For things to change in a positive direction, people must stand together. People with a higher perceived status can play a role in this change risking their status for a more just world. We call this the practice of authentic allyship.
We can practice authentic allyship by:
- relating to differing in-groups
- creating space in your in-groups for people of other in-groups
- standing behind groups when they are experiencing oppression
- working for the common good with diverse communities.
And, there are lots of groups that need people to act as authentic allies. Can we or should we try to act as authentic allies with everyone?
My experience leads me to say that we can major in allyship with one or two groups and perhaps minor with a few others, but not all. Oppression or dehumanization has pretty consistent patterns. But there are enough variations and complexity in the way it is expressed toward groups that to ally with all groups is not humanly possible.
I know quite a lot about the practice of allyship with American Muslims. I have had great teachers and I have learned from my many mistakes. I know some, but not everything, about how to counter Antisemitism. Quite often countering Islamophobia and Antisemitism happens simultaneously. But I would not consider myself an expert in countering Antisemitism. There are other people, other organizations that are really good at that. I thank the creator for them!
But there is another part of this issue that we must address here: all of these oppression is a part of larger system of dehumanization. How do we work on that larger system when we only major in allyship with one or two groups?
When I work to counter anti-Muslim bigotry, I try very hard to reference all the other forms of dehumanization and oppression at work in the world. I try to honor the common cause all of us have in creating a society that honors human beings and the ecosystem. So, even if I major in one or two, I can respect the work of others majoring in countering other forms of dehumanization.
We may major in allyship with a few groups, but we can be supportive of many groups – and see the interconnections between them. We can still show up when other groups need us, even when it is beyond our field of study.
You and I are limited beings. We also have great capacities. But we don’t need to burden ourselves with the idea that we need to be there for everyone all the time. That is overwhelming and produces a great deal of shame, guilt, and leads to inaction.
Let’s stop refusing to do what we can because we can’t do everything.
Just begin to relate to the groups around you that are experiencing some forms of oppression. Get to know and love them. Be loved and be known by them. Explore how you can act as an authentic ally. Give thanks for those working to support other groups – remember we are all on the same, human, team.