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When Allies Need Allies: The Role of Human Connections in Creating Change

July 14, 2021
By Whaewon Choi-Wiles

For more than a year, we’ve talked about America’s racial justice reckoning — this moment and movement that we can’t ignore. Where we must confront the most painful parts of our history and find a path forward toward justice and equity. We’ve talked about institutions that need to be reformed and about systems that need to be dismantled and rebuilt.

And we’ve talked about allyship — about what it is, how to do it, who needs it and when they need it. In corporate spaces, allyship programs and initiatives have quickly become one of the most accessible ways to begin advancing efforts around diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I).

But in our push to ensure everyone understands that allyship is a “verb, not a noun,” we run the risk of reducing it to a series of standalone actions that feel more like transactions, rather than the sustained support traditionally marginalized communities need; or the shared responsibility that’s required to drive change and create equity.

So, how do we go deeper? Can we go beyond equitable systems to equitable human connections? How do we talk less about how to be an ally and more about how to be a friend, a colleague, a partner, in-law?

FleishmanHillard’s True MOSAIC and TRUE Global Intelligence practices have partnered to create When Allies Need Allies: The Role of Care and Connection in Creating Equity. The report centers the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, intentionally examining their experiences and expectations, and in doing so opens the door to human truths that can, and should, inform what we — as individuals and organizations — do next in pursuit of equity and inclusion.

Normally, this is where we’d give our readers insights or advice in three to five snappy bullet points (and you will find that in the report because there is a time and place for it) but instead, here are five reasons we felt it was important for us to write this report now and why we hope you’ll take the time to read it:

  • Because even when faced with their own pain and trauma, even in the midst of fear provoked by increased violence against their community, our research shows us that the AAPI community remained committed to supporting other marginalized groups
  • Because it’s not enough to take action or make statements of support when headlines or heritage months dictate — our AAPI friends, family and colleagues still need us to show up for them
  • Because we need to be honest about the self-awareness that’s required to truly see and support other people for who they are and what they experience
  • Because changing systems and institutions starts with connecting those who influence and lead them to the humanity they share with those most impacted by them
  • And last, but not least, because the work of respecting diversity, fostering inclusion and creating equity starts with human-to-human connections that bring depth, understanding and empathy to the forefront of our interactions.