Saturday, November 16, 2013

Speaking out and listening

I came across an article on Everyday Feminism called Your Silence Will Not Protect You, where the author talks about how she lost a few friends because she started to speak out against the everyday racism she encountered from her friends.

It is a good article, explaining the perspective of someone who speaks out against the privileged and thus makes herself marginalized

You, as a person of privilege, must understand that it’s hard, especially if the person in question is a friend, to raise issues regarding what makes marginalized people uncomfortable about oppressive behavior. 
One of the reasons for that is that when we raise our discomfort about being othered, we other ourselves. 
We automatically become the one person of the group who can’t take a joke, the one who is too sensitive, the bitchy or the angry one.
As I've said before, I speak from a position of privilege, nearly extremely so - I am a white heterosexual man, who doesn't have to worry economically, since I am living in a welfare state. Even so, I feel how I get marginalized when I speak out against other peoples' behavior - I am the one who cannot take a joke, who is too sensitive etc.

I am lucky enough that I generally don't have to worry about what other people think of me, but even so, I find it hard to keep on fighting against racism, homobigotry and sexism all the time, and not just letting it slide once in a while. The reason I don't, is because I want to help other people to not feel marginalized, and because I want to do mine to change society. And I can only do this by keeping speaking out, every time I come across such things.

That, and listening when other people speak out. Speak out against something I do or say. Against my blunders, which I'll never notice from my privileged position. This is how I can become better at helping, at changing the world for the better.

All too often, people will fight for something only as long as they feel good about themselves. They will proudly declare themselves allies of whatever group they claim to be helping, but instead of speaking for or with that group, they will speak over and instead of that group. This is not helping them - it is taking their cause and using it to feed your ego. If someone points this out to an "ally" that they are doing this, they will refuse to listen, and put their ego on full display.

This is not how one helps other people.

Instead, stop up and listen - listen and learn. We all make mistakes, and everybody knows this, but if we want to help, we apologize and try to correct those mistakes.

So, going back to the original article - if you ever find yourself in a position where someone from a marginalized group tells your that your behavior makes them uncomfortable, remember to listen, and try to keep the advice from the writer in mind.
Also, remember that an apologize can make a big difference (and learn the difference between an apology and a non-pology).

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