Allyship & Equity

"Being an ally is not an identity, it is a process" - Sister Outsider

Over the last week the media has flooded with one name: Rachel Dolezal. An American civil rights activist who recently stepped down as president of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People  (NAACP) chapter in Spokane, Washington, after her birth parents revealed that she is, despite her appearance and self identification, white.  

This sparked an international dialogue around race and identity and cultural appropriate which raises some very important questions around allyship. Would her work have been as effective if she were more transparent around her racial background? What does allyship look like when it is lacking transparency and accountability? Is allyship defined by the person or the group?

By using equity as a lens for examining allyship, we come to see that allyship demands recognition of privilege and barriers that are faced by diverse groups. It demands examining and taking into account existing and historical processes that privilege certain groups. And it demands self reflection and situating oneself, with transparency, within that socio-cultural historical process.  

The following writing on Allyship is an excerpt from The Anti-Oppression Network

allyship defined:

allyship is an active, consistent, and arduous practice of unlearning and re-evaluating, in which a person of privilege seeks to operate in solidarity with a marginalized group of people

    •    allyship is not an identity—it is a lifelong process of building relationships based on trust, consistency, and accountability with marginalized individuals and/or groups of people

    •    allyship is not self-defined—our work and our efforts must be recognized by the people we seek to ally ourselves with

    •    it is important to be intentional in how we frame the work we do,

    •    i.e. we are showing support for…, we are showing our commitment to ending [a system of oppression] by…, we are using our privilege to help by…



we are not acting out of guilt, but rather out of responsibility

    •    we actively acknowledge our privileges and openly discuss them: we recognize that as recipients of privilege we will always be capable of perpetuating systems of oppression from which our privilege came

    •    we listen more and speak less: we hold back on our ideas, opinions, and ideologies, and resist the urge to “save” the people we seek to work with as they will figure out their own solutions that meet their needs

    •    we do our work with integrity and direct communication: we take guidance and direction from the people we seek to work with (not the other way around), and we keep our word

    •    we do not expect to be educated by others: we continuously do our own research on the oppressions experienced by the people we seek to work with, including herstory/history, current news, and what realities created by systems of oppression look, feel, smell, taste and sound like

    •    we build our capacity to receive criticism, to be honest and accountable with our mistakes, and recognize that being called out for making a mistake is a gift—that it is an honour of trust to receive a chance to be a better person, to learn, to grow, and to do things differently

    •    we embrace the emotions that come out of the process of allyship, understanding that we will feel uncomfortable, challenged, and hurt

    •    our needs are secondary to the people we seek to work with: we are responsible for our self-care and recognize that part of the privilege of our identity is that we have a choice about whether or not to resist oppression; we do not expect the people we seek to work with to provide emotional support

    •    we do not expect awards or special recognition for confronting issues that people have to live with every day



we act out of a genuine interest in challenging larger oppressive power structures

    •    we are here to support and make use of our privilege for the people we seek to work with

    •    we turn the spotlight we are given away from ourselves and towards the voices of those who are continuously marginalized, silenced, and ignored; we give credit where credit is due

    •    we use opportunities to engage people with whom we share identity and privilege in conversations about oppression experienced by those we seek to work with


Prezi on Allyship by Kim Katrin Milan