Akilah Hughes explains that when it comes to being an ally: "It's Not About You"


"Would you go to a toddler's birthday party and kick over their cake to announce that you, too, have birthdays? The answer should be 'no.'"

Vlogger and comedian Akilah Hughes joined forces with teen-positive Rookie Magazine to pen an incredibly insightful article about activism and allyship. Hughes frames her piece around #BlackOutDay—a cool social media project that encouraged black people to share selfies as a way to challenge the ubiquity of European beauty standards and celebrate black beauty. As is the case with the #BlackLivesMatter movement, some white people took offense and tried to argue #BlackOutDay was exclusionary.

Hughes argues, however, that not every movement has to support everyone:

Blackout Day did not claim that non-black people are immune to body image issues, or that others don't face societal pressures. But, without fail, any time a historically oppressed group asserts their equality by boldly denying any inferiority to someone outside their group, some member of the un-oppressed majority takes it personally. Well, when oppressed groups take the initiative to lift themselves up, it is not an invitation to victimize yourself. Would you go to a toddler's birthday party and kick over their cake to announce that you, too, have birthdays? The answer should be "no."

Hughes also readily admits that she is sometimes on the flip side of this conversation too. Although she's an ally to the LGBT community, she was initially taken aback when she saw a post jokingly mocking straight relationships. But she eventually came to a big realization with the help of a friend who is a lesbian:

My friend was smart and patient. She simply asked, "Did you lose anything when they lifted themselves up?" and I thought really hard about it. The world hadn't changed. I wasn't somehow disadvantaged because queer people asserted their right to exist. I didn't lose my right to marry, or suddenly have slurs hurled at me about my sexual orientation.

Realizing that their gay pride didn't take away from or negate my lived experience helped me grow up so much in that moment. I saw the other side of the argument and they were right. And while I don't condone making fun of anyone, I certainly do not think it makes much sense to equate my personal situation with the centuries-long history of oppression that anyone who isn't heterosexual carries on their shoulders.

It. Wasn't. About. Me.

Since that conversation, I've learned to listen before I follow my knee-jerk reaction and take offense at movements about which I'm not educated. It isn't always easy to stop the instinct to be defensive, but it is necessary if things are ever going to get better. After really hearing the other side, ask yourself if anyone loses rights or status when that group gains theirs. John F. Kennedy said, "A rising tide lifts all boats." It's important to remember that sweeping progress benefits us all, so let others do what they must to finally achieve equality.

Read the full article over on Rookie.