Thursday, August 25, 2011

From the vault: "Killing" allies

There are a suite of three posts on ally relationships that were well-received when they first appeared in this space. This week, I will re-run them. This post was originally published March 11, 2010.

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(via @kellyhogaboom on Twitter)

I've written about the relationship between allies and oppressed groups before, most notably here and here. But Guage over at Radical Masculinity makes a powerful case for rethinking the notion of "allies" all together:
We really need to stop using the term ally. This applies to all of us in anti-oppression work, whether in the work in question we are part of the oppressed or oppressor class*. This is not about people who self-identify as allies and don't work on their privilege and refuse to listen to members of the oppressed group, but to all people who might self-identify as an ally to an oppressed group. Ally is an inherently problematic. It:

1.) Presupposes you are doing a good job, and by its very use, is a coercive request to members of the oppressed group to give approval to the person in question, and more so, it is linked to an expectation of gratitude for attempting to do two things:

a) Acknowledge and work on** one's privilege as a member of an oppressor class.

b) Helping to make voices of the oppressed class heard, and actively standing up in solidarity with the oppressed class.

Does using the term "allies" equate to--in the words of Chris Rock--giving a cookie to people for something they are supposed to do? Your thoughts?

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