As folks become more aware of the social justice challenges we face as a country and in our communities they often wonder how they can help. There’s not one really great answer because we all have different experience levels, means, axes of privilege, and available free time, but there are some common-sense “getting started” points. People with privilege who help social just causes are often called allies (but more on this word below), and this post is about how allies can learn how to help. A very short and incomplete TL;DR:
- don’t center your own ego and feelings at the expense of others’
- examine and change your own behavior so you don’t perpetuate bad habits
- whole-heartedly listen to people with less privilege than you
- educate yourself on the history and literature of the movements you are interested in
- step up when you can
The following are several resources for people looking for specific things to think about and act on. This list is focused on diversity-in-tech, and especially gender diversity, so pointers to other resources would be great.
- Valerie Aurora’s Focus on Allies talk: https://frameshiftconsulting.com/speaking/#focus This talk and the accompanying slide deck are great introduction to why social justice movements need active allies and how those allies can help.
- Ally Skills Workshop: https://adainitiative.org/continue-our-work/workshops-and-training/ This video and accompanying materials give lots of specific things allies can do to spot bad behavior and how to respond to it.
- 4 Ways White People Can Process Their Emotions Without Bringing the White Tears: http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/02/white-people-emotions-tears/
- What You Can Do: https://hypatia.ca/2014/08/05/what-you-can-do/
- A Man’s Guide to Helping Women in Tech: http://www.catehuston.com/blog/2013/10/18/a-mans-guide-to-helping-women-in-tech/
- Top 10 Ways To Be a Male Advocate for Technical Women: https://www.ncwit.org/resources/read-online-maleadvocate
- 18 Books Every White Ally Should Read: http://www.bustle.com/articles/144531-18-books-every-white-ally-should-read
- Tone Policing and Privilege: http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/12/tone-policing-and-privilege/
(A note about the word “ally”: there’s a real failing of language here because we use this noun to refer to privileged supporters of social justice causes, but the causes don’t need nouns, they need actions. You can’t do 10 supportive things and then have the label “ally” for life. It’s a process of doing what you can, when you can. This essay gives a great breakdown of the distinction: http://www.shakesville.com/2013/04/on-fixed-state-ally-model-vs-process.html.)
Note: This is based on a series of posts I’ve been putting together at work to educate coworkers on diversity and inclusion topics.