Hello my name is Wasim
In deciding about how I might write this blog, I thought about how I would approach the subject of allyship. A quick google search will provide you with a wealth of information about how to be an ally to Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities but I thought I would share with you my own personal views. Indeed, local examples here in Leeds highlight the strong focus on this key subject with Leeds Teaching Hospital recently sharing their powerful BME Allyship model (IAPPLAUD) which seeks to serve a crucial role in driving racial equality in the organisation - I highly recommend checking it out.
This is not a guide as to how to become a good ally for BAME colleagues, mostly because I don’t represent the entire BAME community which is incredibly diverse and complex. But what I can do is speak to my experience of allyship, why it matters to be an Ally and help demonstrate why allyship starts with me and you. Why it starts with us.
The death of George Floyd and the international attention on the Black Lives Matter movement has bought into sharp focus the ongoing racial injustice, inequity and everyday discrimination faced by BAME communities nationally and internationally. We find ourselves talking about the current context as being the “new normal”. However the harsh reality is that the pandemic has only highlighted that the experiences of discrimination that BAME communities face is as entrenched now as it was before the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, we know that COVID-19 has disproportionately affected BAME communities even further.
This moment of crisis highlights why it matters now more than ever to be an Ally. Many of our Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities have bravely shared their lived experiences and have had to relive the trauma of the racism they have faced. The emotional labour of these stories being shared should not and must not be underestimated. It is incumbent on us all to respond to the trust and bravery of BAME communities in sharing their experiences, with the clear unequivocal support and engagement this key moment demands.
I realise this will be an uncomfortable and challenging time for White communities too. But we cannot afford the fear of difficult conversations to prevent us from creating cultures of openness and honesty which allows us all to fully understanding the impact of the current context on marginalised communities.
We all want to do better. We need to do better. We need to be better. Allyship does not have an end point. It is a journey where we are all constantly learning, constantly improving, constantly challenging ourselves.
Your allyship matters also because of the profound impact it has on marginalised communities. I know this because I speak from personal experience.
Not being able to be your true self and to celebrate each part of your identity that makes you undeniably you is where this journey started for me. I know what it is like to pretend to be someone else, because it felt like the easier, safer option.
I no longer recognised the person I saw in the mirror after years of pretending to be someone I was not. I am a British Asian gay man and I am proud of who I am. But the truth is this journey has not been easy and to sit here and type the words “I am Gay” comes with some trepidation. How will you react? Will you judge me simply for being who I truly am?
These are some of the endless questions I asked myself. But looking back at where I am today, I would not be able to type the words for this blog, to speak openly about who I am , if it was not for the diverse voices, of those friends, colleagues, those allies who have and continue to support me.
That is the power of allyship. Yes, you can’t fully understand my experience but what you can do is be the ally who listens, the ally who believes in the very personal story that I am sharing, the ally that amplifies my voice and my experience.
Right now all our BAME communities need us. They need you.
They need our support. They need us to speak out when we see injustice and racism. They need to see that we are listening. They need to see that we are seeking to learn, to educate ourselves. They need to see our compassion, to show that we care, that their diversity and difference is celebrated.
That we respect them.
That they matter.
This is not a time for passive allyship. The time for quiet support has passed us and simply saying you are an ally is no longer enough. Change, real progressive change comes from your powerful voices amplifying those of BAME communities – of changing ideas into action and ideas into actual tangible change in our workplaces, our communities and our homes. Allyship is not just a concept. It must be part of everything we do. I’ll be honest with you - It won’t be easy. It will require work. You will be in this for the long haul. But importantly, you won’t be on this journey alone. Some of you are at the beginning of the allyship journey. Some of you are further along. Whatever stage of this journey you are at, we are all in this together, learning together. Allyship starts with you. It starts with us.