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Can White allyship contribute to tackling ethnic inequalities in health? Reflections on the experiences of diverse young adults in England

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Vic McGowanORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


Ethnic diversity and racism have not featured strongly in English research, policy or practice centred on understanding and addressing health inequalities. However, the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement have shone fresh light on deep-rooted ethnic inequalities and mobilised large segments of the population into anti-racist demonstration. These recent developments suggest that, despite strong counterforces within national government and the mainstream media, there could be a shift towards greater public awareness of racism and potentially a willingness to take individual and collective action.This paper addresses these developments, and specifically engages with the contested notion of ‘allyship’. We bring together the experiences of 25 young adults living across England and prior literature to raise questions about whether and how racialized White individuals can play a role in dismantling systemic racism and reducing ethnic inequalities in health. Our analysis reveals a variety of complexities and obstacles to effective and widespread allyship. Findings suggest the need to nurture contingent, responsive and reflexive forms of allyship that can attend to the harms inflicted upon racially minoritized people as well as push for systemic transformation.White allyship will need to take a variety of forms, but it must be underpinned by an understanding of racism as institutional and systemic and a commitment to tackling interlocking systems of oppression through solidarity.The issues addressed are relevant to those occupying public health research, policy and practice roles, as well as members of the public, in England and other multi-racial settings.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Ejegi-Memeh S, Salway S, McGowan V, Villarroel-Williams N, Ronzi S, Egan M, Gravenhorst K, Holman D, Rinaldi C

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Critical Public Health

Year: 2023

Pages: epub ahead of print

Online publication date: 13/03/2023

Acceptance date: 01/03/2023

Date deposited: 22/03/2023

ISSN (print): 1469-3682

ISSN (electronic): 0958-1596

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1080/09581596.2023.2188139


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