Becoming an Ally

Tools for achieving equity in people and institutions

Becoming an Ally: Breaking the Cycle of Oppression in People

Becoming an Ally is a search for the origins of racism, sexism, heterosexism, ableism, ageism, and all other forms of oppression that divide us. The book examines history, economic and political structures, and individual psychology looking for the roots of discrimination. It attempts to answer such questions as: Has oppression always been with us, part of "human nature"? What does individual healing have to do with social justice? What does social justice have to do with individual healing? Why do members of the same oppressed group fight one another, sometimes more viciously than they fight their oppressors? Why do some who experience oppression develop a life-long commitment to fighting oppression, while others turn around and oppress others? What can we do to change oppression? The book looks for solutions by examining the process through which we come to recognize ourselves, first as people who have experienced oppression, then as members of oppressor groups. In particular, it lays out guidelines for becoming allies of oppressed peoples when we are in the role of oppressor.


Read the first chapter of Becoming an Ally

Beyond Token Change: Breaking the Cycle of Oppression in Institutions


Beyond Token Change: Breaking the Cycle of Oppression in Institutions is the sequel to Becoming an Ally. In it, the author examines the patterns of oppression found in organizations and institutions. Using a case study as her starting point, she considers the nature of institutions beyond the “sum of parts” of the individuals that participate in them. She defines the difference between token change and transformation of institutional structure at a deeper level. She explores twentieth-century physics for clues about how large, complex entities like institutions change. Finally, she looks at the implications for the tactics we employ to achieve equity in our institutions. In particular, she proposes a method of focusing attention on the institution and its dynamics that goes beyond putting individuals within the institution “on trial” for discrimination.


Read the first chapter of Beyond Token Change

Becoming an Ally and Beyond Token Change can be purchased from any bookstore or directly from the website  Fernwood Books for $24.95 (Canadian dollars). Please support independent bookstores when possible. Becoming an Ally is published in the United Kingdom and the United States by Zed Press and in Australia and New Zealand by Allen and Unwin.

Becoming an Ally

Cover of Australian edition

Allen and Unwin

Text from back cover of Australian Edition


Canadian Bestseller


“Already I have found myself quoting Anne Bishop’s wisdom: her simple advice is compelling. Right now in Australia she has the power to lead us as we struggle with questions guilt, responsibility and patterns of oppression which are larger than ourselves.” Rev. Tim Costello, President, Baptist Union of Australia


Becoming an Ally is a must read for anyone concerned with understanding and challenging the dynamics, forms and sources of oppression--whether it is their own oppression, that of others, or both.”

Bob Mullaly, Head of Social Work at Victoria University, Melbourne


Where does oppression come from? Has it always been with us, just “human nature”? What can we do to change it? What does social justice have to do with individual healing? Why do members of the same oppressed group fight each other, sometimes more viciously than their oppressor? Why do some who experience oppression develop a life-long commitment to fighting oppression, while others turn around and oppress others?


Anne Bishop draws on her many years’ experience in community work to write this feisty and bestselling guide for activists, community workers and welfare workers.


Anne Bishop is a community worker and educationalist based in Canada. She has been part of many organizations struggling to achieve social justice.