Understanding privilege, microaggressions, and allyship: A reflection 

Members of Go Higher West Yorkshire (GHWY) participated in highly engaging and thought-provoking anti-racism training on Monday, 3 June.  The session equipped us to better examine our words, actions, and privileges, as well as to advocate for a more inclusive and equitable society. 

GHWY aims to support those who are underrepresented in higher education, including Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic young people, and the interactive session provided knowledge we can implement in our daily practice.  

It was delivered by Hannah Alipoor, who has links with two of our member institutions as Schools and Colleges Liaison Officer at the University of Huddersfield, and freelance Antiracism and Allyship Specialist at the University of Leeds.   

Understanding privilege: Hannah guided us through a thought-provoking exploration of privilege – a concept that is often unacknowledged or misunderstood. We delved into our personal privileges, which include gender, race, socioeconomic status, and sexual orientation. We then looked at how they can influence our experiences and opportunities in society.  

We found it uncomfortable to recognise our own privileges. It is nonetheless an essential step towards cultivating empathy and understanding for those who may not share the same advantages. As such, we would like to put these activities into our own practices when delivering with learners.  

Microaggressions: Another significant aspect discussed during the workshop was understanding and recognising microaggressions. These are subtle actions or remarks that communicate derogatory or harmful messages to individuals from marginalised groups.  

We were encouraged to think critically about our own behaviour and the potential impact of our words and actions on others through interactive discussions and real-life examples. It empowered us to become more mindful of how we communicate, and raised our confidence about recognising microaggressions, and how to actively challenge them when we encounter them. 

Being an ally: Allyship, the emphasis of the third major theme in the workshop, is the act of actively supporting and advocating for marginalised individuals or communities. We were provided with tools and strategies to become effective allies, such as actively listening, educating ourselves, creating safe spaces, and amplifying marginalised voices. We found this particularly useful, and we will implement them to understand more about the experiences of the many different groups we work with.  

We enjoyed how the workshop framed allyship and anti-racism as a lifelong journey. It was also beneficial to have the opportunity to hold discussions with colleagues and have space to think from another point of view. It raised our confidence in all the topics covered. 

GHWY hopes to cascade this training to more members of the team in 2023-24. We would like to thank Hannah so much for her passionate, provocative yet down-to-earth session. 


Jenny Scannell (GHWY Project Officer) and David Moore (GHWY Project Officer)