How can I move from solidarity to co-liberator on my allyship journey?

Posted on June 28, 2023 by Maiysha Clairborne, MD

When speaking about allyship, so often we also hear terms like solidarity, accomplice and co-conspirator used to describe levels of allyship, however, what do those terms really mean? The journey of allyship is one that requires both introspection and action, and therefore it’s useful to understand the journey itself.


Solidarity is what one does from a distance. It’s like saying “I see what happened to you over there, and I’m sorry for you. I too agree that it was wrong.” That is all. It is simply a statement of acknowledgement and agreement. There may be statements like “our thoughts and prayers are with you.” There is little impact there. Imagine you are walking down the street, someone steals your wallet and someone across the street yells, “I saw that, and that was wrong! I stand with you. You’ve got my thoughts and prayers.” As absurd of an example as it is, this is how solidarity feels to those harmed.


Allyship is the next step up from solidarity. Here you are saying “I support your cause, and I’m willing to do the work I need to do to not be part of the problem, but part of the solution.” The shift from solidarity into allyship comes with the commitment learn more about the inequities and injustices that are at play. This stage is one of self-examination, one where you become more aware of where you are in your position of power and privilege.

Here you examine your biases, and begin to actively un-learning harmful behaviors in attempt to move toward being part of the solution. As you become more aware as an ally, you may find yourself being more vocal in naming harmful, racist, phobic and misogynist behaviors when you witness it, and you might even find yourself calling out the people in your immediate circles and creating meaningful dialogues within your circles of influence.


As you get more and more committed to making meaningful change as an ally, you begin to move into the space Accomplice or Co-Liberator. In this space, you have reached the point of understanding of where you may have played a role in upholding oppressive norms. Having skin in the game (directly or indirectly), you work actively to dismantle systems of oppression. As you actively work to dismantle these norms, you become active voices in their places of work, community, and leadership. You uplift and participate in work that is already being done by BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ leaders and look to see how you can support them in their work. As an accomplice/co-liberator, you leverage your privilege to break down the barriers that may otherwise be obstacles for those who don’t inherently have that privilege to bring about the change in policy, and policies within your systems. At this point, you are dedicating your time, talents and resources actively and at all times–in order to move the needle in dismantling systems of oppression for all people.

The journey of partnership to dismantle oppressive systems is a very personal journey, but what it leads to is the space of co-liberation which is the understanding that “your liberation is tied to mine, and mine to yours” and that “no one is free until we are all free.” The Co-Liberator understands that we must acknowledge the generational consequences that white supremacism, settler colonialism and anti-Black racism has had on us all, and the consequences that it will continue to have if we do not work toward true repair and forward movement in an equitable and just way.

The biggest change will come from recognizing that our freedom is intertwined, and that in working together we will all benefit.

Equity, Inclusion, Belonging and Justice in Anti-Oppression work is an ongoing journey

The work of Equity, Inclusion and Anti-Oppression is a journey, and we are all somewhere on the path of understanding. The questions to ask yourself are:

  • Where are you now, and where are you willing to go to help dismantle the many systems of oppression that exist?

  • Can you see that the oppression of one means the oppression of all?

  • Are you willing to hold space for the lived experience of others while growing and managing your own discomfort?

  • What will you have to change to move to the next level on the path, understanding that there are no wrong answers, and that the journey is a mountain with no top?

Ultimately, we must all examine ourselves, our biases and our desire for change, and understand that whatever you choose there will be consequences. The question is, what degree of consequences are you willing to continue to tolerate?

We Can Help

Counseling or coaching can help you to be more aware of your biases and help you work towards personal growth. VITAL WorkLife is also here to support you in whatever stressors may be impacting you at home or work. For counseling, coaching and other resources contact us at 877.731.3949, through the VITAL WorkLife App or contact us online.

Dr. Maiysha Clairborne has been a Physician Peer Coach with VITAL WorkLife since 2016. She is a family physician, anti-racism advisor and trainer, and trauma informed communication consultant, and speaker. Learn more about her offerings at Listen to her TEDX “The Perspective You May Be Missing” at

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