Spread Ally Cheer By Knowing When to Speak and When to Hear
by Mollie Ames on Friday, February 26th, 2016
The Milton Academy campus is home to a host of organizations, clubs, and individual students passionate about social issues. Clubs including Onyx and S.A.G.E. keep the Milton community informed and encourage students and teachers alike to be allies. But, we ask, what does it really mean to be a good ally?
Here, I could easily insert the ultimate cliché and cite Merriam Webster’s dictionary definition of an ally. But the fact, in my opinion, is that there is no single way of interpreting the meaning of the word “ally.” And, similarly, there is no single way to be an ally. Perhaps that statement is as cheesy as a dictionary reference, but I nonetheless believe it to be true.
An ally is a supporter, a friend, an advisor. An ally comes in many forms. Some are loud and passionate, while others are concerned but silent. As I see it, you do not have to be the greatest champion of a cause in order to support it. A good ally does not necessarily cry out her beliefs for the whole world to hear, though she could. Most important is simply that an ally is loyal to her cause and understands right from wrong.
For example, each year I pledge to be an ally for LGBTQ+ people because I believe in their rights to express who they are freely, equally, and without judgment. However, unfortunately, I cannot claim to have attended any GASP meetings at Milton or been involved in rallies outside of school.
But does the fact that I am not a very active proponent of gay rights mean that I am not good ally? Does it keep me from standing up for what I think is just and standing against potential bullies? I would hope, and I think, not.
However, I greatly admire those who are highly involved and dedicated to social issues. I look to them, especially such students at Milton, to help me learn more about the state of our country and the various problems that pervade it. I am always excited and interested to hear the opinions of social activists at Milton, whether I agree with them or not.
That said, one quality that I think differentiates a good ally from a great one is the ability to facilitate open discussion about the issues. I notice this skill in many at Milton. It is easy, at least for me, to be uncomfortable engaging in conversation about social issues. I do not always feel qualified or informed enough to express my beliefs with confidence.
I am thankful, therefore, for opportunities to become more educated about the major debates of our society. Great allies provide a safe place in which these dialogues can take place. And, though they openly express their beliefs, the best allies do not pressure or attack those with differing opinions.
On a side note, I sometimes feel that the people’s passion can end up throwing the idea of a safe discussion space out the window. I am all for being passionate, but I also wonder if attacking those who disagree with you is the best way to represent your cause. I think that being an ally also means being respectful of your opponents.
Lastly, I am sure that I have much more to learn about social issues. Being an ally for me comes down to practicing sympathy, not empathy. Simply put, I will undoubtedly never fully know the challenges faced by groups discriminated against in our society. So, I feel that my role as an ally is to be first and foremost compassionate, not pretending that I understand how to overcome obstacles that I have never even encountered.
In the end, I believe that however you make out your role as an ally, you should make it a strong one. Be as devoted and passionate as you can be, or feel qualified to be. But, keep in mind that you cannot understand what someone has gone through until you walk a mile in their shoes.
Short URL: http://miltonmeasure.org/?p=7716