It’s not 2012 anymore. The discourse has evolved beyond “checking your privilege” (what did that even mean?) and it’s widely held that the activism being spouted in the early 2010s (at least in mainstream spaces) looks a bit tired these days. Allyship, however, is as important as ever, so I’ve written a non-exhaustive list of how to rev it up for 2021. And beyond.
- 1. Stop thinking about yourself all the time. Honestly, just give up on the notion that you’re “not like other Pākehā/not like other cis people/not like other men” et al.
That type of thinking is nothing but self-serving and doesn’t move anything forward. Instead, get used to feeling uncomfortable. Get used to listening to other perspectives and lived experiences without centring yourself.
- 2. But stop overthinking your privileges too. Self-flagellation is another non-starter. It doesn’t move anything forward.
- 3. Default to they/them pronouns. I once had a job where I walked around a shopping centre trying to sign families up to the “Kidz Club”.
“Is she signed up to the Kidz Club?” I asked a parent, about their long-haired child, who I could only see from behind.
“He’s a boy” the parent returned, cold. I didn’t get the sign up and I never used gendered pronouns on the job again. Once I made the switch to they/them (switching to he or she only after the person used it themself) it became a natural part of my vocabulary. Anything does with practise.
- 4. Apologise and move on when you mess up. You’ll get it wrong eventually. You’ll use the wrong pronoun (even with the above rule in place) or you’ll lean into a problematic stereotype. You are a human being.
Most people can tell the difference between a genuine stuff-up and malicious intent. It’s important, though, to apologise anyway. Don’t be stingy with those things but don’t dwell on them either. A long and drawn out lament about how you’re trying your best will lead the victim of your error to have to comfort you. Blergh.
- 5. Speak up behind peoples’ back. Folks usually feel most comfortable being racist/transphobic/sexist/homophobic [ad infinitum] when the people they are speaking of are not present. An obvious example is the group of men who make derogatory remarks about women when they hang out. All it takes is one guy to say “that’s not cool” or “I don’t get how that’s funny or “do you really think you should be sharing your girlfriend’s nudes with us?” to make a difference.
- 6. Stop documenting everything. There’s a fine line between documenting your activism to “raise awareness” and just wanting to show off. Sometimes it makes sense to make a lot of noise. Sure. But for God’s sake don’t film yourself handing out meals on the street.
- 7. Do your research! If you’re interested in something, read about it! Watch documentaries or reputable movies. You can even ask people with knowledge to recommend the best text. But don’t make your friends within these communities work as your own personal tutor. Very often, these conversations occur naturally and when they do, go back to tip number 1.