What it Means to be an Ally
When I was an overachieving junior in high school, I told my college advisor I wanted to apply to the top state school in Florida. Their advice was to set my sights on something more attainable like community college. Those words were discouraging (if only for a moment). In the end, I applied to the top state school, got in, received a full-ride scholarship, and graduated with honors as a first-generation student.
That interaction is child’s play compared to the adversity minorities face daily both in education and in the workplace. But what would this world look like if we encouraged allyship in our counterparts as much as we push resilience in minority groups?
As an ally, you can use your privilege and power to support and advocate for marginalized groups, and work to dismantle systems of oppression. Contrary to popular belief, being an ally is not just about being a good person or having good intentions. It requires action and making a sustained effort to understand and challenge the ways prejudice and discrimination impact the lives of marginalized groups.
One of the most important things you can do as an ally is to educate yourself. This means taking the time to learn about the different forms of oppression and discrimination that minorities face. It also means learning about the experiences of the marginalized groups you want to support and actively listening to their voices, even when you are at the center of them.
Using your privilege and power to speak up against discrimination and prejudice when you see it is one of the most powerful ways to be an ally. This can include calling out racist, sexist, and other discriminatory language or behavior, as well as advocating for policies and practices that promote diversity and inclusion. This also means recognizing that you may have privilege and power based on your race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, and other factors, and using that privilege to create change.
Being an ally doesn’t mean you’ll never make mistakes, but it does mean you’ll be open to feedback and constructive criticism. It also means taking responsibility for your actions and committing to making changes. The work of being an ally is ongoing and requires ongoing self-reflection and growth.
Companies hold a responsibility to make sure the workplace is an inclusive place for all employees. But let’s face it, that may not be the priority, especially when there isn’t much diversity. For those in high-ranking positions, allyship means using your voice and influence to promote diversity and inclusion and push for policies and practices that support marginalized groups. Additionally, it means actively seeking out opportunities to advance the careers and leadership opportunities of marginalized groups.
By diversifying the workforce, companies can create a safe and inclusive space for their employees. This means promoting an environment where marginalized groups feel comfortable and respected, and where their voices are heard. This can look like creating affinity groups or providing training and education on topics such as unconscious bias and microaggressions. Creating an atmosphere where people feel safe to express their unique identities and perspectives is important for an organization to thrive.
Much of my success has been due to mentors who didn’t necessarily look like me or occasionally even think like me. But having their backing and support has helped me in my career and personal growth. Being an ally to minorities in the workplace is crucial for creating a more inclusive and equitable environment. So, chat with someone who doesn’t look like you, mentor someone with different life experiences and always pay it forward because we all deserve an ally.
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