Building Bridges Across Differences to Meet Social Action Goals: Being and Creating Allies Among People of Color

  • Karen L. Suyemoto
  • Claudia A. Fox Tree
Original Paper


Although challenges of anti-racist work are most commonly framed in relation to White people and People of Color, there are significant challenges involved in creating allies across minority racial groups. This article describes our experiences within a community organization aimed at training anti-racist culturally sensitive K-12 educators. As Asian American and Native American facilitators within a group of facilitators of color who were predominantly Black, we describe our experiences of relative marginalization and our (mostly failed) attempts to create change within the organization to be more inclusive of the perspectives, experiences, and needs of non-Black people/students of color. We contextualize these experienced conflicts in relation to race hierarchies, the “divide and conquer strategy” and the maintenance of White privilege. We offer reflections for how racial minorities engaged in anti-racist education could be better allies and how organizations might better foster environments that contribute to the creation of these alliances.


Racial and ethnic relations Conflict Allies Antiracist education Multicultural education 



The authors wish to thank Jesse Tauriac, Carin Rosenberg, Jennifer Wolfrum, and Cass Turner for their helpful feedback and editing in the process of writing this article, as well as the additional readers who preferred to stay anonymous. We also wish to thank the facilitators who struggled with us through this challenge, to express our regret that we were not able to create the bridges we envision here, and to extend an apology and acknowledgement that, in spite of our best efforts and intentions, we contributed to pain.


  1. Ancheta, A. N. (1998). Race, rights, and the Asian American experience. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Ayvazian, A. (1995). Interrupting the cycle of oppression: The role of allies as agents of change. Fellowship, Jan./Feb, 7–10.Google Scholar
  3. Banks, J. A. (1987). Teaching strategies for ethnic studies (4th ed.). Newton, Massachusetts: Allyn and Bacon.Google Scholar
  4. Banks, J. A. (1991, Jan./Feb.). Multicultural education: For freedoms’s sake. Educational Leadership, 37–41.Google Scholar
  5. Banks, J. A. (1992). Multicultural Education: Characteristics and goals. In J. A. Banks & C. A. McGee Banks (Eds.), Multicultural education: Issues and perspectives (2nd. ed., pp. 3–28). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.Google Scholar
  6. Cross, W. E. (1995). The psychology of Nigresence: Revising the Cross model. In J. G. Ponterotto, J. M. Casas, L. A. Suzuki, & C. M. Alexander (Eds.), Handbook of multicultural counseling (pp. 93–122). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  7. Cross, W. E. J. (1987). A two-factor theory of Black identity: Implications for the study of identity development in minority children. In J. S. Phinney & M. J. Rotherham (Eds.), Children’s ethnic socialization: Pluralism and development (pp. 117–133). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  8. Delpit, Lisa (1995). Other people’s children: Cultural conflict in the classroom. New York: New Press.Google Scholar
  9. Helms, J. E. (Ed.) (1990). Black and white racial identity: Theory, research and practice. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.Google Scholar
  10. Helms, J. E. (1995). An update of Helms’s White and People of Color racial identity model. In J. G. Ponterotto, J. M. Casas, L. A. Suzuki, & C. M. Alexander (Eds.), Handbook of multicultural counseling (pp. 181–198). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  11. Johnston, R. C. & Viadero, D. (2003). Unmet promise: Raising minority achievement. Education Week, 19(27). Retrieved October 4, 2003, from slug=27gapintro.h19Google Scholar
  12. Kiang, P. (2001). Scholarships should continue to target Southeast Asian American students. Nisei Student Relocation Commemorative Fund Newsletter, 9(2), 1, 8–9.Google Scholar
  13. Kivel, P. (1996). Uprooting racism. Philadelphia, PA: New Society Publishers.Google Scholar
  14. Ladson-Billings, G. (1994). The dreamkeepers: Successful teachers of African American children. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  15. Ladson-Billings, G. (1995). But that’s just good teaching! The case for culturally relevant pedagogy. Theory into Practice, 34(3), 159–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Marable, M. (2000). Beyond racial identity politics: Towards a liberation theory for multicultural democracy. In R. Delgado & J. Stefancic (Eds.), Critical race theory: The cutting edge (2nd ed., pp. 448–454). Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  17. McLean-Donaldson, K. (1997, Sept.). Antiracist education and a few courageous teachers. Equity and Excellence in Education, 30(2), 31–38.Google Scholar
  18. Mavrelis, J. (1997). Understanding differences in cultural communication styles. The High School Magazine, Nov./Dec., 30–37.Google Scholar
  19. Nieto, S. (1994). Moving beyond tolerance in multicultural education. Multicultural Education, Spring, 9–12, 35–38.Google Scholar
  20. Nieto, S. (1996). Affirming diversity: The sociopolitical context of multicultural education (2nd. ed.). New York: Longman Publishers.Google Scholar
  21. Ogbu, J. U. (1994). Racial stratification and education in the United States: Why inequality persists. Teachers College Record, 96(2), 264–298Google Scholar
  22. Ogbu, J. U. (2002). Black American students in an affluent suburb: A study of academic disengagement. Mahwah, NH: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  23. Omi, M., & Winant, H. (1994). Racial formation in the United States (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  24. Perea, J. F. (2000). The Black/White binary paradigm of race. In R. Delgado & J. Stefancic (Eds.), Critical race theory: The cutting edge (2nd ed., pp. 344–353). Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Pinderhughes, E. (1989). Understanding race, ethnicity, and power: The key to efficacy in clinical practice. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  26. Rodriquez, R. (1992). The achievement of desire. In G. Columbo, R. Cullen, & B. Lisle (Eds.), Rereading America:Cultural contexts for critical thinking and writing (2nd ed., pp. 541–553). Boston: Bedford Books, St. Martin’s Press.Google Scholar
  27. Steele, C. (1992). Race and the schooling of Black Americans. Atlantic Monthly, 269(4), 67–78.Google Scholar
  28. Steele, C. M., & Aronson, J. (1995). Stereotype threat and the intellectual test performance of African Americans. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 797–811.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Sue, D. W., & Sue, D. (2002). Counseling the culturally diverse: Theory and practice (4th ed.). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  30. Tatum, B. D. (1992). Talking about race, learning about racism: An application of racial identity development theory in the classroom. Harvard Educational Review, 62(1), 1–24.Google Scholar
  31. Yamamoto, E. K. (2000). Rethinking alliances: Agency, responsibility, and social justice. In R. Delgado & J. Stefancic (Eds.), Critical race theory: The cutting edge (2nd ed., pp. 455–463). Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karen L. Suyemoto
    • 1
  • Claudia A. Fox Tree
    • 2
  1. 1.Psychology & Asian American StudiesUniversity of Massachusetts, BostonBostonUSA
  2. 2.Lincoln Public SchoolsLincolnUSA

Personalised recommendations