Sunday, May 09, 2010

Reconcile: It has to be you

Like the Stuff White People Do link I posted last week, the below is an issue I have been struggling with in the last year, which I excerpt from and link here to share my process of figuring-it-all-out with all of you. As always, thoughts welcome, the comments on the SWPD post were great to read.

It has to be you:
"Lately I’ve seen people asking “Some marginalized people tell me they think one thing about an issue affecting them, and some similarly marginalized people think the other thing. How do I figure out who to defer to?”

It has to be you.

I sometimes get a little embarassed for these people who, although they identify as progressive or radical, seem to have just begun grappling with the problem that a given marginalized population is made up of individual people.
Yes, you don’t know what it’s like to be a person you aren’t. Yes, your sources for self-education about a given axis of oppression should consist of the voices of people oppressed along that axis. You have to work to process the points at which these people challenge your privilege and you have to keep current on dialogue and movement coming from them/us.

But as you’re doing all this (I can’t say “after” because that is work that is never done) at some point, it has to come down to you. Upon educating yourself, you are going to have an opinion (it is not reasonable to ask you not to) and that opinion has to come fundamentally from yourself.
Often an outright abusive conflict may happen between members of an oppressed population, and if you are personally connected to anyone involved it is then essential that you have the faculty to support the victims and not be swayed by the bullies or abusers.

Listening to marginalized people but making the ultimate decision about what you think (& often keeping your own counsel) means that sometimes you will be wrong, maybe devastatingly wrong. Well, that’s part of the human experience, and you can’t get out of it by deferring to whichever side in an argument seems most numerous or popular or academic or political or marginalized or any other metric. Learn from it and remember it when next you have to decide what you think is right."