In our recent course, The Practice of Authentic Allyship, I told the group that I do not want to be called an ally. Allyship is a verb, not a noun. It is an activity not an identity.
The only identity I want to claim is that I am a human being, in relationship with all human beings and all the earth. When people claim allyship as an identity several dynamics are unleashed.
First, if being an ally is our identity, we have a harder time accepting feedback about how to do it better. Instead of being invited to make a change we can see our very self at risk. And so we get defensive and closed and become ineffective.
Second, if being an ally is our identity, we have turned, from the very beginning, the group we are standing with into an instrument. Our allyship is not really about them, but about us. It really continues a process of dehumanization, only this time we expect a thank you from them while using them to feel better.
Third, if being an ally is our identity, what happens to us when the group no longer needs us? We might be so bought in to our identity as an ally that we might try to keep the group in a weakened position.
Allyship is a verb. It is a practice that we do when we are moved to place a human beings who are being dehumanized in some way as the center of our universe. Standing with and behind them, we help others to do the same until we all stand with one another as equals.
We will be holding our three week course again soon. Go to www.pathsnetwork.org to learn more.