SarahJane Snelson - What is Allyship?

The practice of allyship is acting at all times in solidarity with marginalised and systemically oppressed groups, communities and the individuals within these (including, but not limited to: Black, Indigenous and People of Colour, LGBTQ+, womxn, physically disabled and neurodiverse).  

Allyship is a life-long practice of unlearning and re-learning to review, reframe and recalibrate the society we are actively participating within. Allyship is a journey of self to serve those around you, to tackle injustice. Allyship is seeing difference and strengthening the value in difference. An ally is a person in a position of privilege who offers to share the power, access, and authority that come with that privilege with members of a non-privileged group. Allies wield power in situations of discrimination and take action, instead of protecting their comfort. We really can make a difference as individuals. It isn’t easy but it is worthwhile.

Please note: Saying you’re an ally is much easier than actually being an ally.






What does an Ally need to do?

  • Acknowledge there are intersections between oppressed and marginalised communities, resulting in some individuals within groups having more privilege than others. Diversity is intersectional, not limited to gender, race, or any other single facet of identity, and therefore allyship needs to be intersectional too.
  • Self Educate and Access resources. More information is available in the Anti-Racism Allyship document (PDF).
  • Listen and Lean In . More information available in the Anti-Racism Allyship document (PDF).
  • Have conversations, even if it’s difficult.
  • Try- Remember it is not about you.
  • Not take the responsibility of being an ally lightly.
  • Continue to repeat the above…

Why do I need to engage in allyship, I’m not racist?

Black people continue to be systemically discriminated against. This is beyond being overtly offensive and prejudice. Racism and privilege is interwoven into the fabric of our society, it breathes within the structures we live and find comfort within. The below words provide an easy to understand analogy (by Presley Pizzo):

Imagine your privilege is a heavy boot that keeps you from feeling when you’re stepping on someone’s feet or they’re stepping on yours, while oppressed people have only sandals. “Ouch! You’re stepping on my toes!” How do you react?Because we can think more clearly about stepping on someone’s literal toes than we usually do when it comes to oppression, the problems with many common responses are obvious:

Centering yourself: “I can’t believe you think I’m a toe-stepper! I’m a good person!”
Denial that others’ experiences are different from your own: “I don’t mind when people step on my toes.”
Derailing: “Some people don’t even have toes, why aren’t we talking about them instead?”
Refusal to center the impacted: “All toes matter!”
Tone policing: “I’d move my foot if you’d ask me more nicely.”
Denial that the problem is fixable: “Toes getting stepped on is a fact of life. You’ll be better off when you accept that.”
Victim blaming: “You shouldn’t have been walking around people with boots!”
Withdrawing: “I thought you wanted my help, but I guess not. I’ll just go home.”

Ok, I want to help, what now?…

Unfortunately at the moment UoB does not offer anti-racism or ally training. However UoB does have an awesome BAME network which you could and should absolutely join, support and listen to. And there are a myriad of resources available to start your own learning –  A select few have been suggested in the Anti-Racism Allyship document (PDF).


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