Thursday, August 17, 2017

Responsibilities of a Self Appointed Ally

ally - a person, group, or nation that is associated with another or others for some common cause or purpose
In social justice circles, an ally is better explained as an advocate who agrees to stand up against discrimination at the discretion of those in which they intend to defend. But I believe it is more. Allies are also responsible for bridging learning gaps. Not everyone is granted higher education on  race, gender, sexuality, disability, and religious studies. In fact, a lot of people are (innocently) ignorant on the subjects including our Nation’s history. I believe it is also the duty of allies to teach the willing about such matters in hopes of making them future allies. I believe that it is more an ally’s responsibility to teach than the person experiencing the discrimination. Allies are in a much better (more privileged) position to do so.

Taking on the unenlightened is not without risk, however. There are those who I like to call willfully-ignorant. These people do not want enlightened and will fight back in hurtful ways. Allies have to be cautious when engaging for our own safety. But we must also be brave because not everyone is willfully-ignorant. And those who are not will be new allies some day. Perhaps sooner than we think.

I recently experienced a situation where allies turned against each other because of an innocent ignorant person. In this case, the person had said something insensitive on social media that reflected ignorance toward a particular discrimination issue. Instead of attempting to teach, however, the allies used shaming tactics and eventually drove the person away. Later, they pulled in another ally who had not seen any of the activity (the social media post had since been deleted) and questioned them about the person. When the ally expressed shock about the person’s behavior the allies berated them for not using language that immediately denounced the person. They went as far to say the ally must be a “sympathizer” with known hate groups. I was reminded of the phrase “if you are not with us, you are against us.” It was a very sad state of affairs. Not only had they alienated an ally, they missed a chance to convert someone over to the good side.

Where do we think potential allies will go when they are berated by the supposed “side of reason?” Of course, they will turn to the other side who is always ready and waiting for angry, hateful cast-outs. 

It seems like some allies may be forgetting our purpose – to support and fight for the people who have less power than ourselves. It may very well be that some have taken on a victim role and become indignant about fighting for the cause. We, allies, need to remember our place.