Standing in Solidarity vs. Allyship

February 4, 2022

As Women’s College Hospital commemorates Black History and Futures Month by celebrating Black joy and showcasing the many amazing achievements and contributions of our Black community members, we take the opportunity to reflect on how we stand in solidarity with Black community members.

Over the past several years, in response to global demands for social justice, many people have declared themselves ‘allies’ to the Black community. But what does allyship really mean? Can it be self-declared, and does it go far enough? The meaningful and on-going action required to dismantle systemic and structural oppression and anti-Black racism goes well beyond ideas of allyship. Such a disruption calls on non-racialized communities to stand in solidarity with the Black community.

What’s the difference?


Allyship can easily become a performative act, or ally theatre – something loud, vocal, and visual to show others that we are informed about oppression and are against it. Ironically, this practice of allyship relies on the same kind of extraction from marginalized groups that is the bedrock of the systemic oppression against which these groups agitate. It coopts existing movements started and organized by oppressed people, with allies often relying on these communities to provide education about oppression and racism, without the personal cost of investing in the work needed to challenge systems of inequity. Often, allyship does little to rebalance the uneven distribution of resources and power, which is at the heart of dismantling oppressive institutions and systems.

Standing in Solidarity

On the contrary, solidarity work is about just that: actively and intentionally working to redistribute the unfair gains of systemic oppression. It means recognizing the destructiveness of oppression and systemic racism to everyone and working towards collective wellbeing. Solidarity also means committing to do the work without relying on oppressed communities to provide education or affirmation.

As we continue our equity work, it is important that we are always self-reflective on how we engage in anti-oppression and anti-racist work.

On Tuesday, February 15, Tenniel Brown will be joining us to build upon her presentation from last year and share ways to incorporate solidarity into our everyday practice as well as how to remain passionate and compassionate. The following resources also provide more information on standing in solidarity versus allyship:

9 Reasons Why Acting in Solidarity for Racial Justice Is Preferable to “Allyship” – Jaime Grant