An Open Letter to Self-Identified Allies to [Marginalized Group]


Dear Self-Identified Ally,

(1) Remember that your identity as an “ally” is contingent upon the maintenance of the status quo.

In other words, your identity as an “ally” has its basis in the continued oppression of marginalized groups. In the possible future reality of a just world, your identity as an “ally” would be obsolete. Work toward putting yourself out of a “job.” An effective ally’s goal should be toward obsolescence.

(2) Don’t call yourself an ally if your response to marginalized persons writing “How to be an Ally” pieces is to make it all about you.

Don’t call yourself an ally if you refuse to learn and abide by the rules of engagement as set out by the group you claim to be ally to.  I believe it was @FeministGriote who said that being an ally is not an identity, but a process. Embrace the process. If the process of being an ally is too much, remember that lip service just adds to the noise that drowns out marginalized voices. Professing isn’t the same thing as doing. Lip service is just noise. Remember that and act accordingly.

(3) Too often self-identification as an ally is a way of re-centering the privileged self by using marginalized groups as a referent.

Put simply, it is a distraction from the work of justice when you, dear self-identified ally, ask for Ally Cookies and Brownie Points for being a “good person.” It matters less that you are a “good person” if your actions detract from what actually matters. Do not conflate intention with affect. Furthermore, when self-identified allies find themselves, once again, at the center, they have failed to be an ally. Intent is not affect. Even well-intended people derail social justice movements.

(4) Just remember that your empathy can, and often does, subsume the lived experiences of marginalized persons.

For example, I am wary of white allies and self-avowed anti-racists who bask in the glow because they say what others have been saying for a long time. They are treated as compassionate do-gooders for telling and co-opting others’ stories, but when the Other tells their own story, they are the affective “killjoy.”

(5) Your desire to be “on the right side of history” or to be “a good person” is not enough to make you an effective “ally.”

When your identity as an ally is defined in negative terms of what you are against, and not in the positive terms of the possible future just world, you act from a cynical place. It is indeed cynical and self-interested to try to position yourself on “the right side of history” when you could really just recognize the interconnected-ness of your privileges and the oppression of the racialized/sexed/gendered/classed/etc Other.

(6) Do the Work. Do the Work. Do the Work.

Do not demand that members of [marginalized group] educate you individually. It is not the job of marginalized persons to teach you about their lived experiences. They have voices. They speak. Listen and amplify their voices. Proactively read up on issues faced by [marginalized community] at both a macro and micro level. Oppression is systemic. It is does not simply manifest in laws and policies, just as it does not manifest simply in the form of interpersonal relations of power.




  1. “If the process of being an ally is too much, remember that lip service just adds to the noise that drowns out marginalized voices. ”

    Had to quote this for emphasis. Thanks for sharing your letter, Arriana.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s