Tips with Trish: Am I really an ally?

By Tricia Borelli and Italee Castellon (TheLorian)

Dear Trish,

The past few weeks I have tried to support my friends of color by going to events regarding race. I have tried to touch base more and ask them how they are doing with everything going on but is this enough? What else can I do to support my friends of color and let them know that I care about what is going on in our world and the social injustice surrounding us in this country?

Signed, Am I Really an Ally?

Trish says,

We have long known that Black Americans don’t have access to the same things their white peers have access to whether it is adequate health, educational, housing, or economic opportunities. The psychological and physiological impact of racism on Black Americans has always been devastating but for many of us White Americans, we think it was only in the past. Well, there is no better evidence of it still existing than what we have seen in the past several months in this country. 

The fact that you are asking about how to be an ally is certainly a start to supporting your friends of color. The real point here is that now that corporate America has finally woken up to the idea that systemic racism still surrounds us, we need to make sure it doesn’t end with the attendance of a peaceful protest, speaking out on your social media platform or wearing a Black Lives Matter t-shirt every once in a while. 

The idea that relating to people who are different from us takes discipline and hard work. It can be anxiety-provoking and depressing at times. We may feel like it is not making a difference and want to give up at times. The thing is, our friends of color do not have that option so we need to fight through it and not make it an option for ourselves either. Doing the necessary work to notice, value, connect and respond to others’ needs results in more effective relationships whether socially, professionally or politically. 

Look for opportunities to listen and learn about the experiences of others. Read books on the subject, listen to podcasts, and participate in city meetings that focus on race in your community whether it is in school, at work or in the larger community in which you live. Just show up and keep showing up. Inquire into the experience of others and encourage them to speak while keeping your own experience out of it. This doesn’t mean that you should not process your own experience just be aware that putting your feelings and experiences on your friends of color makes it seem like it should be their job to take care of you. It isn’t their job. Inquiry can be a powerful tool to create connection with others but tread lightly and do it with care. Be sensitive to the social situation. When we focus on the personal lives and racial backgrounds of others we can be invasive and harmful. Remember to be kind and keep in mind that intent is not the same as impact. 

For more information, please connect with the Loras College Center for Inclusion and Advocacy. They have provided a plethora of resources regarding these and many issues related to diversity. Please also know that you can seek guidance and support from the Loras College Counseling Services department. We provide a safe space to address all kinds of issues without judgement in an effort to help you understand yourself and make good choices going forward.

Again, thanks for your willingness to be an ally; just make sure it doesn’t end with saying you are one.

Signed, Trish

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Tricia Borelli is the Director of Counseling Services at Loras College. In Tips with Trish, she will answer student questions concerning anything that relates to keeping it together while doing this crazy thing called college. Send questions or comments to Ms. Borelli, Loras Box 100, or to the e-mail address tricia.borelli@loras.edu. All names of those sending questions will be kept confidential.

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