More than an Ally: Non-Optical Allyship

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The straw that broke the camels back. After the nation has seen a multitude of innocent Black lives taken, the death of George Floyd has sparked national outrage as the Black community is faced with another life taken at the hands of the racism and power displayed by others.

“#BlackLivesMatter was founded in 2013 in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer. Black Lives Matter Foundation, Inc is a global organization in the US, UK and Canada whose mission is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes. By combating and countering acts of violence, creating space for Black imagination and innovation, and centering Black joy, we are winning immediate improvements in our lives,” the movement stated on their website.

Many people from different backgrounds, races, genders and more have become members of the movement and have offered support to those affected by the injustice around the country. But what is enough? What is an ally?

On May 30, 2020, Assistant Editor of Square Peg Books and contributor at Worldplay Magazine, Mireille Harper shared on social media the “10 Steps to Non-Optical Allyship.” VALLEY is here to break down these steps for you.

Harper begins her steps with identifying what an optical allyship is. Before being an effective ally in the movement, you must dig beneath the surface and focus on the tasks at hand.

At this very time, emotions are high and the impact feels a lot heavier to the community directly affected. Whether it’s your hometown friends or friends you made while on Penn State’s predominantly white campus, it’s important to be aware of the feelings and perspectives these people are facing.

While the issue many Americans are facing may not be something you deal with in day to day life, Harper encourages those who can, to use their position in society to help the message disseminate and make a change.

“In my friends, specifically those who aren’t Black, I look to see if they use their privilege in a positive manor. In the recent riots, people have been putting themselves in between the Black people and the police. Those are the kind of people I want to be friends with. I seek peers that acknowledge that their is racial inequality and use their voice to speak out and stand against our oppressors,” sophomore Taylor Dorsett said.

Educate! Educate! Educate! Unsure about prior movements? Unsure about what sparked the outrage? Need clarity about the oppression of minority groups in America? The best way to get this information is through education. This can be in various forms whether it’s a documentary, podcast, news sites or open dialogue. Acknowledging and learning are key to being the most effective ally.

Reading the room is crucial and necessary, especially as social media, unlike prior movements, has been a tool used in dispersing information and support. Sharing videos and pictures of protestors may cause more harm then good. It’s important to realize how sharing an image or video may make another person feel.

We’ve seen numerous celebrities like Chrissy Teigen, John Legend, Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to numerous organizations. However, everyone has the chance to donate to the organization of their choice and donate as much as they feel comfortable with. Check your local organizations to see where you can donate or donate to nationwide organizations and funds.

“I think others can help by joining in on the conversations and not being a bystander because by doing that, nothing can be achieved. People can join in on the peaceful protests, sign petitions and make donations,” sophomore Precious Yeboah stated.

In a generation where many are labeled as lacking empathy, it is important to demonstrate this now. Many are coming to the aid of the movement because they share a similar sentiment, no topic is more important than another. Harper urges others to not diminish this issue.

Racism isn’t fixed overnight. An active fight to revert the ideologies that are being fought against is crucial. Support is needed.

Recently, organizations and businesses are under the magnifying glass as others are awaiting how they respond to the ongoing issue. Clothing store Dolls Kill is coming under fire as co-founder Shoddy Lynn posted a photo to her Instagram about the use of police during protests which later caused her to close off her Instagram to the public.

Going hand-in-hand with number eight, Harper concludes with a couple of questions. Questions regarding goals. Questions about participation. Questions about the long term.

“VALLEY prides our publication on embracing and amplifying students from all races, ethnicities, genders, sexualities and backgrounds. We do not stand for the sexualization, tokenism, and appropriation of underrepresented people. We are here to stay — through the good, bad and ugly — and to drive a message of hope for positive change.”



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