To be sure, effective allyship is an imperfect, complicated dance. Some steps will be seen as too little, too late. Others will be too symbolic, not going enough to root out and eradicate racist, unjust systems. Individuals and institutions, no matter how earnest they are in improving, will absolutely make mistakes.
It’s only natural to be anxious of making missteps, but you must try, says Joanna Thompson, the director of Santa Clara University’s Office for Multicultural Learning (OML). She holds a doctorate in Criminology, Law, and Justice. She also has mixed-race (half-Black/half-Latina) and queer identities that inform her work. Her current mission is to transform places of higher learning—and the people within them—into more welcoming, diverse, multicultural and multiracial bastions of social justice.
“It’s meant to be uncomfortable,” she says. But if we stay the course, guided by our Jesuit values of social justice and shaping ourselves into agents of change, moving forward is possible. “In order to make tangible, meaningful change, you got to first admit the problem. Just say it, and then move on.”
Santa Clara Magazine spoke with Thompson about imperfect allyship and how to do better.