“Ally” is becoming an increasingly more important word in marginalized communities as we strive to make the world more inclusive and achieve equity (often confused with equality) among all. With the word garnering much more attention and usage, people commonly use the term wrong. Instead of asking what an ally is or does, people who aren’t from marginalized groups just spring into action and label themselves an ally. This seems to happen so often that the term “ally” has, for many, become a dirty word
The recent shootings of unarmed black people has brought allyship into the conversation about race more than once. While some may see it as a great thing, others don’t. Allyship and race has a very interesting problem: trust. It is not unheard of for people of color to have an issue trusting the folks who claim to be on their side. These same people often seem nice, but then throw around microaggressions in the workplace and engage in cultural appropriation. And when a POC holds them accountable, they get upset. If you want to be an “ally,” accountability is key. Another issue with trust and allyship is the white saviorism, the idea that white people are going swoop in and save POC. White saviorism is NOT allyship, and it’s understandable why people can believe that allyship is a myth.
Many other communities also deal with the misrepresentation of the word “ally;” in the disabled community, false allyship is also present. It bothers me that able-bodied people are allowed to make rules for people who deal with things they’ll never have to encounter in their whole lives; to add insult to injury, they shut us out of those decisions and refuse to listen. It’s not just politics either; it’s family as well. Sometimes they feel like they know better because they’ve known us all our lives. People will often say rude and inappropriate things ( The #Sh*tAbledPeopleSay demonstrates this). How am I, as a disabled, supposed to trust your support if you’re rude?
The LGBT+ community has also seen some negative uses of allyship. Some could naively assume that allies are no longer needed due to same-sex marriage being law of the land. If that is what you think allyship for the community is/was all about, I have news for you: You were never an ally in the first place. Celebrities, though typically vocal about their support or opposition of the LGBT+ community, can also be bad allies. Nick Jonas has been very vocal about his support of the LGBT+ community; he acknowledges his gay fans, appeared on the cover of OUT magazine (in which he was labeled a “gay icon”) and even plays a gay UFC fighter on his show “Kingdom.” While that is all fine and dandy, he also seems to have inserted himself into a spotlight that isn’t about him. Many have criticized Jonas about his allyship. He’s been accused of “gay baiting” and exploiting sexuality by dancing shirtless in gay bars. It seems to some like Nick Jonas doesn’t do as good of a job as he think he does, allyship and exploitation are not the same.
If you're straight and want to be a good ally, sometimes, a very easy thing you can do is Just Sit Back And Listen.
— Sam Escobar (@myhairisblue) June 14, 2016
If people are generally interested in becoming allies, they’re going to have to learn that this isn’t about them. Don’t throw yourself in front of marginalized communities or act like a superhero. Talk to the people in your life who uphold white supremacist ideals, and check your privilege at the door. Learn to listen to the communities you want to help, and please don’t help us if all you want is brownie points.
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