Element Descriptor

We really can’t do this alone, or as some vanguard waiting for others to fall into ‘line’ under our ‘leadership’. So, if you want others to help you, you have to help them. That requires understanding (while not necessarily always agreeing) with their view of the world. Failing to be an ally means you’re gonna be lonely as.

Level descriptors

You have to understand that being an ally is a process not an event, that there are no good guy badges that matter and that you will screw up, You also understand that guilt is kinda pointless in and of itselfYou are able to be an ally in challenging situations, and demonstrate to others that this is important work, which, while difficult, can be done. You make sure to observe and reflect on allyship, and you are well aware of the dangers of centring yourself/playing the saviour. You’re willing and able to have difficult discussions about allyship with people who are not quite there on what it meansYou are able to be an ally – and help other people be allies – under situations of extreme stress and with emotions boiling over. You have done a lot of work to reflect on your implicit assumptions and associations, and you also know that this not gonna get much easier, but still has to be done.Yeah, look if you think you’re a ninja ally, you have clearly misunderstood how difficult this is and how the last thing anyone needs is a white saviour who thinks they are All That. You ain’t. Grow up and stop trying to be the centre of everything, ffs.

Element Overview Essay

This is a draft. If something doesn’t make sense, or you see typos, or if you have further ideas, please email us on contact@activecitizenshiptoolkit.net

The causes of why allyship is not better done, I suppose can be divided into supply and demand. 

So let’s take it from the perspective of groups that would benefit perhaps from alliances with more powerful and well resourced groups that had say, white skin privilege and middle class skills. Well, number one, they’re really busy just keeping their own organisations and fire afloat and keeping them around and fighting their own battles. And I think they’re worried quite rightly that if they start spending time trying to find allies, number one, it sets up a white Saviour complex. “Oh, we really need you. Would you please come and save us Master” Number two, they probably know from prolonged, repeated bitter experience. That was some white allies will have that saviour complex, and even the ones that don’t will be pretty ignorant and will make the same mistakes that the group that wants the allyship has seen over and over and over again. And there’ll be this prolonged period of having to educate people and deal with their white tears or their male tears or whatever. And can you blame the the people who would benefit from the allyship of thinking, “screw this”? 

The flip side I think is that while there are a certain number of groups that would want to do proper allyship, they’re nervous of getting it wrong. They’re nervous of being seen as the white saviour, of not knowing enough, and they too have their own things that they’re fighting and there’s a cognitive load here. So, you know, both “sides” would agree that allyship would make each side more powerful. But the practicalities of doing it are tricky. 

Now the consequences of a lack of decent allyship.  Well, you see them all around you are lords and masters are able to play groups off against each other. Use the old trick of white skin privilege which they’ve been using for hundreds of years, ever since they started having to suppress slave revolts in the, quote, new world unquote, and realise that if they gave the whites a little bit more – or less bad stuff –  then it would make united slave rebellions of indentured servants and slaves, more difficult to organise. So, if we don’t get allyship right, we will continue to fail in much the same way that we have been failing. But of course, getting ally, allyship “right” is not an event. It is a process. There will be steps backward. Of course there will. 

So I’m not going to give any advice to people of colour of an allyship for God’s sake. But what I will say to my fellow white people, is we have to educate ourselves. We have to come into these situations knowing what the common mistakes are and with plausible ways of not making those same old mistakes We have to be not expecting of any thanks for doing this work. We have to expect to be called out when – not if but when – we do it wrong. We obviously have to not take up space and not try and centre ourselves there’s a whole lot of nots. 

Allyship is it is a slow, non glamorous, day-by-day process. You never get the T shirt. You never get the parade and that’s just how it is. And if you don’t like it, don’t try and do it.

Teju Cole, 2012 “The White Saviour Industrial Complex” The Atlantic https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/03/the-white-savior-industrial-complex/254843/

Development Resources

See Climate Emergency Manchester’s novices guide.

It has links to lots of other resources. There will be a practitioner’s guide produced soon (ideally by the end of the year).

Assessment Resources