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*The Allyship Workshop Series was created in house at Stand Up Speak Up by a small team of writers and researchers with the consultation of several sensitivity readers. We present this information as an invitation to learn along with us and do not claim to be experts on the topic of allyship and advocacy. If you have any questions or concerns about anything you see in this workshop, please let us know. We hope this workshop will evolve as we continue to listen and become better allies.*

A Performative Ally: Someone who professes support for a marginalized group in a way that is unhelpful or actively harmful. 

One common example of performative allyship is when someone posts about a cause online, but does not invest in the cause itself. This following quote from an article by Holliday Phillips called Performative Allyship Is Deadly (Here’s What to Do Instead) refers to this behavior as “public allyship”. Phillips is a sociologist, educator on racial justice and healing, integral coach and co-founder of Kula, a consultancy that helps organisations develop conscious leadership and inclusive cultures. 

I am not overlooking the fact that public allyship can help spur positive change. Voices can be heard, and some small version of justice may even be served as a result. But we must also not be lulled into believing that this kind of allyship is enough to dismantle the conditions that made it possible for an innocent black man to be lynched in broad daylight. And we must not let the kind of performative allyship that begins and ends with hashtags take center stage in the quest for equality.

In the article, Phillips also outlines some red flags for identifying performative posts on social media platforms like Instagram or Facebook:

  1. “The post is usually simple—a few words, an image or whatever the going hashtag is (in the aesthetic of their personal brand, of course). Performative allyship refuses to engage with the complexity below the surface or say anything new.
  2. It almost always expresses itself as outrage, disbelief, or anger “at the injustice.” But your outrage isn’t useful — if anything, it’s a marker of your privilege, that to you racism is still surprising. Trust me when I say this is not so for black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) for whom racism is an everyday reality.
  3. It refuses to acknowledge any personal responsibility for the systemic issues that provided the context for the relevant tragedy. Instead, it looks at a villain “out there” — a crooked police officer or a heartless conservative. It separates you (good) from them (bad).
  4. Perhaps most noticeable, it’s usually met with praise, approval, or admiration for the person expressing it. That is its lifeblood.”

Performative allyship does not only exist online. Here is a short story from academic, writer, speaker and activist Rachel Cargle:

The following two videos show different perspectives on performative allyship and how it can be counterproductive to a movement:

The following Instagram graphic series does a great job of showcasing different incidences of performative allyship and how they can be shifted to offer real allyship. This series was created by Tyler Allen, a photographer and social media expert living in Detroit. She based it off the article What Is Performative Allyship? Making Sure Anti-Racism Effects Are Helpful by Monisha Rudhran.

Being an effective ally is not something that happens overnight with one decision or action. These modules are all about learning, listening and growing together as a community and we are so thankful you were willing to learn along with us. As the final part of this workshop, take our quiz on finding your Ally Style. This will not only help you see your strengths and areas of power when it comes to helping to push a movement forward, but might also help you better understand yourself.

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