Last month, during a conversation with someone about growing as an ally, they asked about specific actions that would help reinforce the concept or help them in their journey.
It was a great question. Talking about allyship (or privilege, bias, or identity) helps shine a light on areas where we have gaps in our knowledge. It illuminates those opportunities we have to grow from others’ experiences. Words can transform mindsets and break down the limiting parameters we sometimes operate within to understand and process the world.
However, it is action that transforms behavior. And being an ally is not only about changing our mindset, but also about challenging ourselves daily to take steps forward — steps that force us to check our blindspots, to learn a lesson, or to be accountable for our words and actions.
It reminds me of the experience and process of learning to drive. At age 15, I eagerly went to the DMV with my dad and picked up a driver’s manual. It taught me all sorts of amazing things — demystifying the system of the double, single, and dashed line, the differences between the flashing light and the steady light — and gave me a framework to understand how to be a responsible driver.
That knowledge allowed me to ace the learner’s permit test. I knew how to be a “good driver”, but I had not become one simply from passing a test. Becoming a better driver took time, practice, honesty, confidence, and accountability for results.
- I had to be intentional about finding time with my dad to practice driving in empty parking lot.
- I had to be honest with myself about the areas of driving where I sucked (👋🏾 parallel parking) and not avoid the lessons that came from failing.
- I had to be confident despite the discomfort around trying something new — learning how to use the gas (but mostly the brake), steering without oversteering, shifting gears — and not let the discomfort paralyze me into inaction.