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“On Being an Ally and Social Justice”

January 3, 2010

Dumi Lewis wrote a great guest post at Racialicious about how he understands himself – a middle class, heterosexual African-American man – in relationship to the feminist movement, as a person of privilege and an ally:

I tend to prefer to be known as an ally when working against oppression but still oppressing. To me, being an ally is about much more than advocacy on behalf of a group or interests that may not, on their face, appear to be your own. Being an ally is about a commitment to social justice grounded in an understanding of one’s self. To me, the most important element to allyhood is the abilityrequirement of reflexivity. First, we must interrogate our own privilege and power. Second, an ally must listen carefully to the conditions and needs of the group or individuals they are attempting to align with and define his or her work from there. Third, we must become comfortable with outsider status. It’s perfectly fine to not have full ownership of a struggle, in fact no one expects you to be a perfect proxy, but you are expected to hold your own. Fourth, we must be comfortable with being wrong and getting pushed to rethink our beliefs. Being committed to a thing does not mean you see all sides of it. We must be open to being challenged for the better. From this point, an ally can begin the work of advocating and more importantly supporting the efforts of others and themselves. If you believe in social justice work, you realize that being an ally to a cause that you don’t see “directly” affecting your life is still intimately tied to other interlocking forms of oppression.

Read the whole thing – it’s challenging, thought-provoking, and affirming.

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