I've seen it from many folks in my short time in web3. An ally joins a Twitter space tailored to a specific underrepresented audience (Women, LGBTQ2IA, Black folks, etc.). At some point, the discussion addresses the challenges of that particular community in web3. The ally requests to speak, expresses their disgust and shock at what they've heard and asks, "what can we do?".
The intentions may be good, but this question overlooks one key point—now the burden falls on the marginalized folks to educate the ally about how to help. It also assumes they want your specific help.
Your intentions are good, you genuinely want to help, but you don't know what to do or where to start. Here are the first steps I share with folks looking to be effective allies in web3:
Stop Talking. Start Listening.
Follow underrepresented folks. Read their tweets. Show up and listen in on their spaces. And do all this without the need to announce your presence, share your thoughts, or ask your questions. Why? Because you're a guest. And it's important for allies to respect the safe spaces of underrepresented groups.
Listen to them and their experiences within web3. How are they different from yours? How are they similar, if at all? If you had to choose, would you rather have their day-to-day experiences in this space or yours?
When you stop talking and start listening a beautiful thing happens—you begin to hear answers to that well-meaning question, "what can I do?". You start to develop empathy for lived experiences that are different than yours. You may see a tiny fraction of the world experienced by underrepresented people, instead of the world you experience.
Look inward and reflect on your privilege.
Allies have privilege, lots of it. If you want to be a better ally it's critical that you start with some self-reflection.
What are the opportunities you've received because of your identity? What can you access because of your race, gender, education, class, etc.? What have you accessed because of your race, gender, education, class, etc.?
Spend time reflecting—knowing this won't happen overnight. From there develop three ways you can extend your access to underrepresented people. Remember, access doesn't have to be capital. Network, knowledge, and other opportunities are also critically important.
Your privilege has made certain aspects of your life easier. Being an ally means paying this luck forward.
If this all sounds hard and overwhelming, that's because it is. Sit with that and examine why that is. It's understandable that your internal voice would want to push you away from this work. But remember, being an ally isn't comfortable. Prejudices, phobias, and biases don't get better without uncomfortable and difficult conversations.
Ally is a verb. It's an intentional and lifelong journey—not a moment in time. Your desire to help alone won't bring change. You have to be willing to put in the work and take action.