What Is An Ally – Part 3
Followup up on my first post, What Is An Ally: Part 2, I conclude my thoughts on allyship, based on conversations I had at the Association of Social Work Boards 2022 Annual Delegate Assembly.
Alies Adopt an Anti-Racism Standard
Sometimes, it’s easy for people to identify with one group of people, yet still have biases towards others. In Utah, we have “safe diversity,” that is to say, a culture of accepting people who look different, but hold the same cultural values and mores, so really aren’t different. Such a mindset still allows for racism to occur, even under the guise of acceptance (and sometimes “tolerance”).
Because of this, it is important that allies adopt an anti-racism standard. That is to say, that racism in all forms is identified and opposed whenever it occurs. Racism is far more than white-on-black oppression; though that is certainly the most common form spoken about in America today. Racism, reverse racism, over and covert racism, systematic racism, black-on-black, brown-on-brown, and other forms of racism fit the bill here. It is not enough to decry and oppose one form of racism while saying and doing nothing of others. Racism of all types must not be accepted.
Allies Hold the Line
Finally, Allies “tap in” and hold the line. For far too long, the cause of anti-racism has been moved forward by people of color and those who have been marginalized while the majority sits on the sidelines and watches. In speaking to others at the Assembly event, it was clear that though they will keep pushing forward, those folks are tired and deeply desire respite.
As mentioned in Part 2, allies use their privilege to help and in holding the line, allies can further use their means, access, and resources to bring reinforcements to the front lines.
People fro the majority group often have financial, political, and social capital that oppressed groups lack. I learned this first-hand during the event when it was pointed out to me that each time I spoke to the larger group or audience, people were not side-chatting, they were not on their phones or computers, and they were not dozing off; they were listening. The facilitator who pointed this out to me stated that when others spoke, be they white women, women of color, or men of color, they did not receive the same attention I did. Being white and male not only affords me some social attentional benefit, but also afforded me the opportunity to become confident in public speech as the signals I received early on were that people listened to me. Never had this been so clear to me as it was during this event. Now, knowing this, I have accepted the charge to not only use this trait to help, but also to use it to hold the line when things others need relief.
Fighting the Fight
I need to be clear: I am a work in progress. Like most people, I am deeply-flawed and still have room to grow as a person. Though I am aware of my privilege and use it in the best way I can, the unfortunate byproducts of my upbringing still creep in from time-to-time. I have noticed that this is especially true during times of stress. Despite this challenge, I continue to work on improving myself every day and have chosen to take a stand against racism and address it each and every time I encounter it. This has been at times challenging when my own biases creep back in an I have to confront them first before I step in to help. Thankfully, through my training as a Social Worker and experiences in non-profit leadership, I am well-equipped to identify those biases and work through them quietly on my own.
It is my hope that something you may have read in these last few posts may have inspired you to do that same work and accept the charge of promoting social justice and fighting against racism in all of its forms, whenever yo encounter it.
Thanks for reading!