So you want to be an active ally?

Perhaps you’ve read my piece on performative allyship and the issues with wearing safety pins without doing the work we need privileged folks to do.

There have been well-intentioned folks who have been looking for ways to help marginalized people following Trump’s win of the presidential election.

The word ally has been diluted and has somewhat been thrown around without giving it enough internalized thought.

Here are some helpful guidelines to being an ally to those working against multiple oppressions:

  • The most important thing you can do is to listen to marginalized folks when they talk about their experiences. We’re not looking for advice, we don’t need your two cents, we’ve been handling the complexities of oppression for our whole lives. We need you to listen and learn from us quietly.
  • Decenter your privileges. Attempt to not make your feelings more important than the experiences and voices of marginalized people. How you feel about their perspective is not as relevant as you may want it to be and because the world centers white, cisgender, heterosexual perspectives, it’s important to learn that it is violent to expect marginalized folks to cater to your perspective and feelings.
  • Use your privilege to confront those in your social circles. All that listening you’ve been doing has helped you become more equipped to handle these situations. Confront bigotry in the workplace, with your friends, family and acquaintances. Your privilege is most powerful when talking to your peers.
  • Help create a safe place for marginalized folks within the communities you are a part of. Help establish those spaces by not letting others talk over them, become accustomed to the fact that marginalized people feel more comfortable around those who are going through those experiences. Black only spaces or lbgtqia only spaces are not exclusionary, they’re being carved out because the rest of the world is catered to comfort various privileges, including whiteness.
  • Help out at your local community centers or grassroots organizations in any way that you can. Donating food, clothes, money, paper goods, feminine hygiene products, winter coats, sleeping bags or resources in relation to you job (pro-bono work) can be essential.
  • If you are seeking advice from marginalized people, pay them for their advice. Many of them are struggling to make ends meet so if you do want them to educate you on topics you are unfamiliar with, offering to pay them for their expertise is a great way to be an ally and learning how to be one.
  • If you witness harassment or violence, please try to intervene by focusing on the person being harassed. Ask them if they are ok, start a small conversation, let them know you are there. Safety pins are nice, but intervening without being sought out is actually more useful. People who are being harassed aren’t looking for safety pins, they’re just trying to get out of the situation without getting hurt. This may seem counterintuitive, but DO NOT call the police. Not everyone is safe around them. Police forces are not here to protect marginalized communities. Get used to that.
  • Allyship is different for each community, but these are basic guidelines and ideas. There are great resources which can expand on these ideas, the Internet is your friend in this case, so look up your local organizations which can help different communities and people. Allyship is not one size fits all.

To my fellow LBGTQIA folks, people of color, indigenous folks, immigrants, differently abled people and Muslim friends and family, please free to add ways in which allies can help in the comments section so that I can add them to this piece as a resource.

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