Wednesday, March 2, 2011

How to be an Ally

One of the things I hear/read regularly in both the adoption related world and the race related world is that as parents and people of privilege, we need to act as allies. Which sounds really great.  Except I've never deeply understood what that means or how to go about becoming an ally (which doesn't stop me from trying - as random and misguided as I maybe).

This week I came across an article forwarded by someone on the Coalition of Anti-Racist Whites (CARW) list serve. The article, entitled Interrupting the Cycle of Oppression: the Role of Allies as Agents of Change, contains the definitions and explanations I crave to better understand what being an ally means and some steps I can take to get to the point where I would actually start to believe I lived my life as an ally to my family and friends instead of just another well-meaning white/straight/non-adopted/able/middle class person.

I hope you'll read it and join me in working to become agents of change.  Post in the comments, I'd love to hear what you've learned or enjoyed about the article.

In addition to grooving on the content, the writing style pleases me.  The author engaged me immediately and continued to make the topic approachable, enjoyable and interesting. Here's the first bit of it:

 The Role of Allies as Agents of Change 
The Rev. Dr. Andrea Ayvazian 
Many of us feel overwhelmed when we consider the many forms of systemic oppression that are so pervasive in American society today. We become immobilized, uncertain about what actions we can take to interrupt the cycles of oppression and violence that intrude on our everyday lives. One way to overcome this sense of immobilization is to assume the role of an ally. Learning about this role-one that each and every one of us is capable of assuming- can offer us new ways of behaving and a new source of hope. 
Through the years, experience has taught us that isolated and episodic actions - even dramatic, media-grabbing events - rarely produce more than a temporary blip on the screen. What does seem to create real and lasting change is highly-motivated individuals- usually only a handful at first- who are so clear and consistent on an issue that they serve as a heartbeat in a community, steadily sending out waves that touch and change those in their path. These change agents or allies have such a powerful impact because their actions embody the values they profess: their behavior and beliefs are congruent. 

read the rest of the article here: Interrupting the Cycle of Oppression: the Role of Allies as Agents of Change


Von said...

Very interesting that the writer believes that all in a dominant group will not be always in a
dominant group.
Looking at the place of adoptees in this structure I see that they are not in a dominant group and will never been in a dominant group.They do not in America have the same rights as others, suffer stigma and a multitude of other things that ensure non-dominance.

Sara said...

Yes, isn't that interesting?

I've been watching that with my WASP father in law as his health rapidly declines. It occurs to me that having always been at the top of the privilege pile, he has no preparation for the position he is in now. It is obviously a big shock for him. Too bad the potential for understanding and compassion comes so late in the game for him....

Adoption doesn't show up in the article, but you're right this is certainly a place of privilege - and one that is highly discounted. It really makes me mad when people say my daughter is so lucky to be adopted - for some reason we've been getting that a lot lately.