Constructing Allyship and the Persistence of Inequality.




We examine how people construct what it means to be an ally to marginalized groups. Based on 70 in-depth interviews with college students who identify as allies to one or more marginalized groups, we analyze how they construct allyship in ways that ultimately reproduce patterns of social inequality by (1) assigning responsibility for inequalities to minorities, and (2) suggesting individualized, rather than structural, remedies for combatting unequal systems. We find that the combination of these strategies allows them to claim identities as allies without having to engage in concrete efforts that could challenge systems of oppression. We argue that systematically examining processes through which people construct and perform what it means to be an ally may provide insights into mechanisms whereby inequality is maintained and justified. Such systematic examination may also point to potential avenues for combating social inequalities.

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Copyright © 2021, Oxford Academic.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/socpro/spaa003.