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Ally Basic Training Part 2: Acknowledge

August 9, 2015

Ally Basic Training

Acknowledge that as an ally you are, by definition the beneficiary of a system designed to benefit you and denigrate the marginalized. That doesn’t mean that everything is super plus plus perfect for you or that you are not impacted by other aspects of marginalization. It just means that if you are a part of a marginalized group you aren’t an ally to that group because, you know, you’re already a part of it.

As such, you view the world through a veneer of privilege. Please note that I did not end that sentence with “and you’re a horrible person.” This is not a value judgement. It’s just a fact.

Acknowledge that your desire to help and to learn is less important than the mental and emotional well being of the marginalized. As such, you will not always be welcomed into marginalized spaces. Even if you are welcomed, that welcome may be conditional upon you proving that you know how to act right.

And that is perfectly OK because this is not about you or your comfort. It’s about the marginalized and if you can’t make it about them and keep it about them then you are wrong and you need to return to Step 1.

Otherwise you are wrong and, you know, not an ally.

Acknowledge that your privilege is going to cause you to make mistakes. It’ll be easier for you to address them if you understand they are going to happen, no matter what.

Acknowledge that if you were raised as a nice white middle class liberal, you were probably taught that your dual goals were tolerance and colorblindness. Both of those tenants are aspects of White Supremacy. Reject them.

The culture that you grew up in worked hard to convince you that you are normal, that your experiences and your understanding of how the world works is true, and that your method of interaction with that world, a method based on privilege, is the correct way to go about things. Your world view is true and by definition all other world views are not.

All of that, that I just wrote up there in the previous paragraph? It is wrong and you are going to have to acknowledge that in order to be a good ally.

You will say and do things that are hurtful, offensive, and just plain wrong. And you will be called out on that behavior. That is the moment when you reach for the previous entry in this series and STOP. That is the moment when you listen. That is the moment when you may feel as if you are being told that water is dry and the sky is down. It’s OK. That feeling is called cognitive dissonance and it is what is supposed to happen when your mind expands to assimilate new facts.

Take a moment. Take several moments. Take as many moments as you need to avoid getting defensive and ruining a learning experience by getting all up in your feelings.

Once again, it’s not about you. If your reaction to being called on problematic behavior or even just hearing the truth about the culture that oppresses the marginalized, is to take offense or to make sure everyone knows that you’re not like that…you are actively being like that. Stop it. Return to Step 1

Embrace that feeling of discomfort, otherwise you’re wasting everyone’s time. .

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