Today I attended my first of ten “Equity and Diversity” workshops towards the Equity and Diversity Certificate at the University of Minnesota. This also serves as a one-credit seminar for my YDL program. There are nine more sessions in the series for a total of 30 hours towards this certificate. The YDL seminar component requires 45 hours of work, so I need approximately 15 hours of work in the form of a journal, reflection writing, Website, or other component that will make up the remainder of my time. I hope this Website will serve as a sounding board for ideas, and perhaps be a part of the final project.
The take-away word today is “ally.” Probably the earliest connotation of this word is the Allied Forces in World War II. Military forces that were “on the same side” were allies. It’s commonly used in GLBTQ circles, as well. But “ally” goes beyond just being a friend. It entails working with someone, not for someone, like and advocate would do. We discussed the differences between advocate and ally, and found that ally is more likely to represent one who stands up for social equality, rather than fighting for one particular person.
On the bus ride home, I was thinking about the term “ally,” and took away the other person: the oppressed, the negated and discriminated. Take away that person, or that group or identity, and focus on the person who becomes the ally. What qualities and traits become part of an ally? Persistence, the stick-to-it philosophy that no matter what, there will be the ally-minded individual; integrity, the quality that the ally’s response to any situation will be consistent regardless of the subject; and compassion, the willingness to listen to and adapt to the needs and voice of the non-privileged communities around the ally. These are just three of the countless qualities and ally must possess to be successful in approaching, evaluating, and responding to a situation of equity and diversity.
One activity today was to reflect on a time I’ve been an ally. I had difficulty coming up with an example. That’s not to say I’m not an ally to anyway–but rather, my past training and experience was focused on “diversity,” not equity and inclusion. In what is now the third year of these workshop offerings by the University, I see a shift in institutional philosophy. No longer a selling point, celebrating diversity is just one minor facet of equity and diversity. Being an ally means fighting for the inclusion of all. It means respecting those who are not there (yet). I feel enlightened by today’s workshop, and hope I can find my place to be a successful ally to any type of person.