What Is An Ally?

This is the question I’m struggling with right now. I think it started around the time of Michael Brown’s death. Before that, I probably assumed that I was an ally and that I was doing a good job at it, too. In this aspect, I find this to be a good thing, as an unexamined behavior is likely not a great one.

As a teacher, and as a youth worker before that, I’ve always felt it was important to bring up and discuss issues of inequality, oppression and intolerance. I like to keep up-to-date with current events and challenge my students in empathy and activism. And in as much as I’m an individual in this world, I think I know where my place is. The trouble for me comes in the public sphere.

I think a useful example here is Twitter.

I like to consider myself an #EduColor fan boy. The hashtag lives in a prominent place on my TweetDeck and its members are basically how I stay informed. But, I actually use the hashtag in extremely rare circumstances because I doubt if the movement needs the voice of another heterosexual, white, Christian male.

More generally, how do I participate authentically in a role that, for lack of a better term, doesn’t lead to the gentrification of the movement?


I wrote this, actually, while I was sitting in a church downtown waiting to hear Alicia Garza speak. It happened to be the best place I could have been having these thoughts at the time, because she ended up addressing this issue during the evening.

She laid out 4 important points for any white ally. This list might be helpful to you, too.

  1. Acknowledge there is a problem.
  2. Have meaningful relationships with people of color.
  3. Discuss power, privilege and oppression with other white people, including those in authority.
  4. Move white voters (especially the older generation) to select candidates based on the how their policies will effect marginalized people.




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