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← Want a more just world? Be an unlikely ally

A more equal world starts with you. Citing a formative moment from her own life, equity advocate Nita Mosby Tyler highlights why showing up and fighting for others who face injustices beyond your own lived experience leads to a fairer, more just future for all.

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Showing Revision 4 created 07/14/2020 by Joanna Pietrulewicz.

  1. You can ask anyone you want
  2. and they will tell you
  3. that they are sick and tired
    of fighting for justice.
  4. People of color and members
    of the LGBT community are tired
  5. of carrying the burden of speaking up
  6. and stepping up
  7. even when they're being silenced
  8. and pushed back down.
  9. And white allies
  10. and cis allies are tired too.
  11. Tired of being told they're doing it wrong
  12. or that it isn't even their place
    to show up at all.
  13. This fatigue is impacting all of us.
  14. And in fact,
  15. I believe we won't succeed
  16. until we approach justice in a new way.
  17. I grew up in the middle
    of the civil rights movement
  18. in the segregated South.
  19. As a five-year-old girl,
  20. I was very interested in ballet.
  21. It seemed to be the five-year-old-girl
    thing to do in the 1960s.
  22. My mother took me to a ballet school.
  23. You know, the kind of school
    that had teachers
  24. that talked about your gifts and talents
  25. knowing that you'd never be a ballerina.
  26. (Laughter)
  27. When we arrived,
  28. they said nicely that they
    "did not accept Negroes."
  29. We got back in the car as if we were
    just leaving a grocery store
  30. that was out of orange juice.
  31. We said nothing ...
  32. just drove to the next ballet school.
  33. They said, "We don't accept Negroes."
  34. Well, I was confused.
  35. And I asked my mother
    why they didn't want me.
  36. And she said, "Well, they're just
    not smart enough to accept you right now
  37. and they don't know
    how excellent you are."
  38. (Cheers)
  39. (Applause and cheers)
  40. Well, I didn't know what that meant.
  41. (Laughter)
  42. But I was sure it wasn't good
  43. because I could see it
    in my mother's eyes.
  44. She was angry
  45. and it looked like she was
    on the verge of tears.
  46. Well, I decided right then and right there
  47. that ballet was dumb.
  48. (Laughter)
  49. You know, I had lots of experiences
    like that along the way,
  50. but as I got older,
  51. I started to get angry.
  52. And not just angry
    at the outright racism and injustice.
  53. I was angry at people
    that stood by and didn't say anything.
  54. Like, why didn't the white parents
    in that ballet school say
  55. "Uh, that's wrong.
  56. Let that little girl dance."
  57. Or why --
  58. (Applause)
  59. Why didn't the white patrons
    in the segregated restaurants say
  60. "Hey, that's not right.
  61. Let that family eat."
  62. Well, it didn't take me long to realize
  63. that racial injustice
    wasn't the only place
  64. that people in the majority
    were staying quiet.
  65. When I'd sit in church and hear
    some homophobic comment
  66. being disguised as something scriptural,
  67. I'd say, "I'm sorry,
  68. why aren't the heterosexual
    churchgoers disrupting this nonsense?"
  69. (Applause)
  70. Or ...
  71. in a room filled with boomers and Gen-Xers
  72. who started degrading
    their millennial colleagues
  73. as being spoiled, lazy and overconfident,
  74. I'd say, "I'm sorry,
  75. why isn't someone my age
    saying 'stop stereotyping?'"
  76. (Audience) Yes!
  77. (Applause)
  78. I was used to standing up
    on issues like this,
  79. but why wasn't everyone else?
  80. My fifth grade teacher,
  81. Mrs. McFarland,
  82. taught me that justice
    requires an accomplice.
  83. Not just anyone will do.
  84. She said we need unlikely allies
  85. if we want to see real change happen.
  86. And for those of us
    experiencing injustice up front,
  87. we need to be willing to accept the help,
  88. because when we don't,
  89. change takes too long.
  90. I mean, imagine if heterosexual
    and gay people had not come together
  91. under the banner of marriage equality.
  92. Or what if President Kennedy
  93. just wasn't interested
    in the civil rights movement?
  94. Most of our major movements
    in this country might have been delayed
  95. or even dead
  96. if it weren't for the presence
    of unlikely allies.
  97. When the same people speak up
  98. in the same ways they've always spoken up,
  99. the most we'll ever get
    are the same results
  100. over and over again.
  101. You know, allies often
    stand on the sidelines
  102. waiting to be called up.
  103. But what if unlikely allies
    led out in front of issues?
  104. Like ...
  105. what if Black and Native American people
    stood in front of immigration issues?
  106. (Applause)
  107. Or what if white people led the charge
  108. to end racism?
  109. (Applause and cheers)
  110. Or ...
  111. what if men led the charge
    on pay equity for women?
  112. (Applause and cheers)
  113. Or ...
  114. what if heterosexual people
    stood in front of LGBTQ issues?
  115. (Applause and cheers)
  116. And what if able-bodied people advocated
  117. for people living with disabilities?
  118. (Applause and cheers)
  119. You know, we can stand up for issues,
  120. weigh in and advocate
  121. even when it seems like the issue
    has nothing to do with us.
  122. And actually,
  123. those are the issues
    that are most compelling.
  124. And sure,
  125. people will have no idea
    why you are there,
  126. but that's why those of us
    facing injustice
  127. must be willing to accept the help.
  128. You know, we have to fight injustice
  129. with a consciousness of grace.
  130. When white guys stand up to fight
  131. for the liberation
    of Black and Brown people,
  132. Black and Brown people will have to
    be willing to accept their help.
  133. And I know that's complicated,
  134. but this is collective work
  135. and it requires everyone to be all in.
  136. One day when I was at kindergarten,
  137. our teacher introduced us
  138. to this beautiful, tall,
    white lady named Miss Ann.
  139. I thought she was the prettiest
    white lady I'd ever seen.
  140. Well, if I can be honest with you,
  141. I think it was the first time we'd ever
    seen a white lady in our school ever.
  142. (Laughter)
  143. Miss Ann stood in front of us
  144. and she said she was going
    to start teaching ballet classes
  145. right there are our school,
  146. and that she was proud
    to be our dance teacher.
  147. It was unreal.
  148. All of a sudden --
  149. (singing) I didn't think
    ballet was dumb anymore.
  150. (Laughter)
  151. You see, what I know now
    is Miss Ann was fully aware
  152. that the white ballet schools
    would not accept Black girls.
  153. She was incensed by that.
  154. So she came to the Black neighborhood
  155. to start teaching
    the dance classes herself.
  156. And you know, it took love
    and courage for her to do that.
  157. (Applause)
  158. And where there was no justice,
  159. she just built it.
  160. We all survived
  161. because we stood on the shoulders
    of our Black ancestors.
  162. We all thrived because
    Miss Ann was an unlikely ally.
  163. You know, when you add your voice
  164. and your actions
  165. to situations that you
    don't think involve you,
  166. you actually inspire others
    to do the same.
  167. Miss Ann inspired me
    to always be on the lookout
  168. for situations that weren't about me
  169. but where I saw injustice
  170. and inequality happening anyway.
  171. I hope she inspires you too,
  172. because to win the fight for equity
  173. we will all need to speak up
  174. and stand up.
  175. We will all need to do that.
  176. And we will all need to do that
  177. even when it's hard
  178. and even when we feel out of place,
  179. because it is your place,
  180. and it is our place.
  181. Justice counts on all of us.
  182. Thank you.
  183. (Applause and cheers)