Becoming an Ally: Breaking the Cycle of Oppression in People   Third Edition

Becoming an Ally is a book for men who want to end sexism, white people who want to end racism, straight people who want to end heterosexism, able-bodied people who want to end ableism — for all people who recognize their privilege and want to move toward a more just world by learning to act as allies.


Has oppression always been with us, just 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 those with less power?

In this accessible and enlightening book, now in its third edition, Anne Bishop examines history, economic and political structures, and individual psychology in a search for the origins of racism, sexism, heterosexism, ableism, ageism and all the other forms of oppression that divide us. Becoming an Ally looks for paths to justice and lays out guidelines for becoming allies of oppressed peoples when we are in the privileged role.


A new chapter in this third edition offers a greatly expanded discussion of effective approaches to educating allies, which is meant for teachers of adults, particularly those who teach about diversity, equity and anti-oppression. In this chapter, Bishop examines the ways in which Western culture prevents us from recognizing our roles as members of privileged groups and explores how to challenge this with participatory exercises and group discussion.

Text from the back cover of the 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.

Becoming an Ally can be purchased from any bookstore or directly from the website for Fernwood Books: https://fernwoodpublishing.ca/book/becoming-an-ally. Please support independent bookstores when possible.


The second edition of Becoming an Ally is published in the United Kingdom and the United States by Zed Press: https://www.zedbooks.net/shop/book/becoming-an-ally/


The first edition is published in Australia and New Zealand by Allen and Unwin:

https://www.allenandunwin.com/browse/books/academic-professional/social-work/Becoming-an-Ally-Anne-Bishop-9781865088860


I would, however, strongly recommend finding the third edition if you can.

Australian cover– first edition

(Allen and Unwin)

UK and US cover–second edition (Zed Press)

Tools for Educators


Becoming an Ally and Beyond Token Change grew out of my forty years as an adult and popular educator. Each book includes a chapter addressed to others whose passion is education for those who would liberate themselves or learn to be allies to others. In the third edition of Becoming an Ally, the chapter called “Educating Allies” has been expanded. This is because I have learned a great deal about educating allies since the second edition was published in 2002 and Beyond Token Change in 2005. At that time almost all of my experience was with people who chose to participate. Between 2005 and 2011, I completed a five year contract to design and lead mandatory education introducing Nova Scotia civil servants to their Fair Hiring, Employment Equity and Respectful Workplace policies. Mandatory education was a steep learning curve for me when I started. It took some thought and experimentation to figure out what it can and cannot do, should and should not be asked to do, and how to do it in an effective way. Also, the opportunity to work with unwilling participants expanded my understanding of how Canadians think about oppression and equity. My reflections on this experience are included in the new “Educating Allies” chapter along with an expanded “Toolkit” of exercises and resources. With the kind permission of my publisher, I have been able to post the chapter “Educating Allies” on this website.


Read Chapter Nine of the third edition, Educating Allies, here. Links for the handouts are included in the text.