What Does It Take to Create Allyship?

Leslie Collin

Feb. 16, 2021

When I reflect on my childhood, I think of it nostalgically. There’s an affection and affinity I have toward it, but when I analyze it through my adult eyes, I realize I have these positive feelings because for the simple reason that my mother did an amazing job providing me with two of the most import things you can give your children — access and opportunity. The foundation of those two things are allyship. By definition, allyship is supportive association with another person or group; specifically, such association with the members of a marginalized or mistreated group to which one does not belong.

That being said, what does it take to create allyship? Does it take a pandemic? A democratic crisis? Cities burning due to social and civic unrest? Unfortunately, the answer is that it took all of these things. The result of these overlapping insidious elements was they sparked conversations that led to action.

In 2020, we started to develop empathy because the year taught us that adversity does not discriminate. In that realization, we started to come together, showing strength and resolve.

The empathy we collectively gained in 2020 became the catalyst that allowed individuals to see other people’s struggle as something that shouldn’t happen in isolation. For much longer than we’d like to admit, society has been consumed with blind ambition. One consequence of this blind ambition is that it led to “success” being a commodity only the lucky few have access to. Why should this be the status quo? What can we learn from it?

One thing we can learn is that becoming an ally is simple, but often our ambitions and fear of losing status or vocation prevent benevolence. According to a study conducted by the Lean In organization in 2020, the study found conflicting views of allyship based on race. However, simple acts build on top of each other, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, compound into a groundswell of support that leads to allyship, which turns into empathy, which leads to change.

Without a doubt, the good news is this: We’re making progress. But we have a long road ahead. I’m optimistic, though. No matter how long that road is, we only have to enact simple, seemingly insignificant steps via conversations that lead to actions that establish empathy, which have a compounding effect on the future — a positive effect.