Dictionary.com Names 'Allyship' as Word of the Year—Here's What This Needs to Mean

The editors at Parents.com emphasize the importance of allyship and moving beyond it to become accomplices willing to take meaningful action.

An illustration of two hands shaking.
Photo: Kailey Whitman.

After only one year as a word on their site, Dictionary.com named "allyship" as their Word of the Year. As one of the top 850 searched words this year, Dictionary.com states that allyship "acts as a powerful prism through which to view the defining events and experiences of 2021."

Those events and experiences impacted our most vulnerable and underserved populations at disproportionate rates as the world continued to live through a pandemic. While working parents­­—specifically mothers—frontline workers, health care providers, and teachers quickly became exhausted and burned out, people in positions of power and privilege noted the loss of freedom and convenience.

While the pandemic was devastating to many, allyship was and will always be most needed by the marginalized communities often fighting for compassion, safety, and equity. Transphobia, racism, ableism, religious discrimination, and xenophobia are not new to those of us who feel the daily impact of bigotry and fear, but they were exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic.

Allies and the need for them are not new either. Dictionary.com defines allyship as "the status or role of a person who advocates and actively works for the inclusion of a marginalized or politicized group in all areas of society, not as a member of that group but in solidarity with its struggle and point of view and under its leadership."

The movement toward allyship was driven by the deaths of Black people. George Floyd, Duante Wright, Marquiisha Lawrence, and more became household names because being Black, and transgender in Lawrence's case, was a threat to their existence. Like time and time before, too many Black and brown lives were taken this year, and many more will die at the hands of racism and transphobia. This needs to end, and we as parents need to fast-track that change through active allyship.

The goal of an ally is to speak up for and not over another's voice or experience. A good ally will check their biases, drop their ego, and do the internal and external work of de-centering themselves in order to truly make space for identities that are not straight, cisgender, or white. We need allies moving from solidarity to real action. We need accomplices—allies willing to challenge systems and give up some privilege. Allyship is the bare minimum.

Dictionary.com stated that allyship was often searched with the word "workplace." Many businesses and organizations began to offer diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training to start unlearning systemic failures to marginalized people. School boards became political battlegrounds as community members fought over their interpretation of critical race theory and the banning of LGBTQIA+ books.

The LGBTQIA+, Black, Latinx, and AAPI communities are no strangers to the word allyship, but that word can also be coupled with "performative." Allyship takes sacrifices from those who have the privilege to speak up and out for those who can't.

As a non-binary parent raising a transgender daughter, a Black mother raising an autistic child, and a Latinx mother of two, we often look for safe spaces and to see what people are doing to protect our people and our children; anything less than active participation in the fight feels performative.

As the news editor at Parents.com, executive editor of Black Parenting, and senior editor of Parents Latina online, we are in unique positions to be allies to not only to our communities but to our co-workers and readers of the work we produce. We will make mistakes along the way as we learn, but allyship offers us the opportunity to grow and improve as we move from passive to active allyship.

Our hope is to offer content that challenges assumptions and beliefs while providing education that will help us better understand and support one another.

As we move into 2022, we must find a way to navigate parenting and all that it encompasses with a lens of inclusivity and the understanding that there are nuances and layers to race, identity, and abilities that need to be heard.

Our language is evolving, and we're hopeful that humans will too.

Take the workshops offered in your workplace and local equity groups. Push for anti-bias training in every space you occupy. But know that these are launching points in the ongoing responsibility to keep learning and improving your allyship. The work of an ally is never done.

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