Let me start off by telling you that I am a white, cis-gender middle-aged straight male.
Why the hell does that matter? Because there comes with that a certain level of privilege that I need to acknowledge right off the bat before I get into the meat of my topic today.
The topic? Being an ally for women, LGBTQ individuals, people of color, immigrants, and most other minority groups, I hope that you can overlook my shortcomings and accept my desire to be an ally and help where I can.
I believe that being an ally, and generally working to advance the causes of these people that I am not one of is a good thing. However, I am increasingly seeing posts and commentary about how some members of some of these groups find the desire to be an ally from the likes of me less-than-useful.
Basically, everything I have to offer is wrong because my experience, skin-color, gender, and/or sexual orientation disqualifies me from understanding, and thus being much use to these groups.
I accept that as a white, straight, middle-aged male, I am unable to fully comprehend what it would be like to be a Hispanic, transgendered, gay immigrant. Your experience is not something I fully comprehend because I am not capable of having the same.
Yet I still believe that my offer to be an ally and help where I can is perfectly valid. Shortcomings and all.
Having engaged allies helps
Lots of people will call themselves an ally, but when push comes to shove they don’t take actions or offer up anything to truly help the cause. They vote for racists, misogynists, homophobes and similar opponents of civil and equal rights. They focus on what they believe is of more importance to them and only pay lip service at most to being an ally.
I could get in-depth into the ways in which I am a genuine ally. But I am not going to do that, because what I tell you I will do is going to be of far less importance than the actions I take to be a real ally. I need to speak up when other cis-gender white guys are engaging in toxic masculinity, vote for people who are for civil and equal rights, attend rallies and protests that matter and the like.
When it comes to being an engaged ally, actions really do speak louder than words.
I can write articles like this one, again and again, to raise awareness and show the ways in which I desire to be an ally. But what I have to offer is still going to fall short, because this is not MY experience.
I totally get that, and I am grateful that my experience is different. However, that doesn’t lessen my desire to help shift this society away from its less-than-accepting-and-equal attitudes and to express my being an ally to those who are fighting for their rights.
It’s true that I may well be an imperfect ally. But that does not make me less worthy of striving to help where and how I can.
Allies among a majority are forces for good and change
I would be truly surprised if the hetero-white male is, in fact, the majority anymore. Demographics suggest that if, somehow, we are, we won’t be much longer. This, I suspect, is one of the driving forces behind the current resurgence of white supremacy and backlash against feminism. The straight white-guys know they can’t hold their power forever.
This, in my opinion, is all the more reason to accept as allies those of us who identify as such, desire to engage and help how, when, and where we can, despite our inability to truly comprehend your plight.
I watch several of the women in my life struggle to get equal pay and equal voice to their male counterparts, have an in-law who has been pulled over simply for DWB (Driving While Black) and know friends who have lost touch with family because they came out of the closet.
I know I will never be able to share in your experiences because I am a straight white guy. Even my being Jewish only slightly alters the privilege I experience just from my gender identity and the color of my skin. I get that…but does it really mean I am useless as an ally?
Though I cannot answer that question for any member of a given “minority” group, I believe that I am still a good ally. That’s because having allies among the supposed majority, or at least the people who tend to make the rules, is equivalent to having a mole on the inside of an intelligence agency. We can help undermine the status quo and influence others to be more open to the need for change.
Because when all is said and done, that’s what matters.
Change is individual
No matter how you identify or are identified, if you desire change it has to begin with you. This is because the only things over which you can exert any true influence and/or control is your thoughts, feelings, and actions. Get yourself where and how you want to be and that opens you to help others find their way there as well.
I want to see more women in politics. Black men should not be presumed dangerous and violent and get shot and killed simply because of the color of their skin. Unless you are Native American, immigrants were your ancestors. People seeking asylum are not the terrible people that caused them to flee their homes in the first place. Love is love, and one shouldn’t be judged based on whom they feel affection towards. You can identify yourself however you desire, whatever gender is most true to you.
These issues are not going to be a part of my personal, direct life experience. That doesn’t lessen my desire to be an ally to those of you who will and do have such experiences.
A request: Please accept and forgive my shortcomings
I am only human, and despite being an ally I am going to still screw this stuff up. I may use the wrong pronoun. My attempt to show you something may get misconstrued as mansplaining. I may look utterly confused if we are having a conversation, English is not your first language, and your accent is hard for me to get through.
My point is this: please accept that I am aware of my shortcomings, and still wish to be an ally. Accept my acknowledgment of these shortcomings, and be kind and gentle in helping me to be understanding, albeit flawed.
Nobody’s perfect, and I am going to do my best to be as good an ally to you as I can. Please further apply this to other allies making an honest attempt despite our always being wrong in some way or other.
I really do think it is better to have allies even when they are not always right or totally perfect.
Thank you for letting me write out my peace, and continue to work on being the best ally I can.
A last call to action
To the rest of my fellow white, cis-gender middle-aged straight males: Your actions matter. Keep that in mind with who and what you support, as well as when you vote. If you wish to be an ally, don’t support people and organizations that are not. This is an action you can take to help women, LGBTQ individuals, people of color, immigrants, and other minority groups.