I have always had trouble with the term ally when it comes to people supporting those that have been discriminated against. I always thought it to be a weak term, without substance. When I think about the word ally, in my mind, it conjures up two people linking arms being friendly. I am sure that this wasn’t the vision that the person who associated allyship to supporting people who have been discriminated against had in mind. I get allyship is about being supportive, however, to me it’s just the beginning of what is needed.
Because of my desire to understand why I felt negative about the term ally, I decide to research the term;
ALLY – DEFINITION
- To unite or form a connection or relationship
- If you describe someone as your ally, you mean that they help and support you, especially when other people are opposing you.
- To be an ally is to unite oneself with another to promote a common interest. People who are allies are not only helpers, but also have a common interest with those they desire to help. In an alliance, both parties stand to benefit from the bond or connection they share.
ALLY – SYNONYMS
The term ally acknowledges the need to support another, and indeed confirms that this term does have a place in the Equality Diversity & Inclusion space. More is needed I think to really make the changes we need to see today. As I pondered about the term ally, I begun to think about the term I thought I was searching for that better described what I felt was needed. The word that came to mind was advocate. I decided to research the term advocate to see what difference this would make to my thinking.
ADVOCATE – DEFINITON
- one who supports or promotes the interests of a cause or group
- To speak, plead, or argue in favour of: person, group, cause
- someone who publicly supports someone or something
ADVOCATE – SYNONYMS
Advocate encompasses what I believe to be the strength of the person to go above and beyond what is necessary to make sure that they play a part in making a positive change for others. I recently came across a post that discussed a white preacher in the USA that heard the call of Martin Luther King to take part in a rally to end segregation. This preacher went to a shop with his black colleagues, the shopkeeper refused to serve the black men so the preacher said he would leave with them. Waiting for them outside was a policeman who aimed a gun at the two black men. The white preacher stood in the way of the two black men and was unfortunately shot by the policeman.
I am not suggesting for one second that people should put themselves in harms way to advocate for people, I do believe that those who call themselves allies should take the next step and become advocates and use their influence to make change to eradicate discrimination. You may think you have no influence, you do. Use your voice to take action, call out any discrimination that you see happening, refuse to be complicit in any cover-up that you see occurring. Do not be afraid to challenge the status quo, take action.
Structural racism is real, for things to change people have to be willing to take the first step to dismantle it. If you are the person responsible for writing policies and procedures within your organisation, think about reviewing them to ensure that there isn’t any bias in the process. Make people accountable for their actions, I have heard too many cases where people have been discriminated against and the perpetrator has been let off, and on occasion been moved to other divisions of the organisation.
Organisations who market themselves as diverse organisations, win awards and on occasion present seminars about inclusion, often forget, their employees are not likely to stay quiet for too long about how they have been treated. There have been some high profile cases where this has happen. It is time that organisations become advocates for positive action to end discrimination. If you are an ally to those who are being discriminated against, ask yourself, what more can I do.