Allyship is often seen as an individual activity. ‘Educate yourself’ is the mantra we hear. In 2020, many went on personal journeys to see what they can do to step up as an ally. But with all the reading and guidance, it still doesn’t make it any easier to actually step into having the back of people who need it.
This is especially true at work where standing up can feel risky, especially when it’s a situation that feels a bit grey, it’s subtle or you are unsure if it’s actually racist or not. What results is a bunch of white colleagues unsure of what allyship can look like at work, and onlooking black and brown colleagues feeling unsupported in key moments.
The truth is that allyship is everyone’s business. To be effective, we need to work together to find ways to step up and speak out. Part of this means being able to talk about the barriers to effective allyship and how we can work together to overcome them. One of the things that can be really powerful in doing this is sharing scenarios. It’s by talking about real situations where challenges were felt that can help wannabe allies learn how to can grow our confidence to step in. Practice makes perfect as they say and growing our collective muscle for better spotting subtle forms of discrimination in everyday work will make a big difference to building workplaces where belonging is standard. Knowing that there is the support of the leadership in an initiative like this is critical. If we want our teams to participate in our anti-racism efforts, we need to ensure they know we have their backs too.