Allyship: The Path Less Taken

By Shayna Gutcho - Mosaic Fellow

Since the stay at home orders have started, it has allowed many of us to ponder deep questions about our society. For many that self-reflection has resulted in seeing the vast inequalities that are in our world’s socio-political structure. This time has highlighted even further the racial inequalities within our society. This is seen through videos, images, and rhetoric that occurs constantly that demonstrates clear-cut racist actions. From dangerous rhetoric targeting Asian American communities to videos of Black people being victims of police brutality: there has to be a change in our world.

While we are all still social distancing, now is an important time for self-reflection. Asking yourself questions such as “how do I contribute to our social structure?” “How can I use my voice to stand in solidarity with targeted groups?” can help you find the answers you need to become an ally. 

a glass tabletop with The definition of an ally according to is “a person who associates or cooperates with another; supporter”. For people of color this means someone who not only listens, but someone who stands up actively against racism. 

Being an ally is not an overnight process – it takes time to learn and self-reflect on how the structure of our world benefits some and harms others. Becoming an ally filters into everything that one should do, and a great way to learn is through reading. This medium is one of the best ways to begin this journey, as it does not burden communities of color to answer unsolicited questions about race and racism.                                                                                

Here are some book suggestions for the start of your journey: 

  • How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
    "The only way to undo racism is to consistently identify and describe it - and then dismantle it." Ibram X. Kendi's concept of antiracism reenergizes and reshapes the conversation about racial justice in America - but even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. In How to Be an Antiracist, Kendi asks us to think about what an antiracist society might look like and how we can play an active role in building it.
  • So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
    In So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo offers a contemporary and accessible take on the racial landscape in America, and addresses head-on the issues of privilege, police brutality, intersectionality, micro-aggressions, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the "N" word.
  • Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
    Originally written as a blog post: Why I’m No Long Talking to White People About Race discusses how eurocentrism bleeds into feminism, history, and the controversy surrounding counter-racism. This book highlights why everyone who cares about intersectionality can be allies too.
  • White Fragility: Why It's So Hard For White People To Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo
    In White Fragility antiracist educator Robin DiAngelo illuminates the phenomenon of white fragility and “allows us to understand racism, as a practice, is not restricted to ‘bad people’ (Claudia Rankine). Referring to the defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially, white fragility is characterized by emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and by behaviors including argumentation and silence.
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
    Between the World and Me reads as a letter to Coates son. Coates writes about the struggles of being a black man in America, highlighting many instances of racial injustices that have occurred throughout his life. The book highlights the fears that Coates has for his son as he grows up. 
  • America is in the Heart by Carlos Bulosan
    America is the Heart is about Bulosan’s life. He grew up in the Philippines and in 1930 immigrated to Seattle, WA. Bulosan lived in the United States until his death in 1956. He was a migrant farm worker, later becoming a labor union organizer. America is the Heart documents the struggles of immigration and the racism that Asian Americans face. While published in 1949, the socio-political issues are still extremely relevant today.  
  • My Time Among the Whites: Notes from an Unfinished Education by Jennine Capo Crucet 
    My Time Among the Whites is a series of essays by Crucet about being an “accidental” American. As the child of Cuban refugees, she explores her experiences in the United States: ranging from being in Miami, New York, Nebraska, and Disney World. My Time Among the Whites gives a glimpse of how exclusive white America can be, showing how the American Dream is only reserved for certain demographics. 


Explore more at W&M Libraries and the Williamsburg Regional Library.

Or check out this continuously evolving guide: The Antiracist Bookshelf

A few additional links to help get you started:

The path to allyship is not easy; it is paved by unlearning practices, thoughts, and challenging those around you that hold onto racist ways. Changing our societal structure is not the mission of one person, but the mission of all of us. Educating yourself can create a ripple affect encouraging others to educate themselves and foster a more inclusive environment. *White people: it is overdue for us to become active allies. 

*editor's note: Non-Black POC this means us too. When non-Black minorities stay silent during these acts of violence against Black communities we feed into and fuel white supremacy. It is not enough to just be a person of color, we too must be actively and loudly antiracist.  -Alexandra Flores