Well, to start, let’s talk about what an ally isn’t.
- An ally is NEVER a name you can claim yourself.
- It is not a badge or a pin that we can wear.
- It is not a status we give ourselves.
Why can’t we call ourselves allies? Allyship is a verb, and is an ongoing action. When you focus on your “allyship” as opposed to just labeling yourself an ally, it forces you to look at what work you are actually doing to support BIPOC.
So, why did we name ourselves Newtown Allies For Change? Our name refers to the work we do, not the members who join us. Our mission is to center BIPOC through community engagement and education, it is not to give people ally status and pats on the back. Our work is ongoing, and claiming that any one of our members has reached “ally level” means we are done with the work, and no one person is ever done with their ally journey.
There is always more to learn, more educational opportunities to dive into, and more self reflection that we can take part in to show allyship and that we are working in solidarity with BIPOC to create a better Newtown for all.
How can I practice allyship?
- Recognize that racism is not an issue of the past, but rather an ongoing issue that needs to be addressed.
- Research, read, and repeat (educating yourself is THE most important, and it is ongoing).
- Listen to what BIPOC in Newtown are telling you, and ask to support where you can.
- Amplify the voices and messages of BIPOC. Speak up when you hear racism (no matter how uncomfortable it may be).
How can I practice allyship in Newtown?
- Join our leadership team to help make change in our town! Send us an email to find out more: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Participate in the book discussions at the C.H. Booth Library.
- Get involved at the town level (attend meetings, write emails) and make sure our representatives are supporting BIPOC.
- Participate in the educational opportunities created by our Learning Committee (book discussions, readings, projects).
- SPEAK UP when you hear something racist in town and let others know where you heard it.
- Find out who is running for local town positions and which candidates do and do not support our mission and vote in every town election.
What are some of the pitfalls that happen in allyship and how do I avoid them?
- White Fragility – discomfort and defensiveness on the part of a white person when confronted with information about racial inequality and injustice
- Tone Policing – the action or practice of criticizing the angry or emotional manner in which a person has expressed a point of view, rather than addressing the substance of the point itself
- White Silence – “when people with white privilege stay complicity silent when it comes to issues of race and white supremacy” – Layla Saad
- White Saviorism – “the belief that people with white privilege have an obligation to “save” BIPOC from their supposed inferiority and helplessness” – Layla Saad
- Optical Allyship – making a statement for showing solidarity for mere appearances, without doing any actual work to make change
To do this work effectively (and to not harm the work), it is important that you understand common pitfalls. If you want to learn more about how to avoid taking part in any of the pitfalls above (and many others), please take the time to read Layla Saad’s book Me and White Supremacy, and be sure to participate in every journaling question at the end of each chapter. Layla does a great job helping the reader dive into each concept, and gives you a chance to see how you may be complicit in each, and how to make changes moving forward.
Create the change the world needs by creating change within yourself.Layla Saad
It is so easy in this work to point your finger outward, and see the change that needs to happen in others and in society in general, but the most important thing you can do as an ally is to never stop educating yourself. There are so many great resources out there from books and articles to documentaries and podcasts. View our ally resources to find the one for you and get started on your educational journey to become a stronger ally.
Our local library has also done an amazing job to incorporate social justice in their schedule with webinars, book clubs and activities for youth. Visit the library’s events page and see what they have coming up!