Social Justice Corner: Become an ally through conversation

Asha Alexander, Contributing Writer

This week’s topic is about being a better ally in relation to the Allegheny community and the larger one we’ll be part of when we leave. In the light of discussions about police brutality, Ferguson, and the injustices against black and brown people, conversations with people can be stressful. A part of being a good ally is seeking information for yourself , respectfully listening and absorbing what others give you.
So with this in mind the Social Justice Corner seeks to give people helpful resources on being a better ally.
Let go of unproductive reactions. Notice and let go of feelings that interfere with one’s ability to listen to what someone is saying

Listen. Focus on understanding what someone is telling you even though though it may be hard emotionally. Ask questions to make sure you understand their reaction.

Receive and change perspective. Always welcome the information as a gift and believe it is a benefit to receive it. Try to look at situations from your perspective as well as theirs.

Problem solve. Take responsibility for identifying ways that everyone could change actions. Do not assume that everyone should or will help.
Integrate new behavior. Choose different behaviors for future circumstances because you believe it is important for you to do so, not just because you are afraid of being confronted again.
Now that we covered how to handle one side of the dialogue, its important to know how to respond when being challenged on issues of poor allyship and oppressive behavior.

Don’t tone police. It is not your right to dictate how someone should react to their oppression.

Don’t demand a detailed explanation. Asking for an explanation is not always harmful. Know, however, when you do this, you are asking the person to justify their call out and can be extremely exhausting so look to other resources as well. Don’t use this as a way to derail, start an argument or discredit the other person.

Don’t get defensive or attack. When someone points out something crappy you’ve done, it’s about their needs and how they’re feeling hurt. Enthusiastic reactions of self-defence, for example, “Well that’s your fault!” can feel like an attack to someone who’s made themselves vulnerable by pointing out something careless you’ve done or said.

Don’t claim it was a joke. Stating, “I was only kidding,” gives off the impresion that the person has no sense of humor or are taking things too seriously.

Don’t take it personally or be consumed with shock if you’re called out. Calling out is a way for people to educate others on how systems of oppression operate on a day to day, individual level.

Don’t trivialize or create a token. Do not seek support from other more “friendly” target group members to reassure yourself that you are being unreasonable and unfair.

Don’t assume the person calling you out is just “looking to get offended”. Chances are, the person who’s calling you out isn’t doing so as a fun hobby.

Understand. Being oppressive is not the same as being offensive or hurting feelings. The damage you may have perpetuated is part of a larger system of oppression.

Realize. Your intent is irrelevant when it comes to whether you were oppressive or not.

Understand intersectionality. For example, just because you are oppressed by classism, doesn’t mean you lack male privilege. Do not abuse this to derail the other person’s concerns.

Follow the four A’s of accountability. Acknowledge the damage, apologize genuinely, a mend, act in ways that are different from before.

By working on oppression reduction and being the best ally you can be, we can better our community. By identifying these things in ourselves, we can create changes.
If you wish to further the discussion, the CIASS office is lcoated in room 308 of the Campus Center.