Being an ally means many things. It starts with reflecting on one's own identity, and on society's dominant identities. The next step is recognizing others' identities and the ways those identities are privileged or marginalized in society. Allies are willing to see these differences and to make an effort to promote equity -- eliminating "otherness" even while acknowledging difference. Allies do not speak for or over the communities they support -- they stand with them. It's hard, it takes practice, but it makes for genuine community.
The idea of allyship is not about intent or feelings . . . feeling bad about oppression isn't allyship. Roxanne Gay notes, in the essay cited below:
"Black people do not need allies. We need people to stand up and take on the problems borne of oppression as their own, without remove or distance. We need people to do this even if they cannot fully understand what it's like to be oppressed for their race or ethnicity, gender, sexuality, ability, class, religion, or other marker of identity. We need people to use common sense to figure out how to participate in social justice."
Gay explains in her essay that she came to this understanding after a conversation with Ta Nahesi Coates who told her, "I think one has to even abandon the phrase 'ally' and understand that you are not helping someone in a particular struggle; the fight is yours."
Gay, Roxanne, 2016. On Making Black Lives Matter. Marie Claire [online] Available at: https://www.marieclaire.com/culture/a21423/roxane-gay-philando-castile-alton-sterling/
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