Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Becoming an Ally


What is an Ally?

An ally is a member of the agent social group who takes a stand against social injustice directed at target groups (Whites who speak out against racism, men who are anti-sexist, heterosexuals who combat homophobia, Christians who work to eliminate Islam phobia, cisgender folks who battle against transphobia, able-bodied people who fight against ableism etc.)  An ally works to be an agent of social change rather than an agent of oppression.  When a form of oppression has multiple target groups, as do racism, ableism and heterosexism, target group members can be allies to other targeted social groups they are not part of (lesbians can be allies to bisexual people, African Americans can be allies to Native Americans, blind people can be allies to people who use wheel chairs).

Characteristics of an Ally

    •    Feels good about own social group membership; is comfortable and proud of own identity

    •    Takes responsibility for learning about own and target group heritage, culture and experience, and how oppression works in everyday life

    •    Listens to and respects the perspectives and experiences of target group members

    •    Acknowledges unearned privileges received as a result of agent status and works to eliminate or change privileges into rights that target group members also enjoy

    •    Recognizes that unlearning oppressive beliefs and actions is a lifelong process, not a single event, and welcomes each learning opportunity

    •    Is willing to take risks, try new behaviors, and act in spite of their own fear and in spite of resistance from other agents

    •    Takes care of self to avoid burn-out

    •    Acts against social injustice out of a belief that it is in her/his/hir own self-interest to do so

    •    Is willing to make mistakes, learn from them, and try again

    •    Is willing to be confronted about own behavior and attitudes and consider change

    •    Is committed to taking action against social injustice in own sphere of influence

    •    Understands own growth and response patterns and when s/he is on a learning edge

    •    Understands the connections among all forms of social injustice

    •    Believes s/he can make a difference by acting and speaking out against social injustice

    •    Knows how to cultivate support from other allies

From: Teaching for Diversity and Social Change: A Sourcebook, edited by Maurianne Adams, Lee Anne Bell and Pat Griffin.  P. 108.

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