As the 58th anniversary of the March on Washington of 1963 approaches, I look for ways in which we can realize the dream that the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. so eloquently shared with our nation. One important thing that comes to mind is allyship.
Allyship is a way of being; a commitment to using one’s privilege and power to develop empathy towards those who have been marginalized and the social issues and challenges that get in the way of being accepted, respected, seen, heard, valued, and treated equally. Allyship’s goal is to create a culture in which these are realized. Where there is allyship, there is support for those who are marginalized. Allyship says the issues that marginalized people experience are not okay.
Being an ally is not a label that one wears, it is an action that one takes consistently to ensure that fairness and equity are realized. I remember back in 2005 working for an organization in which a young woman that I worked with was constantly ridiculed, demeaned, and demoralized even though, her work and work ethic was impeccable. My boss didn’t like this woman and she wanted her out. My boss wanted to use me to get the woman out and make it impossible for her to do her work and maybe, eventually, she would quit. What my boss didn’t bank on was that that kind of leadership didn’t sit well with my spirit; I’m a Christian woman. Instead, I chose to be an ally to the woman because I believed in her and her ability to do the work for which she had been hired. It was an uncomfortable spot for me to be in because I believe in being good to people no matter what. The amount of pressure from my boss and my boss’s boss was incredible and I became their target, and they did everything that they could to ruin my career within the organization because I spoke to someone who could do something about the injustice that was happening in our HR department. Being a black woman, this was very intense. Being a minority and only 1 of 3 people of color in my department, I could feel the weight and it wasn’t pleasant. However, I could also feel the pain that the situation was causing for this woman. I couldn’t stand to see another human being in pain just because someone didn’t like them.
I helped the young woman while she was there to feel valued, appreciated, and included on our team and within the organization. I invited her to meetings, showcasing her work, acknowledging her contributions. She came alive and brought her best self to work all the time.
I helped her leave that organization by giving her a stellar reference. More importantly, this black woman became an ally to a white Jewish woman for whom, there was disdain because of her Jewish heritage. Fourteen years later, I reconnected with her, and she shared with me how much she appreciated what I had done for her back then and that it made a world of difference for her in her life and career. True allyship looks beyond color, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc. True allyship takes a stand for what is right at all times for all human beings; it is an action!