Finding Your Person: Why We Need Buddies in Embracing Equity

By Malaika Hankins
6-minute read

My fiancé and I have a ritualized practice in the evenings. We sit together, with no distractions, and listen to one another's days. This can be challenging at times when either of us are walking in the door past ten o’clock or if dinner is on the stove and needs to be tended to. But we’ve found magic in the dedicated time to sit and listen. It is a chance to debrief, to heal, and to affirm.

During our check-ins, we hold each other as buddies in embracing equity. When I share a story of the microaggressions experienced in my graduate program, my fiancé affirms my pain. When I rant about systemic injustices, we create strategies for disruption. I get feedback on how my biases or internalized racial oppression are making me complicit in white supremacy. We share resources and laughs, triumphs and mistakes. It is one of the most vulnerable and intimate aspects of our relationship.

Hankins and her fiancé, Kenneth!

Hankins and her fiancé, Kenneth!

I have a number of friends that I consider to be allies and accomplices on my journey towards equity. I am honored to know and love a number of awesome social justice warriors who commit themselves to liberation in both their active work and daily existence. I am proud to know them and to be able to call upon them for advice and support as needed. But I only have one buddy.

There are two major ways that I see my buddy differently from my allies. First, a buddy is there for regular support. If not daily, buddy check-ins happen often enough that there are frequent touchpoints for evaluation, consultation, and feedback. Because our conversations are so regular and consistent, my buddy is able to call out when I am minimizing my feelings, when I am distorting the truth, when I am taking the easy route. Allies, on the other hand, can be called into battle at any moment. They can be used to consult for a specific type of issue or a one time event. There is no requirement for their sustained presence. A buddy is also an equal partner. Ally relationships can exist unidirectionally or bidirectionally. I learn from some of my allies constantly while others I provide information to. My buddy, however, teaches me as much as they learn from me.

I believe that identifying an “Embracing Equity Buddy” in my life has been the difference maker that has allowed the work of disrupting dominant white supremacy culture to be a sustainable practice. It has normalized racial identity development as a foundational part of one of the most significant relationships in my life and also set appropriate expectations for the labor of the person filling this role in my life. It has allowed me to integrate this part of my life into my home, furthering my own wholeness practice.

Maya Angelou told us that “nobody, but nobody can make it out here alone.” If you don’t know who your embracing equity buddy is or haven’t had an explicit conversation with that person about the role, you should prioritize doing so. If you have a buddy but they aren’t one of the more central people in your life, ask yourself why.

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If you have a strong buddy, the beginning of summer is a great time for a midyear check-in to consider:

  1. What is one of the moments I am most proud of this year to date? What does that tell me about what I want to spend my energy/time/money on in the remainder of the year?

  2. Who has enriched my life this year in a big way? Who is someone I am wanting to get to know better in the months ahead?

  3. What have I resisted most effectively? What have I surrendered to?

  4. What is one question that you have found yourself asking over and over again this year? What version of an answer are you living your way into?

  5. What makes me despair and what gives me hope right now?

While supremacy culture is too skilled and shifty to dismantle in silos. It is in partnership that we stand the best chance of success. Go find your people.


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Malaika is pursuing a dual Master degrees in Social Work and Public Policy at the University of Minnesota, is an Embracing Equity curriculum designer, facilitator, and director of online learning.