From One Survivor to Another

November 11, 2011

Rules for Being an Ally (updated)


(It should be noted that although this is directed mostly towards privileged, cis, hetero, middle class white people, that these things still apply to anyone who wishes to understand a group that they do not belong to. Privilege works in many different, intersecting ways, and we all have different forms of it, myself included.)

  • You cannot name yourself as an ally. Only other people in the group can.
  • Being an ally is not a one-time event; it is a constant state of being, and it can be revoked at any time if you do hurtful or problematic things.
  • You will never be able to completely understand or know what it is like to live as someone of another identity or group. 
  • Every person from a certain identity or group comes from a unique and different experience. There’s always exceptions, so try not to make assumptions.
  • Cultures and ways of living cannot be defined or understood in a few days or even months, and definitely not by a few simple qualities. It can take a lifetime to understand. To think otherwise is insulting.
  • Not everything can be known by talking or reading; some things can only be understood through first-hand experience.
  • No one person is the representative of all people of the group. Ever.
  • Having a friend who is a member of a group does not automatically make it impossible for you to do hurtful or problematic things.
  • Most people are not looking to be “helped” or “saved”, and in fact it’s actually pretty insulting, because it implies that you know better or that they need you.
  • It is probably true that you need them more than they need you.
  • You are not entitled to entry into groups which you do not belong to.
  • You are not entitled to the use of vernacular, reclaimed slurs, or other words which belong to another group.
  • It is usually better to listen than to speak.
  • If it feels like you are being personally attacked or that people of minority groups are asking for special treatment, it’s probably because your hurtful, dominant privilege has been normalized as acceptable, and not because they are being “reverse” ______ist or ______-supremacist.
  • If someone calls you out for doing something hurtful, instead of defending yourself, listen to them. No one is perfect, and that’s okay.
  • If someone gets angry, it is usually for a good reason. Arguments and discussions are not about “winning” or “losing”, but rather, compromise and understanding. If you are always trying to be right, you’ll never get anywhere.
  • Expect to feel awkward, uncomfortable, like you don’t belong, and even that you are not welcome. Remember that for some people, this is what they have to deal with every day.
  • If you are uncomfortable and don’t know what to do, tell them how you feel and ask them what you should do. But don’t expect any easy answers, or for that feeling to instantly go away.
  • You cannot make changes unless you are willing to change yourself as well.
  • Being an ally means going out of your way to learn about different issues, even if they don’t apply to you personally. This may take extra energy or effort, but remember that other people have to do this every day just to survive.
  • Remember that not everyone has the luxury of picking and choosing when or how they are exposed to situations of power, privilege, and difference. Some people have to carry this with them no matter where they go or what they do.
  • Start to question your most basic assumptions: definitions of correct speech/grammar, mannerisms, politeness, methods of communication, objective fact, and even right/wrong or justice/injustice are probably different than yours. 
  • Remember to always seek the motives behind systems: Who benefits the most here? Who has the most power or control? Who funds it? Are the people in charge true representatives? Do the people in these systems even have an interest in serving these minority groups? How long has it been like this? 
  • Remember that many of the social, cultural, and political systems that you rely on (the judicial system, medical science, hard science, sociology, philosophy, the arts, etc) are not always seen as trustworthy. In fact, a lot of people have good reason to be suspicious of these systems.
  • Just because something has always worked for you does not mean that it will work for others.

updated with even more stuff. i hope it’s useful.

  1. all-of-my-rage reblogged this from privileged-person
  2. iamarevolutionary2 reblogged this from privileged-person
  3. privileged-person reblogged this from theconcealedweapon
  4. originsofswank reblogged this from theconcealedweapon
  5. planetclaire-extraordinaire reblogged this from theconcealedweapon
  6. basedharuhisuzumiya reblogged this from theconcealedweapon
  7. theconcealedweapon reblogged this from fromonesurvivortoanother
  8. misssunshine23 reblogged this from xthread
  9. beowulfstits-archive reblogged this from borienlaluna and added:
    bah humbug, prescriptivist. oh wait it’s from 3 months ago. Whatever.
  10. aimsme reblogged this from acafenfan
  11. acafenfan reblogged this from jackpendragon
  12. saucerlike reblogged this from lati-negros
  13. whimsywindy reblogged this from latinosexuality
  14. undertheteacup reblogged this from fromonesurvivortoanother
  15. borienlaluna reblogged this from latinosexuality and added:
    Ally is a verb, not a noun.
  16. fogo-av reblogged this from latinosexuality
  17. paranoidsuperhero reblogged this from lati-negros
  18. lati-negros reblogged this from latinosexuality
  19. thinx-of-a-xicana reblogged this from latinosexuality
  20. floralfrenzies reblogged this from latinosexuality
  21. shelbyknox reblogged this from latinosexuality
  22. latinosexuality reblogged this from fromonesurvivortoanother and added:
    Rules for Being an Ally (updated)