Ally and Action
Becoming an Ally
One definition of what it means to be an ally: Being an ally is more than having sympathy for those who experience discrimination and more than simply believing in equality. Being an ally means being willing to act with and for others in pursuit of ending oppression and creating justice and equality.
Two reasons why becoming an ally is important
Providing support and commitment to your friends and family. You will have people who cross your path from many different identities and being able to be supportive and provide action when needed will allow you to develop deeper relationships and friendships.
In the work environment, you will be able to work better in teams, understand cultural differences, and develop work relationships that are meaningful and productive.
Learning about your identity
A key to becoming an ally is to fully understand yourself and your identities. One way to learn about your identities is to explore them through the social identity wheel developed by the University of Michigan - Resources and tools. This will give you an idea of what social identities are and allow you to explore who you are and areas of your social identities you would like to learn more about.
Learning about other identities
Another key is learning about other identities. You can do this through articles, books, podcasts, speeches, etc. You can also gain information from those who have a different identity than you, but the caution is to not make them your primary source of information. Also, insure that they are willing to serve as a teacher – for some this is not comfortable, and can be offensive.
A true ally does the following:
- Lift others up by advocating
- Share growth opportunities with others
- Not view venting as a personal attack
- Recognize systematic inequalities and realize impact of micro-aggressions
- Believe underrepresented people’s experiences
- Most importantly – listen, support, self-reflect & change
Ways to act as an ally:
- Surround yourself with opportunities for growth – have friends who are different from you, go to a different place of worship, go to an event where you are in the minority (remember that this is one day for you while it is the experience every day for many). These are ways to continue your growth and learning.
- Call out inappropriate behavior – See something, Say something. People who have privilege often can call out unacceptable behavior and be heard by others who have privilege. Underrepresented people may not feel safe or may not be comfortable to say something in the moment. Pay attention to what is said around you and speak up!
- Be involved in Rio’s DEIB efforts. Attend programs, join a committee, share a resource.
- Use inclusive language – one of the ways to think about this is to be conscious of gendered terms. Don’ t make assumptions of how people want their gender identified. Ask or use non-gendered terms like partner instead of girl/boyfriend or husband/wife. In written documents use they instead of his/her or he/she.
- Ask people – the best way to find out how someone wants to be identified is to ask! Ask if a person prefers Black or African-American for example.
- Recognize privilege – this can be an uncomfortable process. The understanding of privilege requires self-reflection and the understanding of systematic oppression. It does not make you a bad person, it only gives you the opportunity to understand what is happening to underrepresented people due to oppression and discrimination.