5 Allyship Terms We Need to Know in 2020 (And Always)

Education is an essential tool on the path to learning, unlearning, and being a better advocate. 

 minute read
This content was developed in partnership with Conscious City Guide.


Information is queen when it comes to the fight against racial oppression. It’s not enough to say we support the Black Lives Matter movement. To be a true ally and expand ourselves as individuals, we have to know why we are protesting; why millions of people around the world leave the safety of their homes during a global pandemic to march. 

Understanding these five terms will help us better understand the struggle and ensure that our allyship is an essential tool in the fight for equality. Although far from comprehensive, learning these terms will help you on the path to narrowing your knowledge gaps, and understanding how you may unknowingly benefit from racism. 

Racial gaslighting

Racial gaslighting is the oppressive political, social, economic, and cultural process of normalizing white supremacy while persecuting and demonizing those who resist it. How do we avoid this harmful behaviour? By not asking our BIPOC friends to justify their suffering. Believe them when they say they’ve experienced discrimination. Other people’s struggles are neither up for debate nor theoretical. 


Intersectionality can be represented as a Venn diagram of a person’s identities. It demonstrates how those identities intersect to create advantages as well as disadvantages. A BIPOC who is a member of the LGBTQIA community, for example, may deal with both racism and homophobia. The hashtag #Blacktranslivesmatter was created to promote intersectional solidarity. 

Institutional/systemic racism

Systemic racism is legal oppression. This form of racism works by creating lawful practices that deny human rights and equity to a group of people because of their race or ethnicity. In refusing to acknowledge differences based on skin color, we uphold systemic racism. Institutional racism can affect everything from access to healthcare and the quality of children’s education children to discriminatory judicial practices. 

Implicit bias 

To stand in solidarity with our BIPOC communities, we have to examine our implicit biases; the ways in which we form stereotypes on an unconscious level. We have to take the time to listen to those who are in the struggle, and through thoughtful examination of our own biases, be willing to change our attitudes.


Slacktivism can be defined as the act of protesting for show. Slacktivists are those individuals who post out of the fear of looking insensitive – posting on #blackouttuesday and not doing the work to become anti-racist is one such example. Right now is not the time for empty gestures. This is an opportunity to make a difference. For BIPOC, bringing revolutionary change is not a trend that can be measured in terms of “likes”, but rather a multigenerational fight for their lives. 


Photo courtesy of Guillaume Issaly.

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