Silence Isn’t Okay

I’ve seen a lot of people in the last few days waving around the word “ally.” What does that word even mean? Good ole says it’s “a person, group, or nation that is associated with another or others for some common cause or purpose.” When we’re talking about diversity and marginalization, an ally is someone who stands by you. An ally is someone who listens to your needs and makes your voice louder. An ally is someone who celebrates your victories, mourns your defeats, and fights by your side as if your battles were their own.

I’ve seen many examples of great allyship in the last few days. I’ve also seen some really, really terrible examples from people that I previously admired.

I’m about to postulate. Here goes.

If you are in a position of safety and you are unwilling to rock the boat for people who aren’t in a position of safety, you are not an ally. Nope. Don’t care. You can argue with me until we both drop dead. I will never, ever, not believe that.

But, but, one person can’t possibly take up every cause!!

No one asked you as an individual to take up every cause. That would be exhausting. But when something shakes your industry and a particular group of people in it to the core, that is not the moment to step away from the soap box like, “Nah, not my cause. Too tired. Takes too much energy.” If typing out a statement, or providing a retweet, or signal boosting marginalized voices who don’t happen to be your marginalized voice takes up too much of your time and energy, you probably need to reevaluate your definition of ally.

But, I’m an activist! Look at all the positive work I do over here!

It’s not enough. I’m sorry. It’s not enough. To quote Ellen Oh, “Hate is that thing that won’t go away if you ignore it. Hate doesn’t work that way.” You can’t claim to be an ally if you fight things that misrepresent and/or damage your own group, but ignore things that damage other groups in favor of posting happy books and butterflies. Or, I suppose you can, but let’s be honest about our intentions, please. If you are an ally in support of one group only, just say it. Let’s stop pretending to be something we’re not.

But if I talk about negative things, aren’t I just signal boosting them? I want to be a force of positivity!

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard this nonstatement as an excuse to ignore things that make people uncomfortable. You think you’re uncomfortable? Imagine how unfuckingcomfortable the people are who are literally being attacked, directly, by the thing you are ignoring.

I’m just worried if I make a statement about something from my professional platform that it might send the wrong message.

You might want to reconsider the message you’re trying to send.

Silence isn’t neutrality. Silence is apathy. Silence means you have taken the side of the oppressor.

One more time.

If you have safety and privilege and you don’t fight for those who don’t have safety and privilege, do not call yourself an ally.


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