Allyship benefits everyone! Let’s consider some more reasons why active advocacy is so important through the Ally-Agent Continuum.
An ally is a person who belongs to a privileged group and takes action to challenge the status quo and promote inclusiveness and social justice.
The agent, on the other extreme, represents someone who belongs to a privileged group and takes action to maintain and support the status quo of privilege and oppression.
In the middle, are people who are passive. By not actively doing something to challenge or support the status quo, they still reinforce the oppressive system.
To help make this idea clearer think of a moving walkway…
The walkway is set as a system to move in one direction (status quo) and the agents are the people walking or running in the direction of the walkway. The passive person stands in the moving walkway and moves along with it; by not taking action, the system operates as expected (status quo). An ally is someone that we would see on the walkway walking or running the opposite direction of the walkway’s movement. They are actively doing something that challenges the way the system operates, and thus, challenging the status quo.
Consistent with the idea of a passive person, a neutral or null environment is an environment that is neither actively affirming nor discriminatory to an oppressed group. Despite not being actively discriminatory, a null environment is still toxic to the mental health outcomes of oppressed communities.
Only actively affirming environments promote positive social and mental health outcomes for oppressed communities. By engaging in active solidarity, we can ensure that more spaces and environments are intentionally open and affirming to all groups.
Example: You are at a house party and someone makes a joke that makes the person you came with uncomfortable. Do you: (a) speak up against the joke, (b) do nothing, or (c) laugh?
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Think about the times when you have acted as an ally, agent, or passive person in the continuum and about the factors that facilitated or limited your actions.