Quote of the day: ALLIES

February 19, 2018


Privileged people often ask me what they can do, and I think the idea of accompaniment is greatly underestimated: maybe I can’t help, but I can just be with this person while she sells papers. Recently Hyatt Hotel housekeepers in Boston asked people to show up to their protest for higher wages and better working conditions. If someone from an advantaged background walks in a picket, it might spark a moment of connection with those workers. And if the police come along and treat the protestors like dirt, this advantaged person will have his or her eyes opened.

Over the years I’ve participated in eviction blockades. When the police arrive to put a renter out on the street, some of us stand on the steps of the house and risk arrest, while others are just there to witness. I’ll invite people I know to come along for this experience. I want them to see it. If they ask what good it will do, I’ll say, Just come along. Sometimes our presence is enough to stop the eviction. Sometimes it goes through anyway, but we witness it, and this deepens our understanding and our empathy.

Q: How can people go further than just accompanying and become an ally?

Being an ally means actually leveraging your privilege to intervene in a situation or dismantle structural inequality. If you’re not sure how to do this, ask the people you’re trying to help. Let them tell you, Here’s what it means to be an ally in this situation. Here’s the code of conduct. That’s very important.

For example, in Montana a group of women, galvanized by a picture of a dead Syrian-refugee child, got a resettlement agency to come to their state, which has historically been unfriendly to refugees. Now they have a nonprofit in Missoula called Soft Landing, which provides services like driver’s education and English-language classes to refugee families. It also educates the Missoula community about the refugee crisis and how to extend welcome to all. This organization, which has more than six hundred volunteers, was started by a woman who had no background in activism or politics.

–Chuck Collins, interviewed by Megan Wildhood in The Sun,  February 2018 (“Separate and Unequal: Chuck Collins on How Wealth Divides Us”)

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