Inclusive Language Series: Defining Allyship

Allyship: what it is and what it isn’t

Ally: to unite or form a connection or relation between

Folks who support a marginalized community may refer to themselves as an ally. While allies are important to the advancement of equitable reform, oftentimes allyship is a feel-good, self-proclaimed title. Allyship is a title that should be earned through ongoing advocacy, which is difficult and uncomfortable work.

Being an ally is prioritizing the humanity of marginalized communities over your desire to be likable. Allyship is challenging societal norms by speaking out against processes and behaviors that marginalize and denigrate people within marginalized communities. It means using your power and privilege to amplify the voices of the oppressed.

Examples of what allyship looks like

  • Speaking out in the workplace about homophobic policies/practices
  • Confronting a friend when they mock someone’s accent
  • Addressing a peer who purposefully misgenders someone living in their community
  • Holding yourself accountable when you make a mistake and not expecting praise for doing so

Being an ally is more than simply accepting an identity/community and believing they have the right to exist. That is the minimum. Allyship is also not synonymous with being a “good person”. Even when you are well-intentioned, you are going to make mistakes. When you mess up, own up to it and make a commitment to do better. We are all a work in progress.

Reflection Questions

  • Are you an ally? If so, for what communities/identities? What have you done to advocate for these communities?
  • If you want to be an ally, what can you do moving forward to earn this title?

Upcoming Holidays & Observances:

  • January 26: Republic Day of India recognizes the date when the constitution of India came into law in 1950, replacing the Government of India Act of 1935. This day also coincides with India’s 1930 declaration of independence.
  • Jan 27: International Holocaust Remembrance Day to remember the victims of the Holocaust; the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp in 1945 and UN Holocaust Memorial Day.