An Open Letter to Allies

Akira Shelton, Contributing Columnist

Cole Farrah

Dear Reader,

I want to keep this opinion piece short and sweet. It’s bound to make you uncomfortable; I am a firm believer in the idea that being uncomfortable at times is the best way to learn, understand and gain empathy. However, you shouldn’t have to sit in discomfort for too long. 

Every so often, I think about how our generation is often compared to the baby boomers — the generation that fought “the man,” the one that protested against segregation and the Vietnam War, the generation that rioted for femme, queer and trans liberation, Where are they now? Where are the revolutionaries? What happened to their fight? Some will say that they simply grew up and became realistic. Some might say they became so wrapped up in despair that they lost the will to fight. 

This thought process leads me to reflect on life since 2017, a year where our generation was shell-shocked at the fickleness of civil rights. More and more of us were called to action via the Women’s March, March for Our Lives and the climate movement. Even on Tulane’s campus, students responded to the momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement in the summer of 2020 and the campus Stop Sexual Assault movement in the fall of 2021. However, as the momentum of a movement dwindles and eventually dies, so does the allyship. I ask this of you, the reader — when the protesting ended, when it was no longer relevant to repost infographics on your Instagram story, what did you do? Did you complete the Sexual Misconduct and/or the Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion Climate Surveys? Arguably, that’s the bare minimum of allyship. Particularly in reference to the fact that sexual violence and EDI, two intersecting issues, disproportionately impact BIPOC, queer and trans people

There are various parts to a movement. There are roles for everyone to play, room for everyone to contribute. It is not necessary for everyone to be the constant protester. That is not what I am asking of you, reader. A key part of any movement is sustainable allyship: what works for you within your means. I am not asking you to give all of yourself for the sake of marginalized people, but I am asking you to consider what being an ally means to you. Are you willing to confront the individuals and institutions that perpetuate harm, even if they are sentimental to you? Are you willing to confront yourself and your reasons for taking part in a movement? Are you willing to decenter yourself for the sake of others? Are you willing to make sacrifices? Simply put, are you willing to do more than repost an infographic?

Allyship is more than protesting. It is more than reposting. It is more than 30 seconds of posting yourself shouting a chant. It is more than a tool for gratification. 

This Black History Month, I ask you, the reader, the same question I asked of the boomers: where are y’all? Where are y’all when Black people are asking for allies in moments where Black Lives Matter is not necessarily at the forefront of the country’s mind? Where are y’all when Black femmes are asking for inclusion in your sexual violence prevention movements? Where are y’all when being an advocate requires dissent?

Where are y’all?

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