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Moving From Allyship To Ourship: Fighting Together For Diversity And Inclusion

The Trouble With Allyship

In recent years, several spotlights have shined brightly on the struggles faced by women and people of color in the workplace. In large part thanks to social media, Americans have come to see the problems that lay hidden in plain sight for so long. In response, many have stood up for their coworkers and friends by becoming “allies.”

Tsedale M. Melaku and her co-authors helpfully define allyship as “a strategic mechanism used by individuals to become collaboratorsaccomplices, and coconspirators who fight injustice and promote equity in the workplace through supportive personal relationships and public acts of sponsorship and advocacy.”

Allyship is a beautiful thing for which I am grateful, but I don’t think it’s enough. For one thing, much of it ends up being just for show. Even when it’s not, white allies often perceive themselves as more of an ally than they truly are.

Again, I’m not out to critique allyship. But even when it’s done well — when allies truly seek to lift their marginalized coworkers — allyship presupposes the lines that divide us. It casts intolerance, discrimination and harassment as “their” problem and the ally as an empathetic outside supporter rather than a sympathetic co-laborer. We need something more than allies.

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