Recognising Your Privilege: How to be an ally
November 18th, 2020 at 8:58 am
Although injustice and oppression have always existed, these events from the past week highlight how deeply rooted they are in our culture:
- A Nigerian being denied a job in Malaysia.
- Syed Saddiq getting backlash for posting this TikTok.
- Racist complaints made against those celebrating Diwali.
- Police brutality against 29 unlawfully detained Indian men.
Discrimination is known as individual acts of prejudice (actions, words, thoughts), but it also involves the unseen social structures that prioritise your group (race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, physical/mental ability).
However, simply recognising that others are disadvantaged is not enough – one must acknolwedge their own privilege, but many are unable to do so because of unconscious oppressiveness. These feelings of distress and anger are a defensive reaction to unearned rewards and given dominance. But being privileged does not necessarily mean that you have it easy – it means that your life has not been hard because of the community you’re apart of.
This is why we need to step up as allies – an ally is someone who is willing to use their position to help others. It requires constant awareness and mindful actions, which amplifies those you’re trying to support rather than speaking on behalf of them. Here’s how you can become an effective ally:
- Recognise your privilege
Consider the different types of privilege that have brought you benefits – what opportunities have you received that others have been deprived of? For example, being able to rent a room because of your race or not having to worry about getting sexually harassed when going for a run. It’s not going to be easy – you may feel embarrassed, guilty and frustrated, but this honesty is also needed for us to grow as individuals.
- Educate yourself
Talk to your friends and family, read articles and books, watch documentaries and movies – try get a better understanding of what others are going through. You’ll make mistakes (at the end of the day, you’re only human), but the most important thing is to take accountability. You have the responsibility to do better and be better.
- Show your support
Stop supporting organisations that spread hate or refuse to speak up on issues that affect the communities they profit off. Instead, donate to funds, endorse platforms and initiatives, sign petitions – and continue to after the media attention has died down.
It might seem easier turn a blind eye, but unacknowledged privilege is not only arrogant – it can be destructive too. Disapproving isn’t enough either, we need to actively speak up and acknowledge inequality because by staying silent – we are protecting the unfair system and those involved.
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