Equity Corner: Why allies matter

Oct. 30, 2017

Equity literacy has been defined by Paul Gorski as the knowledge and skills that enable us to recognize and redress conditions that deny some students access to opportunities enjoyed by their peers.

To become equity literate we mustunderstand the system in which we lead. As equity leaders, our focus should be on supporting other equity warriors in building the skills necessary to be a threat to the inequity in their spheres of influence. An ally is a fellow colleague who is supportive of your work or cause. Due to the barriers stemming from stereotypes and implicit biases, leaders of color often need allies to stand shoulder to shoulder in the trenches, being a voice to enlighten others about this journey. Ally-ship is needed to ensure equity for our students.

Ally-ship is all about the mutual benefit and support we provide and receive when we see one another’s humanity and recognize that we need one another to do this hard work. We need allies to speak against all forms of oppression including racism, because we see the effects across institutions and society as evidenced by: gaps in achievement and wealth, employment and housing discrimination, incarceration, drug arrests, immigration arrests, and infant mortality.

One of my White allies is Tony Limoges, director of Secondary Education in Elk Grove USD. Tony is a champion of Restorative Justice and co-facilitates the work of the district Equity Implementation Team with me. Tony helps to provide validation and access to belief systems I have no knowledge of. In return, White leaders need their non-White counterparts to lovingly yet truthfully bridge the gap of the experiences they lack related to bias, discrimination and race-based stress. Tony is a witness to the injustices I face daily, but because of privilege, he does not experience them first hand, and therefore I provide credibility to him in this work.

Celebrating our diversity isn’t just about recognizing and accepting our differences. It is about requiring the intentional redistribution of influence. Those that have privilege are complicit if they do nothing to support and correct those circumstances that create marginalization. Anti-racist advocates must come forward and invite others to take a stand and demand racial justice. Tony exemplifies this and together we are committed to ensuring all students have access to resources and opportunities.

Anti-racist author and educator, Tim Wise, says, “Ignorance of how we are shaped racially is the first sign of privilege. In other words. It is a privilege to ignore the consequences of race in America.” Privilege is not something that people necessarily create or enjoy on purpose. Privilege is a hidden preference that is challenging to tackle. Tony can speak to me about this privilege because he freely acknowledges it and how it can be used to influence change.

Education is a civil right, and serving all students means confronting all forms of oppression, and working side by side to ensure equity liberates us. As leaders we must seek out our allies to fight along with us to be student champions.

– Sonjhia Lowery with Tony Limoges, Elk Grove USD

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