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Want To Be A Good Ally? Here Are Some Things To Ask Yourself

Because "ally" is not just a title you can claim one day and forget when things get uncomfortable.

In order to collapse oppressive systems in the US, it takes more than just the people who are most affected by social injustices to care. It takes more than one donation or a single day of protesting to make change happen.

So, Tuesday has passed, and we're still Black, so to everyone who wanted to play ally yesterday, I hope you keep the same energy for yourselves, your peers, your employers, and your families, because our oppression isn't a trend. This is a day-to-day reality. Understand that.

Here are some questions to get you thinking about how you can be a better ally. (This is by no means a comprehensive list of what it means to be an ally and what steps you can take, but it's a start.)

1. What is an ally?

Amélie Lamont / Via

Amélie Lamont's "Guide to Allyship" is a great place to get started to learn what it means to be a productive ally.

2. Have you centered any issues concerning racial injustice around yourself with a narrative about your own feelings?

Undrey / Getty Images

Understand that being an ally is NOT about you or your feelings. You have every right to feel anger, horror, fear, guilt, and sadness, but your job as an ally is to use those feelings to fuel your action. Expressing those feelings in hopes of gaining sympathy or comfort (especially from marginalized groups) is selfish and diminishes the issue itself. This is not about centering the social injustice around yourself.

3. How do you contribute to, benefit from, and tolerate oppressive systems?

Wow. Scary how right he was.

It starts with deep self-reflection. Do you fear for your life when you take evening walks in your neighborhood? Do you generally have positive interactions with the police? Have you ever been scared that someone in a store will accuse you of stealing? These are just a few examples of the beginning of deep reflection. Peggy McIntosh's article, "Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack," is a powerful starting point for learning and processing white privilege as well as W. E. B. Du Bois's The Souls of Black Folk. This book paved the way for recognizing privilege through a sociological lens.

4. Have you ever asked or expected people from marginalized groups to "show you" how to be a good ally?

Lemme save my white ... friends a DM. Don't ask me what you can do, to stop feeling helpless. Stop creating emotional labor for me and other black folks while we are grieving yet more murder against our people. Google exists, use that shit.

Don't. This puts unnecessary emotional labor on the already oppressed group. Avoid this by conducting research, seeking historical classes, joining activist groups, reading books and articles, watching films and documentaries, listening to podcasts, and attending speeches that shed light on the oppressive systems in our society using resources that already exist.

5. Can you accept that you will make and have made mistakes?

6. Do you understand that the work of an ally doesn't stop, even when things get difficult?

Undrey / Getty Images

Being an ally is not supposed to be a comfortable and easy journey. Social injustices don't give marginalized groups a break when things get difficult. If you run into difficulties on your journey, just imagine what marginalized groups facing systemic and ongoing injustices feel.

7. Will you call people out when someone says or does something ignorant and problematic?

8. Are you ready to fully listen?

Olga Zakharova / Getty Images

The key is to listen to how people are feeling and what they need from you instead of prescribing your own authority on situations that further elevate your importance. If you're elevating your importance, you're also perpetuating societal inequalities and taking away from the real issue at hand.

9. Have you gone beyond "performing allyship" for others/for social media/to mediate your own guilt?

For people who actively want to be support and be an ally right now, I have written a thread.

Posting on social media is great and all, but if you haven't done the internal work or taken any productive action to break down oppressive systems, then you haven't scratched the surface on what it means to be an ally. Mireille Cassandra Harper's viral Twitter thread about non-optical allyship is an amazing and important read.

10. Have you donated to social justice organizations?

Jane_kelly / Getty Images

Every donation counts, but committing yourself to financially supporting social justice organizations on a regular basis is vital. Here's a list of resources to get you started. Other ways to financially support include buying products or shopping at stores owned by marginalized groups, volunteering your time, and even streaming videos (for free) that allot their ad revenue to social justice organizations.

11. Do you understand that you'll never know how it feels to be the oppressed group you are supporting?

12. Have you used your voice to amplify what marginalized people have said?

Undrey / Getty Images

Your job is to use your privilege to share and amplify the words, research, and experiences of those voices that have been historically silenced. It's important to realize that the voice of an ally works alongside the voices of an oppressed group, not above or beyond them.

13. And finally, do you realize that wanting to help isn't enough and that taking action is necessary to be an ally?

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