Being an Ally Can Be Hard
If you have committed to Allyship and are working toward an equitable world, it isn’t easy.
I recently ran a workshop on equity, diversity, and inclusion with another consultant here at Mud and Lotus. We got a question that stuck with me and I have wanted to write about it since. It wasn’t the question that really stuck, it was what came up for me.
The gentleman asking the question wanted to know how he can influence others to be better allies and to change their behaviors. Specifically, how can they recognize that they are not attracting diverse clients because they only cater to White wealthy people in their advertising.
Walking the Walk
I let him know that working for real inclusion and equity will not be popular, but that if he does his best within his sphere of influence, he can model what equitable practices are. He will have to educate himself and find people not fitting the White, cisgender norm to support him when he needs help. I told him to be careful not to depend on these individuals because this is a personal journey and BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and differently abled people can get fatigued always “educating” others.
The warning I gave him, though, was a warning for all. People, especially White people, will get defensive and argue with him. As he begins to use his White male privilege, people will challenge him, but he can handle it. The only thing you can do is imagine yourself doing all the things that lead to a more equitable world and then do them.
“People, especially White people, will get defensive and argue with him. As he begins to use his White male privilege, people will challenge him, but he can handle it.”
“It was hurtful at first, but having people in my life who refuse to have empathy for the struggle that BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and differently abled people go through is not my idea of a life fully lived.”
Be Prepared for Pushback
When you commit to Allyship, you will start to get pushback from certain people. Personally, I haven’t always handled the pushback well. I didn’t always have the right tools for the animosity that I faced when people started to understand that I was a fighter for equity. And when I say people, I mostly mean my White family members. I have lost a few.
The combativeness that I experienced included:
- A relative who told me that she felt sorry for my husband and kids that I was in their lives.
- Another relative who told me to come to his house and fight him after I called him and his wife out on saying things that could be seen as racist.
- A close relative who stopped speaking to me when I told them that saying “all lives matter” might offend people so there really is no reason to say it.
Needless to say, I don’t have these relatives in my life anymore. I’ve learned a little more about having these conversations since then. I hope to spare you some strife, but honestly, I don’t really miss any of the people above. It was hurtful at first, but having people in my life who refuse to have empathy for the struggle that BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and differently-abled people go through is not my idea of a life fully lived.
Getting it From All Sides
A hard situation to face is the understanding that I am not doing this correctly all the time. There are people I feel I am fighting for who do not want me here in this space. I know that I can also do harm if I try to be a “White Savior” and take over spaces. Stepping back and allowing others to lead isn’t easy when you are raised a world that conditions people into a competitive place of lack and jealousy.
There are times when I belong nowhere. I’ve had to be okay with this. My BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and differently-abled friends have had to be VERY alone a lot and my loneliness is a drop in the bucket compared to what they’ve experienced. Belonging nowhere is a great place to explore your values and what you stand for. It’s also a great place to become friends with yourself.
If someone doesn’t want your support or doubts your intentions, that’s okay. Walk away and continue your journey. Continue to educate yourself and find your own support system.
If you want to learn more about some tools to deal with the backlash, go to my next post here.
“There are times when I belong nowhere. I’ve had to be okay with this.”