For Those Who Give a Damn, But Don’t Know What To Do

When I was 18 years old, I met a white woman who changed my life. Her name is Barb. She reached out to me as a person, and at a point in my life when I wasn’t yet my best self. She saw my potential, but never treated me like a project--like a black girl to polish up and help be successful in this big university system. She asked for my opinion. She listened when I gave it. Often that opinion was filled with rage against men, white people… She never flinched, and she never left. She heard me and cared about a reality that was not her own lived experience. This is called being an ally

Barb modeled for me what I have come to expect from all others who are my friends: a commitment to ending racism and other forms of oppression where they exist, and not just when yet another black person being murdered is the headline. It means that you understand that racism is not about you “feeling like” you're a racist. If you grew up in the United States (and...

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Cultural Awareness: What Allies Do With Privilege

Often the most ardent spokespeople for valuing diversity and creating equity in our systems also possess a determination that is rooted in wanting to help “those disenfranchised people”, or “that marginalized group.” The assumption is that “those ____ people” (fill in the blank: Black, Asian, Gay, differently-abled, etc.) need “our” help.

With all of the best intentions, this perspective—and often the associated “advocacy”—is not the real work of allies, even though it may make us feel like we are.

Think about the last time you were in a meeting and witnessed a person’s contributions being overlooked by those in power at the table. Or listened on as colleagues belittled a colleague who is different from you and them. Or saw a social media post from one of your “friends” that was clearly meant to put down members of another group or with different life experiences.

Then you, because the comments or...

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