What Can I Do to Help? A Starter Kit for Effective Allyship

AllyIt is a time of turmoil and dramatic change in the United States. This is reflected in divisive executive orders, the rise in hate crimes, and hate rhetoric targeted at marginalized groups.

So what can you do? This article calls on psychologists and psychologists-in-training to use their expertise and privilege to combat prejudice and discrimination as well as promote inclusion across the spectrum of diverse identities.

The following is certainly not an exhaustive list, but rather a few important points to help you start or continue your journey as an ally. You will find that all of the items listed below are action items, because allyship is about taking action in an effort to dismantle inequities. We provide some examples, with an emphasis on groups recently targeted by the hate rhetoric, policies, and supporters of white nationalism.

  1.    Educate yourself by seeking out marginalized voices and perspectives.

Allyship starts with learning and requires constant education. Consume information responsibly; be weary of resources that inaccurately represent marginalized groups. One way to stay informed is by following activists from marginalized groups on social media. Here are a few activists:

  1.    Join organizations that fight for social justice.

Despite sincere interest in supporting marginalized groups, many find themselves doing nothing because they do not know what to do or where to start. Joining the listservs of social justice organizations is a great way to stay informed about problems facing marginalized communities, and to learn how to be a part of the solution. Listservs also help you stay engaged in social justice efforts on a regular basis, as some organizations will send action items directly to your inbox. Below are several social justice organizations to consider joining.

  1.    Follow and support the leaders of the group.

Being an ally to any marginalized community is fundamentally about recognizing the privilege that you hold, and working to dismantle the existing systems of injustice. Leaders of groups you align with will have expertise in the best way to organize. Allow yourself to listen first. Do not assume you know what the group needs, instead ask what you can do to help and how your skills may best serve the group. Allyship is about supporting without being in the spotlight. Do not let your own voice overpower those of the community members for which you are advocating.

  1.    Stand up against discrimination in your daily life.

When it comes to witnessing discrimination, silence can mean approval. Often people do not respond because they are unsure of what to do. Learn about how to identify and respond to discriminatory acts, and then practice responding to discrimination with your friends and colleagues so you are equipped.

  1.    Be proactive about inclusion and addressing inequity in your daily life.

A key part of allyship is doing your part to create more diverse and inclusive spaces. This means amplifying voices of marginalized individuals and getting comfortable with challenging existing power dynamics that favor more privileged communities. Being proactive about inclusion and addressing inequity can take many forms, such as supporting efforts to increase the minimum wage in your state or supporting black owned businesses. Here are some ideas for promoting inclusion at your university:

  • Work to increase diversity among the faculty and students in your department. Have a conversation with your training director about whether current efforts are in place to bring students and faculty of diverse identities into the department.
  • Integrate diversity into required courses. This could involve creating a student group to review syllabi and ensure that diversity-related issues are included.
  • Create internal department grants for graduate students whose work focuses on underrepresented populations.
  • Share the stories of individuals of marginalized identities (e.g., on social media, in class discussions, with the editor of your university magazine).
  • Use inclusive language (e.g., here is a guide on terminology to use when discussing LGBTQ+ people and issues, and here is a resource on using inclusive pronouns as a faculty member or teaching assistant).

We hope you have found this blogpost useful. Please note that this blogpost is a preliminary effort to promote allyship within the psychology community. We would love for you to share resources you have found helpful in your journey as an ally. Please email Mona Elgohail and Joelle Taknint with recommendations on how to improve this post and future allyship-related initiatives. Also, feel free to comment below!

Editor’s Note: Check out Julia Benjamin’s Take the Ally Challenge post for more information on how to be a successful ally.

One thought on “What Can I Do to Help? A Starter Kit for Effective Allyship

  1. Joy Marquez

    Great post! I’ll be sure to share this at the California Psychological Association of Graduate Students (CPAGS) Cross Cultural Conference this weekend. It aligns nicely with our theme – #IOwnMyPrivilege: Defining Our Power Toward Allyship

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