Teach-in Report: Fostering and Sustaining Allyship at Georgetown – A Dialogue on Understanding Privilege


On April 18th, the Peace Education class* at Georgetown University, taught by Dr. Tony Jenkins, facilitated a teach-in on allyship to address institutionalized violence against oppressed identities emboldened by the current political climate. Through this teach-in, participants acquire the necessary peace-building skills and assets to become active allies beyond Georgetown and to their communities. By acknowledging the privilege innate in oneself, individuals learn to utilize their rights to listen to the oppressed in order to support them in their ongoing endeavor of obtaining freedom.

The problem statement which encapsulated the goals and motivation for the teach-in posed the problems which the teach-in strived to solve. The teach-in effectively challenged the participants’ present perspective to rethink their perception of privilege and allyship in society and at the university. The consensus was that the participants in general have different privileges. This consensus was reached through recognizing differences and stressing the importance of what being an ally is. The teach-in pushed participants to cultivate empathy in order to become active allies. Overall the teach-in was successful, however, some participants indicated that they wanted to learn more on how to be an ally rather than learning what allyship looks like. The time constraint limited the discussion and affected how much the teach-in was able to educate the participants on privilege and allyship. Perhaps with more time the teach-in could have been able to accomplish more, including fully teaching the participants how to be active allies.

Problem Statement

This teach-in on allyship seeks to address systemic identity-based violence emboldened by the current political climate – such violence impacts individuals at Georgetown and across the country. Our privileges, as students at Georgetown, often perpetuate ignorance in the face of inherent discrimination and structural violence in our community. Therefore, it is imperative that we cultivate allyship to act against injustice.

Our privileges, which differ on the individual level, go unnoticed for a number of reasons, including lack of education, ignorance and social setting. By recognizing privilege, we can better understand one another and increase the prospect of allyship. By recognizing our privilege and differences in regards to our peers we can become better connected. The lack of understanding privilege decreases chances of allyship.

Being an ally means immersing ourselves and engaging in tangible action towards combating the prejudices that our peers face as well as encouraging others to do the same. Through interactive exercises and dialogue, we hope to create a space for reflection on what allyship means and how we can be active allies in our community.

Being active allies not only means recognizing our privilege and how it relates to others, but also helping others recognize their privilege and encouraging them to make a positive difference in their communities and society at large. Through awareness of one’s privilege, we can transform the systemic identity-based violence that plagues our society.

Intended Outcomes: Educational Goals/ Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives:

  • To define what it means to be an ally at Georgetown and beyond in the present political climate
  • To discuss specific actions and the necessary tools to practice allyship in one’s community
  • To develop Georgetown-specific action items to increase awareness of privilege and the need for allyship and genuine dialogue
  • Teach important definitions (ex: structural violence, ally, inequality)
  • To develop awareness of the injustices occurring in the US that they may not be aware of due to their own privilege
  • To define and increase awareness of what it means to be privileged in the present political climate
  • To gain information on and engage in practice with active and reflective listening
  • Engage in stimulating discussion which is out of our peers’ comfort zones

Educational Goals:

  • To encourage our peers to become more aware of potential issues in our political climate
  • To become motivated to engage in dialogue with others to reach understandings of all sides
  • To encourage participants to spread allyship to others and be advocates against injustice
  • To develop a commitment to activism and an awareness of how our actions may be complicit in injustice in the U.S
  • A long term understanding of privilege and how it manifests in one’s personal life and its implications for society as a whole.

Description of Pedagogy/ Methodology

The definitions of Privilege and Allyship were defined as we engaged in more activities.

The pedagogy created interactive exercises that promoted dialogue and critical thinking. Throughout the teach-in, there were few of us who interacted and shared our reflections in order to encourage others to speak up in the safe space that we created.

Teach-in Outline

  1. Introductory exercise: self-reflection; Students are paired in twos and each provide a quick two minutes introduction of what they believe allyship and privilege mean.
  2. Step in, Step out Exercise. Students are provided with a series of statement in which if they agree with a statement they would step in the circle.
  3. Tableau Exercise. Students are separated in small groups of 3 or 4 and are tasked to create a tableau that centers around allyship/privilege.
  4. Closing exercise
    • Making a commitment going forward
    • Closing survey (online tool)
    • Follow-up email (week later)

Annotated Resources on Allyship & Privilege

Prior to the teach-in, the Peace Education class gathered a plethora of resources with the goal of helping participants both prepare themselves for and continue learning and growing after our time together. Our list of resources, found in this introductory article about the teach-in, included news and opinion articles on allyship, privilege, education, and current events.

The resources on privilege, to begin, discussed concepts such as “The Origins of Privilege,” and “White Privilege as Economic Reality.” Articles such as these provide participants and other interested individuals the opportunity to explore what exactly privilege means to both white people and people of color. To help define and strengthen our discussion on allyship, our resources include pieces such as a “Guide to Allyship” and “How to be an Ally in Trump’s America.”

Next, the articles we shared on education introduced our participants to alternative methods of education. These pieces provided our audience with a window into ways in which allyship can be fostered through education. Finally, we shared some pieces on current events regarding allyship and privilege as we see them interacting in our current political climate. These articles, highlighting relationship between the Black Lives Matter movement and the reactionary “All Lives Matter,” depict the importance of standing in solidarity with and showing true allyship to all marginalized identities.

In sum, we hope these resources provide our teach-in participants and other allies with effective methods of continued inspiration and education on privilege and allyship in our community and in our current political climate. We look forward to working with these individuals to foster and sustain allyship not only at Georgetown, but wherever we go.

Peace Education course students that designed and facilitated the teach-in include: Alice Collins, Autumn Eastman, Jesse Ferman, Abreham Gebre, Alyssa Gibson, Amanda Holloway, Katherine Khoury, Sabrina Leon Landegger, Aviv Lis, Avery Moje, Aly Panjwani, Cassandra Saenz, Annabel Schulz & Justine Worden.

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