"Allyship" is a title that many people claim but don't carry out in the best of ways, often times seeking attention for themselves. And when an ally actively draws attention to themselves it takes attention away from the issue at hand, and that's not what being an ally is about. With 2016 being a year full of issues that are certain to carry into the new year, it's important to be a better ally while you support marginalized groups, and to cater to the unique needs of specific groups. If you aren't sure where to start, I've come up with a few ways that we all can be better allies in 2017:
Say Less And Listen More
Often times, we think that we know everything there is to know about a specific issue that exists and that's not always the case. While I can read up countless theories about feminism and the way that women are disadvantaged in society, I don't experience this world the way that women do and my personal experience is different. There are times where using your voice and your privilege is important and beneficial, but there are times when allies need to sit back and let the voices of the marginalized be amplified.
Stop Expecting Others To Educate You
Expecting marginalized people to educate you isn't being an ally, it's being lazy and expecting others to do the work for you. Being an ally also means actively doing your part and learning more about the inequalities that certain people face on a daily basis. At this point, there are endless resources that we all can use to learn more about a variety of issues - from racial inequalities to transphobia. While it is beneficial to hear how people have personally been affected by injustice, Google is always free and there to find you resources of all kinds. It's not the job of the marginalized to spoon feed their experiences to you.
Understand That "Ally" Is Just A Title
Stop telling people you are an ally. Let your work and support speak for itself.
Acknowledge Your Privilege
The reality is that, in most cases, an ally may has more privilege than the group they are supporting. Acknowledge how that privilege puts you in a position of power, and learn how you can use that same privilege to dismantle oppressive systems that you benefit from while they oppress others.
Being an ally is much more then simply being against inequality and adding a filter on your Facebook photo. Being an ally means doing your homework and placing the voices of the marginalized before your own. Now isn't the time to be an ally for posturing purposes, because we are dealing with people's lives and the experiences they face on a daily basis. Being an ally means being ready to call out your family members on their shitty behavior during family dinners or being ready to call someone out in public as they harass a person of color on the train. Know when it is your time to use your voice and when it's not.
This year, let's all strive to be better allies.