Shhhh. Listen more.
Just show up.
No, don’t voice your opinion, even if it aligns, but especially if it doesn’t.
I hate being an Ally. It feels so darn helpless on the best days and is a minefield of chaos on the worst. But pick your justice issues (Gender, Sex, Skin Color, Poverty, etc) and there is a common thread for an ally of privilege. It is called surrender and it is essential to be an advocate. We must surrender our sense of control for once, our privilage to have an opinion, to speak up, and to be the “do-er” in order to allow the oppressed to speak for themselves or we become yet another oppressor.
To be an advocate does not mean to be the first voice or face in the space. It means showing up, remaining present, listening and only when needed speaking up long enough only to create space for the oppressed voices when they get drowned out by other voices of privilege.
There is a great video out there of a panel of scientists which happened to include a woman. The moderator was “man-splaining” and taking over her voice every time she tried to speak. Finally, someone who was trying to listen, sinterrupted and shouted out, “Let. Her. Speak!” This was a perfect example of what it is to be an ally and be present, listening and advocating as needed. Don’t speak for her, don’t interrupt her, but do speak up enough to create the space for her voice again, sit back down, and listen more.
The problem with the example is that the woman who spoke up was lauded. And most times, ally friend, you will not be. And you (I) don’t get to complain about it when we aren’t. Because it will happen. We will step into the fray and get hit with the bullets flying. Still, when we do speak up, be prepared for flack and don’t put the emotional toll on the shoulders of the oppressed to make you feel better later. In other words, don’t enter the battle and expect the oppressed to dress your wounds later. They have their own to dress and don’t need “help” that burdens them further.
This will feel helpless. It feels lonely. It feels like, looks like, surrender and it is. And it must be- because the only way to be a true ally and advocate means sitting back, listening, and giving up the space we have always had a right to, so that others may join us in the bounty of existence that celebrates everyone.