Aviva Cohen
Darrell Friedman Institute

Ally or Accomplice? The Language of Activism

 In Education, Programs and Training

A new use of the word accomplice pushed this educator to rethink her activist approaches inside and outside the classroom.

Recently, I attended a Diversity Committee meeting at my daughter’s school. For context, the majority of committee members, including me, are white. This committee actively works to educate our community on issues of racial injustice through events for students and parents. One event is an Ally Week during which students consider the hard work of allyship with marginalized communities. As the clerk of the committee, I strive to make ally work—not “savior work”—a core component of our mission and programming. 

So when someone mentioned the word accomplice in the context of social justice work, I was taken aback. I joked and said, “It sounds like we would be committing a crime!” But I wanted to know more about how some social justice advocates are using this term. I also wanted to know how I might rethink how those in power can stand with and not for marginalized populations. 

Click here for the full article.

An ally will mostly engage in activism by standing with an individual or group in a marginalized community. An accomplice will focus more on dismantling the structures that oppress that individual or group—and such work will be directed by the stakeholders in the marginalized group.

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