How to be an Effective Ally

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How to be an Effective Ally

Maddie Turco

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The word ally can be used in a number of ways, but for this article being an ally means being willing to act with and for others in pursuit of ending oppression and creating equality. In the current social climate, being an ally is increasingly important. Everyone has a cause they care about, but what is the most effective way to make a difference? In general, alliances are formed in the hopes that people who are not affected by something can still help fight to end the injustice.

For example, in America right now, there is a fight to end ableism, a set of beliefs or practices that devalue and discriminate against people with physical, intellectual, or psychiatric disabilities. If someone is not disabled, then he/she is not affected by this discrimination in the same way as someone whose body differs from the perceived “norm.” That certainly does not mean that an able-bodied person can’t be an ally and help to end that prejudice. In fact, supporting the causes one believes in is one of the best ways to contribute to one’s community or society. Here are a few ways allies can ensure they are being helpful:

First and foremost, effective allies must listen. They must hear the wishes and needs of those in the targeted group. It is so important that allies understand how not to take over and make group decisions about something that isn’t theirs to decide. For example, the “Nothing About Us Without Us” slogan came about in the 1990s for disability self-advocacy to show that nothing that involves them should happen without their help. That is certainly not to say that they shouldn’t be loud and fight hard, just that there comes a time when only those directly affected by a movement should speak out.

Second of all, being an ally is a constant task. The oppression doesn’t go away or disappear, so an ally must continue to fight and educate themselves. Being busy is certainly understandable, but alliances come in many forms. Whether allies speak out against discriminatory behavior or call out someone who uses a slur or other offensive comment, both make a difference and are equally important.

Finally, allies should have a goal of making a difference. They should never give up if they believe in the cause. They should understand that they really do help shape the minds of others.

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