Serving on the board of the LGBT Chamber of Commerce in San Francisco and being a member of the organization for the last 5 years has taught me a couple lessons on allyship. While this list is far from exhaustive, it sheds a speckle of light on how I began to dig deeper into what is happening in my community and how I could start to make a difference.
1. Listen to what the current struggles are.
When I joined the chamber, I thought it was a social club for people who were business owners in the Bay Area and wanted somewhere to be out and proud. Little did I know that one of the main tenets of the organization is to fight for diversity and inclusion when procuring government and corporate contracts. It took me being on the board for several years before fully understanding the importance of this concept and how to fight for it.
These battles will not be won overnight.
2. Talk about the issues out loud with people close to you.
I have had conversations with my family about different aspects of the LGBT community and racism and the truth is many times I am the only person to put the conversation out there. It can be easy to only interact with people of similar thoughts at work and in your neighborhood, city, or township. This makes it even more imperative to calmly broach the subject with people that are close to you and to revisit it after some time. People need time to process (if they’re going to). We need to stop things like prejudice, racism, and greed from being passed down. To me, this is part of the hard and slow work for progress. It does not come without risk.
3. Try to look at a major political, historical, or life event in the eyes of another.
It was painful to see the supreme court uphold the protection of LGBT workers under the Civil Rights Law this past week. Imagine living for decades as a person of the LGBT community and only now in 2020 are your Civil Rights being recognized. While it’s a good thing and I’m happy to see it bring joy to those around me, I can’t believe that these are the conversations that our governments are having today. It goes to show that progress is not brought by our government alone, but by those who stand up and speak out and bring influence.
4. Do business with diverse firms and small businesses. Promote diverse events.
Our chamber holds monthly events in which we highlight businesses that are LGBT owned or involved with the chamber. For those that attend regularly, relationships are made over time which in turn builds trust and makes it easy to refer business in the community. Getting involved with events that have an eye towards diversity also makes diversity a habit.
5. Treat the cause as your own.
We cannot feel that we are doing something good for another community. We must stand up and act on behalf of our community in that we are one in the same. A threat to justice somewhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
6. What about posting on social media?
While wearing rainbow clothing and posts of solidarity on social media have their place, if you keep showing up, and you keep listening and watching, there will come a time when it’s hard to stand up. When people would understand if you dropped out of the situation. When you witness ugliness. This is when you must call it out. This is when you must stand and protect the rights of yourself and of your fellow human.
Are these thoughts alone enough? Of course not. No one has a step by step action plan, but what we do know is that it starts with each of us taking measured and continued action. This will and should look different for everyone. The work is hard and the road is long, but what else are we here to do? How can you promote equality in your ecosystem?
At Ascent, we cherish diversity, respect, and celebration of every human being. We must condemn racism and continue to hold space for progress and inclusion. We must listen to our Black communities and celebrate them. We know that the world is better because of diversity and that the only way through this life is together.