Editor’s Note: Because I’m all hopped up on Dayquil and throat lozenges with a wicked sore throat, Dirty Nerdy and I wrote this article together. So you could consider it “Justified Ginger & Tranny Rage”, except we’re not really raging.
Step 1. Don’t call yourself an ally.
“Ally” is not a self-identified label; it is a label marginalized groups will give to you if they perceive your behaviors to be allied with their interests.
Step 2. Sit Down!
It’s not your turn to stand up right now.
Maybe their personal experience just might outweigh your second-hand experience.
Step 4. Say,”I support you!” and then ask questions.
Ask questions at this point–questions that are specific, cannot be learned from 10 seconds on Google and that are not accusatory.
Good Question: What can I do to make this environment more inviting and open for [insert demographic here].
Bad Question: Why are all you [insert demographic here] so angry?
We’re angry because of bad questions like that!
Step 5. Listen more!!
You can’t ask questions if you’re not going to listen to the answers.
Step 6. Do your own goddamn research.
If you are interested in supporting a marginalized group, research their history. Learn, on your own, what sorts of privileges you might have over that specific group. Learn common microaggressions so you may try to avoid those same mistakes.
If you somehow still manage to upset a marginalized person with a bad question or other microaggressions, and that person is not willing to educate you in the moment, go do your own research. Look at what other people in that group have said about behaviors similar to your own. Always remember: Sit and listen!
Step 7. Be prepared to admit you’re wrong.
When stepping into the spaces of marginalized groups, you will make mistakes. We all do. Be prepared to accept that you have hurt somebody. Remember the rules for apologizing. Marginalized groups can tell when you’re not offering a sincere apology.
If at any point you find yourself using the phrase “But I have a [insert demographic here] friend,” you’re doing it wrong!
Step 8. DO NOT TALK ABOUT YOUR FEELZ!
Being an ally is not about your feelings. Being an ally is not about your personal interests. Being an ally is about being able to set aside your own personal feelings and interests for a while and caring about other people’s feelings and interests for a change. Do not, under any circumstances, talk about your personal privileged feelings in discussions pertaining to the oppression of marginalized groups!
In discussions of race, if you are white, do not talk about that time somebody called you a “Cracker” and it made you feel sad.
If you make a mistake, and members of the marginalized group express anger at you, do not try to turn this into a discussion of your feelings. Remember, this isn’t about you.
Step 9. Do not expect cookies, or praise.
Being an ally is about being a decent human being. Nobody deserves cookies or praise for meeting the lowest possible standards of being a decent human being. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve worked for that marginalized group, or how many nice things you’ve done in the past.
Step 10. Speak up among other privileged people.
When you spend time in spaces dominated by privileged people, speak up against hurtful language and behaviors. It means more coming from you because you are part of the privileged group (psst! That’s one of your privileges!).
Step 11. Do not dismiss identities.
If at any point you use the phrases “we’re all just human,” “we all bleed red,” “labels don’t matter” just be quiet. Labels don’t matter to you because you’re part of the privileged group. Your label is automatically seen as “neutral” or “natural.” Members of marginalized groups don’t get to avoid racism/sexism/homophobia/transphobia/ableism/ageism or other discrimination because they cannot stop being a member of the marginalized group.
It’s very easy for a man, or a white person, or a straight person to go through life never “seeing” discrimination and thus thinking that oppression is over. Those of us who are part of marginalized groups don’t have that privilege. We are oppressed on a daily basis. So, no, labels aren’t useless. They are the concepts that allow us to talk about our experiences. Please respect that.
Step 12. Learn the difference between Oppression and A Minor Inconvenience.
Telling somebody to “lock their door” in order to lower their risk of being burgled is not the same thing as telling women to wear certain clothes, not go out after certain times, not walk around outside alone, not be at home alone, etc in order to potentially avoid being raped*. Locking your door is a minor inconvenience, radically changing your daily habits and routines in order to possibly avoid a violent attack on your person is oppression.
Oppression is something that radically alters your life and often comes in the form of a double standard where you cannot win no matter how you alter your behavior. A minor inconvenience is a one-off happenstance that may have slightly annoyed you but otherwise does not significantly affect your life.
Step 13. Repeat Steps 1-12.
You will never fully understand what it is like to live as the marginalized group (even if you are a member of another marginalized group). To act as an ally, you must continue to be willing to sit down, listen, learn, research and speak up when in privileged spaces.
*These things don’t actually prevent rape though, so there’s that.