Allyship requires changed behavior, period. In my field of work, I have noticed that many allies who are working to support and empower underrepresented marginalized communities have the same intention as companies who decide to invest in diversity, equity, and inclusion: 1) They do it because it is the right thing to do, 2) They do it because it benefits them in some way shape or form. In Allyship, the latter occurs by way of stepping up and speaking out about challenges other populations face while consciously still only seeing your privilege and their oppression. Also, because you are developing a brand to uplift your own image based on our oppressions. This makes you the “all lie”.
Allyship these days is not enough, through many relationships I have developed as an underrepresented founder, I have had a few allies who have truly disappointed me and perpetuated the discrimination they intended to help me fight against. Through these experiences I have broken allies down into three buckets:
ALL LIES- Here are the allies who even through the best of intentions have done the following:
1. Failed attempts of empowerment- This person is AWAKE and has started to acknowledge their privilege, but only to a certain degree. They have helped me get to the table, but when I sat down, they rendered me invisible. They literally drowned out my voice by telling their own stories of oppression and unconsciously did not realize that my presence was only seen as a present for them, and their image. They have developed a sense of pride in feeling like they did something good that minimized the guilt and shame they felt from their contribution to oppressions of either myself or others. It made them feel accomplished to know they worked hard to get me to the table, and their job was done. This type of ally will apologize profusely for their mistakes but their behavior will never change.
2. Denial of any wrongdoing through the premise of good intentions, while not realizing that their intention is based on their beliefs of assimilating you to be more like how they view your position should exist in the world. The belief: Just be more like me and let me show you how to do that correctly!
ALLY- This ally is WOKE, they are the person who takes the time to do the self reflection and work to understand the true meaning of privilege and oppression by completing the following:
1. Educate themselves before they jump into the fire pits of our oppressions by understanding their privilege in a way that connects its role and contribution to our marginalization.
2. Acts with the perspective of cultural humility and is willing to have the conversations necessary with the victims of oppression to understand what it means to truly empower and uplift the victims of their privilege.
ACCOMPLICE- This person is doing the WORK, they have done the self work (which is continual) and they understand how to use their privilege to create platforms of empowerment and enhancement that is lead by the victims of their privilege. They are engaged in the following:
1. Becoming mentors and sponsors for oppressed or underrepresented populations.
2. Provide platforms for such voices to speak out, gain recognition, get promoted, get hired, etc.
3. Are willing to dedicate time, resources (financial and not financial) to promote equitable opportunities for the populations for which they advocate
4. When they do fuck up and offend you it is met with not just apologies, but changed behaviors that support your progress.
5. They are interrupting the systems of oppression through their actions and are willing to sacrifice their own position, if necessary, to help build yours.
Allyship is not as easy as some would like to think, but neither is skiing. Think of it as if you were working to become a professional athlete. You need to practice, make mistakes, correct the mistakes, gain experience, and knowledge to get to different levels of success. If you’re going to jump into the fire with us, first make sure that you don’t pour gasoline on our oppressions, and put on your humility suit or stay your ass out of our fire.