'Let's shake things up a bit': Why you need to be uncomfortable to be a good ally

Shanon Lee
·Contributing Writer
·4 min read

Yahoo Life is hosting a 5-day challenge to help readers learn one actionable thing each day to be a better ally to the marginalized or disenfranchised people. This is day 2 of the 5-day challenge.

A critical part of doing anti-racism work is examining how we fit into systems of oppression. Allyship can be confusing because there are ways we can still benefit from privilege, even while belonging to a marginalized group. Simply put, effective allyship cannot begin until we unpack our own privilege.

Today is Day 2 of the Yahoo Allyship Pledge: 5 day challenge with Frederick Joseph, author of The Black Friend: On Being A Better White Person. This is a guided program you can follow along with from home to learn how to identify your privilege, recognize systems of oppression and become a better ally.

For Day 2, Joseph is challenging each of us to step outside of our comfort zone.

Day 2: Get uncomfortable

“On Day 1, what I had you do was take an inventory of your own privilege. Because I think that's a great step to start with on the road to being a better ally,” Joseph says, noting it is important to understand how we exist in society.

Joseph explains how the environment we are raised in shapes our beliefs and biases, explaining that he grew up in an area where rampant homophobia negatively shaped his view of homosexuality.

After falsely believing he was a good ally, Joseph admits realizing the truth was the hardest part. “When I [learned] the ways in which I had been homophobic, it was really uncomfortable,” he says.

Unlearning bias is challenging because “what you're essentially being asked to do is to reframe or rethink or reimagine your own reality,” says Joseph, who emphasized that this process is key to being anti-racist.

Joseph says learning to be a better ally is not meant to be comfortable, especially when confronting beliefs rooted in the oppression of others.

“If you've been taught [that] Black people aren't intelligent… that's not a true statement, but it might've been [true] in the community where you came from,” he says. “So many of us were raised in places and taught things that we've spent most of our life believing.”

Joseph also discusses other areas where he must personally make a conscious effort to be a better ally. “I try my best to be an ally to women, because women deal with systems, levels of oppression and trauma that I don't have to," he says. "Therefore, my lived experience doesn't necessarily allow me to understand what they're going through.”

What you're essentially being asked to do is to reframe or rethink or reimagine your own reality.Frederick Joseph, author of "The Black Friend"

However, he insists no one should be comfortable “while benefiting from the systems that are hurting others.” Joseph suggests “following people, institutions and creative work” that help push past deep rooted bias and challenge our social conditioning. The Day 2 challenge is designed to do just that.

What you should do

“I’m challenging all of you to watch one [movie] or documentary that I think might make you a bit uncomfortable,” he says. “Ultimately, I know that you're going to learn a ton.”

Joseph offered a short list of films to choose from for this challenge: The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, Malcolm X, Moonlight and 13th.

“Let's shake it up a little bit,” he said. “Let's learn some new things.”

A more comprehensive list of film recommendations is included in his book, The Black Friend: On Being A Better White Person.

“It will not only help you be a better ally, but it's also going to inform my challenge for tomorrow and the challenges going forward,” Joseph adds. “See you tomorrow on Day 3!”

Video produced by Jacquie Cosgrove

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