It seems like everyone wants to “be” an ally, but there’s a lot of confusion about what an ally is supposed to “do.” In light of this confusion, some scholars have called for the word to be retired from conversations about race in favor of other terms. For example, Neisha-Anne Green suggests using “accomplice” because it indicates a willingness by white people to ensure Black folks do not take on the risks of anti-racist action alone.
Fortunately, there are many resources offering allies and accomplices ideas for action. In fact, you can see some great Racial Justice in Education-specific resources in this handout. When you encounter these resources, you’ll notice the actions suggested commonly fall into several categories, including listening, learning, supporting, reflecting and collaborating. As you read more, you’ll also find many actions require educating yourself and keeping silent as well as knowing when to speak up. Furthermore, even when allies do speak up, it is important to keep the focus on magnifying the voices of Black scholars, historians, activists, and those in your social networks and communities. In other words, while there are different ways to behave as an ally or an accomplice, it’s a good idea to ask yourself whether you’re interested in showing up or being seen showing up. (This is when ongoing self-reflection is necessary.)
As you continue this journey, remember effective allyship is not a place but a process, one that requires a “beginner’s mind” (Suzuki). An ally with this beginner’s mind will accept and own their mistakes, manage their discomfort as it arises, and remind themselves they can always learn more.
Condon, Frankie. I Hope I Join the Band: Narrative, Affiliation, and Anti-Racist Rhetoric. Utah State University Press, 2012.
Condon, Frankie and Vershawn Ashanti Young, editors. Performing Antiracist Pedagogy in Rhetoric, Writing, and Communication, The WAC Clearinghouse, 2017.
Condon, Frankie and Neisha-Anne Green. “Letters on Moving from Ally to Accomplice: Anti-Racism and the Teaching of Writing.” Diverse Approaches to Teaching, Learning, and Writing Across the Curriculum: IWAC at 25, edited by Leslie Erin Bartlett, The WAC Clearinghouse, 2020, pp. 277-293.
Green, Neisha-Anne. “The Re-Education of Neisha-Anne S Green: A Close Look at the Damaging Effects of ‘A Standard Approach,’ The Benefits of Code-Meshing, and the Roles Allies Play in this Work.” Praxis: A Writing Center Journal, vol. 14, no. 1, 2016, pp. 72-82, http://www.praxisuwc.com/green-141.
Green, Neisha-Anne. “Moving Beyond Alright.” YouTube, uploaded by Archive on Demand FIT, 30 May 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6szZCwGFiU&t=16s.
Suzuki, Shunryu. Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. Shambhala, 1970.
Twigg, Marnie. "Last Verse Same as the First? On Racial Justice and 'Covering” Allyship in Compositionist Identities.'” College Composition and Communication, vol. 71, no. 1, September 2019, pp. 7-29.
Yoshino, Kenji. Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights. Random House, 2007.