What Is an Actor, an Ally, an Accomplice?

These definitions were used in the context of fighting racism. You should think of them in terms of building the community you want to live in – whatever the issue.


The actions of an Actor do not disrupt the status quo, much the same as a spectator at a game. Both have only a nominal effect in shifting an overall outcome. Such systems are challenged when actors shift or couple their actions with those from Allies and/or Accomplices.  

The actions of an Actor do not explicitly name or challenge the pillars of White supremacy which is necessary for meaningful progress towards racial justice.

There is an excellent quote by Lilla Watson on need for Actors to shift to Accomplices: “If you have come here to help me, you’re wasting your time. If you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”


Ally is typically considered a verb – one needs to act as an ally, and can not bestow this title to themselves.  

The actions of an Ally have greater likelihood to challenge institutionalized racism, and White supremacy. An Ally is like a disrupter and educator in spaces dominated by Whiteness.

An Ally might find themselves at a social gathering in which something inappropriate is being talked about. Instead of allowing that space to incubate Whiteness, the Ally wisely disrupts the conversation, and takes the opportunity to educate those present.

Being an Ally is not an invitation to be in Black and Brown spaces to gain brownie points, lead, take over, or explain.

Allies constantly educate themselves, and do not take breaks.


The actions of an Accomplice are meant to directly challenge institutionalized racism, colonization, and White supremacy by blocking or impeding racist people, policies, and structures.

Realizing that our freedoms and liberations are bound together, retreat or withdrawal in the face of oppressive structures is not an option.    

Accomplices’ actions are informed by, directed and often coordinated with leaders who are Black, Brown First Nations/Indigenous Peoples, and/or People of Color.

Accomplices actively listen with respect, and understand that oppressed people are not monolithic in their tactics and beliefs.

Accomplices aren’t motivated by personal guilt or shame.

They are not emotionally fragile.

Accomplices build trust through consent and being accountable – this means not acting in isolation where there is no accountability.