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A Beginners Guide to Being an Ally

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By Emma Raho

The murder of George Floyd has brought a lot of extremely important issues into a global spotlight. Amongst many other things, his death has highlighted the need for all of us to take the time to listen, learn, understand, and take action. 

The rioting and protests have been a contentious subject, however supporting PoC, the rainbow community, feminism or any marginalised group isn’t just about getting out in the streets. Something we can all aim for is becoming a genuine ally. An ally is someone who, although not directly a part of a particular community or group, supports that community.

The most well known kind of ally is a rainbow ally – a straight cis person who supports those in the LGBTQI+ community. However allies can be found in most minority or marginalised group. You may already be an ally and not realise, but just in case, here’s a few simple guidelines to make sure your good intentions are coming over in the right way.

  1. Listen. It’s only natural to have your own theories and information but other people’s lived experiences are more important than your Google searches. It’s impossible to engage with a community without listening in a meaningful way to the people within it.
  2. Respect spaces. When you attend meetings and events within communities you are a guest in that space. Please respect that these places are not about you, they are about others and this is not your moment in the spotlight.
  3. Take action. Make sure any information you give others is correct, the small details matter a lot. If you are able to, create space for PoC and queer people on your platforms to make their voices heard.
  4. Accept your coming from a place of privilege. The privilege of being white, or straight, or a man doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, less of a person or you should feel guilty or apologetic for something over which you have no control. It also doesn’t mean you’ve had an easy time in life – it simply means your gender, ethnicity, or sexuality haven’t been one of the factors in that hardship. 
  5. Understanding the difference between institutional racism/sexism/or discrimination and individual discrimination, bullying, or teasing. “Institutional racism (also known as systemic racism) is a form of racism expressed in the practice of social and political institutions. It is reflected in disparities regarding wealth, income, criminal justice, employment, housing, health care, political power and education, among other factors.” This means while white people may experience bullying for being white, straight people may receive disparaging remarks from queer people, or women may make sexist remarks about men (none if this is ok btw, bullying is shitty, don’t do It irrespective of who you are) it’s not supported or normalised by society or history like the reverse is.
  6. Be an ally even when you’re within your own communities. Refuse to play along with homophobic jokes in all straight company, tell people with racist opinions that you don’t agree or don’t engage with the conversation. Just don’t throw your friends under the bus as soon as you’re out of earshot.
  7. Do what you can. While coming a little out of your comfort zone can be empowering, overly high expectations of yourself will inevitably lead to disappointment and upset. If you’re not a confrontational person by nature no one is expecting you to take on your aggressive uncle at Sunday lunch. There are lots of different ways to express support, pick the lane that you feel you’re most effective in. There are many different lanes and all of them valid.
  8. Accept you’ll likely make mistakes and missteps. It happens, no one is perfect. Be prepared to apologise and be flexible enough to learn from it.
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