Growing up as an abled, cisgendered Latina/Hispanic, it took time for me to understand structural violence towards marginalized groups. However, as an ally, I have been able to learn about the way normative notions in our culture affect our identity and the identity of those around us.
Becoming an ally is the first step towards deconstructing our unjust society. An ally is a person who wants to fight for the equality of a marginalized group that they’re not a part of. Although the fight to eliminate racism may seem scary and confusing, if you work on these five simple steps, you will have a solid foundation for helping to effectively fight oppression.
- Understand your privilege:
Often time’s privilege is seen through a negative lens. Privilege does not mean you haven’t had gone through difficult experiences. However, it does acknowledge that there are some things that you will never experience or have to think about just because of who you are. By identifying that privilege, you not only learn more about yourself, but you learn more about others and their experiences.
- Listen and do your Homework:
As an ally the last thing you want to do is speak over the very people who experience the oppression/violence you are fighting. Sit back and listen instead. Sometimes the best way to lead is by following. It is also important to do your own research on the communities you want to support. The only way to be an ally is to educate yourself.
- Speak up, not over:
This goes along with the idea of being a leader by following. You can show support by using your privilege and speaking about these issues with others who do not see the way oppression affects us all. However, one thing to keep in mind is to not speak over the members of the community you are trying to support or take credit for things they have already said.
- It is normal to make mistakes, just remember to apologize when you do:
Living in a society that has so deeply ingrained certain beliefs in our brain, it can be very difficult to unlearn problematic things. However, it is always important to lean into that discomfort, take the time, and do the hard work to deconstruct those things. If and when you do make mistakes, remember that it is not about intent (whether or not you meant what you said); it is about the impact. It is about what you said and how you offended other. When you get called out remember to listen apologize and commit to changing your behavior and move forward!
- Ally is a verb:
Being an ally involves action. You have to do numbers 1-4 actively in order to fight oppression. Just by saying you’re an ally doesn’t make you one. You have to earn it.
Here at the YWCA, we address many issues, and one of our principle missions is eliminating racism. Through our various intensive programs and day events, we try to not only define and identify racism but work to eliminate it. The YWCA wants to be proactive in solving the systemic oppression that affects the black community in Lancaster.
If you would like to become a part of this dialogue, contact Nick Miron at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask about YWCA Lancaster’s Study Circle Program.
- Karolina Heleno, YWCA Lancaster Intern