10 Ways To Be An Ally To Marginalised Communities

Being an ally to marginalised communities is so much more than just being a decent person. It's also so much more than not doing things. For example, being an ally isn't about not being racist, not being homophobic and not being transphobic. Being an ally is about actively working to dismantle institutions which oppress minorities and supporting them on the journey to equality.
Marginalised groups exist all around us and they experience discrimination, prejudice and oppression in many forms - big and small - each day. The best way we can help eliminate exclusion and ignorance from the world is by being strong allies. This means educating yourself on the privileges you have as someone who isn't part of a marginalised community and attempting to understand the perceptions of oppressed groups, even if you will never be able to fully understand what their hardships feel like.
With so many people in the world who all want different things and with so much diversity with oppressed groups, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Therefore, I've compiled a list of a few simple things which you can do to help you better yourself as an ally. The time to start is NOW.

1) Acknowledge your privilege
It's vital to understand that your experiences will not match up to those of a person from a minority group. Most people have some form of privilege, even those who are oppressed themselves, and, depending on the issue you're trying to tackle will depend on how you use your privilege. For example, you may be gay, meaning you are part of a minority group, however, you may be white, meaning you have white privilege over gay people of colour. Another example may be that you are a woman who is a victim of sexism, however, if you are a cis woman, you have privileges that trans women do not have. It's important to consider your privilege in every situation and it's important that those with the most privileges who do not consider themselves to be part of any minority groups, utilise their voices. It's all about working together.

2) Do not speak over, or on behalf of, marginalised people
Because you do not have the experiences that members of marginalised communities have, you are unable to speak for them. Instead, allow them to speak and tell their own stories but elevate their voices to allow them to be heard. Uplift members of marginalised communities by sharing their work, quotes and perspectives and understand that you are an ally, there to stand by them, not to represent them. When people attempt to shout over oppressed groups rather than listening to what kind of support they need, progress is not made.

3) Be aware that you benefit from their oppression
Because you benefit from the oppression of marginalised communities, it is important for your allyship to not only dismantle marginalisation but also the privileges it grants you, for example, white privilege, straight privilege and cis privileges.

4) Call out your oppressive friends
When people you love and care about are saying things you don't agree with, it can be hard to stand up to them, so, if you can stand up to them, you can stand up to anyone. Because you have privileges that minority groups do not have, your voice is listened to and valued more, therefore, your friends are more likely to listen to you if you try to educate them. Utilise your position and make sure your friends know when they are in the wrong. Explain things to them to help them grow as people.

5) Be respectful of their spaces
Whether it's a club, a support group, a friendship group or something else, try not to invade the spaces of minority groups by being aware that you may not always be welcome. By leaving you out of their space, they aren't wishing to maliciously exclude you, they simply want to create a safe, understanding environment for themselves in which they can share their issues with like minded people. They want spaces to feel secure and familiar.

6) Know that you aren't perfect and be open to accepting correction
Everyone makes mistakes. You'll more than likely say things in life that aren't correct or that may be unintentionally offensive to others. When someone calls you out on this, try not to make it into a big deal. It's okay to get things wrong so long as we listen to why we were in the wrong and use this to grow. Offer a sincere apology when you slip up and move forwards.

7) Don't assume you know everything and take time to listen
There will always be things you don't know so don't assume you have all the answers. One of the best things you can do as an ally is open up your ears and listen to the stories of members of minority groups. Listen to their wants and needs. Be open to learning something new each day so you can constantly evolve.

8) Do what you can - big and small
As an ally, you may not be able to donate millions of pounds to charity or attend a street march and that's okay! Whatever acts of kindness and allyship you do all contribute towards supporting people. Even if the only thing you can do right now is Tweet a hashtag or share a post on Facebook, that is still something. Do the little things often if you're unable to do the big things. And, if you can do the big things, that's great! Ensure you utilise this powerful position you are in to really make a difference where others can't.

9) Don't be a bystander
If you witness discrimination in public, by remaining neutral, you are siding with the oppressor. Approach the victim and ask them if they are okay and what support they need. Then, engage in a conversation with them, even if it's just a chat about the weather! Remain with them until they have recollected themselves and keep their surroundings safe. When you witness someone being hateful or oppressive, ensure they know what they are doing but, also, assess whether or not it is fully safe for you to approach them.

10) Never give up
The road to equality is long and tough but, as an ally, you must never give up the fight, for if the people who are supposed to be supporting marginalised groups give up on them, what hope will they have? Recognise that things will not change overnight but, if you stick with it, your allyship will start to pay off. Educate yourself constantly and offer support to marginalised communities whilst calling out oppression. Do little, often, and make sure your friends and neighbours know you are always there to offer a helping hand.

What tips would you give to someone wanting to better themselves as an ally? <3

Love, Emily :) xx

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