The Performative Ally.

November 30, 2022
A white woman's face with three expressions are superimposed on top of each other reflecting the changing faces of performative allies.

Image credit: Nicolette Attree

Performative allyship is hindering the advancement of anti-racism efforts. Many self-appointed "allies" think they are doing the work, when in fact they are only creating more of it. Kindly review this descriptive list of performative allies that I have experienced in 2022. If these behaviours sound familiar, please take some time to sit with yourself. Seriously. #YourBlackFriendsAreTired.


The Social Butterfly. 🦋

This self-proclaimed ally follows all of the well-known DEI voices on social media and leaves oversimplified calls to action to action in the comments to "create awareness" and "inspire" others to #BeKind. The social butterfly reposts content as soon as it is shared because they need to maintain their image of being informed. This superficial engagement assuages their ignorance and absolves them of their guilt for failing to do any real anti-discrimination work.

The Mosquito. 🦟

This self-proclaimed ally works very hard to make its presence known in the life of individual social justice advocates. They buzz around all of an activist's social media accounts and regularly comment with the word "powerful" to appear deeper than a puddle and to earn recognition for their non-existent "hard work." When a mosquito feels unappreciated or is corrected, they fly away. After their wounds of offence heal, they then inject their false allyship into a "nicer" equity advocate who understands that "mistakes will be made"  and that "change takes time."  

The Pontificator. 🗣

This self-proclaimed ally uses every low-stakes opportunity available to loudly showcase their support of the "amazing Black women" they "discovered" or how proud they are to know their "brave" queer friends. But, unfortunately, pontificators speak only to audiences that won't challenge their performative behaviour. Moreover, they intentionally never direct their words toward workplace managers or government officials who can enact change. Why? Because doing so would be far too uncomfortable.

The Parrot. 🦜

This self-proclaimed ally has no personal allyship practice — none whatsoever. Instead, parrots repeat all the anti-racism words they've gleaned from equity books written by white authors to tone-police their Black friends. On the surface, parrots present as knowledgeable and committed equity champions, but once the conversation challenges their comfort, their advocacy dissolves faster than cotton candy caught in the rain. To avoid accountability, parrots silently fly away in search of audiences who reward them with crackers for the rhetorical crumbs they proudly offer their Black friends. 

The Cheerleader. 🙌🏻

This self-proclaimed ally privately conveys unwavering support and compassion for people who face discrimination but refuses to make any meaningful public declarations. The cheerleader will never overtly champion equity in their workplace. Instead, they will email or text all their non-white, disabled, or queer friends and co-workers with lengthy messages filled with an inordinate number of sad emojis to express how sad discrimination makes them feel. 

As can be seen, each of these performative ally types is rife with problematic behaviours. The key to avoiding their harm is to maintain minimal to no engagement. They will grow tired of trying to get your attention and move on to people and places that will give them the gold stars they feel they deserve. 

And before anyone jumps up to proclaim that "Not all allies behave this way!" Understand that not enough of you are calling this nonsense out. 

Watch: Five Tips for Being an Ally.

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