Being a better ally: black male youth
Photo courtesy of John Lucia via Creative Commons.

Being a better ally: black male youth

The Mosaic Center is hosting plenty of events known as the Mosaic Center series, focusing on a group or population that is usually marginalized or underrepresented. The events are set up in a way that enables attendees to look at each other and discuss a topic or idea.

The event “How to Be A Better Ally” was constructed to increase the awareness of many people, whether they identify as black male youth or not.  Carlos Turcios, a UMBC graduate student who received two Bachelor’s degrees in Psychology and Sociology and the Program Associate for Diversity and Inclusion at the Mosaic Center, was the host of the event.

Turcios informed the attendees of the impact that generalization and discrimination can have on an African-American demographic. He asked them how well they knew what it meant to be an ally, a question met with varied definitions varied. Whitney Hobson, a graduate student with a Masters and a PsyD in Clinical Psychology, and a UMBC staff at the Resource Group Counseling and Education Center, made a statement regarding this topic.

“It means creating spaces and doing whatever it possibly takes to open them with the ideas and voices of the people in need, especially those who are marginalized,” said Hobson.

What it meant to be an ally was a really crucial topic. Turcios said that an ally is “an active and consistent practice of unlearning and re-evaluating.” The attendees spoke among themselves over the topic of discrimination of young black males. Turcios pointed out that black males seem to be highly discriminated against for high crime rates over white males

He ensures the attendees that it is not the case in actuality. According to Turcios, “Out of 3,005 murders committed against white people in 2013, 2,509 of them were committed by other white people.” He states that a person’s identity is not likely shaped by how they think of themselves. It is more likely affiliated with the way that a person socially constructs themselves.

The topic of one’s own outlook became a new topic in the discussion, taking into account the appearance of a black male. Turcios reasoned the idea that appearing harmless and “soft” would result in a more lenient and reasonably response from others, especially law enforcement. Along with appearance, behavior was another word used to portray a positive response from others.

Towards the end of the event, every participant of the event began to wrap up discussions. Several attendees stayed after the event to ask questions to Turcios. The final moment of the event had a sense of closure as Turcios said, “One demographic group does not have to act a different way to feel like they belong or to be accepted.”