Andover’s annual celebration of Martin Luther King (MLK) Jr. Day reminds us that Andover is a community of the privileged, the marginalized and the oppressed. Sometimes, students are a blend of all three. On a campus where 47 percent of students are on financial aid, according to the Andover website, and approximately 45 percent are students of color, according to The Phillipian’s 2015 “State of the Academy,” it can become difficult to navigate these murky waters. It is especially complicated when we speak of allyship.
In its broadest terms, an ally is someone who, through their actions and words, stands in solidarity with a marginalized group of which they are not a member. Oftentimes, allies are part of the majority that has historically oppressed the marginalized. Allies are powerful as they can use their privilege to amplify the voices of their oppressed counterparts.
Allyship, however, is nuanced. The title “ally” can only be given by those who are marginalized. Individuals cannot self-proclaim allyship to a cause that is not their own. Privileged individuals do not have the right to simply latch onto the suffering of others. Only marginalized individuals have the authority to call somebody their ally, as they are the ones who face oppression each day, both individually and systemically.
Furthermore, belonging to one oppressed group does not and should not automatically grant one allyship to all other oppressed groups. The experience of a black man, for example, is vastly different than that of a black trans woman. Marginalization, after all, comes in many forms, which is why we now speak of intersectionality, the idea that social categorizations such as race, class and gender cannot be considered independently of each other.
In our quest to be community members who may one day be considered allies, we propose some ideas to consider.
Remember the role of an ally. It is to amplify the voices of others, not to shout over them.
In trying to learn and understand, remember that marginalized individuals should not be expected to take the initiative to educate others on their own oppression. Many educational resources are available for those who wish to seek them out.
Remain cognizant of one’s own privilege. No matter how involved we get, we have to remember that, as allies, the fight is not ours.
The MLK, Jr. Day programming had many students thinking about topics such as privilege and allyship. It is our hope that these efforts and conversations extend beyond January 18.
This editorial represents the views of The Phillipian Editorial Board CXXXVIII.