Being an Effective Ally
Issue   |   Tue, 11/29/2016 - 23:52

In light of the recent election and where Amherst stands in its history with diversity, allyship has never been more pertinent. There are individuals at this college who have been scarred by racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, anti-semitism, classicism, religious discrimination, xenophobia, etc. for most, if not all of their lives. There are also individuals on this campus who have never experienced any of those oppressions. And then there are those of us who experience both privilege and oppression — a heterosexual woman of color faces sexism and racism, but she also has the privilege of being heterosexual in a heteronormative society. Regardless of whichever category you fall into, if you have any sort of privilege, you can be ally. In a time when ignorance and division are easy options, the Editorial Board urges students to be thoughtful, effective allies whenever possible.

So what is an ally? An ally is a member of a privileged group who tries to support a marginalized group and help fight the oppression that they face. One of the first and most important things that an ally can do is to listen. Understand that your voice and experiences are parts of the dominant narrative, one that has been listened to for most of history. Of course, this is not to say that one person of color’s voice or one trans person’s voice, for example, is the absolute truth of their respective communities. Rather, allies learn about experiences that are not your own so that you can better support the people that you seek to help, in a world that often rejects marginalized perspectives.

This being said, it is also crucial that allies do not take the spotlight. In our generation, we place a lot of social and cultural capital in being “woke.” While being aware of oppression and combating it are very important, it is not about how many likes one gets on a Facebook post or writing an article. Allies help in the background of those fighting oppression in their daily lives — they uplift marginalized groups, and the only time they use their voice is when others are not heard. Particularly with this election, many people of color have urged white allies to use their voices to combat racist rhetoric; in this case, it is crucial that white allies use their voices when people of color are excluded from the conversation.

Most importantly, allyship is never-ending. It does not end at going to the MRC or sharing a thoughtful post or reading this editorial. An ally is actively checking on what they are doing and whether it truly empowers the group by which they stand. They are self-aware and persistent, even when faced with difficult situations and conversations.

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