Published November 16, 2020
In the fight for social and racial justice, what is an ally? What does it mean, what does it require, and is it enough?
In a Zoom event on Nov. 19, UB professor Amy L. Reynolds and UB alumna Gail Wells — longtime friends and colleagues from different backgrounds and experiences — will discuss what is needed to combat racial inequities and other forms of discrimination and oppression, and how communities can work together to create meaningful and lasting change.
The program is titled “Is Being an Ally Enough?” Hosted by the Office of Inclusive Excellence, it will take place from noon to 1 p.m. as part of UB’s “Let’s Talk About Race” series. President Satish K. Tripathi will offer introductory remarks.
To attend, visit the event registration page.
Wells, former director of student life at SUNY Buffalo State, has been involved with diversity training for over 20 years. After retiring from a 29-year career in higher education, she has continued her social justice efforts, including through her work with the Buffalo Freedom Gardens project, a coalition of Black-led organizations and allies that have established over 50 home gardens to enhance food sovereignty in areas that lack access to healthy foods.
Reynolds, professor of counseling, school and educational psychology in the Graduate School of Education, is an expert on multicultural competence and training in counseling psychology and higher education.
Wells and Reynolds recently talked with UBNow about what it means to be an ally, and whether that’s enough.
What is an “ally” and why are allies important in the fight for racial justice?
Reynolds: “Allies are individuals who use their power and privilege as members of specific social identity groups to support others from disadvantaged and marginalized groups, and to actively dismantle discrimination and oppression. Being an ally requires self-awareness, personal commitment, critical consciousness, essential skills and a willingness to act. If white individuals want to be allies to people of color, they must strive to understand themselves as racial beings, form deep and authentic relationships with people of color, and consistently take risks in small and big ways to speak out against racism and the systems that support it.”
Wells: “Amy and I had a robust conversation about this, and Amy’s response is reflective of how we both would answer.”
What do you hope people will learn from attending the Nov. 19 event?
Wells: “My answer to the question, ‘What do I want people to learn?’ is shaped by another question Amy and I discussed, which is, ‘What is the end game? Is being an ally enough to end racism? Is it enough to make Black Lives Matter? Is it enough to bring change?’ The short answer to these questions is ‘no.’
“What I want participants to take away from our conversation:
Reynolds: “We are in a unique time in our country where people are feeling drawn to contribute to positive social change. Many individuals with privilege are hungry to fight inequity and want to learn how to combat racism and other forms of oppression. We hope that participants will learn what it means to be an ally, and what effective and meaningful strategies lead to real and lasting change on the individual, cultural and institutional level. We want participants to leave with a fresh understanding and renewed commitment to action that ensures the status quo is not continued.”