“THE FIGHT IS YOURS”: ALLY ADVOCACY, IDENTITY RECONFIGURATION, AND POLITICAL CHANGE
MetadataShow full item record
Since at least 1990, scholars and activists have used the term “ally” to describe and theorize a distinct sociopolitical role: someone from a majority identity group working to end that group’s oppression of another identity group. While the term is recent, “allies” are present throughout America’s constant struggle to actualize equality and justice. The identity-rooted ideologies that empowered allies disempowered the groups for and with whom they sought justice and equality. But those empowering identities were pieces, more or less salient, of complex intersectional people. Given the shared nature of identity, this process also necessarily pitted allies against those with whom they shared an identity. In this project, I ask two questions about past ally advocacy—questions that are often asked about contemporary ally advocacy. First, in moments of major civil rights reform, how did allies engage their own intersecting identities—especially those ideologically-charged identities with accrued power from generations of marginalizing and oppressing? Second, how did allies engage other identities that were not theirs—especially identities on whose oppression their privilege was built? In asking these two questions—about self-identity and others’ identity—I assemble numerous rhetorical fragments into “ally advocacy.” This bricolage is in recognition of rhetoric’s fragmentary nature, and in response to Michael Calvin McGee’s call to assemble texts for criticism. I intend to demonstrate that ally advocacy is such a text, manifesting (among other contexts) around the women’s suffrage amendment, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the marriage equality movement. I argue that allies rarely engaged the ideologies underlying identity-based inequality in any open, direct, or thorough manner, especially at these moments when those ideologies were optimally vulnerable. I conclude that allies must accept that they marginalize others through identity and its adjacent ideology, and allies must help identity-group peers reconstitute their shared identity in recognition of this. Such reconstituting is necessary for a healthy American democracy but especially so in the late-2010s, as Americans persistently grapple with a political system fractured along identity lines.