How to commit to a life of allyship: 'create an actual home in your life for your allyship'

Shanon Lee
·Contributing Writer
·6 min read

Yahoo Life is hosting a 5-day challenge to help readers learn one actionable thing each day to be a better ally to marginalized or disenfranchised people

Have you taken the Allyship Pledge?
Have you taken the Allyship Pledge?

A critical part of doing anti-racism work is unpacking our own privilege and understanding how we fit into systems of oppression, so we can learn how to help dismantle them.

That’s why we partnered with Frederick Joseph, author of The Black Friend: On Being A Better White Person, for the Yahoo Allyship Pledge: 5 Day Challenge with Frederick Joseph. This is a guided program you can follow along with from home to learn how to identify your privilege, recognize systems of oppression and become a better ally.

Ready to learn how to become a better ally, one day at a time? Here’s an overview of the Yahoo Allyship Pledge: 5 Day Challenge with Frederick Joseph.

Day 1: Take stock of your privilege

Award-winning advocate Frederick Joseph challenged readers on Day 1 to sit down and think about which privileges they have in society.

“In our society and all around us, there are people that face oppression, and there are people who face daily traumas based on various ways they exist within systems that are built against them,” he says.

You must understand how you contribute to the oppression of others before you can begin working towards systemic change, he adds.

To help with this, Joseph provided the following checklist to use to examine your privilege:

  • Gender

  • Race

  • Class

  • Sexuality

  • Disability

  • Physical appearance

He encourages writing down some of the privileges that align with your personal experience, and consider intersectionality. For example, he explains how he benefits as a man existing in a patriarchal society - while being oppressed because he is a Black American.

Make this exercise personal by writing it down and keeping it in a place where it is always visible, Joseph says. “I challenge all of you to do that.”

Day 2: Be uncomfortable

Once you have begun to unpack your societal privileges by writing them down, it is time to get uncomfortable.

On Day 2, Joseph asks readers to get “get uncomfortable” by stepping outside of their comfort zone in order to push past deep rooted bias. No one should be comfortable, “while benefiting from the systems that are hurting others,” he says.

“What you're essentially being asked to do is to reframe or rethink or reimagine your own reality,” Joseph says.

He discusses why it is important to consciously make an effort to be a better ally, by unlearning what we were conditioned to believe while growing up. Joseph suggests: “following people, institutions and creative work” that help challenge our social conditioning.

He offered a short list of films to choose from, including The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, and challenged readers to watch one [movie] or documentary that might make them uncomfortable while learning about Black culture.

Day 3: Be accountable

On days one and two, you took inventory of your own privilege and learned to get uncomfortable in a productive way. The Day 3 challenge is about taking accountability for the ways in which we benefit from other people's oppression, Joseph says.

It is difficult for people that are not intentionally exhibiting biased behavior to see how they benefit from systems of oppression, he says. For example you do not have to think or behave in a racist way to “benefit from systems rooted in racism,” Joseph explains.

He challenged readers to ask themselves: “What systems can I help dismantle that benefit me and oppress others?”

Taking accountability starts with thinking critically about how these systems create inequities, Joseph says.

He named homophobia, patriarchy, ableism, classism and the penal system as “some of the many systems rooted in the oppression of other people.”

Joseph challenges readers to jot down each system that concerns their lived experience and consider what they can do to help dismantle it.

Day 4: Create space and then get out the way

“What does it mean to create space? I like to define it as looking at the benefits [we] have, and the resources, access and privilege that come along with them,” Joseph explains, encouraging readers to leverage their privilege to help others.

Day 4 of the challenge is about “creating space and then getting out of the way” he says.

Getting out of the way could look like declining a professional opportunity and referring it to someone from a marginalized community that is regularly overlooked, Joseph says.

This should be done without expecting favor or praise and “simply because it's the right thing to do,” he says, pointing out white “saviorism” and “performative activism” is self-serving and does nothing to create change.

Joseph encourages readers to take action and “find an organization or an individual, [working] to dismantle systems you benefit from.”

If you need a place to start, he recommends the following organizations: The Innocence Project, Rustin Center, Ali Forney Center, Bail Project.

Day 5: Prepare for a marathon

While days one through four provided actionable steps to get on the path to effective allyship, your final challenge has to do with mindset.

Rectifying 400 years of systemic oppression plaguing the Black community will be long and arduous work, Joseph says. “Your final challenge is to prepare for a marathon because this isn't a sprint.”

“Understanding this is just the beginning,” he says, is the most important part of this work.

We have to be prepared to dig in and accept the changes we are fighting for may not manifest during our lifetime, Joseph says.

The final challenge is to make a lifelong commitment, and “create an actual home in your life for your allyship,” he says.

Joseph suggests readers set up a recurring donation to organizations that support Black lives or help dismantle systems of oppression, volunteer with an organization and join (or start) an anti-racist book club to continue learning how to be a better ally.

Videos produced by Jacquie Cosgrove

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