How to hold yourself accountable when benefitting from systems 'rooted in racism'

Today is Day 3 of a 5-day challenge in partnership with Frederick Joseph, author of The Black Friend, for the Yahoo Life x 5-Day Allyship Pledge. 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.

After taking inventory of our own privilege on Day 1, and learning to be uncomfortable in a productive way on Day 2, we are ready to move on to the next step.

The Day 3 challenge is all about accountability, Joseph says, defining accountability as “taking ownership for the ways in which we benefit from other people's oppression.”

For example, many people have a hard time understanding how they contribute to racism, when they do not intentionally exhibit racist behavior, said Joseph.

“But even if you don't see yourself as a racist, you [may] still benefit from systems rooted in racism,” he explains, saying it is not enough to ignore the oppression of others just because you did not create the conditions for it to exist.

Joseph shares a list of systems of oppression to help when considering systems that you wish to dismantle that marginalize others.

Video Transcript

FREDERICK JOSEPH: Hey, everybody. Fredrick Joseph here with day three of your five-day challenge on the road to being a better ally.


After being primed with challenges to learn how to take an inventory of your own privilege and also learn how to become a little uncomfortable in a productive way, for day three, your challenge is being accountable. So in the context of our challenges, accountability is taking ownership for the ways in which we benefit from other people's oppression.

There are many people who say things like, well, I'm not racist, and I don't believe in racist ideas, and I don't have problematic views or tendencies. But that doesn't actually take accountability for the fact that, even if you don't see yourself as a racist, you oftentimes still benefit from systems rooted in racism.

So for day three, I challenge you to think about what systems you benefit from that oppress others. So I'm going to give you a list of systems that I want to dismantle that I benefit from. For instance, homophobia, that's a system in which I benefit from as a heterosexual person. And I want to dismantle that because I want to be an ally to the LGBTQ+ community.

So another system that I want to dismantle that I benefit from is the patriarchy. From toxic masculinity to misogyny, my goal is to do everything that I can to make sure that I don't have any more benefits than anyone else based on the fact that I'm a cisgender heterosexual man.

So another system that I want to talk about dismantling is ableism. I live, actually, at the intersection of ableism. I'm someone who has a disability, but it's an invisible disability. So I both am oppressed by ableism, but I also have the benefits of people assuming that I'm a non-disabled person as well.

One of the most important systems that I want to dismantle is class. Our class structures only benefit people who have economic access and financial means. And for me, someone who's lived in poverty at points in my life, I know how important it is for us to tear those systems down and create more equity and equality for people from all over the spectrum.

Another system is the justice system. More times than not, the Justice system is not fair for people who are a part of those systems that are already oppressed. It's, frankly, a system that needs to be dismantled for all of us and recreated in a way that's fair and equitable. These

Are just some of the many systems that are rooted in the oppression of other people. Get a piece of paper or anything that you can write on. And say to yourself, in terms of being a better ally, what do I need to and want to help dismantle.

For more resources on allyship, head to the Yahoo Allyship Pledge at I'll see you for tomorrow's challenge on the road to all of us creating systemic change.