How to be an Ally
Written for friends of the DSAGC with significant narrative from Crystal Johnson
We hope this information will supply you with resources that will enable you to become a better ally and community member to all communities. The following is an overview intended to help us all understand what it is to be an ally with practical ways to create community through Allyship. We hope you read, share and put some of it into practice.
(1) LISTEN—intentionally listen to support others
Active listening is an essential pillar of Allyship. Hispanics in the U.S. come from all different backgrounds—not a single experience is the same. Often, Hispanics are lumped into one group because of initial assumptions. As friends to those with Down syndrome this is sounds all too familiar. While there are many similarities with those that are Hispanic, there are plenty of differences in language, culture, appearance, and behavior. Take time to listen. Make it a point to practice active listening (playing back what you heard, asking about details or clarifications) and encourage others to listen too by actively inviting them into conversations.
(2) LEARN—Use informal research to learn
Spend at least 2 hours a month reading or watching programs that include diverse characters or subject matters. In addition, encourage conversations with neighbors, friends, and colleagues including those in leadership roles. This may help with more action and outcomes for increased diversity representation and inclusion in many ways.
(3) EMPATHIZE—Build quality relationships through empathy
Relationships can take many names such as neighbor, teacher, co-worker, mentee/mentor, etc. Checking in can be very different depending on your relationship status, but regardless, checking in can instill confidence in the person’s feelings or inclusion/care, mental health and establishes you as an ally. Authentic relationships result in great opportunities to discuss tough subjects, make progress on projects, or get honest feedback. Simply listening to concerns can strengthen bonds.
(4) ENGAGE—consistently engage in diverse events
Many organizations and companies have groups and gatherings for diverse backgrounds. Reach out and ask when you can attend the next event, whether it be in-person or virtual. Learn about the experiences shared and topics discussed. How can you help? Is there any opportunity you can lend your talents? Even just attending allows you to engage with a different group and can change your perspective—be aware of how you feel in a meeting or room with others who don’t look or speak like you. Ask yourself honestly how you felt and empathize with others who experience this every day.
(5) ACT—proactively act as an up stander.
If you notice an individual getting talked over or not having a chance to speak, give them the platform they deserve. Even if they have not attempted to speak, they may have something good to say but don’t feel comfortable doing so. Do you notice someone struggling with pronunciations? Jump in and affirm them by letting them know speaking two languages is not easy and you admire. Make it a priority to create an inclusive environment, where it is encouraged to appreciate different cultures.
(6) ASK—you can always help, just ask how
For Allyship to succeed, all community members need to feel that their input and feedback will be heard, reviewed, and applied wherever possible. Simply asking “How’s it going? Anything I can help with?” can spark a conversation of interest or struggle. Community members that are confident in their environment will grow individually, be more productive and contribute proportionately. If you notice someone is not speaking up, not participating in conversations, or attending in person events, it is okay to ask in a one-on-one setting: "Do you feel included?
(7) ADVOCATE—the best way to advocate is through action
For underrepresented communities to grow, allies are crucial. The old saying 'you don’t get what you don’t ask for’ applies more so today than ever before. In many cases it’s not a lack of advocacy, but a lack of creativity and intentional actions. Regardless of whether you are a community leader, manager, or an individual contributor, advocating plays a major role in progressing communities’ diversity and inclusion journey. The best way to advocate is through action.
(8) COMMIT—Make Diversity and Inclusion a personal commitment
Include Diversity and Inclusion in your home and in your career development goals. Some examples can include: (1) Partner with a co-worker to help each other to learn new skill sets and allow you both to gain a new perspective, and it will naturally foster a personal relationship with someone outside your usual group. (2) Volunteer with groups outside of your usual norm (3) Subscribe to social media groups or join local groups to be involved in the ongoing conversation about diversity in your community. (4) Lastly, if you’re in the position of influence, be intentional about having a diverse group around you and build a network you are proud of being a part.
Create a habit of Allyship, not a checklist for limited goals. As you read this, we hope you noticed that being an ally is no different than being a great leader, friend, or co-worker. Be intentional with your actions, not calculated. Lift others up and you will be too.