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What does it mean to be a safe ally? A very simplistic definition of “ally” from Merriam-Webster states, “one that is associated with another as a helper; a person or group that provides assistance and support.” But it goes so much deeper than that. It is important to recognize wherever you may have privilege and to use it whenever you can to support those who don’t. The word “privilege” carries such a charge for many people that they deny they even have it. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, but rather, to use to create positive change and help move toward eradicating marginalization and evolving into a more inclusive society.

This cartoon was designed by the French artist Maeril to address Islamophobia. It's a practice that is useful whenever anyone experiences harassment. Check out more on Maeril and her art.

an active, consistent, and challenging practice of unlearning and re-evaluating, in which a person of privilege seeks to work in solidarity with a marginalized group…it is a lifelong process of building relationships based  on trust, consistency, and accountability.

Instead, it is a genuine interest in challenging larger oppressive power structures.

  • we are here to support and make use of our privilege for the

  • people we seek to work with.

  • we turn the spotlight we are given away from ourselves and towards the voices of those who are continuously marginalized, silenced, and ignored; we give credit where credit is due.

  • we use opportunities to engage people with whom we share identity and privilege in conversations about oppression.

To be an ally is to...

  • actively acknowledge our privileges and openly discuss them. 

  • listen more and speak less. 

  • not expect others to educate us; we do our own research on the oppressions experienced by the people we seek to work with.

  • build our capacity to receive criticism and hold ourselves accountable for our mistakes.

  • embrace emotions that come out of the process of allyship. 

  • know that our needs are secondary to the people we seek to work with and do not expect them to provide us emotional support.

  • understand possible feelings of resentment and even resistance from those we seek to work with. 

  • recognize that building trust takes time. 

  • not expect awards or special recognition for confronting issues that people have to live with every day.

NOTE: The information on this page is meant to help guide you and give you a better understanding of how to stand up for another in a respectful and conscious way. And although I've certainly dealt with the issues of being female, as a straight white woman with no disability or religious affiliation I know how important it is to gather perspectives other than my own. I can never fully know what it’s like to be a person of color, a member of the LGBTQ community, to live with a disability, or suffer oppression for my religious beliefs. I'm sincerely grateful for the opportunity to share these perspectives and hope that it helps all who read the information to gain better understanding. It's been truly eye opening for me, and I welcome any feedback or comments about the contents of this page. 

With Love & Gratitude,


This section below on allyship was taken from an article written by Vanessa Bui, community developer of PeerNetBC*, a non-profit based in British Columbia. View her article in its entirety and learn more about PeerNetBC . 

Allyship is to act out of responsibility rather than guilt.

Here are 10 steps to fighting hate from Southern Poverty Law Center*.  This is a very truncated version of their guide. The full guide includes rich stories that provide greater perspective. View the guide in it’s entirety.

1. Act

Do something. In the face of hatred, apathy will be interpreted as acceptance — by the perpetrators, the public and, worse, the victims. Decent people must take action; if we don’t, hate persists.


  • Hate is an open attack on tolerance and decency. It must be countered with acts of goodness. Sitting home with your virtue does no good. In the face of hate, silence is deadly.

  • Hate is an attack on a community’s health. Hate tears society along racial, ethnic, gender and religious lines.

  • Hate escalates. Take seriously the smallest hint of hate — even what appears to be simple name-calling.

  • Do Something
    When hate happens, we are faced with two choices:

Do nothing, and let hate go unchallenged.
Or do something — rise up, speak up and stand up against hate.


What Can You Do?

  • Pick up the phone. Call friends and colleagues. Host a neighborhood or community meeting. Speak up in church. Suggest some action.

  • Sign a petition. Attend a vigil. Lead a prayer.

  • Repair acts of hate-fueled vandalism, as a neighborhood or a community.

  • Use whatever skills and means you have. Offer your print shop to make fliers. Share your musical talents at a rally. Give your employees the afternoon off to attend.

  • Be creative. Take action. Do your part to fight hate.


2. Unite

Call a friend or co-worker. Organize allies from churches, schools, clubs and other civic groups. Create a diverse coalition. Include children, police and the media. Gather ideas from everyone, and get everyone involved.


First Steps...

Not sure where to start? Here are some ideas:

  • Call the circle around you, including family, neighbors, co-workers, people in your church, synagogue or civic club. Meet informally at first.

  • Call on groups that are likely to respond to a hate event, including faith alliances, labor unions, teachers, women’s groups, university faculties, fair housing councils, the “Y” and youth groups. Make a special effort to involve businesses, schools, houses of worship, politicians, children and members of minority and targeted groups.

  • Also call on local law enforcement officials. Work to create a healthy relationship with local police; working together, human rights groups and law enforcement officials can track early warning signs of hate brewing in a community, allowing for a rapid and unified response.

  • Go door-to-door in the neighborhood targeted by a hate group, offering support and inviting participation in a rally, candlelight vigil or other public event. Put up ribbons or turn on porch lights as symbolic gestures. Declare a “Hate Free Zone” with a poster contest and a unity pledge. Set up a booth in a local mall to collect signatures on the pledge. Buy an ad to publicize the pledge and the contest winners.

  • Fashion an appropriate, local response, but gather ideas from other towns that have faced hate events.


3. Support the Victims

Hate-crime victims are especially vulnerable, fearful and alone. If you’re a victim, report every incident — in detail — and ask for help. If you learn about a hate-crime victim in your community, show support. Let victims know you care. Surround them with comfort and protection.


If You Are a Victim 

  • Report every incident.

  • Speak to the press. 

  • Research your legal rights.


4. Do Your Homework

An informed campaign improves its effectiveness. Determine if a hate group is involved, and research its symbols and agenda. Understand the difference between a hate crime and a bias incident.


Members of hate groups typically share these extremist views. They:

  • want to limit the rights of certain groups.

  • want to divide society along racial, ethnic or religious lines.

  • believe in conspiracies.

  • try to silence any opposition.

  • are antigovernment and fundamentalist.


What's a Hate Crime?

A hate crime must meet two criteria:

  • A crime must happen, such as physical assault, intimidation, arson or vandalism;

  • The crime must be motivated, in whole or in part, by bias (the list of biases included in hate crime statutes varies, most include race, ethnicity and religion, some statutes also include sexual orientation, gender and/or disability).


What’s a Bias Incident?

  • A bias incident is conduct, speech or expression that is motivated by bias or prejudice but doesn’t involve a criminal act.

What’s the Impact? 
Hate crimes and bias incidents don’t just victimize individuals; they torment entire communities.


5. Create an Alternative

Find outlet for anger and frustration and for people’s desire to do something. Hold a unity rally or parade to draw media attention away from hate.


Do Not Attend a Hate Rally 

  • As much as you’d like to physically show your opposition to hate, shout back or throw something, confrontations serve only the perpetrators.

  • Every act of hatred should be met with an act of love and unity.

  • Hold alternative events at the same hour, some distance away, emphasizing strength in community and diversity.


6. Speak Up

Hate must be exposed and denounced. Help news organizations achieve balance and depth. Speak up in ways that draw attention away from hate, toward unity.


Dealing with Media
Some tips for an effective media campaign:

  • News outlets cover hate crimes and groups. Don’t kill the messenger. Consider hate news a wake-up call, revealing tension in the community. Attack the problem. Reporters will then cover you, too.

  • Name a press contact for your group. This keeps the message consistent and allows the press to quickly seek comment or reaction to events. Invite the press to all your meetings.

  • The media like news hooks and catchy phrases, such as “Hate Free Zone.”

  • Educate reporters, editors and publishers about hate groups, their symbols and their effect on victims and communities.

  • Criticize the press when it falls short. Remind editors that it is not fair to focus on 20 Klansmen when 300 people attend a peace rally.

  • Do not debate white supremacists or other hate-group members on conflict-driven talk shows or public forums.

7. Lobby Leaders

Elected officials and other community leaders can be important allies in the fight against hate. But some must overcome reluctance — and others, their own biases — before they’re able to take a stand.


Steps to Take

  • Form relationships with community leaders before a hate incident occurs. If your community group already has a relationship with the mayor, for example, you will be better positioned to ask her to make a public statement in the event of a hate crime.

  • Educate community leaders about the causes and effects of hate. Sometimes, well-intentioned leaders don’t understand that bias-motivated actions can have far-reaching effects across a community.

  • Demand a quick, serious police response. The vigorous investigation and prosecution of hate crimes attracts media attention to issues of tolerance and encourages the public to stand up against hate.

  • Demand a strong public statement by political leaders. When elected officials issue proclamations against hate, it helps promote tolerance and can unify communities.

  • Encourage leaders to name the problem. Local leaders sometimes try to minimize incidents fueled by hate or bias, not calling them hate crimes.

  • Lobby for action. To heal in the wake of a bias incident — and to grow into a more resilient community — requires more than official statements. It also takes hard work. Ask your community leaders to walk the talk.


8. Look Long Range

Promote tolerance and address bias before another hate crime can occur. Expand your community’s comfort zones so you can learn and live together. 


Steps to Take

  • Hold candlelight vigils, religious services and other activities to bring people of different races, religions and ethnic groups together.

  • Honor history and mark anniversaries.

  • Break bread together.

  • Move from prayer to action.

  • Begin a community conversation on race.

  • Consider building something the community needs, and use it as an organizing tool – from a teen center to a new playground.

  • Create a tolerance website or an online community discussion board.

9. Teach Tolerance

Bias is learned early, usually at home. Schools can offer lessons of tolerance and acceptance.


In the Classroom

  • Acknowledge differences among students and celebrate the uniqueness of everyone.

  • Create an “I Have a Dream” contest, in which students envision and describe an ideal community.

  • Promote inclusion and fairness, but allow discussions of all feelings, including bias learned at home and the street.

  • Promote diversity by letting children tell stories about their families, however different they may be.

  • Use art and theatre to help children understand the effects of discrimination and celebrate their differences.

  • Teach older children to look critically at stereotypes portrayed by the media.

  • Teach mediation skills to kids.

Five Steps for Parents to Take

1. Examine your children’s textbooks and the curricula at their schools to determine whether they are equitable and multicultural.

2. Encourage teachers and administrators to adopt diversity training and tolerance curricula, including Teaching Tolerance magazine and other diversity education materials.

3. Encourage your children to become tolerance activists. They can form harmony clubs, build multicultural peace gardens, sponsor “walk in my shoes” activities and join study circles to interact with children of other cultures.

4. Examine the media your children consume, from Internet sites to the commercials during their favorite TV shows. Stereotypes and issues of intolerance are bound to be present. Discuss these issues openly, as you would the dangers of sex and drugs.

5. Model inclusive language and behavior. Children learn from the language you use and the attitudes you model. If you demonstrate a deep respect for other cultures, races and walks of life, most likely they will, too.


10. Dig Deeper

Look inside yourself for prejudices and stereotypes. Build your own cultural competency, then keep working to expose discrimination wherever it happens — in housing, employment, education and more.


It Begins With Me
Human rights experts recommend starting with the language we use and the assumptions we make about others. Am I quick to label people as “rednecks” or “illegals”? Do I tell gay jokes? Do I look with disdain at families on welfare, or do I try to understand the socio-economic forces that prevent many families from climbing out of poverty?

Here are other questions you might ask yourself:

  • How wide is my circle of friends? How diverse is my holiday card list?

  • How integrated is my neighborhood? My child’s school? My workplace? Why is that?

  • Do I take economic segregation and environmental racism for granted?

  • Do I have the courage to ask a friend not to tell a sexist or racist or homophobic joke in my presence?

  • Do I receive information about other cultures from members of those cultures, or from potentially biased, third-party sources?

  • Do I take the time to listen and learn from other people’s experiences — especially people with whom I might initially disagree?

  • How often am I in the minority?


Fighting for Systemic Change
Sooner or later, your personal exploration will bump up against issues that take more than one person to solve. Investigating your own prejudices will reveal a country with deep, systemic and unresolved prejudice and discrimination.

*Disclaimer: Ur Safe with Me is not affiliated in any manner with any of the nonprofit organizations listed on this website or any of their programs, projects or websites.

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