Tuesday, August 11, 2015

"Being an ally is like being a friend. You listen to your friends when they are sad. You give them support when they need it. You stand up for them when they are bullied. You give them a safe space in your home when they need shelter, if you can afford it.

Being a friend doesn't mean that you agree with everything your friend does. You will come into conflict--often. You may fight. You may have misunderstandings. But because you love each other, you don't go out and disown your friend. You try not to hurt your friend. And when things have settled, you talk it out together, and listen deeply to each other's perspectives, eventually working out a solution.

And, if your friend's is fighting for their life, you fight with them. You can shelter them from danger for a while, but you know that you cannot keep them under your wing forever. You are their friend, not their parent. You respect their choices and their autonomy...but you also cannot bear to see them face the danger alone. So you fight with them. And if you are not able to, for whatever reason, you do what you can, and then let them go.

Being a friend doesn't mean you cannot be friends with someone else. You can love other people. But you cannot love everyone; that is the truth, for love is built on recognition of uniqueness, of individuality, of difference. This is why, being a friend means recognizing that your friend has an identity that is different from everyone else, including yourself. No matter how long you have known your friend, your experience is not the same. The struggles that your friend go through is not the same struggles you, or anyone else, goes through. There may be similarities, but they are not the same.

Now, extrapolate all that I have said into a political context. The comparison is imperfect; individual identity is different from group identity. But most of my main points about what it takes to be a good ally is the same. It is more difficult to be able to relate to a group as a whole; I know, because I've struggled with it throughout this year. But if you make the mind to do it, it is possible. Reach out to those you don't understand. Listen to their perspectives and withhold judgment until you have deeply considered all they have said. It will be uncomfortable. It will be challenging. But it is worth it, for at the end of the process, you will have broadened your view of the world. You will find things that the world is filled with amazingly diverse experiences. And you will have made a friend."

--Christina Chen, August 2015

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