So, you want to use your privilege to be an ally for those that are marginalized and oppressed?
You want to call people out on social media? Stand up for a cause?
But FIRST, pause... take a breath.
There's a lot more to being an ally than just yelling at people and telling them they're wrong.
There are many things to consider when it comes to being an effective ally. Of course it's important to educate yourself about what you're speaking to. It's not helpful to make misinformed arguments. So, learn and keep learning. If you’re passionate about the cause, there’s a lot that you can educate yourself on. You don't need to know and memorize everything to be an ally. Sometimes it's helpful to know where to access accurate information so you can point others in the right direction.
Something that I want to quickly shed light on that is often overlooked is effective communication.
This is something I first started noticing especially in the vegan activist realm.
Some vegan activist are fantastic at educating people and sharing their knowledge in respectful ways that help others understand what they're trying to help them see.
There are other vegan activists that are outright abusive with their language and actions.
It's the latter category of activism that often triggers defensiveness and ridicule in the people they're speaking to. Often these strategies aren’t taken seriously and make other people from the movement look bad as they claim to be a representative of the same community. That’s not to say that violence isn't ever an effective strategy, but it more often results in a failed attempt to get others to understand and can begin to cause more problems.
Yelling at and abusing others because they don't see things your way often perpetuates violence and the system of punishment for the purpose of results and change.
It makes sense that many people resort to this because many of us have been indoctrinated by a system that uses abuse tactics (threats, emotional abuse, manipulation, physical violence) in order to facilitate change. We see this in parenting styles, the school system, the legal system, in works places, police systems ect.
As advocates for positive change, we can and we MUST do better.
It is not helpful to bully, harass, threaten or outright abuse people into changing. These strategies are remnants of colonization and they perpetuates a cycle of abuse.
It’s time to dispel the colonized mind. We cannot do that if we continue to use strategies that reflect the attitudes and actions of colonizers.
If you don’t know anything about colonization from a non colonizer perspective, this is something you can begin to educate yourself on.
We need to learn to harness our anger and use it to fuel our desire for change. First you might need to take time to process and work through your own anger before spewing it all over people that have no idea what you're talking about.
As an ally, it is your responsibility to do this inner work so that you do not tarnish the name of a movement.
Learn about effective communication. There are many amazing examples available. This doesn't mean you have to dull your passion, it means that you work on taming your ego so that you can be an effective communicator for the cause. Meditation and mindfulness help.
We often aren't able to be effective communicators when we're caught up in the heat of our own emotions. Emotions are beautiful and helpful, but they need to be tended to lovingly first.
Check in with yourself...
are you choosing to respond to someone because you genuinely want to support the cause and educate as an ally?
are you triggered and using the experience as an opportunity to discharge your emotions, act out, get a rise out of people and prove you’re right?
Being intolerant of social injustice does not mean that you now get to assume the role of abuser.
If that seems to be happening for you, there may be unprocessed trauma to tend to. It can be helpful to seek support through counselling to work through your own experience so you're not inadvertently putting yourself in a situation that starts to play out your own pain narratives.
Being an ally isn’t about serving our own ego’s need to be right. It’s about helping creating meaningful and lasting change that promotes more harmony and compassion in the world.
We don't have to be perfect. We don't have to be quiet. We don't have to sugar coat.
We can be firm, passionate, intense, loud and even angry without acting in abusive ways.