The University of Utah Physician Assistant Students Supporting Equity and Diversity (PASSED) group believes it’s important to discuss what it truly means to be an ally. This term has recently become more popular; however, it seems that “allyship” is being confused with “generalized/passive acknowledgment.” The definition of an ally is one who unites themselves with another to promote a common interest. Allyship calls for understanding the constant oppression that plagues communities and the courage to speak on what is right and actionable. Being an ally means standing up for marginalized groups when no one is around to witness. It means being an active listener when minorities speak about their culture and experiences. And most importantly, it’s about not minimalizing the traumas and experiences of vulnerable populations by committing to checking your own biases.
Forming allyships takes inserting yourself into spaces that challenge you to step outside of your comfort zone. Here are some guidelines and suggestions to help along your journey. We hope that this will spark conversation and empower action. Even if you just want to maintain a general awareness of injustices in the world, we think these recommendations are beneficial.
Discussions about race and discrimination will never be comfortable but do not let that deter you from having these important conversations.
1. Please do not be the person who says, “I don’t see color.” Everyone sees race. That’s natural. We the people just ask that you do not let prior stereotypes or constructs about a certain race dictate your interactions with individuals.
2. Sometimes, you must sacrifice your privilege to benefit those less privileged. No one likes talking about this one because who wants to give up something beneficial? Most have some intersection of privilege in their identity. However, privilege should not be used to continue marginalizing others.
3. Never assume you have a similar experience to someone else simply because of a shared marginalized identity or community. For example, the experiences of a white person who is part of the LGBTQ+ community should not be assumed to be the same as a Black person in the LGBTQ+ community. There should be an open dialogue about the similarities and the sensitive topics negatively impacting those within these communities.
4. Oppression is often intersectional and causes further nuanced complexities with systemic oppression. An individual who is a person of color, transgender, and unsheltered will face barriers based on their gender identity, race/ethnicity, and class. Having an understanding of intersectionality can reveal obstacles impacting overall well-being.
5. Do not say “all lives matter.” You might be thinking, “but all lives DO matter!” Theoretically, all lives should matter, but evidence continues to show that this is not the case.
6. Please keep the Juneteenth ice cream and LGBTQ+ burger buns to yourself. People trying to monetize from suffering just adds to our frustration.
7. Weak gestures like taking Aunt Jemima off the syrup bottle do nothing for systemic racism and providing basic civil rights to all.
8. People are still referring to COVID as an Asian disease! This ignorant rhetoric has led to increased violence against Asian individuals by 300 percent. Reminder: Bacteria and viruses do not discriminate.
9. You are not an ally because you dated a person of color once or because you have a queer relative. People are not yours to claim as evidence of awareness.
10, When someone from a marginalized community decides to discuss their sufferings, please just listen (if you are in the mental space to do so) and refrain from responding in a way that invalidates one’s experience.
11. If marginalized groups are addressing those who continue to oppress them, and you do not identify as one of those oppressors, this is not your portion of the program.
12. Halloween is not a pass to appropriate anyone’s culture.
13. If you are aware that tragedy has occurred in a marginalized community, our best recommendation is to give that group some grace and space. Try not to have any expectations that they want to talk about anything. They are hurting and showed up when they likely wanted to stay home.
14. Women’s bodies are their own. That is all.
Here are tangible things that you can do to achieve effective allyship:
1. Learn the history of systemic, structural, and institutional racism to understand the deep-rooted history that has led to the current challenges of oppressed people.
2. Be involved with issues regarding marginalized populations by researching and listening to their stories.
3. Be a part of creating measurable changes that generate equity in the spaces around you. Consider attending meetings in your community where conversations are focused on making change.
4. Take time to sit, self-reflect, and deconstruct bias paradigms that have developed from socialization.
5. Try not to think about losing status if you speak up. Take courage, letting it develop more day by day.
6. Being reflective and remaining an active listener will truly go a long way.
We can all work to improve our empathy towards those who differ from us. Please continue to keep an open mind and consider true allyship.
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