https://civilservice.blog.gov.uk/2017/01/06/be-an-ally-its-important/

Be an ally – it’s important

Kevin Oliver (head shot)
Kevin Oliver

I’ve been a ‘straight' ally to different minority groups for years now… except that I haven’t.

Allow me to explain. I hate the term 'straight'. It’s really outdated, and in my humble opinion quite inappropriate for two reasons.

Firstly, it doesn’t really describe what I’m trying to do. In my previous posts on this blog I tried to set out that I’m interested in achieving fairness for everyone, not just one group. Secondly, it’s divisive and actively indicates differences that don’t do much to help.

I get involved with people. I’ve always been of the opinion that in order to understand the wider society that we live in, it’s important to understand its component parts. Note that I say 'understand', not 'agree with'. Any agreement is unnecessary when you accept that difference is highly desirable in a balanced society.

Think of it this way: you expect to have a place in society, with all the privileges and responsibilities that come with it. Rightly so. But if you’re expecting that for yourself then it follows that you should expect the same for others. It’s only fair.

I suppose what I’m saying is that we need to respect each other for who we are, rather than what we want each other to be; celebrate any differences; and accept that they are what make life interesting.

So why be an ally? It’s simple. You can’t have an appreciation for people or groups unless you make the effort to find out what makes them tick. While you can’t actually walk in their shoes, you can walk beside them, and develop empathy while you do it. And it has to be said that the more you get to know others, the more you get to know yourself. How you interact will change, and how you conduct yourself will develop.

You’ll be a more rounded person, more tolerant, less stressed around others and probably a healthier person for it.

'A great place to work' logoBarriers tend to fall when you get known as an ally. And being ‘pro’ something doesn’t mean that you become ‘anti’ anything. You get to see bigger pictures, and the impact that actions have on others. And you get a greater sense of fairness, which is surely what we all want.

So, please, get involved with support groups, whether within the Civil Service or outside. Start identifying with people that you have little or nothing in common with, and you’ll soon see how much common ground you share.

8 comments

  1. Comment by Helen Lederer posted on

    a brilliant message. change, inclusion and valuing difference needs everyone to participate, very especially those who think it's someone elses issue or "problem" to fix. It's so important people in under represented groups dont have to make change and inclusion happen all on their own. It needs all of us.

  2. Comment by Lisa Birch posted on

    I like this blog. It is how I have learnt to be. Life is much more rewarding now that I accept difference. I owe this to self learning and development on a Therapeutic counselling diploma course. I have learnt about different groups and I am able to empathise, respect and walk alongside others. We are all human.

  3. Comment by Jacqui Gavin posted on

    Kevin, you have hit the nail firmly and squarely on the head with this blog and I for one would like to thank you for your positive contribution to the 'normalisation' and inclusion.

    Whether you're an ally or someone who identifies as a minority, it is imperative to note that we all see ourselves as the same and that we ALL have a contribution to make, whoever we are. It is important to realise that every voice is as important as the next and that we all work together and stop thinking as being the poorer relation because we identify as a minority.

    The simple truth is that we are all a minority of one, and being able to share and being listened to in our lived experiences with the majority enriches our lives whoever we are.

    I consider myself privileged to have been given a platform to share and have my story told by so many. It's why I am so proud to call myself a Civil Servant with Attitude (I am claiming the copyright on that!).

  4. Comment by Kevin Oliver posted on

    Thank you for the comments. They are all appreciated.

    Jacqui, if you're claiming copyright on "Civil Servant with Attitude", then I'm having "Minority of One" - see previous blog.

  5. Comment by Jen Gagg posted on

    Then I am claiming 'equality never sleeps'

  6. Comment by Waqas posted on

    A very encouraging and motivating article. Sometimes having a conversation can remove many stereotypes and misconceptions, but one must make the effort to have a conversation and engage.

  7. Comment by Gavin Thomas posted on

    May I commend you Kevin for the work that you are doing to support Diversity and Inclusion. I would also very much agree with you that the term Straight Ally is very much outdated and that being an Ally of Diversity and Inclusion is probably more appropriate.

    As a BAME Officer who has worked with the Organisation for over 25 years, I have to say that it has been amazing how much the various Staff Associations have achieved in terms of awareness and attitude within the workplace.

    Although, I am a member of the one of the newest FCO Staff Associations: The Wellbeing Network which seeks to increase awareness and understanding about Mental Health, I am also an advocate of Diversity and Inclusion in respect of Ethnicity, Gender, Disability and Sexual Orientation and would very much agree that the way in which we interact with others can have a significant impact.

    Certainly through blogs like yours, there is now an working environment in which colleagues can be authentic and open about who they are without and fear of being judged or treated in an unfair manner.

    Through my interactions with these various Staff Groups, I have taken time out for some self reflection and changed the way in which I now interact with ALL of my colleagues.

  8. Comment by Dennis Bradley posted on

    Can I say that I am very appreciative of this article from Kevin. As one of the previous comments noted, it hits the nail on the head. The purpose of diversity is to create an environment of inclusion and more importantly the importance of understanding and acceptance of differences and the benefit to everyone concerned. Thank you so much for continuing to write about the importance of being an ally.