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Becoming a kind ally through micro-affirmations

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Tuesday, September 20, 2022

One of the important concepts in fostering and supporting a culture of kindness is that of allyship.  Both the English word ally and the Spanish word aliada come from the Latin word "alligare" meaning "to bind to". In our context, an effective ally is someone who, while not necessarily a member of a marginalized community, makes a consistent effort to understand the struggles of those communities, and use their own efforts and privileges to stand alongside those communities. In effect, an ally takes on the struggle as if it were their own. 

Using our privilege in support of allyship often manifests with reactive action to problems ranging from overt discrimination to micro-aggressions. Micro-agressions are indirect, subtle, perhaps even unintentional, actions or statements of discrimination toward members of a marginalized group. Examples of common workplace micro-aggressions range from constantly mispronouncing names because it is 'too difficult to pronounce', to continuing to use words and phrases that others find offensive, or failure to recognize someone's preferred pronouns. 

A proactive way in which we can use kindness as an ally is to perform micro-affirmations.  Micro-affirmations are the subtle, small acts designed to uplift, encourage inclusion, and open doors of opportunity. Important components of the practice of micro-affirmations are engaged listening, and validation of the experiences and emotions of others. Some specific examples of micro-affirmations in the workplace: 

  • Learn to pronounce a person's name and respect the language they use to express their identity; 
  • Recognize and respect cultural events and personal milestones, avoid scheduling a meeting where participants are forced to choose between participation and a holiday; and 
  • Acknowledge the contributions of others.

I challenge all of us to emphasize the practice of micro-affirmations in our interactions at work and within the community. More examples and a further discussion of micro-affirmations can be found in "How to be an ally in the workplace: 13 ways to do it". I also encourage everyone to share examples of micro-affirmations in the #rubin_be_kind Slack channel so that we can all be better allies through our practice of kindness.

Financial support for Rubin Observatory comes from the National Science Foundation (NSF) through Cooperative Agreement No. 1258333, the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science under Contract No. DE-AC02-76SF00515, and private funding raised by the LSST Corporation. The NSF-funded Rubin Observatory Project Office for construction was established as an operating center under management of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA).  The DOE-funded effort to build the Rubin Observatory LSST Camera (LSSTCam) is managed by the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory (SLAC).
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 to promote the progress of science. NSF supports basic research and people to create knowledge that transforms the future.
NSF and DOE will continue to support Rubin Observatory in its Operations phase. They will also provide support for scientific research with LSST data.   

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