Whether it be to the LGBT, people of color, disabled, or other minority communities, being an ally is a strong and important thing to do. But what exactly does that mean to be an ally?
Photo: Katherine Gunther
Despite what many people may say, you do not need to be a part of a community to support it. Just because you do not identify with a marginalized community does not mean you can not recognize injustice and fight for a change. While “being an ally” does not require a grand gesture or a lifetime dedication to a cause, it does need more than an afterthought. Still, it can be hard to know what you can do to support others when it may not seem like “your” fight. The secret is that it's everyone's responsibility to step up for others!
Recognizing Your Privilege
Being white, straight, able-bodied, or possessing any other type of privilege doesn’t make you the enemy. It does not mean you can not help those who do not have the same opportunities. You are lucky enough to have a voice that, as unfortunate as it is, may have more of a broad reach than those who are marginalized. It's what you do with that voice that matters.
Celebrities like Anne Hathaway, Ashley Graham, and Mike Ruffalo have all been commended for not only recognizing their own privilege, but using it as a way to educate others on the issues that groups such as the black, LGBT, or feminist communities face.
A significant way you can be an ally is to call out the problematic behavior you see. It is the typical “see something, say something” mantra. Whether it be online or in real life, make it your responsibility to stand up when you know someone is doing or saying something harmful.
Many of us are afraid to do this, even when we know it is the right thing to do. This fear is because we are often fearful of the judgment we may face from others, especially when it is someone we may know. Calling out harmful speech and actions within our family and friend groups can feel like an impossible thing to do. However, being an ally means making that difficult decision.
Supporting Loved Ones
Again, being an ally isn’t necessarily about grand gestures. Being an ally means recognizing the moral duty you have to support those close to you. If a friend comes out to you, be accepting. If someone tells you that your own words or actions are harmful, hear them out.
Those in your life can benefit immensely from the support of people they love. Not only is it a comforting feeling, but it can also save a life if someone is seriously struggling with their identity or oppression.
No one is perfect, and it may not be at the forefront of everyone’s mind to be an ally to communities whose issues have never posed a problem to them personally. Still, we must not let ourselves be blind to injustice in our society.
Accept your LGBT friends, believe and support victims of abuse, speak out against hate speech, use your voice to outweigh that of oppression. There are countless ways to be an ally to marginalized communities, most of which do not take much effort or risk.
You should never feel pressured to laugh along with jokes that oppress others. You should never fear what others may think if you do not agree with hateful opinions.
To be an ally is simply to do your part. Big or small, your own actions matter. While you may feel like you can not make a change yourself, we must never forget how many social justice battles were won by those brave enough to stand up and speak up.
Caroline is an undergraduate student at Worcester State University. When she is not writing, she also runs a photography business specializing in portrait, wedding, and boudoir photography. She aims to use both writing and photography to empower women and encourage them to find their inner voice and confidence.