and don’t take credit for things they’re already saying), (4) realize you’ll make mistakes and apologize when you do, and (5) remember that ally is a verb. Mia McKenzie, editor-in-chief of the activism blog Black Girl Dangerous, also suggests thinking of the term “ally” as a verb rather than label. McKenzie writes: “Ally cannot be a label that someone stamps onto you—or, god forbid, that you stamp on to yourself—so you can then go around claiming it as some kind of identity. It’s not an identity. It’s a practice. It’s an active thing that must be done over and over and over again, in the largest and smallest ways, every day.” Additional efforts to critical examine the term and role of an ally can be found here and here. Viewers can draw upon these various resources when thinking about the concept of an ally and privileged people’s roles in movements for social equality and change. For a recent and applied example of how to be an ally, read Spectra’s article, “Dear White Allies: Stop Unfriending Other White People Over Ferguson.”
Submitted By: Abigail Adelsheim-Marshall, Blythe Baird, and Valerie Chepp
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