How to be a Better Ally
Updated: Nov 8, 2021
Exercising ally-ship, or practicing how to be a supporter of different cultures and identities has become an increasingly important skill to display in both professional and nonprofessional environments. As our world becomes more socially and culturally diverse, it is important that we continue to educate and hold ourselves accountable to understanding the differences between how we identify, and how the person next to us identifies. The following are helpful tips to begin your journey to becoming a better ally to your peers and future colleagues.
1. Research is KEY.
Whether you identify or associate yourself with marginalized groups such as the LGBTQ+ or BIPOC communities, or you know someone who identifies with these groups, there is still a lot to learn about different cultures and identities. One of the most important steps in becoming an ally if you are apart of the cis-white community is recognizing that there are experiences that you will never go through or understand. But because you have this privilege, it does not mean that you can not begin to empathize towards these groups. Read up on the history of Black culture repression in America, watch a documentary on LGBTQ+ rights, or do a quick google search on the gender spectrum. The best way to set a foundation of allyship is to become well acquainted with the different types of marginalized groups and how they have been impacted throughout history.
2. Ask the RIGHT questions
If you know someone who identifies with LGBTQ+ or BIPOC, do not hesitate to ask them about their own experiences. It is so important to listen and acknowledge that what they are speaking about are significant life experiences that attest to their need for support and understanding. It is also important to be particular with the way you ask your questions. Aim to learn something new about a specific identity rather than suggest or further confirm false beliefs or generalizations you have about their culture. It is very easy to be influenced by negative stereotypes and media, but lead with an open
mind about an individual you are talking to, chances are they want your ally-ship just as much.
3. Don’t be performative.
If you are not familiar with the term “performative activism” it is loosely defined as the practice of posting on social media with the intention of bettering one’s own self image rather than helping the actual cause at hand. The question of the matter is: where is the line drawn between posting valuable information and promoting your own image to follow trends? We all are familiar with the black squares that flooded our Instagram feeds during the Black Lives Matter movement. I remember scrolling through my feed and seeing people post the black square, who the day before may have posted with the hashtag All Lives Matter. In truth, much like most people who posted that Tuesday, they were following the trend of what they believed this is what they ought to be doing--rather than looking towards how they can be better. Before you post any politically or socially motivated Instagram story, I encourage you to stop and think, “How does this provide others with resources to become a better ally?”.
4. Speak up and show out!
We are not all meant to become raging activists when it comes to advocating for representation for marginalized groups. However, when it comes to being politically correct in any environment, hold others accountable for their discriminatory actions, racist jokes, and even group representation. A joke that your colleague might find funny might make your other culturally diverse peer uncomfortable. Put yourself in their shoes, and don’t hesitate to speak up. Cultural organizations can advocate as much as they feel they need to to change the legislature that enforces inclusion, but no change will be made until our social organizations and the societal standards we set for each other are changed. Show out to represent your peers and to support them and their identities.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion has become a fundamental aspect of our society. With our rapidly changing world, our increasingly diverse environment and this new growing challenge to adapt and learn from each other, I foresee an amazing opportunity for each one of us to educate ourselves, and those around us. We are generation that is constantly being introduced to new stimulus: new ways to communicate, keep entertained and informed. It is truly up to us to take advantage of our platforms resources to teach ourselves and others what diversity really means. Because without taking upon ourselves to enforce a new standard of political correctness, no change will be made and ally-ship will cease to exist.
Written By: Meredith Ho
Meredith is the Communications Associate in The Women’s Network at IU. She is a sophomore from Carmel, Indiana, studying Public Policy Analysis on the Pre-Law track. Besides TWN, she is also involved in IU’s fashion magazine, SEASON, as a staff photographer. She also works as the Visual Arts Liaison for HHArt.