How to be a Social Ally at SNC


For the 2016-2017 school year, the theme at St. Norbert College is “Solidarity: We Commit to the Common Good,” which is intended to recognize a collective responsibility for the well-being of all people.  Bringing those words to action, the school has held many programs already this semester to promote solidarity and encourage members of the SNC community to reach out to those around them both on campus and around them.  The Cassandra Voss Center is one of the places responsible for bringing these programs to campus, organizing events to inform and inspire people.

One of these events took place on Dec. 1 in the CVC; it was called “How to be a Social Justice Ally: Working From and Against Privilege.”  This was a lecture given by Distinguished Visiting Scholar Dr. Harry Brod, who has given several talks throughout the semester and led dialogue on Masculinity Studies and marginalized groups.

In this lecture, Brod did not immediately start sharing his information.  First, he acknowledged the change in the idea of being a social justice ally at this time politically.

“The ground has shifted,” he said, “in what people think of in terms of being an ally, that before the election, people…were thinking about it in forward looking terms of making the world a better place.  And…we’ve shifted into defensive mode, that being an ally now feels almost like being a human shield for those who are feeling threatened,” said Brod.

However, he encouraged those in attendance to have “a forward-looking, optimistic view of being an ally” and to continue to think about long term social change.

He suggested that people view privilege and oppression not as bringing the oppressed up to a level playing field but as a scale, because when some people are oppressed, others receive privilege and are lifted up.

“All of us carry many social identities, and some of which we are in the dominant group, and some of which we are in the subordinate group,” said Brod. But he discussed that while people in general are supposed to respect everyone, when people are in dominant groups, it is important to work from that group.

Then, Brod described further, having meaningful, respectful conversation with people is very important.  Responding to negative, prejudiced comments angrily or with arrogance, the person who said it will likely miss the point.  Instead, if the person responds respectfully and provides their thoughts in a non-combative way, the conversation becomes a discussion rather than an argument.

“I enlist myself as an ally to the very person who said this terrible thing, and I do so by not engaging in combat with them,” sad Brod. He argued that this is what will promote change.

The semester is drawing to a close, but more programs are on their way next semester and in the future.  For more information on what else is happening at the CVC, visit for more events and activities.


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