LLOYD: Rethinking How to Be an Ally
Published: Tuesday, January 28, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, January 28, 2014 03:01
In the weeks before winter break, different groups of Georgetown students gave us a window into what it’s like to be a Hoya and hold the identity of a racial minority using the Twitter hashtags #BBGU, #BAGU and #BLGU. Some of the posts were humorous or celebratory, whereas others referenced a lack of diversity and disappointing comments overheard in Leo’s or seen on the anonymous Facebook page Georgetown Confessions. These coordinated protests did an incredible job of identifying some of the challenges that minority students uniquely face, but they left open the question of what we should do to create a more welcoming and equitable campus climate.
As someone who considers himself an ally of communities of color, and as a member of a sexual minority, I’ve come to ask myself more and more, what aren’t we, as women and men for others, doing to support all of our fellow students? In other words, the question that all students on this campus need to ask themselves is, how can I be a better ally?
Being an ally, or forming an “allyship,” starts by supporting a community of which you are not necessarily an established member. As I have learned through many conversations with campus leaders, truly supporting a minority community is more complicated than just holding a set of beliefs that are pro-LGBTQ or anti-racist. Being an ally is an active process during which you educate yourself on the issues that affect that minority’s communities, support initiatives they pursue and work to help ensure that members of that community are the ones who are controlling the policies that would affect them.
My experience as an advocate for the LGBTQ community, and as someone still learning to be a better ally to communities of color, has shown me that some of Georgetown’s diversity problems are, in part, allyship problems. As students at a competitive school, where many are concerned about what they can put on their resumes, it can be hard for us to be content elevating the voices and efforts of other people above our own. Because many of us come from backgrounds less diverse than Georgetown, it can be hard to become a part of student groups that are made up mostly of people different from ourselves.
And finally, because we are all obsessed with being busy, it can be hard to find the time to educate ourselves about all of the issues that face our university’s minority communities. These common obstacles to a meaningful allyship seem inextricably linked with the Georgetown experience.
In light of the #BBGU style protests, it’s clear that there are plenty of students on campus who on some level identify themselves as allies but who could do a better job of it. Luckily, as students at a Jesuit university, we are called to have values that can help guide us to be better allies. We are women and men for others, not women and men for ourselves and others. Caring for someone mind, body and soul requires that we develop a deep understanding of others’ identities and the obstacles that people with these identities face. As Fr. Kevin O’Brien, S.J., wrote in the fall (The Hoya, “Finding Fulfillment in Our Limitations,” A3, Oct. 22, 2013), an understanding of the magis calls us to strive for better, but also reveals to us that we cannot do everything on our own.
Good allyship then, can be both a challenge and a relief. The university community, from individuals to institutions, should strive to listen to and provide more resources for those involved in #BBGU and similar protests, but it should also let those advocates set their own agendas and be at the center of their movements. This can mean providing more financial incentives to do diversity or collaborative programming or it can also mean individual students making an effort to join and critically engage the efforts of groups with which they want to be allies. Then we can truly be women and men for each other.
Thomas Lloyd is a junior in the School of Foreign Service. QUEERA PERSONALIS
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