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Allyship and Agency

Desiape's picture

Something that I appreciated in Molly Blackburn’s work, Interrupting Hate, was the reference to the idea of continual work involved in allyship. Blackburn states, “An ally must perform being an ally repeatedly, and what an ally performance looks like in one space…is different than it is in another” (p. 62) being an ally is not simply done once. There is a constant need to reevaluate, and connect when being an ally. It is an active position that calls for teachers and students to engage, listen, reflect, educate, and act with fluidity understanding the importance of context and the merit and personal specificity in regards to the environments both inside and outside the classroom and its connection to literature.

This type of movement is needed allow allies and activists the ability to see “… themselves as agents against heterosexism and homophobia, agents for social change” (p. 37) The need for such an active participation in issues surrounding LGBTQ and other social identifiers stems from the idea that “People learn, in both overt and subtle ways, values… To learn the values associated with being an ally requires more explicit teaching” (p. 61)

Blackburn places a lot of agency on activists and allies. While keeping in mind the idea that, “Even if we could isolate the problem to the bullies, who are the bullies? What if they are also the victims?” (p. 1), Blackburn calls reader to research and educate themselves constantly about such issues that surround communities, while not subjecting members of these communities to objectification. It is important to learn about the issues and/or history that is not often seen within the classroom in a collective as well as independent way.

After reading this, I was compelled by how these issues surrounding LBGTQ issues is similar to some of the cultural and racial related issues that I have  experienced within my own life. Because I often see my race as one of the biggest sources of inequality in my life, at times I feel as if I am blind to issues that have a similar progression, manifestations, and/or interdependent nature of such issues. At times I feel I wall myself off from the struggles of others because I am too preoccupied with my own issues. One struggle should not overshadow or blind someone to another’s and/or other struggle(s). These are issues that intersecting with multiple identities related to class, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and/or race. The importance of a united front against oppression in overt and subtle way(s), I think, is key. 


asweeney's picture

I would just like to echo much of what you have written, as I think you have pulled out exactly what spoke to me. The idea of allyship being ACTIVE and the forming of values as something that requires evolving ACTION is not one I found in much of my schooling. We tend to talk about values as something static--as though our "value systems" are built within us. We either have values that are for or against oppression. Really, though, our values are something we need to practice through action. They strengthen and change as we grow in our experiences. In Meyer's article, she outlines specific ways teachers and parents can take action that help them practice their values. This too emphasizes an understanding of allyship as something that requires agency.