Am I Doing Enough As An Ally?

Written by: Sylvia Kathirkamanathan

The term ally is easily thrown around in today’s society, but is it being executed to its best potential? What separates a good ally from a performative ally in today’s world? As a South Asian woman of colour, I find myself reflecting on what I do in my daily life to be a good ally to marginalized groups around me, both those I am part of and those I am not. 

First and foremost, what is an ally? In short, an ally is an individual who supports a community and uses their position in society to advocate for that group in the best way they can. Opposingly, performative allyship is defined as being an ally with the expectation of something in return; supporting a cause to boost a personal agenda. Examples include simply reposting posts on social media when a cause or issue is “trending”. 

The reason I question whether I do enough as an ally for women of colour is because of microaggressions. Microaggressions are behaviours or actions communicated towards a marginalized group contributing to negative or stereotypical ideologies. The question I ask myself is: do I do enough to combat microaggressions targeted at me or around me for being a South Asian woman of colour or do I let them go past me, which does more harm than good in the long run? Moreso, by allowing microaggressions to be tossed around, am I being a performative ally? 

I have definitely been on the receiving end of these actions several times, whether they are  from teachers, friends, co-workers, or even strangers. I find that I allow those around me to make microaggressions towards me, whether intentional or unintentional, and I can’t seem to figure out what to do about it at the moment. After much thought, I don’t believe not combating microaggressions as much as I would like makes me a performative or bad ally but rather, it comes from a place of fear. I believe I am scared of the reaction I would receive from speaking out, which I am sure many can relate to. That being said, I hope to make changes in my life where I am ready and comfortable enough to start these difficult conversations, not only to be a good ally to other South Asian women, but to make myself and others more comfortable in the environments I occupy.

I believe a good place to start is to facilitate a conversation, whether that be in the moment or when you are comfortable. I find this to be the best approach when talking to someone you know or want to discuss the issue with, such as a friend. Sometimes, opening a safe space for discussion and questions allows the microaggressor to understand where you are coming from and they can hopefully learn from their mistakes for the future. I hope to implement this solution to microaggressions moving forward and be the most authentic and effective ally I can be.

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