Beyond Performative Allyship by Natalie Marrero

As the world’s mainstream culture begins to acknowledge #BlackLivesMatter as a legitimate issue that needs to be addressed, much is being asked of ourselves as humans and in our roles within our work. This moment is critical. Either an individual or institution will decide to run as the first to state its undying support for communities that have historically lived within grime realities that have been set up in this way or remain completely silent. Silence can be for many reasons.

For the purpose of this article, I’ll assume silence is because individuals and institutions are asking themselves:

  • What do I do? 

  • How do I be an advocate and support the movement? 

As I write this blog, I think about what would be the most useful advice to those asking these particular questions. The reality is, these questions will potentially be the first in the journey of educating oneself to identify the beginning steps of a pathway forward. First step: Acknowledge the privilege you have and how far you have to go in order to make a choice to learn more about these issues.

What’s next? 

Committing to a never ending journey of education, unlearning, and relearning.  The commitment  to educate yourself to understand what all these terms mean and have a better sense of history and how systems have been historically been built against Black, Indigenious, and other People of Color (BIPOC) must be a lifelong commitment. In order to have meaningful dialogue with ourselves and those in our lives, we must find a common ground through shared education because truth is, we all have our own ideas and definitions about Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Racial Equity, Racism, Black Lives Matter……..  

Now, you’re committed to this lifelong journey and have acknowledged your power and privilege. How do you make sure it isn’t simply Performative Allyship?

What is Performative Allyship?

“To understand performative allyship, let’s first look at what real allyship is. An ally is someone from a non-marginalized group who uses their privilege to advocate for a marginalized group. They transfer the benefits of their privilege to those who lack it. Performative allyship, on the other hand, is when someone from that same non-marginalized group professes support and solidarity with a marginalized group in a way that either isn’t helpful or that actively harms that group. Performative allyship usually involves the “ally” receiving some kind of reward — on social media, it’s that virtual pat on the back for being a “good person” or “on the right side.”” – Holiday Phillips

True allyship can manifest in many ways. Viver Brasil’s current Executive Director, Dr. Giavanni Washington, created a great infographic that outlines what true allyship requires and how we can identify how we can become not just allies but co-conspirators of the movement  towards justice and  liberation: Voice, Money, Time, and Talent.  

By no means am I an expert or have all the answers but we begin our education in these ideas by starting with ourselves. As the SCLN Leadership LA program discusses, it is incredibly difficult to eradicate the wicked problems that plague our world. 

Eradicating racial inequalities is one of the most incredible wicked problems because the eradication starts within each one of  us. Unlike any other issue, racial inequities are embedded into all humans and systems that exist in this country and many others. The eradication begins within ourselves and our hearts. We can never bring justice or liberation into our work if we have not identified our complacency and how we benefit from systemic racial inequities. If anything, this moment in time, should cause great pause and reflection for us all.  Whether you identify as BIPOC, see yourself as an ally, or disagree with the movement all together: we must investigate why. 

Word Bank

Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) Racial Equity Anti-Racism Performative Allyship Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC) Black Lives Matter

Additional Resources

  1. The Peoples Institute of Survival and Beyond:

  2. Being Antiracist:

  3. What is BIPOC?

  4. Performative Allyship is Deadly:

  5. What is Racial Equity?

  6. Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion:

  7. Viver Brasil Dance Company:

Natalie Marrero, Executive Director, Conga Kids, LLA 2020