It’s been a pretty tough year for communities across the nation. With the need for the #BlackLivesMatter movement and the killing of communities of color, the tragedy at Pulse in Orlando, and the passing of HB2 in North Carolina, lots of nonprofits have been stepping forward as a resource, a support center, or through advocacy.
When your nonprofit doesn’t work explicitly on issues focusing on the communities hurting: black communities, latinx communities, Muslim communities, LGBTQ communities, and so on, it can be tough to find a place to help without taking up too much space. While issues concerning race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity are intersectional and span issue areas, it is still critical to be conscious of our privilege when speaking out about national tragedies and heartaches.
Here are 3 simple ways you can be an ally without taking up too much space or overstepping your boundaries:
- Actually Listen. Listen to your own communities and supporters, but also to the communities that your work might affect, even if not directly. Do you partner with other orgs who are working with communities who are in pain? What do they need? Listen to their pains, their concerns, their anger. But also listen when your allied communities are ready to share, on their time – forcing it just isn’t respectful or effective. Don’t give your communities what you think they need, give them what they actually need.
- Speak Out. When you’re doing all that listening, you are likely to come across messaging or language that is harmful. Instead of leaving those harmful messages on the backburner, make a point to develop an organizational statement against issues like racism, homophobia, transphobia, islamophobia, etc. Don’t be silent and justify it by saying that you aren’t part of the problem; that isn't a justification, it's actually pretty damaging. Speaking out and issuing statements might require you to adapt and rework your organizational policies and handbooks to ensure that they’re inclusive. If so, that’s a good thing. It’s important that these documents are always working documents so that you can update them as you learn and grow. If you’re not sure how to create a more inclusive work environment, hire someone. There are lots of wonderful people out there who will conduct inclusivity trainings
- Elevate the Voices and Stories of Those Who Are Affected. Yes, we are all affected by tragedies in some capacity, but some of us are affected more than others. Even some organizations are affected more deeply. If you have a platform with a lot of visibility, or you have privilege that other orgs or communities may not, consider a partnership. Maybe try a tweet chat with your allied orgs so that your communities can join together to create a dialogue in hopes of a better world. Create ads that help give those with less resources more visibility. Don’t just tell your communities’ stories, let them have an outlet to tell their own stories. Unified voices are incredibly powerful.
How have you been an ally this year? How has that worked for you organizationally? What have the challenges been?
This isn’t always easy, but it’s important work that can take a lot of trial and error. You are going to mess up sometimes, it’s part of the learning process, but it's okay to apologize and try again if you really mean it. As long as you’re sincere, you’re listening, and you’re iterating, you’re on the right track.