What Allyship Means to Me
Allyship is an action. It’s about taking a stand. It’s about building relationships and taking accountability. But most importantly, it’s about doing the work.
Each month, Project Empower Circle centres its content around a unique theme, and for the month of February, we focused on ‘Allyship’. We featured many amazing creators such as Bob Cut Mag, The Ambition Planner and the Mental Health Blogger to talk about allyship and how we can become better allies. We also use this opportunity to ask our community members, “What does allyship mean to you?”.
In this article we feature the perspectives of nine individuals about what allyship means to them!
Allyship means to me that you stand up even when you are scared. Standing up against injustice is always uncomfortable but if you have already educated yourself, now is the time to stand up - say something - be the difference you seek.
Your voice and presence needed to speak for those without a voice. Use your privilege for good.
Allyship to me is the concrete example of being there for someone, for a group of people, or a general sense of purpose. We're bombarded by posts and infographics about how to be an ally and it's something you can't learn through an IG post or an influencer, it's learned through firsthand experience. It's learned through standing up for others and platforming them as you would hope someone would platform you. Whether or not you're being a good or a bad ally, allyship takes many forms.
Allyship is a promise to redistribute power. The identification of spaces where bias, prejudice, and social constructs exist. Knowing how I present and the affordances it gives you. The use of power to do what is right instead of what is easy. The use of my voice when silence is golden. The use of silence when "yes, but…" tickles my throat. Allyship is asking "why?" when I look around. Asking, again, “why?” when opportunities are created or destroyed. Challenging opinions and differences of not being a “good fit” and using tape to reinforce the mental post-it note: “do not replicate this soul-suffocating feeling” as I resurface. Allyship is expecting better. It is demanding more from those who have but do not share. It is asking if I could stand up, step up, or step back better. It is knowing that it is not about me but it is also all about me because I have the power to promise.
Ashley Tomlinson & Leanna Da Cunha
Allyship is knowing when to take a backseat and when to speak up, it’s knowing how to not take up or take over a space. It’s utilizing your privilege to amplify the voices of others. It’s not just sharing in a community's joy, but sharing in their pain too. It’s going inward and asking yourself the tough questions. Allyship is doing the work so that you can show up from a healed place instead of projecting your traumas onto others.
Being an ally to me means using my voice, listening, observing and truly understanding systemic racism. Knowing that anti-black racism has been embedded in South Asian culture because of colonialism and doing my part to break it down. Understanding it will not always be easy, but remembering you are not alone. In order to be an ally, you need to dig deeper to the root cause of the problem. Being an ally is ongoing work; it is not just a phase. It is something you are in your work environments, at home and with your friends.
I remember seeing this quote by Rachel Cargle, a Black American author, and it is stuck with me to this day. “Anti-racism work is not self-improvement work for white people. It doesn’t end when white people feel better about what they’ve done. It ends when black people are staying alive and they have their liberation.”
Imagine navigating through a dark forest. You’d likely find yourself lost within a matter of seconds.
Now imagine you had a friend with a light-up helmet walking behind you. Getting through the forest would be much easier. Not only are you in the company of a friend, but you can also see more clearly around you. This is how I view allyship.
Allyship is the voluntary act of supporting someone who may not enjoy the same privileges as you and ensuring that they get a better chance to navigate the world more freely.
It is providing enabling support, rather than commanding; the friend lights up the path from behind and allows me to chart my own course through the forest.
It is also an active choice; my friend could turn off their light or choose to leave at any moment.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned that life is messy and challenging – sometimes unfairly so. While I like to navigate life controlling what I can, I realize that most things seem to be out of my control. Being supported by allies helps me hold on to some semblance of control.
Allyship is a lifelong commitment to showing up, taking actionable steps and listening in order to use any power or privilege you may have to uplift others. It is holding yourself accountable, putting forth continuous effort and improvement and is definitely not optional if we want to build a better future for all.
Allyship is an outcome of both an individual becoming self-aware, informed and willing to provide assistance, and the acceptance of that person’s willingness to help by anyone that requires external and additional awareness and support.
Allyship can and should be context and community-specific, it can last for a short time, or extend as long as a particular issue persists.
Becoming an Ally, however, is much more complex – it’s the long-term process of getting to a place where a person can be prepared to engage in Allyship. That process indicates to others whether or not we can be useful Allies.
As one works to become an Ally, it involves equal measures acknowledgement – of self and social injustice, exposure – to and with adversely affected communities, and those involved in equity work, experience – both observing and participating in Allyship, and action – doing something about yourself and those inequities we wish to see eliminated.
Allyship to me means practicing listening instead of talking, following the movement instead of wanting to lead, holding space instead of taking up space. Allyship to me is also not all or none, it's a journey that has ups and downs. Allyship is having tough conversations that may make you uncomfortable, but knowing that it is important to go through these growing pains. Allyship is growing out of limiting mindsets, discriminatory biases, or ignorance.
This article is synthesized by Pallavi Dutta.
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