Being An Ally
How can we progress compassion, understanding, communication and acceptance in our society? How can we, without speaking for others, stand up to injustice and stand up for what we believe in? Anna Rose and I got together with a few people from our school and asked them for their help and opinions. We were curious about intersectionality and being an ally so we grabbed Carlos Rodriguez, Anthony Hinderman, Lily Moret and Morgen Amalbert.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO BE AN ALLY?
AH: In my opinion, the most effective way to be an ally is to constantly be vigilant in situations of marginalization and to try and make sure that every situation you’re involved in isn't continuing to perpetuate some sort of stereotype. I think we have this idea about what an ally should be and if you don’t fit into those perimeters then you’re not an ally and that’s damaging because we need to start accepting imperfect allies.
The hardest part is if you're a person who has privilege, you're a white male, and you want to foster the voice of a black female...I, as a white male, in this example, can’t be like, “Oh, I’ll write a story about a black female and call it representation.” You’re still in the driver’s seat, you have to take a back seat. You have to be the mechanic who tightens the wheels on her car and lets her drive off. That’s the hardest part, I think, for those in a position of privilege is to take the back seat and allow people who are under privileged decide where we are going next.
LM: The whole point of being an ally is being able to accept your own personal faults when it comes to not knowing and being open to saying, “I’m sorry, can you teach me?”
CR: Being an ally to me means removing the blinders, or at least knowing that the blinders exist and then working to take them off. There's room to be an ally everywhere. If we choose to actively pursue becoming an ally and we work towards helping other people build a foundation for their voice then that’s what becoming an ally is. We have to accept imperfect allies, that’s super important. Being an ally has to become a practice.
It’s also about humanizing people. You forget people are human, you don’t know them, they aren’t real, it’s someone else. You have to realize that everyone is human and take that into account. You forget that they’re another human who is probably going through the same thing you’re going through right now. Empathy is important but also humanize. Make that your action.
What does intersectionality mean to you?
AH: Intersectionality is who you are because of where you come from and all of the things that make you you. It also relates to how you interact with society, and a million other things. Intersectionality is subtle. It regulates all of our interactions. Interacting with each other isn’t something we typically talk about. I think everyone should take a second to realize where they’re from and realize the privilege that they have.
LM: There are a few people who go to these discussions in our school and make sure that intersectionality is what we are talking about rather than the veil of authenticity. The veil of authenticity is what we were talking about when a white man writes for a black women and her experience, the white man writing for a black woman is not necessarily allowing her to have the wheels to drive the car herself.
CR: Intersectionality is having 360-vision and looking at all of the scopes. What it can be is us discussing and removing our biases and looking forward into a more well rounded environment.
LM: There’s so many truths, and you have to understand that your truth is not the only one out there. Sure, you might have some similarities, but then again you may have no idea what the other person has dealt with.
AH: Because we don't have these conversations about how other people think and interact with the world, it’s human nature to assume the way you operate is the right way and the way everyone else operates is wrong.
MA: When I hear intersectionality I think it’s the blending of cultures. It’s also subjective.
LM: There are multiple circles. There’s your gender, sex, spirituality, religion, race, culture and all different things.
MA: It touches on every essence of being different. It’s everything. It emcompasses everything.
Do you think there is a lack of awareness about being an ally?
AH: People assume other people are going to get it without talking about it. People of color or people who are marginalized talk about it with each other and we assume that the people who are privileged are also talking about it, which is a wrong assumption. It’s a conversation most people tend to avoid. Society says we aren’t supposed to talk about this because it makes people uncomfortable.
MA: Where we are in history there are a lot of topics circling. Before, there were key topics and one of those topics was race. But now, we have the topic of gender and sexuality coming into play. We have immigration. That’s a whole new thing. It’s so in everyone’s faces right now especially with the president being so prevalent in the media and that’s why you have to have an opinion right now more than ever.
What do you find to be one of the most frustrating things about discussions with friends, family, acquaintances about culture or politics?
MA: They think you’re accusing them. They get defensive.
AH: The most frustrating thing is navigating with somebody you care about. With a stranger it’s easier. A big part of it is having enough courage to say something. It’s not OK anymore to sit back and let people to be defensive. It’s trying to crack that nut in the most effective way.
LM: Trying not to get into a yelling fight. With your family it’s easy to be your most volatile self, “This is stupid! You’re an idiot!” you can’t do that though.
AH: That’s why people are uncomfortable having these conversations, because they don’t like being upset. You have to bite the bullet and be the bigger person.
MA: The hardest part I find is being the bigger person. You have to have so much patience.
LM: The words you choose are important. You can’t say, “you, you, you.” It has to be from a personal perspective, otherwise the other person isn’t going to take any of the information.
CR: I wish I could be more direct when having conversations and I wish people would be more direct with me. It’s hard to try and explain to them the fear that I have if I’m walking down the hall with my purse, because I’m a “male,” I’m in danger. People who don’t go through that won’t understand and that’s very frustrating.
What is an issue you wish people were more familiar with/Knew more about/educated themselves more about?
CR: Immigration is one. Immigration is such a big thing and people don’t see it, they don’t recognize it. Where I’m from I see people in my immediate reaching distance, next door to me. Being that close to them and knowing that tomorrow they could be completely gone really hurts.
AH: Immigration is a big passion of mine too. People don’t think about immigrants as people. Because they’re doing labor they’re easy to ignore. What makes me so mad is the idea of immigrants as being angry, violent or dangerous people when they’re some of the nicest, most hardworking people in the country. They’re easily forgotten because they’re not technically citizens so they’re easy to not fight for.
CR: Another thing I’m passionate about is conversations regarding gender. I think there's just such a toss over the shoulder regarding gender. How the binary is so ingrained in us. What I mean is why can't we just view people as people and I think it’s part of representation and identification and how people present themselves. People refuse to discuss or acknowledge people in the way that they want to be acknowledged.
MA: An issue that I think intersectionality should highly consider or bring light to is whenever people who don’t have mental illnesses come across someone who does have a mental illness and they’re like how dare you enter my life. The people that don't have a mental illness approach those who do with care. They didn’t want that! They didn’t want your care. But that’s how we approach people who are different. We don’t know how to coexist.
What do you think is the most appropriate way to stay passionate about issues without speaking for someone else?
MA: Know that you’re a visitor in someone’s house.
AH: If you're in the situation to appreciate someone else's story in art, even if it’s not your story, by just going out, appreciating and participating is almost always enough. You don’t have to be the one standing at the forefront and yelling, just being there for others is impactful. If you are someone who is white or of privilege the best thing you can do is use your platform by giving others the opportunity to tell their story.
Especially if you’re in a position of power. Think about television and movies now a days. That’s how people get their ideas for Americans in general, even Americans. Let’s say you’re making a sitcom and you do the standard mom, dad, two kids, in a suburban home. It’s always some white family. The white family is the American example. You don’t even think about it, that’s just middle class America. But the reality is that a large part of middle class America doesn’t actually look like that, and so where are those stories?
LM: Art makes the comfortable uncomfortable and the uncomfortable comfortable. Art isn’t just entertainment, it’s a form and a business too. You can’t just keep the art on the shelf.
CR: I love art for aesthetic sake, I do, I really am that bitch, but in this political climate, it’s high time that we make important art.
MA: We have a lot of voices in our generation, but we have a hard time articulating them. We aren’t at the polls. We need to put our voices to pen and paper. We are full of passion but don’t know how to channel that. People are afraid of change.
LM: You know why? Because we are afraid of failure. We are fundamentally afraid of failing. Fail, because that’s when you learn.