Since the recent election, the reality of equal rights feels further away than ever before. How do I support everyone having equal rights, when different people’s rights are being attacked in so many different ways? Who has bandwidth to address every issue (gender-based inequities, voter suppression, hate crimes, religious persecution, racial profiling, the growing violence against oppressed groups and more)? While these are necessary problems to work on, burdening myself with them all is exhausting and demoralizing. But far worse than that, is the silence would be complicity.
So how do I contribute to improving this situation?
For me, being an ally for equal rights means to stand up for equal rights for everybody. The catch is that sometimes, especially when I’m not a member of the less-privileged group, I unintentionally do this in a way that is not desired. To be an ally is to do my research and do my best. Although I’m female and half-Hispanic, I will still stand up for those with less privilege, and use the privilege I do have (in my case, being cis-gendered, looking white, middle class upbringing, not identifiably religious, etc.) to protect them.
But they get to decide on their approach and focus, and we allies adjust as this evolves. This can be frustrating and thankless and sometimes outright painful when I’m told I’m doing a disservice to a community. So while, sure, I would like a hug and pat on the back for it, I remind myself that this isn’t my privilege at risk. I’m not here to seek congratulations and appreciation for basic human decency.
I’m here to stand for equal rights for all, and learn from others how best to do that.
I was excited to see Symantec offer an allyship event in May 2017, cosponsored by our SWAN (Women's Group) and PRIDE (LGBTQ+ Group). SWAN is a group I already felt comfortable with, but I need to educate myself more about the LGBT community. The introductions included sharing our pronouns, which set a tone of respect and equality. The discussion started with a focus on problems within Symantec, some of which are faced by both women and the LGBT community, but some unique to the various represented groups. The room of attendees listened openly and asked questions respectfully. The organizers and guest speaker generously shared personal information and invited more questions. Additionally, brochures were provided for deepening our understanding on a number of LGBT resources, including an especially enlightening guide to vocabulary. There was passion on various topics, but never disrespect or violence.
The session was mostly informational, and clearly the attendees to attend had the foundational skills necessary to step into these important dialogues. I didn’t leave with an agenda or a call to action. However, I did leave with the sprouts of new friendship and a better understanding of how I could be an ally to this community. I hope to see both grow, so that we can all benefit from being equal humans together.
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