A Better ‘Better Ally’ description

A Better ‘Better Ally’ description

How can i be a good ally to the people around me who are struggling with race issues?

This is a question i have asked a lot. One of the things white people who join this conversation tend to do is expect people of colour to educate them on how not to be racist. So they have carried the burden of negative race vibes and now they must still do all the work of educating us. Not cool. So it is largely up to us to educate us. With some help along the way.

To that end, i have put together this post which has eight specific ways in which white people can be better at engaging in conversation and action in these areas.

But then someone shared this post, titled ‘Allyship’ from the The Anti-Oppression Network which i found super helpful. When i checked the About page on the blog, i realised this is actually written from a Canadian perspective and speaking into issues they face. Yet it is so completely relevant to so much that we have going on here. Really worth a complete read.

The point that struck me the most was this one:

Allyship is not self-defined—our work and our efforts must be recognized by the people we seek to ally ourselves with

i had never really considered that, myself, yet it makes so much sense. “Hey, look at me everyone, I’m an ally!” [with everyone raising their eyebrows and ducking for cover, thinking, “Uh, no you’re not! Help me!”]

So it’s not a term we embrace as much as it is a lifestyle we try to adopt. In response to a question i must be constantly asking myself internally: How can i be a better ally to those around me?

The article gives a list of responsibilities and again, please go and read the whole thing because it is so important, but just to quickly summarise to give you the trailer:

  • we actively acknowledge our privileges and openly discuss them
  • we listen more and speak less
  • we do our work with integrity and direct communication
  • we do not expect to be educated by others
  • we build our capacity to receive criticism
  • we embrace the emotions that come out of the process of allyship
  • our needs are secondary to the people we seek to work with
  • we do not expect awards or special recognition

The Anti-Oppression Network also categorises our roles in these ongoing conversations, that:

  • we are here to support and make use of our privilege for the people we seek to work with
  • we turn the spotlight we are given away from ourselves and towards the voices of those who are continuously marginalized, silenced, and ignored; we give credit where credit is due
  • we use opportunities to engage people with whom we share identity and privilege in conversations about oppression experienced by those we seek to work with

And follows it up with some opportunities in the form of questions, which again, you can read over here.

It finishes with a list of links to documents that it was created from or with reference to. One which i found super helpful was another list of ideas of 10 Things all Allies need to know by Jamie Utt, of which two key ones for me were:

Allies Don’t Take Breaks

When Criticized or Called Out, Allies Listen, Apologize, Act Accountably, and Act Differently Going Forward


The journey towards allyship continues. Which reminds me of another point i think Jamie made about it, that ally is never a noun.

[For the original 8 ideas on how to be a better ally, click here] 

If you found any article or resource super helpful in your journey towards being a more effective and relevant ally, please share it with us in the comments below…

About the Author:

Brett Fish is a lover of life, God, tbV [the beautiful Valerie] and owns the world's most famous stuffed dolphin, No_bob (who doesn't bob). He believes that we are all responsible for making the world a significantly better place for everyone.


  1. Joe October 18, 2016 at 8:16 am - Reply

    24 year old student lol

    These guys who throw stones and poop surely you can’t ally with such ramblers

    Cape Town – A 24-year-old student was arrested during protests at UCT on Monday morning, police said.

    He was arrested around 10:50 on the lower campus on a charge of malicious damage to property, national police spokesperson Brigadier Sally de Beer said.

    The arrest came after around 200 protesting students damaged the Kramer building “by throwing stones and human faeces”.

    “Police were forced to take action to quell the situation and the crowd was dispersed.”

    The student would appear in the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court once charged.

    On Monday, the university initially said it and several other institutions were declared a “level-three security situation” by acting national police commissioner Khomotso Phahlane. This, in effect, meant the public order unit was in command of the institution.

    “Vice-Chancellors remain fully in control of the campuses and work with the SAPS to manage any situation where the SAPS may be needed,” it said in a correction statement.

    In Monday morning’s statement it said: “We face a level of protest this morning which we are not able to contain with private security officers alone.”

    It said protesters disrupted activities on its middle and upper campuses, breaking windows, forcing open locked doors, and throwing faeces.

    “There are further reports of intimidation, damage to property, violence, disruption and confrontation with security officers and we need the support of SAPS’s Public Order Policing to manage the situation

    • brettfish October 18, 2016 at 10:26 am - Reply

      hey Joe, thanks for stopping by.

      Firstly when you “these guys” a whole complex and complicated group that were very much not all breaking buildings and throwing stones and poop then you should really check out the article i wrote on Othering – https://www.1africa.tv/getting-to-know-the-other – You clearly got your information and formed your opinion from reading a newspaper or watching a news bulletin and while it contains some elements of the story it doesn’t give you even the smallest helpful grasp of the bigger picture – take some time to connect with some students who are protesting and listen to them – can find links on #UCTShutdown on the Twitterer or probably by googling.

      While not all of their methods are things i approve of, i am trying to understand their pain and their cause and looking to be the smallest part of seeing if we can’t make a difference among a huge group of people facing incredible odds. i am part of a Peace Justice Witness team that has spent time on UCT, CPUT and UWC campuses [was at UCT last night til after midnight and watched a group of 80 to 150 students meeting for hours to discuss strategy and plans and it was well organised and they definitely had a plan]

      You also are not getting the side of the story involving police and private security intimidation and i could write a whole lot about that – stun grenades, batons, physical force, tear gas… try get the whole story before commenting on something you only know a splinter of.

      Brett Fish

  2. Joe October 18, 2016 at 6:35 pm - Reply

    When there is poop throwing, burning property and throwing rocks at people, it kinda stops me wanting to know if there is another side. You understand?

    Secondly how about #taxesmustfall or #payingothetsfeesmustfall. I don’t really want to pay for them if they behave like that regardless.


    • brettfish October 19, 2016 at 2:32 pm - Reply

      i do understand, but when someone who was there says, “Hey wait a minute, maybe there’s a bigger story than just people throwing stones or poop” maybe it’s worth rethinking your position. If 1000 people are protesting peacefully [for example] and two people are throwing poop, maybe the problem isn’t with the protest?

      And if there is provocation from the university or police or private security or if outside political parties have people inside stirring things up or a bunch of others things then maybe it is worth realising that the story is a lot bigger than the one headline you read and believed…

      is all.

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