Calling All Adult Allies

By: Amanda Rohdenburg, Director of Advocacy, Outright Vermont and Youth Advocate and Educator, Voice Against Violence, St. Albans,Vermont

This week has been full of conversations about allyship; how men can be better allies to the anti-violence movement, straight folks to the LGBT community, white folks to people of color.  Allyship is what happens when someone in a position of power and privilege works to counteract systems of oppression that they themselves benefit from.

The principles of allyship hold across the board: Recognize and acknowledge your privilege; interrupt -isms when you witness them (or start to perpetuate them); listen to the voices of oppressed people; make space for them in places your privilege gives you access to; engage other privileged people in becoming allies.

In Adultism, Paul Kivel talks specifically and powerfully about being an ally to young people.  While many facets are the same, there is one in particular I’d like to highlight: Make mistakes openly.  This is such an uncomfortable, necessary step adults need to take in being an ally to youth.  As adults we are so afraid to embrace the transparency of imperfection, but surrendering that mask of adult omniscience is an incredible way to offset the power dynamic that keeps young people at a disadvantage–and at arm’s length.  Want the young people in your life to be authentic with you? Make mistakes and own them.  Admit when you are wrong or don’t know the answer.  Give in to a kind of vulnerability that will show the young people around you that everyone is human, and that is just fine.