Pecan Pie

Social Anxiety from the South

Allyship…or How to Try and Not F**k Up

Author’s Note: These are my thoughts on how to construct a roundtable I’m working on for this weekend.  Please, any constructive feedback is welcome.

I’m white. I grew up in a middle class family and according to the Census Bureau I am clearly middle class now.  I have an advanced education.  I am very privileged.  Let’s just start with that.  My experiences with oppression are minimal compared to others, though I do deal with the misogyny and those struggles with being a member of alternative/queer community.

What is an ally?

Well, Funk and Wagnalls tells us this about allies as a noun.  “An ally is a state or ruler leagued with another by treaty; an associate; a kinsman (kinsperson).”

Dr. Frances Kendall  tells us that an ally is someone who “work(s) continuously to develop an understanding of the personal and institutional experiences of the person or people with whom they are aligning themselves.” 

Both of these definitions require the acknowledgement of privilege.  Most of us in the community to which I plan to speak understand what privilege means.  That it is not something we gained or earned, it is not something to feel guilt about, but it is integral to understand that we have it and others do not.  It is something to be checked and checked continuously.

What does allyship mean?

For me, allyship means several things:

1. Aligning oneself with those who do not have privileges that I enjoy.

2. Attempt to focus one’s attention on acknowledging this privilege.

3. Take steps to focus society towards making these privileges as rights that all people enjoy.

4. Call out microaggressive behavior when one is in the presence of it and acknowledge when one has been the perpetrator of it.


Can anyone just be an ally?

Well, no.  Ally is a term given.  It is earned. Just like other terms of integrity and honor, allyship is something that is something one must continually strive to achieve.  For instance, Tim Wise is one of many white allies who acknowledge white supremacist misogynistic society and yet, often winds up speaking over those with marginalized experiences rather than shutting up and listening.  In other words, don’t speak to hear yourself talk about how awesome you are. (Yes, I get the irony of my post here and my calling out of Wise.)  I have (hopefully) learned that I can be racist, I can be homophobic, I can be misogynistic even as I strive to be an ally..

Which brings us to microaggressions…

Dr. Sue at Fordham University is one of the foremost experts on microaggressions.  You can read about his work here.  I’d like to use this roundtable to discuss what microaggressions are and listen to the experiences of those of us who have been both perpetrators and victims.

What happens when I’m a perpetrator?

1. Acknowledge this has happened.  Do not get defensive when someone expresses their offense.  This is not the fucking political correctness police, this is a person…a human giving you an opportunity to give love, understanding and education.

2. Apologize. It’s okay to say your sorry.  “Love means never having to say your sorry…” No. Love means saying you’re sorry when you are wrong because of love.

3. Listen. Hear the person you have been aggressive towards.  Really take a moment to understand that you have hurt them and why they feel hurt.

4. Make a pledge to do better.  Love is about change.  Love is not stagnant.  Love is working to be a better you.  I have done it.  You have done it.  We are not perfect.  We can say, “I fucked up.  I am sorry.  I will be mindful  and try my best to do better going forward.”  The basis of scientific knowledge is admitting we don’t know.  That’s okay.  When you know better, you do better. 
Just make sure you do.
5. Lastly, forgive yourself.  Intent matters, but positive intent does not equal positive outcomes.  Do your community a favor and leave the white/male/privileged guilt at the door.  It is not helpful to make it about you.  It is helpful to make it about serving others.
Open for questions and discussion.
Okay, go!












Written by thelittlepecan

June 2, 2014 at 4:14 pm

Posted in atheism

7 Responses

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  1. This is not an academic audience this weekend, so it really doesn’t apply…but if you are planning to take this discussion back into the academic world don’t forget your citations, Professor Berry. Bubble makes some good points as well. I can add in some examples of where I have fucked up as an ally (I have so many, I would most likely go over your time limit…so I’ll just pick the biggest ones). I think it’s also important to discuss how members of an alligned group can take opportunties to encourage someone to be an ally, and not alienate them.

    Tamara King Henderson

    June 2, 2014 at 4:49 pm

    • I do teach this in class…and I don’t forget my citations (LULZ).

      Yes, all those things, so be prepared, I’m calling on you in class!


      June 2, 2014 at 5:25 pm

  2. When talking about allyship you might want to give examples Gay ally, Trans ally, LGBTQ ally…. Who are you supporting?

    Define Microagression, it is a fairly new and vogue term.

    Allyship #5 Take time to investigate and learn the things you don’t know about …. (use of pronouns, which questions are appropriate, proper terms etc)

    Allyship #6 Remember one size does not fit all. Take time to get to know the individual. I am very open and hard to embaress and will talk about most anything with an ally. There are many who are just the opposite and take the tact of ‘it’s none of your business.’


    June 2, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    • Perfect, thank you! I’m counting on you and others to help me bring up these topics. I’m not going to edit, but use these comments as a part of this post to help me stay on track. I want this to be more discussion than me lecturing…plus it will be hot and lots of nakedness.

      More nervous about this than the first day of class!


      June 2, 2014 at 4:40 pm

  3. I think this is a really great outline for the round table. These are excellent points to bring up and discuss. I’m curious about the format of it and how/where you’ve left room for discussion but also being sure to focus on time limits and getting all the important ideas out effectively to the group.

    Bubble Bordeaux

    June 2, 2014 at 4:24 pm

    • Okay, so I get an hour and a half. Not the greatest. And I may have bitten off more than I can chew.

      I plan to bring my own notes/knowledge on privilege and microaggressions that I’m fairly good at just teaching. I’d REALLY like to have this be more discussion and leave more room for those who deal with this on a daily basis talk about their experiences.

      BUT, I need to be prepared for a small group/less UM how you say…participatory group. I’d like this to be loose and free flowing, not a lecture like my class.



      June 2, 2014 at 4:34 pm

      • I think an hour and a half is plenty of time to discuss what you’ve put here. While round tables are about discussion and you want that to happen organically, you do control it. You may end up hitting your points out of order based on how the discussion goes, but you get to keep it focused. And if you can keep a classroom of young twentysomethings in check, you can keep happy naked people on a retreat in check, because they’re choosing to make it out to your class. Because either you or the topic intrigues them (or both!), and that’s nothing to be too nervous about. Also you know you’ll have some participants because they already posted here too. Just deep breathe and be awesome. You’ve got this. 🙂

        Bubble Bordeaux

        June 3, 2014 at 12:08 pm

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