Becoming an ally is a process of growth where you put your values into action. This is a proactive step in addressing and preventing acts of bias, as you work to end oppression and marginalization by engaging in positive allyship. You may decide to become an ally to several different populations or to one in particular. The Human Rights Campaign Foundation says, “Allies to racial, religious and ethnic minorities have been remarkably effective in promoting positive change in the dominant culture…”

Becoming an Ally

Here are some ways to become a strong, supportive ally…

  • Educate yourself by reading, researching and talking with people who are experiencing oppression and challenges.
  • Get in touch with how you feel about the issues involved.
  • Determine how you feel about yourself and your comfort level when it comes to the pros and cons of being an ally.
  • Listen closely without assumptions.
  • Express opinions and be willing to talk things through.
  • Be prepared to overcome fear and the probability of discomfort sometimes associated with being an ally.
  • Create a welcoming and comfortable environment through the messages your surroundings send.
  • Use inclusive language.
  • Develop a supportive network of other allies.
  • Confront oppressive/inappropriate statements, jokes or slurs. Silence may communicate that you condone such comments.
  • Educate and challenge family, friends and colleagues by sharing information with them.
  • Recognize when it’s time to refer someone to additional resources. You can’t do it all.
  • Maintain a sense of humor.
  • Treat people respectfully and as the unique individuals that they are.

 As an Ally, Recognize That…

  • Many oppressed people are survivors and have a long history of resistance
  • You are good enough and smart enough to be an effective ally
  • Your main purpose is not convincing target group members that you are “on their side” — it’s more about simply being there
  • Being an ally is a no strings attached gig; nobody “owes” you anything
  • Sometimes you’ll receive thanks, but gratitude shouldn’t be an expectation
  • Members of the target group are experts on their own experience; you have much to learn from them!
  • You have a right to be concerned with other people’s liberation issues
  • With that right comes the responsibility to better understand the issues of concern to the target population
  • Acknowledging and apologizing for mistakes is part of the learning curve – just don’t retreat!

Find tangible tools like this and much more in our NEW Campus Bias Prevention and Response Training Tools guide.