With so many laws restricting different groups of people around the world, it’s never been a more critical time to be an ally. Whether you’re an ally for people of color, the LGBTQIA+ community, women, or all combined, allyship requires that we operate from a place of compassion and empathy, not superiority.
But how can you be a good or better ally if you’re already trying to help these communities? Does being a good ally mean not buying a particular product, donating money, protesting, or running for office?
The most important tool you have to be a better ally for these underprivileged communities is a straightforward thing: privilege. While we constantly think of our privilege as something negative or to be ashamed of, it’s something to be learned from and can be used in favor of those you want to lift.
Check Your Privilege
Being a solid ally requires you to recognize and check your privilege. All too often, people use their positions of privilege to enforce oppression instead of breaking it down. By checking your privilege, you’re showing you’re willing to learn from mistakes made in the past.
An excellent first step in checking your privilege is simply acknowledging its existence. We all have different rights based on our identities and backgrounds. Even if you don’t consider yourself privileged in many ways, there are still areas where you may benefit from systemic advantages over others, whether that’s due to your race, gender identity, class status, or other factors.
Awareness of your privilege can help break the cycle of oppression by allowing you to understand better how different people experience the world and how worse it is for others. It can also be used to identify and create meaningful, sustainable change.
Use Your Privilege
Once you have acknowledged your privilege, it’s essential to use it to benefit others instead of increasing disparities between yourself and those who are disadvantaged. Allyship is not about pushing people out of their power; instead, it is about acknowledging that everyone has something valuable to contribute and working together in equality.
If you have access to resources or connections that someone else does not, take the initiative to make them accessible for the other person—mentor them in their career path or help them network with people in the same field as you. Maybe you can use your connections to spread a person’s story, connect them to people of power, or even influence those in power to vote in favor of the group you’re trying to help. Allyship is more than just showing up or refusing to buy something, it requires that we actively work together to create a more equitable world.
By checking your privilege and using it as an ally, you can help create meaningful change for disadvantaged people. Allyship is about compassion, empathy, understanding how people experience the world, and putting that knowledge into action. By accessing the power and keeping your own privilege in check, you could have the potential to be a true, change-making ally.