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.
Allyship is a consistent practice of unlearning and re-evaluating, in which a person holding privilege and power actively seeks to end oppression in solidarity with those who are systemically marginalized.
Today is Day 3 of the Yahoo Allyship Pledge: 5 day challenge with Frederick Joseph, author of The Black Friend: On Being A Better White Person. This is a guided program that anyone can do, with a goal to help you understand privilege, how it can impact your thoughts and what you can do to help others.
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, which, Joseph says, means taking ownership for the ways in which we benefit from other people’s oppression.
Day 3: Be accountable
Many people have a hard time understanding how they may contribute to racism when they do not intentionally exhibit racist behavior. “Even if you don’t see yourself as a racist, you [may] still benefit from systems rooted in racism,” Joseph 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 shared an example of how he must take accountability for the privilege of being a Black, cisgender man in a patriarchal society.
“I still benefit from systems designed for people who are heterosexual and cisgender all around the world,” he says, emphasizing how patriarchy renders him less oppressed in comparison to Black women. “That’s why I can be held accountable by [Black women] for the ways in which I exist within patriarchal systems.”
To better explain, Joseph took this example a step further.
“I’m going to give you a list of systems that I want to dismantle, that I benefit from,” says Joseph, to better help us identify which systems we benefit from that may cause harm to others.
Homophobia: “Homophobia [is] a system I benefit from as a heterosexual person. I want to dismantle that system because I want to not only be an ally, but a co-conspirator and accomplice to the LGBTQ+ community.”
Patriarchy: “From toxic masculinity to misogyny, my goal is to do everything that I can to [ensure] I don’t have any more benefits than anyone else based on the fact I’m a cisgender heterosexual man,” Joseph says.
Ableism: “This is an interesting one [that] goes back to the word ‘intersectionality,’ because I am at the intersection of ableism,” says Joseph, who explains that he in fact has a disability, but that it’s “invisible,” which leads people to assume he is not a person with disabilities.
Classism: “Our class structure only benefits people [that] have economic access and financial means,” says Joseph, who has been impoverished at various times in his life and is passionate about creating equality and equity.
The Penal System: The criminal justice system often targets the most marginalized groups, Joseph explains. “So it’s not only a system that should be dismantled for one group, it’s [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 rooted in the oppression of other people,” he says, describing the next step as essential to becoming a better ally.
What you should do
For the Day 3 challenge, Joseph urges us to get a piece of paper, or a notebook, and jot down each system that concerns our own existence, lived experience and privilege.
After checking our own privilege, he encourages us to ask ourselves, “In terms of being a better ally, what do I need to do to help dismantle this [system]?”
Taking accountability starts with thinking critically about how these systems create inequities, Joseph says. “I’ll see you for tomorrow’s challenge on the road to all of us creating systemic change.”
Video produced by Jacquie Cosgrove
Resources to learn more about allyship: