Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Let's talk about ally behavior

I am about to post a series of articles on ally behavior.

This started out as a single post based on one experience I had last week.  However, the past week has turned into a stream of Allies Not Behaving Like Allies experiences.  Some of these have happened in person, some have happened on line, some have combined both.  It just keeps coming.

I know a lot of well-meaning white people who think they don't treat people of color any differently than they do white people. 

I know a lot of well-meaning straight people who think they accept lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer people whole-heartedly. 

I know a lot of cisgender people who think they support transgender rights.

I  know a lot of men who think they're Nice Guys and would never do anything to make a woman uncomfortable.

I know a lot of well-meaning non-disabled people who think they are fully accepting of people with disabilities.  

But you know what, people, that's not enough.  

If you really believe everyone is equal, if you really believe you're not racist, homophobic, transphobic, sexist, or ableist, if you believe everyone should be treated equally, believing is not enough. You need to walk your talk.  We need to walk our talk.  You need to behave in ways that mirror those values.  We need to behave in ways that mirror those values.

We're going to start out here talking about ally behavior -- what it is, and what it isn't. 

First, what's an ally?  

Here's an excellent definition from the Geek Feminism Wiki:
Allies are people who support a group who are commonly the subject of discrimination, prejudice, etc, but who are not members of that group. Specifically, feminist allies are individuals who are not women who support women's rights and promote feminism. 

Let me be real clear here, folks: an ally is not what you/we are, it's what you/we do.   It is not enough to say "I'm an ally" or "I support this marginalized group" without adding behavior that puts that into action. 

Okay, then, what is ally behavior?  

Here is a very basic starting place, again from the Geek Feminism Wiki:
  • Accept and understand your privilege
  • Learn to listen
  • Don't make it about you
  • Adopt a language of respect and equality

The "Allies" entry has further examples of ally behavior, and further resources.  I recommend it.  

Here is the most basic ally behavior I can recommend to you:
  • LISTEN when people who are members of oppressed minorities talk about their experience with oppression. 
  • DON'T defend what happened, don't explain it, don't say it wasn't racist etc, don't insist it's okay for people to behave that way.
  • BELIEVE what people who are members of oppressed minorities tell you about their experience.  Don't talk about how hard it is to believe, don't say you've never witnessed anything like this, etc.
  • DON'T DERAIL.  Don't talk about your own experience, don't tone-police, etc.  
In addition: 
  • CALL other people who are members of the same dominant society groups you're part of on their behavior.  

Here are some excellent resources on what derailing is and isn't:

More soon.

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