We’ve all heard the term "ally," but what does it really mean?
With the Black Lives Matter movement taking many cities, companies and social networks by storm, many of us are taking a step back and reassessing how we conduct ourselves on a day-to-day basis. As organizations are realizing now that they need to further diversify their spaces, you might be wondering what you can do to make people of color in your environment more comfortable and make the space more egalitarian.
Here are some things you can do to be a good ally to the people around you.
Many women and minorities in the office are familiar with having their ideas minimized, rejected or ignored. When a person of color has a good idea and it seems like it’s been ignored, you can be an ally by repeating it and giving them credit. Although this may seem small, giving your clear support can make a big difference in creating change within your office environment.
2. Lend your voice
More often than not, people of color refrain from voicing an issue that makes them uncomfortable in the office or at school. This can be especially true if they’re one of the only people of color in that environment. They may feel that their feelings will be neglected because it doesn’t concern the majority of the group. If they voice a problem to you, offer your voice to back them up.
This may seem like a no-brainer but listening is one of the easiest and biggest ways you can be of service to your peers who are people of color. Letting them know you can be a safe, loyal and trust-worthy confidant is an invaluable form of support in any space. Listening to these problems and validating them is a form of solidarity. Just because you haven’t seen problematic behavior happening in the office or classroom yourself doesn’t mean it’s not happening.
4. Inform yourself
Informing yourself is one of the most important parts of being an ally. By staying up-to-date with the current political climate and its painful history, you allow your colleagues or friends to feel less alienated. For many people of color, it can be exhausting feeling the need to regularly explain the history and motives behind this civil rights movement.
Being a mentor is crucial in any office or school setting. For many people of color, it’s not easy to come by supportive advocates in work or learning spaces. If you’re in a position of power and know a colleague who hasn't received the recognition they deserve, advocate for what they have brought to the table. Just getting their name out there, and doing this consistently, can effect change and eventually help bring greater diversity within leadership roles at your organization. Try to incorporate people from diverse backgrounds in events, business proposals and other career-building opportunities.
6. Be an upstander
If you see discriminatory behavior at work or at school, report it. If someone uses inappropriate language or slurs, even as a joke, call them out, and educate them on how their behavior is hurtful and negatively impacts the work environment. If this kind of behavior continues, seek out help from an HR representative or school administrator.
7. Show up where it counts
Register to vote and show up to the polls! Part of effecting change is fulfilling your civic duty to participate in the political system. If you believe in equality for all, research candidates whose views reflect this as well and make it part of your decision-making process.
Being an ally means using your own privilege to lift up voices that don’t experience the same kind of privileges. Finding the balance between being an ally and virtue signaling can be a difficult balance, so feel free to ask one of your close colleagues or friends how you can be of service to help them not just during this time, but in the future as well.
One of the easiest ways to lend a helping hand is just listening. The more you listen and stay informed on the issues of racial disparity, the more knowledgeable you can be on how to help.