I AM AN ALLY IN PROGRESS
I’m Black and Here’s How I Want You to Think About Allyship
By Nicholas Fogle
The inherent challenge of allyship is that you must genuinely act in support of the well-being of a group to which you do not and cannot belong. When striving to be an ally you face the challenge of trying to bridge the gap in life experiences with those unlike yourself as well as trying to educate yourself on the systems, history, and cultures that affect those same individuals. At the core of being an ally is a commitment to an introspective journey.
Introspection is necessary for allyship because it encourages an appreciation for the shared Human Experience. In the simplest of terms we are all, commonly, human. There’s of course much more to this sentiment. The Human Experience is composed of certain universal experiences such as the pursuit of wellbeing, happiness, moral direction, culture, to name a few of the heavy hitters. The Human Experience allows us to share these universal experiences and shape deeply individual experiences. For allies in progress, understanding the vast and diverse experiences is the first step to developing a good sense of introspection. There needs to be a mindfulness and awareness of how our differences shape us. Think about your own experiences, think about how you relate to your own experiences, think about how you feel about your own experiences. Along these contemplations be open to questioning what impact your experiences have had on you and how they’ve potentially molded you. It should become evident that the complexities of your own experiences are not limited to you, but a shared complexity throughout all people’s lives.
The world perceives each one of us differently, and each one of us sees the world through a different lens. Every person uniquely shapes, and is shaped by, the world. As an ally in progress, knowing that each of our interactions with the world are so nuanced and varied is one of the biggest obstacles in seeking to understand those you wish to work in solidarity with. We become accustomed to how we personally move through the world and how the world responds to us. We then gravitate towards those who share similar lived experiences. Examining some of the differing experiences between Black and white people in the US can showcase how white Americans have established limited visibility into the Black experience. Although the US is on track to become a predominantly non-white nation, it is still built upon a deeply ingrained system of oppression. It carries a history of disenfranchisement of the Black community; a divergence in the “American” Human Experience. This difference in experience can rear its ugly head in what white Americans may find subtle, everyday activities or decisions. Let's take the situation of Black and white high school students preparing to apply to a PWI. For the white students such a factor may be completely irrelevant or simply go unnoticed. For many Black students this is something they must consider. Will they risk being culturally isolated as a student at this school? Will they endure racial discrimination or violence?
Imagine that your race, sexual orientation, gender orientation, or even heritage, things that are simply out of your control, were used as a weapon against you. Imagine that such a weapon silenced you, made you a target for dehumanization, or worse. Introspection does not close the gap across life experiences completely, but it is hard work that fosters empathy and signifies dedication to allyship.
I often think of myself like everyone else—this is usually wrong and I believe such sentiment encapsulates most of my everyday experiences up to date. My name is Nicholas Fogle and I graduated college with a dual degree in philosophy and economics, with philosophy being my passion and economics a tool to assist in navigating the dynamics of our 20th century socio-political landscape. In studying both disciplines, I’ve found this paradox of how people can be so similar and yet so different, and I’m super fascinated with understanding such a paradox. Besides focusing on my philosophical studies, I’ve been contributing to Collective Culture, a start up, digital magazine, and exploring the world of writing. My exploration has led me here and has allowed me to to help the anti-racist movement, a movement I believe is more than just political or social fight, but a human fight. Anti-Racism means to fight against the hate and violence geared towards skin color, heritage, and culture just because it’s different; things can be dissimilar and both be exquisite, that’s what this means to me.
I see myself as such I AM...the change.
Mark Clennon is an NYC based artist specializing in editorial, commercial and documentary photography. His goal is to capture the Black experience in its totality—joy, pain, and triumph.
Clennon, a Florida native and graduate of The University of South Florida, describes his work as whimsically defiant. Find more of his work at markclennon.com.