Phase Two: Action
The Action phase, like Awareness, is not just one way of being. Action can look like educating ourselves. It can be petitioning your school, workplace, or gym for all gender, all ability bathrooms. It can look like engaging a stranger, a coworker, or friend about their bigoted or prejudiced language or behavior. It can look like practicing what you’ll do and say in your head or in front of the mirror.
Action can be about staying in Awareness—witnessing ourselves in the ways we’ve become aware —and asking, “What’s different? Are you thinking differently? Behaving differently? Do you notice yourself making different choices?” Action can be holding the awareness in the forefront of our minds. In this way, action and awareness are in conversation with each other.
And sometimes, often, Action can look like listening. It can look like learning to identify our implicit biases.
When we reach the action phase, we will feel ourselves making mistakes and failing. There will be triumphs and joys and successes. There will be moments when you’ve become aware, you try to do something differently, and your attempt falls completely flat. You may feel embarrassment or shame. You will be witnessed in these moments (by yourself or by others) and those others will educate you (which may feel like calling out).
It can be an incredibly difficult experience to feel someone’s anger or distrust or upset or challenge when our intentions are good. It can, sometimes, feel like a direct attack on who we are. It may cause you to wonder, “Why even try?”
In these moments, when you feel any of these ways, or any other of the array of feelings, it is important to go back, to be in conversation with The Five Tenets. This could look like asking questions:
- What is Honest about what I’m feeling? About my actions or words?
- Am I allowing Grace for myself? For where I am? Where I’ve been? For my process?
- Am I risking Vulnerability? Risk it with myself. With others.
- Am I allowing myself to be witnessed?
- Remember your commitment to the work. To changing, to challenging, to continuing.
Part of this process may involve being honest enough to admit that you may require a momentary retreat. Sometimes, you may need to sit within your awareness and feel all the emotions that arise.
Sometimes Action is not about movement.
Sometimes, we might get stuck between Awareness and Action, or stuck within Action. Things are confusing, off-putting, difficult. These feelings, this moment, is our trigger to reorient ourselves with Awareness. Sometimes we are stuck but don’t know we’re stuck, because we’ve done an Action, we’ve educated ourselves, we believe we have Integrated. This work is never about the outcomes. It is about becoming.
Action is not always a tangible thing, and it’s not always an experience that can be shared.
Kyle Sawyer (he/they) is an anti-oppression facilitator and educator specializing in working with individuals and organizations on how to turn privilege into change. He is a trans, queer, mixed-race, white-passing individual. With over a decade of experience Kyle founded Building Allies in 2013 and developed the term Active-Ally, someone who witnesses injustice and responds to it in any situation. Kyle has worked with teachers, nonprofit organizations, students, therapists, social workers, community members, family members, and many others on learning how to be Active-Allies through an intersectional lens.