What role do white allies play in diversity and inclusion?
May 15, 2019
President Trump recently invited the Boston Red Sox, who are the 2018 World Series champions, to the White House—a tradition typically done after a sports team wins a national championship. The team was divided on whether or not to visit the White House, with at least 10 players declining to go. Several of the players of color stated that their decision to decline was due to the disparaging remarks Trump has made against people of color. One player indicated that his refusal to go was based on this administration’s handling of Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria. This isn’t the first time sports, politics and race have merged. Just last month, Utah Jazz player Kyle Korver wrote a detailed essay about his privilege and discussed what he, as a white man, can do to impact racist systems. This brings up an important discussion regarding racial division, the role of allies and how those in the dominant group can impact diversity and inclusion efforts. What role does the dominant group play in dismantling systems of oppression and what are some actionable ways that those with power and privilege can amplify the voices of the marginalized?
1. Use your voice to dismantle systems of oppression. When you witness people making racist statements or reinforcing negative stereotypes about a particular group, it is important that you speak up and speak out. One powerful way that the majority group can use their privilege to spark real change is to speak to others from the dominant group about the role they play in perpetuating systems of oppression. Research indicates that women and people of color who advocated for diversity within their organizations were actually rated less favorably than those who did not advocate for diversity. The aforementioned research study also found that when women and people of color advocate for diversity, they are viewed as less competent and less effective. Holding others accountable for their actions, behaviors and words is critical. Remaining silent in the face of oppression, discrimination and prejudice only further perpetuates inequity.
2. Seek to learn and share different perspectives and viewpoints. If you are unfamiliar with the experiences of diverse people, there are so many different ways to consume information and learn more about different groups. Reading books like The New Jim Crow, Between Me and the World, and Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race can transform your perspective and challenge your way of thinking. If you’re not a book person, there are audio books and even podcasts focused on seeing and understanding the world through the perspective of others. Women at Work, Code Switch, Otherhood, This American Life, and Latino USA are some great examples of podcasts that allow you to understand the world through different lenses. When you are on social media, share content from writers and content creators of color to educate your own circles of influence. A retweet, re-share, or even a “like” on platforms like LinkedIn and Instagram can magnify the reach and impact of a diverse story. Re-sharing content focused on a unique perspective can teach your audience, who may not have seen that content or heard that perspective otherwise.
3. Advocate through your actions. Having the desire to do better and learn more is one piece and it’s great, however it’s important for action to follow. After you’ve read the perspectives of marginalized groups and listened to their stories, think about how you can deconstruct these systems through your own actions. That could come in the form of providing career guidance and mentorship to a coworker from a completely different background as you. Or, that could be repeating the ideas that your female colleague brought up during the meeting that were later stifled and ignored. You could suggest to company management a partnership with an organization that focuses on fostering more diversity and inclusion. Black Girls Code, Girls Who Code, and Lesbians Who Tech are some examples of organizations focused on more diversity in the tech industry. Through your actions you can use your privilege and power to dismantle biased systems; this is the most effective way to be an ally, accomplice, and advocate for marginalized groups.
By Janice Gassam