When a Group of Dance Moms Showed Me That Allyship Is an Action
Flashback. My youngest daughter is 3. While she is in her Saturday morning dance class, I am chatting with fellow waiting parents. The first dance recital is around the corner. A few parents who already know the rules and routines start sharing them with those of us who are new. Apparently the owner of the dance studio is an ex-beauty queen whose primary focus is appearance. She wants every costume to be perfect, every hairstyle, every tiny detail. The rules keep coming and I am stunned. I have over 10 years of dance mom experience under my belt with my oldest at another studio where none of these rules existed.
I remember starting to get overwhelmed with the thought, “This owner will not approve of my daughter. She has never seen her, and when she does, she will say something discriminatory.” I got very quiet and a few of the other parents asked me if something was wrong. I blurted out my fears, followed by embarrassed tears. I will never forget two of the moms putting their arms around me and comforting me. Then all of the parents, and I do mean all, said, “No worries, Greta. If Yassy is not allowed to dance, our girls won’t dance either. They all dance, or none of them do.” They truly meant it. I was shocked. And then this cloak of comfort, love and acceptance washed over me. My daughter who has Down syndrome was truly accepted. And she had allies! We had allies! The worry disappeared, and the recital went on without a hitch. Yassy danced for almost 10 years.
My daughter is now 20, but that moment is one I will never forget. And it is a common reference point for me. Allies are not “someone else.” They are you and me. We have to be there for our neighbors in today’s complicated world.
One of the beautiful things I noticed about the Black Lives Matter protests last summer is the fact that people of all colors, all religions and all economic backgrounds walked in solidarity all over the world. And that was during a pandemic, when many more wanted to but stayed home for safety.
This complicated world where our LGBTQA+ neighbors strive for and win rights, only to see them stripped away in what must seem like a very cruel trick and game. Win some and then lose some. The discrimination many see and fear on a daily basis is very real.
Many years ago I saw a profound speaker tell the crowd that her son, who had multiple disabilities and used a wheelchair, found the most acceptance in schools with more diversity. She made sure to clarify that diversity was much more than race. It encompasses disabilities, ethnicities, religions, LGBTQA+ and more. Why? Because people who know discrimination are often allies. Since that presentation, I have noticed the same to be true in my daughter’s journey.
Most recently we have become more aware of the violent discrimination against our Asian-American neighbors. Last week, video footage showed another Asian senior citizen getting assaulted in NYC. Instead of helping, two people did nothing.
On a local radio show, I heard one Asian woman talking about how the elderly are being targeted. She brought to light that there is more discrimination than most know. What hit me right away was when she thanked all the community allies. She knows better than most the importance of allies.
Being an ally requires action. It means being honest about our own prejudices and ignorance, becoming more educated about marginalized groups, stepping out of our comfort zones to grow our circles of friends and working for societal change. Those moms knew how to be allies 17 years ago from their hearts. Imagine the kinder and gentler world we can all help form together.
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