Talking about privilege, power, and allyship is critical to the work we do at the ACLU of Southern California. To be a better ally, it’s important to unpack the definition of allyship, understand related terms, and find ways to continue to further our learning. The following training and resources have helped us lay the foundation for allyship in our work, and we hope they will help you, too.
- Allyship is not an identity. It is a lifelong process of building relationships based on trust, consistency, and accountability with marginalized individuals and/or groups of people.
- Allyship is not self-defined. Our work and our efforts must be recognized by the people we seek to ally ourselves with.
- It is important to be intentional in how we frame the work we do. For example, you can say you are “showing support for,” “showing our commitment to ending [a system of oppression],” or “using our privilege to help.”
- Ally - A member of a social group that enjoys some privilege that is working to end oppression and understand their own privilege.
- Anti-racist – Someone who actively fights against racism because they do not support racism in any form. It is not enough to be “not racist.”
- Implicit biases – The attitudes or stereotypes that affect our actions, understanding of events, and decisions in an unconscious manner.
- Marginalized – A member of a group that is the primary target of a system of oppression.
- Privilege – An unearned advantage given by society to some people but not all.
- Oppression – Systemic, pervasive inequality that is present throughout society, that benefits people with more privilege and harms those with fewer privileges. In simple terms, discrimination + power = oppression.
- Do your research to learn more about the history of the struggle in which you are participating.
- Do the inner work to acknowledge how you participate in oppressive systems.
- Do learn how to listen and accept criticism with grace, even if it’s uncomfortable.
- Do the work every day to learn how to be a better ally.
- Do use opportunities to engage people with whom we share identity and privilege in conversations about oppression experienced by those we seek to work with.
- Do not expect to be taught or shown. Take it upon yourself to use the tools around you to learn and answer your questions.
- Do not participate for the gold medal in the “Oppression Olympics” (you don’t need to compare how your struggle is “just as bad as” a marginalized person’s)
- Do not behave as though you know best.
- Do not take credit for the labor of those who are marginalized and did the work before you stepped into the picture.
- Do not assume that every member of an underinvested community feels oppressed.
- Center those who are impacted by saying statements like “Are you okay?”
- Listen to their response and learn.
- Apologize for the impact, even though you didn’t intend it by saying “I’m sorry!”
- Be timely, respect boundaries, be self-aware, and reflective.