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Want a more just world? Be an unlikely ally

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    You can ask anyone you want
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    and they will tell you
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    that they are sick and tired
    of fighting for justice.
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    People of color and members
    of the LGBT community are tired
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    of carrying the burden of speaking up
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    and stepping up
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    even when they're being silenced
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    and pushed back down.
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    And white allies
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    and cis allies are tired too.
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    Tired of being told they're doing it wrong
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    or that it isn't even their place
    to show up at all.
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    This fatigue is impacting all of us.
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    And in fact,
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    I believe we won't succeed
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    until we approach justice in a new way.
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    I grew up in the middle
    of the Civil Rights Movement
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    in the segregated South.
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    As a five-year-old girl,
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    I was very interested in ballet.
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    It seemed to be the five-year-old-girl
    thing to do in the 1960s.
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    My mother took me to a ballet school.
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    You know, the kind of school
    that had teachers
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    who talked about your gifts and talents
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    knowing that you'd never be a ballerina.
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    (Laughter)
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    When we arrived,
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    they said nicely that they
    "did not accept negroes."
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    We got back in the car as if we were
    just leaving a grocery store
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    that was out of orange juice.
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    We said nothing.
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    Just drive to the next ballet school.
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    They said, "We don't accept negroes."
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    Well, I was confused.
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    And I asked my mother
    why they didn't want me.
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    And she said, "Well, they're just not
    smart enough to accept you right now
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    and they don't know
    how excellent you are."
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    (Applause and cheers)
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    Well, I didn't know what that meant.
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    (Laughter)
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    But I was sure it wasn't good
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    because I could see it
    in my mother's eyes.
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    She was angry
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    and it looked like she was
    on the verge of tears.
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    Well I decided right then and right there
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    that ballet was dumb.
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    (Laughter)
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    You know, I had lots of experiences
    like that along the way,
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    but as I got older,
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    I started to get angry.
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    And not just angry at the outright
    racism and injustice.
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    I was angry at people that stood by
    and didn't say anything.
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    Like, why didn't the white parents
    in that ballet school say,
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    "Uh, that's wrong.
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    Let that little girl dance."
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    Or --
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    (Applause)
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    Why didn't the white patrons
    in the segregated restaurants say,
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    "Hey, that's not right.
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    Let that family eat."
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    Well, it didn't take me long to realize
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    that racial injustice
    wasn't the only place
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    that people in the majority
    were staying quiet.
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    When I'd sit in church and hear
    some homophobic comment
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    being disguised as something scriptural,
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    I'd say, "I'm sorry,
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    why aren't the heterosexual
    church-goers disrupting this nonsense?"
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    (Applause)
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    Or,
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    in a room filled with boomers and Gen-Xers
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    who started degrading their millennial
    colleagues as being spoiled, lazy
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    and overconfident,
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    I'd say,
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    "I'm sorry,
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    why isn't someone my age
    saying 'stop stereotyping?'"
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    (Audience) Yes!
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    (Applause)
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    I was used to standing up
    on issues like this,
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    but why wasn't everyone else?
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    My fifth grade teacher,
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    Mrs. McFarland,
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    taught me that justice
    requires an accomplice.
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    Not just anyone will do.
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    She said we need unlikely allies
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    if we want to see real change happen.
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    And for those of us experiencing
    injustice up-front,
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    we need to be willing to accept the help,
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    because when we don't,
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    change takes too long.
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    I mean, imagine if heterosexual
    and gay people had not come together
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    under the banner of marriage equality.
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    Or what if President Kennedy
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    just wasn't interested
    in the Civil Rights Movement?
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    Most of our major movements
    in this country might have been delayed
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    or even dead
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    if it weren't for the presence
    of unlikely allies.
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    When the same people speak up
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    in the same ways they've always spoken up,
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    the most we'll ever get
    are the same results
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    over and over again.
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    You know, allies often
    stand on the sidelines
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    waiting to be called up.
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    But what if unlikely allies led out
    in front of issues?
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    Like ...
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    what if Black and Native American people
    stood in front of immigration issues?
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    (Applause)
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    Or what if white people led the charge
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    to end racism?
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    (Applause and cheers)
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    Or ...
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    what if men led the charge
    on pay equity for women?
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    (Applause and cheers)
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    Or ...
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    what if heterosexual people
    stood in front of LGBTQ issues?
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    (Applause and cheers)
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    And what if able-bodied people avocated
    for people living with disabilities?
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    (Applause and cheers)
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    You know, we can stand up for issues,
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    weigh-in and advocate
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    even when it seems like the issue
    has nothing to do with us.
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    And actually,
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    those are the issues
    that are most compelling.
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    And sure,
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    people will have no idea
    why you are there,
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    but that's why those of us
    facing injustice
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    must be willing to accept the help.
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    You know, we have to fight injustice
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    with a consciousness of grace.
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    When white guys stand up
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    for the liberation
    of Black and Brown people,
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    Black and Brown people will have to be
    willing to accept their help.
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    And I know that's complicated,
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    but this is collective work
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    and it requires everyone to be all-in.
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    One day when I was at kindergarten,
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    our teacher introduced us
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    to this beautiful, tall,
    white lady named Ms. Anne.
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    I thought she was the prettiest
    white lady I'd ever seen.
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    Well, if I can be honest with you,
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    I think it was the first time we'd ever
    seen a white lady in our school ever.
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    (Laughter)
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    Ms. Ann stood in front of us
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    and she said she was going
    to start teaching ballet classes
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    right there are our school.
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    And that she was proud
    to be our dance teacher.
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    It was unreal.
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    All of a sudden --
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    (singing) I didn't think ballet
    was dumb anymore.
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    (Laughter)
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    You see, what I know now
    is Ms. Ann was fully aware
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    that the white ballet schools
    would not accept black girls.
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    She was incensed by that.
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    So she came to the black neighborhood
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    to start teaching
    the dance classes herself.
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    And you know, it took love
    and courage for her to do that.
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    (Applause)
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    And where there was no justice,
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    she just built it.
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    We all survived because we stood
    on the shoulders of our Black ancestors.
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    We all thrived because Ms. Ann
    was an unlikely ally.
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    You know, when you add your voice
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    and your actions
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    to situations that you
    don't think involve you,
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    you actually inspire
    others to do the same.
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    Ms. Ann inspired me to always
    be on the lookout
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    for situations that weren't about me,
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    but where I saw injustice
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    and inequality happening anyway.
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    I hope she inspires you too,
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    because to win the fight for equity,
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    we will all need to speak up
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    and stand up.
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    We will all need to do that.
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    And we will all need to do that
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    even when it's hard
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    and even when we feel out-of-place,
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    because it is your place,
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    and it is our place.
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    Justice counts on all of us.
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    Thank you.
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    (Applause and cheers)
Title:
Want a more just world? Be an unlikely ally
Speaker:
Nita Mosby Tyler
Description:

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Video Language:
English
Team:
TED
Project:
TEDTalks
Duration:
10:15

English subtitles

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