Acknowledge Privilege, Embrace Diversity and Address Discomfort

be an ally

With the burning of Notre Dame, I realized collections of individuals from all backgrounds unified. It seems, as of late, that only tragedy can truly bring us together. But why can’t we act in such cross-cultural camaraderie all the time? We must begin to take advantage of the diversity we have around us, in order to progress together. Political action and collective movements are crucial, but sometimes being an ally is in the smaller acts of inclusion.

Look Around

Yes, our communities are much more diverse than ever before. However, to what extent are these diverse sub-sects of these communities socializing? Whether it’s the cliques of like-minded or same-race students at university, or employees at lunch only sitting with those in their same department, this disharmony surrounds us.

To an extent all of this makes sense. We seek acceptance and that comes from those who share our interests, background, and otherwise. But what value does the diversity in our communities provide us with if we don’t take advantage of it beyond hailing statistics?

The Fear of Regression

I think, in part, we fear going backwards. The fact that so many different types of people now openly thrive around us is such a feat that we don’t want to tarnish it. The potential conflict that may come from taking advantage of this diversity through cross-cultural discussions and analysis could somehow damage progress.

Just 50 years ago, our communities looked drastically different regarding diversity amongst race, sexuality, and gender roles. Through delving into varying beliefs head-first I think we largely fear that we will revert to the ways of 50 years ago. But through these practices, we are allowing the mindsets that prevailed during that time to still remain in our subconscious.

We’ve seen this unfortunate reality come to fruition recently with the resurgence of hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. Such ways of thinking were only temporarily quelled through various legislature and social movements. But at some point, we hit a standstill. Even backtracked.

Being an Ally Everyday

The phrase of being an ally for minority groups has come to the forefront lately. What this encompasses is defending the rights of the historically looked down upon or disenfranchised. It’s about knowing that while you can never fully understand their struggle, it isn’t necessary to in order to defend them.

Those in privileged positions cannot understand the struggle of those in another race or socioeconomic position. We must talk openly about the inequality. Being an ally will be uncomfortable sometimes, that’s where change happens.

So many of us, including myself, function in subconscious ways that continue to validate the racism, sexism, and so on, of generations before us. We must recognize this and act accordingly.

Have conversations about religion, poverty, wealth gaps, and unequal opportunities. These issues won’t go away just because we actively think that they’re bad or even because federal laws pass attempting to mitigate such problems. It’s through civil discussion that change happens.

Rather than projecting your disdain for unfair societal systems onto the government or someone else, take a look at yourself. Get curious about the way you see people, the crowd you surround yourself with, and take advantage of the diversity around us through allowing others’ struggles and cultures to be seen. Empowering them through your time, discussion, and mindset shifts.

Political action is important as well. However, it’s in our day-to-day actions where the change begins.