COMMENTARY BY: SHEENA OZAKI
This past week was Ally Week at UNC: a week dedicated to celebrating the support and efforts of Allies of the LGBTQIA community. Allies were encouraged to be visible by wearing rainbow pins throughout the week and being vocal about what being an ally means. Many supportive local business offered discounts to students who visibly displayed their pins. In addition, the LGBTQ center hosted an Interactive Theater Carolina (ITC) performance about micro-aggression on Thursday as well as an Ally Reception on Friday.
Ally Week reminded us that we must “be visible, keep informed, and stay active.” These three points summarize what it means to be an Ally and what our goals should be as allies of any oppressed group.
It is important that as Allies, we continually express our support and create an inclusive community. The purpose of the Week was not only to thank Allies, but also to spread awareness and show individuals of all gender identities and sexual orientations that there is a community that cares for them and that they are not alone.
Although we may know about the oppression, it is critical that we educate ourselves on specific types of oppression from obvious inequalities to less obvious micro-aggression. Moreover, we must be informed about the oppressed community itself in order to understand their struggles and thus support them. This is especially relevant in the LGBTQIA community since there are so many different sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions.
This, in my opinion, is the most important characteristic of any ally, and also the most difficult. When a friend or classmate makes an offensive remark, it is our duty as allies to speak up. When we witness bullying or oppression of any kind, it is again our duty to speak up. As the ITC performance showed, micro-aggression is everywhere, but we can help reduce its effects by speaking out and being active. For those of us in the majority who are not experiencing this specific type of oppression, it is especially our responsibility to use our privilege to help amplify the voices of those that deserve to be heard.
Of course, all of these things are much easier said than done. Being an ally isn’t easy, but it is necessary to produce change and establish equality.