AN EXCERPT FROM
A TO Z TERMS
By I AM Editorial Board
A lifelong process of acting with others in pursuit of ending oppression, advancing inclusion and creating a culture of equity. Those striving to be allies should seek opportunities to continuously learn and unlearn, take action, grow self-awareness, partner with and create space to amplify the voices of those facing injustice. Note that being an ally is not self-defined - it is individually earned by establishing trust and determined by those whom you stand up with.
Roxane Gay highlights a problem with allyship in the movement for Black lives: good intentions are simply not enough. She states, “Black people do not need allies. We need people to stand up and take on the problems borne of oppression as their own, without remove or distance. We need people to do this even if they cannot fully understand what it’s like to be oppressed for their race or ethnicity, gender, sexuality, ability, class, religion, or other marker of identity.”
An individual who actively fights against white supremacy, anti-Blackness, systemic racism, discrimination and bias. This person has made the bold decision to shift and dismantle power structures and systems of oppression as well as make frequent, consistent, equitable choices daily. These choices require ongoing self-awareness and self-reflection as one moves through life as well as a consistent analysis of the ways in which power is organized in society. Being actively anti-racist is the objective and is critically different from claiming not to be racist.
Casual racism is characterized by and stems from harmful prejudices and stereotypes related to race, skin color and/or ethnicity. Racist acts can include off-handed jokes or comments, disapproving glances, exclusionary body language, and turning a blind eye to or denying the existence of racism or injustice. It’s important to remember that even if not overt or intended to cause offense, acts of casual racism are equally as harmful.
Racism doesn’t simply refer to a person’s beliefs or behaviors, it IS the system and is ingrained in societal structures, disadvantaging races that have been historically targeted for oppression. Due to the unjust practices, policies, laws and procedures that make up the very fabric of our society, racism allows for advantages based on skin color and persists within all systems including criminal justice, housing, health care, political, employment and education. Furthermore, racist systems and practices are often continuously cemented by groups holding institutional power (e.g., governments and corporations).
A multifaceted system in which whiteness is deemed both ideal and the norm and that marks Black, Indigenous, and people of color as deviations from that norm. As described by scholar Frances Lee Ansley, it’s “a political, economic, and cultural system in which whites overwhelmingly control power and material resources, conscious and unconscious ideas of white superiority and entitlement are widespread, and relations of white dominance and non-white subordination are daily re-enacted across a broad array of institutions and social settings.”
Source: Frances Lee Ansley, "White Supremacy (And What We Should Do About It)"