Allyship

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clareytales
Allyship

I'm new to Rabble/Babble and want to start a conversation about what it is to be an ally and how others receive those who self-identify (proclaim) as allies. I have varying experiences of this concept over time, as a white, able-bodied, cisgender, queer woman. I would like to hear about others' experiences, thoughts, rants and appreciations. 

Regions: 
6079_Smith_W

I count my allies based on issues of common concern, not issues on which we disagree.

In fact, a couple of my most important allies are ones who with whom I have major disagreement, but who show me a perspective on things I might not otherwise see. In that sense, I definitely put trust and honesty before politics.

 

clareytales

I am thinking a lot these days about whether people can call themselves allies or if they have to earn their stripes. For example, white  people who consider themselves "allies" with people of colour. Also, straight folks aligning themselves with the queer community, and possibly getting points from it. The whole issue with Macklemore at the Grammys comes to mind. I am still on the fence about it (strangely, for me). Some consider he's to be lauded as a straight guy singing about "Same Love", others feel he made a lot of cash in the process. Furthermore, here's a white guy doing hip-hop that gets the Grammy when so many thought Kendrick Lamar would get it. M's tweet to Lamar has been seen both as honorable and as a public display of fake "generosity". Thoughts? For transparency, I identify as a queer, white woman.

clareytales

I'm not saying by this that one can't be an ally. I think it is important to stand by and advocate with those whose identities are marginalized or oppressed in some way. I am concerned with the co-opting of the term for personal gain or self-aggrandizement and am exploring where the lines blurr...

onlinediscountanvils

This was my response in the other (now closed) thread you started:

 

I share Mia McKenzie's take on the term "ally" and the concept of allyship.

Black Girl Dangerous: [url=http://www.blackgirldangerous.org/2013/09/no-more-allies/]No More “Allies”[/url]

Mia McKenzie wrote:
actions count; labels don’t

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Grear topic, clareytales. And welcome to babble!

I think the idea of being an ally is highly fraught and a very difficult one to pin down. For privileged folk, "achieving" allyship becomes yet another benchmark they can lay claim to -- using it as currency amongst other would-be allies and actually functioning to confirm their privilege because now they have that credibility to speak (rather than listen) within gatherings of marginalized people and, worse yet, earn the ability to speak for those communities. Because, you know, you're an ally.

Speaking personally as a privilege lottery winner (white, straight, able-bodied cis-gendered, middle-class man), I try (and often fail) to conceive of allyship as something that I am working towards -- not something that I can or have achieved. This makes allyship more of a pose--in the sense of a stance or trajectory; but also as something I am often, if not always, performing or even pretending. That means, among other things, I make myself listen to folks whose mannerisms and speech patterns, possibly inflected by the marginalized community to which they belong, I have been trained/programmed to devalue. It means that whenever I find myself speaking, I take a moment to check whether or not I am speaking from a position of knowledge or a position of privilege.

But it's a pickle.

6079_Smith_W

It's a pickle only if it is all about you, and allyship is some sort of badge you want to pin on your chest. (and I don't mean you personally, CF)

Listening is good, and important, and I think your advice there is bang on.

but I don't see why "allyship" should be of any concern at all. And the good point you raise about listening and the difference in power points exactly to the point of how absurd it is. How can one truly be an ally without that understanding?

For that reason, I think fretting about one's status just gets in the way of the work.

I think it's best to try and do what seems like the right thing, and yes, to listen, without assuming that you are acting on anyone's behalf other than your own. If someone else wants to consider you an ally, that is for them to decide, IMO. I might say I support a certain issue or struggle, but I would never call myself an ally of someone whose position I did not understand. It is not important.

 

 

 

 

6079_Smith_W

That's a good article to a point.  It's not that Identity isn't an important factor or a real thing, but seeing it as the only thing is a good way to get nothing done (and obsessing about whether or not one is in the gang is a good example of that). Thing is, it's no different for politics.

And it is only mutually exclusive with political self-identification for those who see these things in completely black and white terms. The nervous, guilty self-obsessed white people in that article might be real too, but they're not proof that some people can't walk and chew gum, or that the only other alternative is complete disconnection.

On the other hand, "getting past it"  to the land of perfect comradeship might look good on paper, but it probably looks better if you're white, straight, and a guy.

I think "ally" as a noun should be thrown out of the dictionary, and we should stick to the original verb form. It's not something you are; It is something you do.

Besides, if I must see myself as someone's ally, then I must also be someone else's enemy. Either way leads to disconnection.

 

 

Slumberjack

Everyone is racialized, just as everyone is influenced by homophobic and sexist discourse.  Only the effects vary.  It has nothing to do with getting over anything, or the marginalizing of injuries.  It seems to be more about getting beyond what produces such effects, which gives every appearance of an impossibility unless commonalities are emphasized over the practice of emphasizing who should be held accountable for the manner of their conditioning within a society in desperate need of change.

Slumberjack

Quote:
I think "ally" as a noun should be thrown out of the dictionary, and we should stick to the original verb form. It's not something you are; It is something you do.

Yes, the term 'ally' has a 'with us or against us' feel to it.  In this context it's a tone that suggests one is either 'with humanity or against it.'  And if one is seen as being against humanity, then they're often treated as if they've been inflicted with some type of monstrous inhumanity.  This is probably what GWB's speechwriters had in mind at any rate.

6079_Smith_W

I don't disagree with that, and like I said, I think the article is good to a point.

On the other hand, the argument that one should get past identity politics is pretty hollow when that analysis correcty identifies what is a real war zone for some, and a real blind spot for those of us who don't have to even think about being arrested, murdered or attacked just because of who we are.

 

 

Slumberjack

6079_Smith_W wrote:
On the other hand, the argument that one should get past identity politics is pretty hollow when that analysis correcty identifies what is a real war zone for some, and a real blind spot for those of us who don't have to even think about being arrested, murdered or attacked just because of who we are. 

This is an example of what was being discussed.  People all around the world, irrespective of status, are arrested, beaten, murdered and disappeared for non-compliance or for having said or engaged in something that displeases the economic order.  Everyone has been placed under surveillance and lists are drawn up accordingly.  Obviously there doesn't seem to be an end in sight to the vestiges of racialized policies and such political contingencies that remain in effect, but the march toward a more generalized, consumerist equivalence globally has produced a paradigm shift as they say.  Identity politics are certainly still useful within the socially fractured western economies, more so than anywhere else as it often seems, but it's no coincidence that this is where it plays out, as preventative maintenance of the system we're all contained within.

MegB

For me, the term "ally" in the progressive context almost always translates to "white guilt". There's a ritual at activist meetings where, when the introduction circle does its thing, certain types of people who enjoy privilege fall all over themselves to establish their "activist/ally" cred. It's a little embarrassing to watch. When it comes time to do the hard work of organizing, making things happen, these same people do the most talking and the least actual work. It's been my observation that these folks are mostly white men of a certain generation, a generation when activism was dominated by white working class or middle class men who had the women, also white, in the movement do the grunt work that is so necessary for success. Not attacking white men, just acknowledging a particular power structure of patriarchy and race. And class, if you see all race, gender, ableist, etc. issues in terms of class.

As someone has more succinctly pointed out, it's about actions, not words. Sitting on your ass blathering, hijacking a meeting with your own personally motivated, ego-motivated agenda, wasting the time of good people who want action, is tiring for the latter. Of course, a good facilitator can mediate this tendency, but it still detracts from the real work. /rant about white progressives

ETA, "Ally" is one of those terms that comes into vogue, a label, like wearing a badge or dressing a certain way that announces to the world that you belong to a particular tribe (to co-opt a more organic term). It wasn't in popular use when I began my activist work, and it will become extinct as another term comes into use. As pointed out by others, it's window-dressing for people who consider themselves progressives, but who don't actually do the work.

Slumberjack

The notion and identification of privilege doesn't seem very far removed from the notion and identification of differences laden with similar manufactured incompatibilities.  More often than not, the identification of privilege - which to me seems more and more like a false lead on the road to nowhere given the circumstances we're confronted with today - attempts to sort out, from amongst a thoroughly racialized population, who is most responsible for the general, political impasse.  Identity, as it's routinely practiced, lessens the agency of individuals to conceptualize beyond institutionally inflicted problems and divisions, more so than devaluing in common the conditions giving rise to identification.  The less people see of themselves within the contemporary political realm, the further people retreat into enclaves that have already been set up to accommodate them, and the more such processes of separation through identity are brought to the fore.  This appears to be the universal characteristic and result of identity politics.  Some may liken it to a built-in counter-revolutionary device that suppresses revolutionary ideas.

The Anti-Politics of Identity

 

Slumberjack

Yeah, there's a sub-conscious or otherwise invocation of whatever privilege the system bestows that emerges within group settings, and to that is added heavy doses of narcissism which seems to unavoidably surface at all levels within most political organizations.  I would argue that the presence of certain narcissistic tendencies is a prerequisite in terms of entrenched forms of organizing, as if organizing under the existing constraints couldn't make any headway without it.  Anyone on the receiving end of privileges within society also internalizes narcissistic predicates by way of the repeated examples they’re shown in life, i.e. part and parcel of the recipe for success.  This is spread out across all demographics, organizations, and nations.  I'm led to believe that a misdiagnosis, or an over emphasis in other words occurs as it pertains to which influence is predominate...race/gender based systemic privileges, or a keen sense of self importance that the system universally promotes as one of the means of advancement within society.  In that sense it might be useful to question an emphasis on race/gender based divisions as being an unavoidable component of the politics of the present, one without much of a future I’m afraid.

clareytales

Thanks for all the reflections, folks. I appreciate SmithW's comment that "ally" should be verb and not a noun, and the subsequent comments that concur, describing the way that true "allyship" comes with doing the work, which goes along with my belief that it's not about how we label ourselves (the ally "badge" Rebecca W refers to), but what we're doing to acknowledge and diminish, not reinforce, our privilege that matters. Mia M's piece and the summary, "actions count; labels don't", sums it up.

The more I think about it, the more I agree that declaring oneself an ally is taking up space, same old same old. 

Re: SJ's comment, "Anyone on the receiving end of privileges within society also internalizes narcissistic predicates by way of the repeated examples they’re shown in life, i.e. part and parcel of the recipe for success"

If this weren't the case for every white (etc) person in some way, in this society (thanks, colonialism), then I would say that identity politics were divisive. However, you have to start somewhere getting folks with privilege to see what they/we're carrying and how they/we're dumping it on others. Otherwise, they/we'll just keep on doing it. There is great value in getting people to step back a while and reflect on about how they present, what they carry and how that intersects with/impacts/perpetuates others' experience. The challenge is moving forward from there, and not getting stuck in "I identify as ___, and now I've named it, let's get back to work".

It is a daily practice, ongoing work that shifts and changes just as identity and subjectivity shift and change. The main thing I take away from this discussion so far is that this is work and it shouldn't be easy. Ally is a verb. Thanks!

 

clareytales

Thanks for all the reflections, folks. I appreciate SmithW's comment that "ally" should be verb and not a noun, and the subsequent comments that concur, describing the way that true "allyship" comes with doing the work, which goes along with my belief that it's not about how we label ourselves (the ally "badge" Rebecca W refers to), but what we're doing to acknowledge and diminish, not reinforce, our privilege that matters. Mia M's piece and the summary, "actions count; labels don't", sums it up.

The more I think about it, the more I agree that declaring oneself an ally is taking up space, same old same old. 

Re: SJ's comment, "Anyone on the receiving end of privileges within society also internalizes narcissistic predicates by way of the repeated examples they’re shown in life, i.e. part and parcel of the recipe for success"

If this weren't the case for every white (etc) person in some way, in this society (thanks, colonialism), then I would say that identity politics were divisive. However, you have to start somewhere getting folks with privilege to see what they/we're carrying and how they/we're dumping it on others. Otherwise, they/we'll just keep on doing it. There is great value in getting people to step back a while and reflect on about how they present, what they carry and how that intersects with/impacts/perpetuates others' experience. The challenge is moving forward from there, and not getting stuck in "I identify as ___, and now I've named it, let's get back to work".

It is a daily practice, ongoing work that shifts and changes just as identity and subjectivity shift and change. The main thing I take away from this discussion so far is that this is work and it shouldn't be easy. Ally is a verb. Thanks!

 

6079_Smith_W

True about the importance of being able to disagree, which is another problem of having it centred around trying hard to be that "ally".

First, while it is important to listen, what should follow from that is understanding of why one should act. If someone just does something because they want to be part of a group and are told that's what they should do, there's a problem with that.

Secondly, once you run into political differences - particularly deep divisions - in a community there's no way you can be allied with all people on all issues. At some point you have to decide where you stand on things (again, hopefully while paying attention to those with better understanding).

The only time I ever ran into the term was when I got it as a passive aggressive comment: "I don't understand why you won't be an ally".

Never mind that the issue (that eventually got me branded an enemy by this person) was hardly a universal position and part of the problem was that I wouldn't condemn others, it was a good reminder to be cautious about professing solidarity

It's not quite as simple as they make it out in the songs.

Besides, it's not like all of these issues don't have relevance and plenty of work that needs to be done in our own camps without trying to be the hero for someone else who is perfectly capable of running their own show.

 

 

 

6079_Smith_W

I don't see it as exploitation of difference, but until the day comes when, for instance, women aren't the ones expected to make coffee, take notes, and have issues affecting them take a back seat to The Revolution (cause it's all the same thing, right?), it is going to be necessary to keep pointing out that blind spot.

And that goes double for the issue raised in this thread - privileged people who might be well-intended, but wind up making it all about themselves, or trying to take over the show.

And I don't want to get into a discussion of which is worse, but I'd say attacks on the rights of women, visible minorities and LGBT people are very much at the leading edge of the forces that want to push things backwards - right now.

 

eastnoireast

yeah, "ally as a verb" for sure.  lots of old folk sayings about that, "a freind in need is a freind indeed", "talk is cheap", "money where your mouth is", etc.  

my personal experience is that "ally" is not a monolithic relationship - an ally in one aspect or situation may be useless or worse in another.  the redneck neighbour you can call at 2am to rescue you at the side of the road, who will unexpectedly bring over dinner when you're feeling down and broke, may "support the dupes, er, troops", hate unions, and otherwise parrot what they see on the news.   the queer radical who rocks when organizing the anti-discriminization event may be totally onboard with bombing iran because "they" discriminate; live in a huge white unsustainable suburban macmansion and be a proud member of the military.   the straight hippy farmer with the sustainable food may be a self-centered prick. 

i find myself usually able to find common ground with them all, which is the good part (there is almost aways common ground), but then there is always that point where you just gotta bite your tongue, nod and smile, hope someday there's a little crack in the armour where a well placed fact or pointed joke will disolve a bit of the hate and fear. 

it drives me fucking crazy though, you can't relax, always self-censoring.  maybe that's what it's all about.

priviledge isn't monolithic either.  race/class/ability/mental state/family damage/gender/money/location/etc.   of course there are generalities, BIG ones.  but individuals are not generalities, they are individual mixes.  ask the african elite studying buisness at the canadian university if she feels inferior to the straight white guy from the broken home ringing in her order at the quicky mart.  who's gonna have a better life?  who knows?  that's my point.

thanks for the thread.

Slumberjack

6079_Smith_W wrote:
I don't see it as exploitation of difference, but until the day comes when, for instance, women aren't the ones expected to make coffee, take notes, and have issues affecting them take a back seat to The Revolution (cause it's all the same thing, right?), it is going to be necessary to keep pointing out that blind spot. And that goes double for the issue raised in this thread - privileged people who might be well-intended, but wind up making it all about themselves, or trying to take over the show.  And I don't want to get into a discussion of which is worse, but I'd say attacks on the rights of women, visible minorities and LGBT people are very much at the leading edge of the forces that want to push things backwards - right now.

Well yes engagement is important.  We're all implicated in various ways with these issues as suggested by the earlier reference to the general racialization of society, to mean everybody.  We could just as well refer to popular sexualization, homophobic language, and particular sentiments found within society as they relate to immigration.  Collectively we bear a measure of each situation, in different quantities certainly, but which to me is the reason why an absence of heirarchy within the engagement seems to indicate a better way forward than inverting the problem.  It doesn't attempt to negate other thoughts or expressions, but attempts to open up a space, even temporary, for dialogue, mutual understanding of the problem, and strategy.

Slumberjack

clareytales wrote:
If this weren't the case for every white (etc) person in some way, in this society (thanks, colonialism), then I would say that identity politics were divisive. However, you have to start somewhere getting folks with privilege to see what they/we're carrying and how they/we're dumping it on others. Otherwise, they/we'll just keep on doing it. There is great value in getting people to step back a while and reflect on about how they present, what they carry and how that intersects with/impacts/perpetuates others' experience. The challenge is moving forward from there, and not getting stuck in "I identify as ___, and now I've named it, let's get back to work".

It's useful for everyone with privilege to step back and analyze why they have it, and what they're doing with it.  I would argue that as the global economic system reaches out to encompass and define all human relations, systemic privilege based on whiteness is getting a little more difficult to quantify as the conscious choice of a systemic order.  There is nothing inherent about white skin or the white gene pool that produces a superiority complex in relation to non-whites.  Such explanations for the way power functions around the world are contrasted by how the world revolves around the shots being called by international stock markets and investors, which seems to demonstrate that the notion of white privilege lingers on as a remnant of a control mechanism, who's usefulness is on the wane in multi-racial societies even as it remains quite palpable and in force in many instances within the western economies.  All the same, racism seems to have always been driven forward by economics, not by predilection.

Nowadays in this society, if policeman X ill-treats a person because of their skin colour, it's because he's still internalizing the old memos, the old ways of organizing society.  From there, cover-up, lies, and a lack of witnesses are his only defence, just as it would be for any case of police brutality such as the G20.  Today social harmony and compliance fostered through programs like multiculturalism pay better dividends. Unrest is unprofitable unless regime change becomes necessary somewhere.  When we've got lackeys already in power there's no further need to over-emphasize distinctiveness within society because the objective is shared compliance and buy in across the social landscape.  

We've come some ways since Viola Desmond was convicted for having defrauded taxpayers of 1 cent nearly 70 years ago for having paid the fare for the black section of that theatre in New Glasgow, while sitting in the white section.  Racism was enforced as an element of the law.  Today, neo-colonialism accepts money from all investors.  And if one has money they can sit wherever they want.  We can see in the American south that the refusal to keep pace with the wider societal adjustments to racism after all these years has resulted in a society that has rotted from the inside out.  In the political realm it can offer no further explanation for itself other than nonsense piled on top of nonsense, while the real economy continues to crumble around them and disappear into the hands of more reasonable workers around the world, to where people don't hate their neighbors based on an antiquated, unproductive social construct.

From this perspective it becomes somewhat easier to come to terms with how the exploitation of difference between skin colours and cultural elements has always been the enemy.  i see no reason why leftists should further encourage such trains of thought, unless of course it's necessitated by a political or socio-economic project of their own.  Even in this the economic system appears to have a leg up because it's evolving at a faster rate than politics based around traditional divisiveness.

clareytales

This stuff is so valuable and I agree that over time, race (read also gender, sexuality, etc, etc) will become appreciated increasingly as the social construct it really is. I think, though, that in everyday life today - on streetcars, in classrooms, waiting rooms and ER's, there is a constant interplay between individuals based on how they identify (in all their fluctuating complexity), no matter how much the players claim to "treat everyone the same". You see, we're not all the same. Queers (generally) fuck differently and therefore need a different approach to healthcare. Black folks are (generally) still shut/pushed/frozen out of physics class or school ski trips or board rooms. Trans people are still beaten and disappeared in Canada and the US, not to mention elsewhere and people don't bat an eye. We have a long way to go before we can let ourselves off the hook from stepping up and standing in solidarity with others by speaking up when they can't (are too afraid, silenced, invisible, etc). It's important to not speak for people, I absolutely agree, but there are moments - significant ones - where solidarity makes a huge difference. This is mostly, I think, because the person who needs to hear the challenge is an asshole and isn't going to hear it from the trans person or the black person or the queer. They are going to hear it from the person who they can identify with, who reminds them most of themselves, and who surprises them by not thinking like them in that moment. Maybe, just maybe, this gives them pause. It is in the day to day that allyship happens, I think, but as we have discussed, not something we can lay claim to.

clareytales

I hope my examples above don't come across as reductionist. I quoted them to make my particular point, but clearly folks can be many things at once, of course, and the power at play at a given time can be layered. However, these moments/interactions can also be brutally simple.

Red Winnipeg

Progressives fighting over "ally" = Progressives eating each other alive while Harper burns Rome to the ground.

eastnoireast

Red Winnipeg wrote:
Progressives fighting over "ally" = Progressives eating each other alive while Harper burns Rome to the ground.

well, yeah.  and, no.

a)  we weren't fighting, till you came along.

b) depend on, if discussing the semantics of a little 4-letter word is all we're doing.  my guess is that is not the case for most.

c) i was drawn to post on this thread, amongst all the threads, partly because i'm going thru a painfull process of figuring out that several people i thought were my allys are not, when it counts.  so maybe it helps me to take a wee break from digging out from other people's shit, and toss these concepts around "the community" so as to get back quicker to helping address the multitude of problems goin' down.

d)  years ago, i saw a program re the original katimavic, with a participant describing how in their group house, figuring out who was going to take out the garbage would inevitably devolve into a discussion of "what is garbage?".  and it would never get taken out.   theory vs practical.

e) anyways RW, point taken, to a point.  by the way, what are you doiing on the rome burning front, besides picking fights with *cough* allys?

 

Slumberjack

clareytales wrote:
It is a daily practice, ongoing work that shifts and changes just as identity and subjectivity shift and change. The main thing I take away from this discussion so far is that this is work and it shouldn't be easy. 

If the political economy represents the master of everyone, whether they appreciate it or not, across the social landscape supporters are also more or less the water carriers.  The denialists and apologists carry the most of course, but just about everyone totes around a share of their own.  The history of political economies around the world, from the time of the Servile Wars for example, or much earlier and since, has demonstrated that just about every demographic and colour felt the lash of subjugation at one point or another.  Under today’s circumstances, categorizing people as allies or non-allies, or racialized and non-racialized and assigning worth accordingly, seems consistent with the act of lowering the bucket down into the well once again.  And when this occurs as it usually does within the context of identification and politics, there are likely reasons that are shared (sub-consciously perhaps) and reasons that vary, for our exasperation and for whatever sense of futility that may be encountered.

eastnoireast

this article delves a little into why figuring out who your allys are is important.

http://www.ianwelsh.net/social-identity-markers-are-not-a-proxy-for-left-wing-social-policies/

false allys are actually worse than clear enemies, they steal and misdirect energy which (might) otherwise be used to make things better.

where would the u.s.a. be now without the intervention of "hope"?  not much better off, but there would probably be a less co-opted alternative.

for whatever that is worth.

really, the meat of this whole issue is pretty well summed up in post #4

 

onlinediscountanvils wrote:

Mia McKenzie wrote:
actions count; labels don’t

 

 

 

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

A Colonized Ally Meets a Decolonized Ally: This is What They Learn

1. A colonized ally stands in the front.  A decolonized ally stands behind.

2. A colonized ally stands behind an oppressive patriarchy.  A decolonized ally stands behind women and children.

3. A colonized ally makes assumptions about the process.  A decolonized ally values there may be principles in the process they are not aware of.

4. A colonized ally wants knowledge now!  A decolonized ally values their own relationship to the knowledge.

5. A colonized ally finds an Indigenous token.  A decolonized ally is more objective in the process.

6. A colonized ally equates their money and hard work on the land as meaning land ownership.  A decolonized ally knows that land ownership is more about social hierarchy and privilege.....

onlinediscountanvils

I'd love to see this pitched as a Goofus and Gallant strip.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

onlinediscountanvils wrote:

I'd love to see this pitched as a Goofus and Gallant strip.

..why oda?

onlinediscountanvils

epaulo13 wrote:

onlinediscountanvils wrote:

I'd love to see this pitched as a Goofus and Gallant strip.

..why oda?

It shares the same basic structure as the strip, but Lynn's content would be 1000x more useful than the '50's-era moralizing of classic G&G (not that I don't love G&G as kitsch).

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..got it! thanks.

6079_Smith_W

Oh Good.

I was really hoping for some pointers for weeding out more of my enemies.

 

KenS

Ally is a good concept.

In practice, almost always make me queasy.... a little to a lot queasy.

[Even when its not the egregious stuff: divisive arguments about the right way, or really bad 'badge primping".]

clareytales

I like the distinction between "colonized" and "decolonized" ally. Nice. Thanks!

I've been thinking over all this, though, and in my work with queer and trans youth, I have to say, there are still times when community members need to stand up as allies, and for communities to talk about "allies" as nouns. That said, however, so much of what's been said above makes sense, regarding who gets to call whom an ally, and actions over labels. 

And after all is said and done, there's a lot more said than done.

MegB

It's been my experience that when people of very different backgrounds and political beliefs become allies over a shared concern, an issue with common ground (for example, white farmers allied with First Nations over protection of water and stewardship of the land) they are successful. Disparate groups may dislike and distrust each other over many issues, but when they are willing to work together to protect something that is sacred and precious to them both, a previously non-existent, tentative mutual understanding and empathy results in a strengthened partnership that is powerful in the extreme.

For myself, if I can get some well-connected, well-intentioned privileged person with money to burn onside, I don't care who they last voted for, how many SUV's they own, or whether they're motivated by NIMBYism, so long as shit gets done and progressive change occurs as a result.

onlinediscountanvils

clareytales wrote:
I have to say, there are still times when community members need to stand up as allies, and for communities to talk about "allies" as nouns. That said, however, so much of what's been said above makes sense, regarding who gets to call whom an ally

To whatever extent it may be necessary, I think it's essential to recognize that it's the prerogative of the oppressed to determine who is, or isn't, their "ally". A person can strive to act as an ally to an oppressed group, but it's presumptuous to unilaterally declare one's self an "ally". Often that person will have no idea what it means to truly be an ally.

clareytales wrote:
And after all is said and done, there's a lot more said than done.

KenS

onlinediscountanvils wrote:

A person can strive to act as an ally to an oppressed group, but it's presumptuous to unilaterally declare one's self an "ally".

 

I think this is an example- one of many- where what sounds good when expressed as a principle, just does not work in practice.

While some do go around explicitly declaring themselves to be an ally, and the principle then applies unproblematically.... much more often the issue comes up just in the need to choose words for conversation, without being awkward.

A frequent example is a discussion of what as allies a group of people should be doing. That very likely expresses a different sensibility than the person taking on the label of 'ally' as some kind of personally owned badge, but at bottom the group discussing waht to do as allies is also very much engaging in a presumption.

It just is not human to go around saying- or even thinking all the time- with qualifying brackets: "what might we be doing as people who aspire to be allies of aboriginal...."

[Not to mention that very quickly such bracketing qualification becomes pro forma; and in  practice, is cognitively no different than simply stating (declaring) yourself to be an ally.] 

6079_Smith_W

onlinediscountanvils wrote:

 A person can strive to act as an ally to an oppressed group, but it's presumptuous to unilaterally declare one's self an "ally".

I agree. THat's why even thinking along those lines is absurd.

And it's unnecessary.

When I do something in support of gender equality, or honouring the treaties to which we are ALL signators, or accepting other cultures, I can think of more than enough reasons to do it for myself, society in general, and people of my own experience, without imagining that I am being a hero to someone we imagine is a victim in need os saving.

Imagining that it is just THEIR fight that we help out with is part of the problem. If you look at the cause and what needs to change, seems to me that aspect of it is more a problem of the dominant society - trying to stop ourselves and our people from continuing the damage. What it isn't is us trying to get in the way of others' self-determination - something which is really none of our business.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jun/17/bono-africans-steal...

clareytales

Smith_W - you've hit the nail on the head for me. Thank you. We've been talking about "othering". When I declare myself an ally who stands beside this or that oppressed group and does my bit for them... then I am holding them up against myself/my culture/my identity as other. When I see the bigger picture and get on with what needs to get done for positive social change, seeing that Treaty Rights are about all of us, implicate all of us, for example, or that some other dominant discourse actually subjugates every one of us, then I am allying myself without expecting the reward or the recognition. I am doing the work.

clareytales

This link has taken me to some other really great places. I really appreciate the share, epaulo13.

http://www.lynngehl.com/my-ally-bill-of-responsibilities.html

onlinediscountanvils

clareytales wrote:
When I see the bigger picture and get on with what needs to get done for positive social change, seeing that Treaty Rights are about all of us, implicate all of us, for example, or that some other dominant discourse actually subjugates every one of us, then I am allying myself without expecting the reward or the recognition. I am doing the work.

Yes, in a holistic sense, oppression subjugates every one of us, but it doesn't do so equally. The problem with the 'oppression hurts us all' approach is that it becomes all too easy for those with relative privilege to disregard the leadership, the needs, the lived experience of those who are more directly affected. As a white guy, I can recognize that racism and sexism are ultimately not in my own interest (even as I benefit from them). That doesn't mean that any good will come from me fighting those oppressions on my own terms. I still have to act like an 'ally', which means listening, supporting, and taking leadership from those who are directly affected.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..yes i've been checking out some of those links as well clareytales, and finding informative points of view.

eta:

..lately i've been thinking that all political parties on a fed/prov level have engaged in colonial behaviours and wonder how allyship plays out at voting time.

6079_Smith_W

onlinediscountanvils wrote:

The problem with the 'oppression hurts us all' approach

Actually I neither said nor meant anything about playing victim. What I meant was that we have enough of a job trying to straighten out the fuckups and communal fucked-up behaviour in our own ranks, and that any benefit is a benefit to ALL of us.

And I completely agree about the listening part. My point is recognizing that we are all engaged in this work from different perspectives.

 

 

onlinediscountanvils

KenS wrote:

onlinediscountanvils wrote:

A person can strive to act as an ally to an oppressed group, but it's presumptuous to unilaterally declare one's self an "ally".

 

I think this is an example- one of many- where what sounds good when expressed as a principle, just does not work in practice.

While some do go around explicitly declaring themselves to be an ally, and the principle then applies unproblematically

That's the context I was addressing.

6079_Smith_W

Gotcha.

 

sppinch

Awesome discussion. Just to echo what's already been said above by KenS and Clareytales,  I know many folks personally who don't even use the term ally, as they tend to find it useless - there are those folks who are known to be active in their solidarity work and those who just talk the big talk. People organizing generally know who's who. There are lots of examples of "allies" co-opting movements and taking away power from folks working towards anti-oppression. Which isn't a group one wants to be associated with by using the "ally" identity anyways, so might just be best to shy away from it. 

Just wanted to let folks posting resources know as well that The Activist Toolkit (http://rabble.ca/toolkit) is always looking for new tools - anyone with a rabble.ca account can add, edit or suggest tools just by being signed in. Would love to see this discussion translate over to the Toolkit :)

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..this piece brings first understanding then a place for allies. the understanding is so very important.

Aboriginal feminisms

The F Word airs Ariana Barer's conversation with Darla Goodwin, traditional Aboriginal woman and feminist, about Aboriginal feminism(s). Goodwin addresses the hesitation of Aboriginal women to ascribe to a feminist label and her own choice to identify as feminist. They discuss matriarchal leadership, respect across genders, histories of oppression, and advice for allies.

http://rabble.ca/podcasts/shows/f-word/2014/03/aboriginal-feminisms