Allyship has mutual benefits for all involved. Inclusion, safety, and social justice are values that we can all promote. Here are 7 strategies to get you started on the path to allyship. These tips are generalizable, and may be useful in a variety of contexts.
1. A little critical thinking goes a long way. Look out for:
• Overly generalized descriptions, i.e. “…all _________ people are fisherman.”
• Accentuation of the negative, i.e. “_________ people rarely go to university” as opposed to “…_________ communities have many established businesses and many children take the opportunity to learn the family businesses when they finish high school.”
• Assumptions or spurious conclusions. Ask yourself is it selected experience or perhaps correlation presented as causal information? i.e. “…_________ people spend all their time in their sheds. They even drink and socialize in them. They must be worried that someone is going to steal their stuff. There is probably a lot of crime in _________ communities.”
• Unqualified perspectives, i.e. “I met a _________ person at the airport and he told me that, so I know about _________ problems.”
• Factual information versus opinion, i.e. “Stats Canada reveal that unemployment rates are 2% higher in out port _________ communities” versus “_________ don’t want to work.”
• Fundamental arbitration error. Are the personal traits of the person’s group being emphasized more than their environmental context? i.e. “_________ people have no self-esteem because they live in decrepit houses.”
• Self-serving statements, i.e. “Social programs for _________ children are a waste of my tax dollars.”
Remember, if it sound negative, disrespectful, or mean, then it probably is a stereotype.
2. Recognize that there are cultural differences (including nuances, understandings, and social systems) to consider when interpreting behaviour. Remember that a firm hand shake and direct eye contact have different meanings across cultures.
3. Approach with a cautious respect, but understand that people make mistakes in the learning process. Offended people may be more likely to excuse those mistakes that are acknowledged as such. i.e. “I am not sure I am familiar with _____. I’m I pronouncing it right?”
4. Use the terms that people have identified for themselves. Many labels have external origins and no relevance to the people they are meant to describe. Many more are offensive because they categorize people by a single trait (often negative).
5. Do not refer to people by ‘Race.’ Race is an outdated concept and has no place in forth going academic discussions. When referring to a group’s common experience or attributes use terms such as heritage, culture, ethnicity, ancestry, nationality, etc.
6. Exercise humility. Adopt the learner role and do some research. Things are not always as they appear from the outside and there is much to be shared and discovered between cultures. View things from multiple perspectives to open yourself up to a wider understanding. Humility means reminding ourselves:
• Just because I do not understand something doesn’t mean it is not understandable.
• Just because I do not like something doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have value.
• Just because I haven’t seen it doesn’t mean it’s not going on.
• Just because it is not consistent with my experience doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
7. Be kind.