Unicorns, Leprechauns, and White Allies: Exploring the Space Between Intent and Action
Williams, M. T., Sharif, N., Strauss, D., Gran-Ruaz, S., Bartlett, A., & Skinta, M. D. (2021). The Behavior Therapist, 44(6), 272-281.
8 Pages Posted:
Date Written: August 20, 2021
Being a White ally goes beyond being merely “non-racist” and having good intentions. Meaningful allyship is behavioural and requires active participation in dismantling systems of oppression. The objective of this study was to ascertain the degree to which White individuals behave in an allied manner when provided the opportunity to do so by comparing observed racial justice allyship behaviour to self-reported allyship behaviours. Using a subsample (N=31) from a larger study, White participants took part in a laboratory behavioural task where they engaged in three 5-minute discussions with another White participant (a confederate) about racially-charged news stories in the United States while knowingly being watched by a Black RA via live recording. Stories represented different forms of racism towards Black people: the removal of a Confederate monument; the killing of an unarmed Black male college student by police after a car accident; and a fraternity party where members dressed up as Black stereotypes. Coders were asked to rate how they believed a Person of Colour would feel interacting with that participant using a 4-point Likert scale: 0 (absence of any supportive comments) to 3 (very explicit, unwavering support for non-racist and equity values and behaviour). Furthermore, a newly developed self-report questionnaire indicating interpersonal allyship (IRAS) was used to ascertain self-reported allyship. Results showed that when using a mean cut-off score of 2 as an indicator of allyship for each laboratory scenario (consistent support throughout the interaction), only 6.4% of participants met these criteria. Furthermore, only 3.2% of the participants were allies in all 3 scenarios, 9.7% were allies in 2 scenarios, and 16.1% were allies in 1 scenario. The results indicated that White people consistently showed a lack of allyship towards Black people. We discuss the challenges of allyship, and the difference between White allies and White saviors. Future research should expand on and explore the complexities and nuances of meaningful White allyship.
Keywords: White ally, allyship, racism, discrimination, microaggressions, social justice
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