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What is Allyship? 


Allyship is a proactive, ongoing, and incredibly difficult practice of unlearning and re-evaluating, in which a person of privilege works in solidarity and partnership with a marginalized group of people to help take down the systems that challenge that group's basic rights, equal access, and ability to thrive in our society. 

  • allyship is not an identity—it is a lifelong process of building relationships based on trust, consistency, and accountability with marginalized individuals and/or groups of people.

  • allyship is not an award—our work is not self-seeking or self-gratifying. We don't get a cookie or a gold star for trying.

  • allyship is not for the faint of heart— Did we mention allyship is hard? For many of us, it might be one of the hardest things we do. Allyship is also not for those who aren't ready. Being "ready" means you've done the work of not only educating yourself, but healing (more on that here). You don't want to show up sick or unprepared for an important day on the job if you can avoid it. Same applies here for the struggle for social justice. Better to take the day, learn more, ask allies you know for help, and take care of your own wounds beforehand.

  • allyship works from a place of solidarity NOT identity— when you're new to allyship and all the concepts around racial justice, white allies may want to speak and operate based on their personal identity, experiences, and day to day interactions. This is a good place to start from. The ultimate goal is for white alies to have a much broader and critical understanding of structures of power and the systems of oppression and how they can be dismantled alongside people of color.  

  • allyship is not a performance— our very public online and social media lives make it really tempting to "show" just how down we are by calling out the actions of others, trolling, or engaging in conversations on behalf of the marginalized group. Allies don't represent or speak for the marginalized group. But we can always speak to others in our own group about ways they can challenge their privilege and work toward solidarity.

Who Can Practice Allyship?


Everyone can be an ally. No matter what groups we may belong to or have been born into, we each have certain benefits in this society that make it harder (if not impossible) for groups without those benefits to get equal access and justice. 

For example: An able-bodied person can be an ally to a people with disabilities; a man can be an ally to women, a white woman can be an ally to people of color; a straight person can be an ally to LGBTQIA people; an economically privileged person can be an ally to low-income communities; and a cisgender person can be an ally to transgender people.  And so on and so on.


Allyship is not about playing misery poker about who has had it worse than who or creating divisions among groups. It is about fundamentally understanding and recognizing how we move through the world and how we can help dismantle inequalities alongside those that face unjust systems that prevent them from ever having the safety and opportunities you may have.

People have Shamed Me or Shut Me Down WHen I'm Just Trying My Best To Understand.

Ideally, we would live in a world and a society where we could all have loving conversations about race and other social justice issues. If we did live in such a world we would likely not be in the current mess we're in. It sucks that individuals have felt shut down or shamed. Be sure to reflect on why you felt the way you did and if your own guilt, fear, or privilege got in the way. All feelings are legitimate. But don't shut down. Instead, continue to work on your own understanding. 

Remember, this is not a personal attack against you but against a system that creates "haves" and "have nots".The reality is that many individuals and communities are justifiably angry and pained by consistent oppression that has meant loss of precious life by violence, poverty, political and social neglect, and barriers to full belonging in our society. There is also deep frustration that so many have been blind to or have outright denied the struggles of people of color. If someone kept telling you you were crazy and your problems were imaginary, wouldn't you be just a wee bit mad? Now multiply that over generations and generations of being told over and over that you were less valuable, your life less important, your pain imaginary, your struggle insane. 

It's unfair to ask these communities and their members to "calm down" or to go off on the sidelines so we can all return to our business as usual. Business as usual in our country has been hate. And hate always fuels hate. So use spaces like this site, or community resources available to help you to unpack your feelings and keep it moving so you can be part of  fostering meaningful dialogue and change. 


Don't panic. But be sure you take the time to learn what these words mean and how millions of Americans identify themselves and the communities they belong to. These identities and the words that describe them are becoming more and more common in our mainstream culture. Their use has nothing to do with being "politically correct", being "divisive", or making you feel badly because you don't know the words. It's as simple as taking the time to learn someone's name and the way they prefer to be called. You wouldn't want to be called by a completely different name over and over again, would you? So, the same thing applies here. There's also a history and continued practice in our country of misnaming, using derogatory or hurtful language, or slurs to describe people who are different from us. Using the words people prefer to describe themselves is a simple and important way to truly get us past those practices. There's a lot in a name. 

Communities have every right to change the words that describe them over time. Those words may be different than the "official" words used on things like census forms or government documents. Always check with the community you are working to support through your allyship about what words they use and what words they feel comfortable with you using to describe who they are. You can also listen and pick up on the words communities use in the media or when speaking to others about their communities and causes. But never take it personally if someone corrects you or says they prefer something else. Don't let "PC" language be a barrier to learning more, engaging with people different from you, and speaking up about injustice. 

Below are a  two glossaries to help you get started:

America Healing's Glossary of Racial Equity 

 University of Massachusetts Lowell Office of Multicultural Affairs 

  • What Is Allyship?
  • Who Can Practice Allyship?
  • Help! I Don't Get All This "Politically Correct" Language!
  • People have shut me down when I'm just trying to understand
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