The Do’s and Don’ts of Being an ally

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We live in a time full of change, where we fight for equality and call for social justice. In this day and age, many Millennials and Gen Zers consider themselves progressive, activists or allies in some type of way. But with allyship can come confusion. When we call ourselves “allies”, it’s important to know how to be effective while also not overstepping your boundaries and getting in the way of the community that you are trying to support and uplift. With that being said, it’s also important to take action and not stand on the sidelines whilst calling yourself “woke” and “active.” 

So that brings us to the question: What does it mean to be an ally and what are appropriate steps I can take where I’m being active, not an obstacle? Fashion Fundamentals has come up with a list of tips and advice on being in an allyship and the do and don’ts to be a great ally for your community. 

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Do: Actively Participate

Reposting a picture on your Instagram story once a year isn’t going to cut it. One of the most important parts of being an ally is being consistently active and taking initiative that is making a difference. Sign up for petitions. Attend rallies. Use your platform to spread awareness and make change. Check out your local city to see if there are any organizations to join that hold the same beliefs and mission you do. You’d be surprised at how many resources that are around you and that are available to be tapped into. 

Don’t: Speak on behalf of people in the community

As an ally, you are amplifying the voices of those in the community, not as if you are that person. At the end of the day, you have to recognize that you are not part of the marginalized group and are rather a supporting figure. It’s nice to empathize and listen at what’s being said, but don’t try to assert that you understand exactly what others in the community are going through, because you don’t.

This is not the place to be if you’re looking for that spotlight on you. Engage in conversation, support the movement and raise awareness, just make sure to be cautious not to overstep those boundaries. 

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Do: Listen to what others have to say

Ever heard the phrase “listen to learn?” Being an ally isn’t always about using your voice. Sometimes we need to sit down and listen to what others have to say. It is through this where we learn about personal experiences and receive first hand advice on ways to be a supportive ally from people in the communities themselves.

Teen ally and college student at Florida State University, Gracie Guy, speaks about the importance of listening from personal experience. Something that has been important to me is listening to others,” Guy said. “Especially as a white person, there are obstacles that minorities face that I wouldn’t know about if I didn’t listen. I wouldn’t know steps to take to solve the problem if I didn’t speak to people experiencing the problem.”

Don’t: Act like you have all the answers

With allyship comes learning. It’s fantastic to be educated, but please don’t be that person that acts like they know it all. Furthermore, avoid being the one who walks away when they are corrected or receive constructive criticism. Activist and college student at University of North Florida, Jessika Sessoms, acknowledges that it’s okay to know everything and learning is part of the process. “Don’t be afraid to not have all the answers and be wrong because that’s how you learn,” Sessoms said. “No one knows everything and that’s okay.”

Everybody has room to grow and learn. Each and every one of us. No matter the age, gender or educational background. It’s like they say, you learn something new every day. So yes, be educated, but also realize that this is a journey where you can gain and embrace new knowledge along the way. 

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Do: Research and be educated

When being an ally, you need to know who and what you’re supporting. So take self initiative to research and educate yourself about the community, what rights are being fought for and the struggles they may be going through. “I have heard from minority individuals within social justice advocacy spaces that it’s not up to black people, minorities or whoever the community is to educate you,” Sessoms said. “There are various resources out there to look at that will inform you on systemic racism or prejudice beliefs that are held against various minority groups.”

Already have some basic understanding when taking that commitment to being an ally. The last thing you want is to call yourself an ally but no absolutely nothing about the community you are supporting and trying to uplift.

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Don’t: Be silent when your peers say inappropriate things

You know what they say: Actions speak louder than words. I get that it can be uncomfortable when you may hear your friends say rude things but don’t want to correct them from fear of judgement or looking “lame.” But the whole point of being an ally is to amplify the voice of the respective community and to speak against any racist or homophobic behavior.

In able to effectively speak against such behavior may sometimes be uncomfortable, especially when the people you are speaking to are close to you. But the best allies are the ones that can get past that uncomfortable feeling, because they know they are doing the right thing and such things should not be normalized nor tolerated.

No one said that being an ally is any easy thing to do, because it’s not. You can’t afford to be silent. You can’t back down when things get tough. So the next time you hear something rude or inappropriate, be courageous and correct them. It can be scary, but know that with every step you take, you have a whole community behind you every step of the way. 

Do: Reach out to others and ask questions

Yes, you should be educated and have some prior knowledge when it comes to being an ally. However, it is still okay to ask questions. Allyship is about growing and changing for the better. Like it’s stated in one the above points, it’s okay that you don’t have all the answers nor should you.

Be curious. Ask the people around you questions to gain those different perspectives. Reach out to other allies or activists in the community and ask if they would be willing to have a conversation with you. Chances are, they most likely will say yes. You will have the opportunity to hear about their journey while also getting the chance to share your personal experience as well. It’s not only a great way to learn more about the community but making a genuine connection with other like minded individuals.

Janelle Sessoms

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