Updated: May 21, 2018
So you’re sporting that sweet new Feminist tee. You’ve felt empowered watching your fellow ladies rise up, taking on the patriarchy. You devour those think pieces on how women succeed by lifting each other up. You’re on the right track. You’re learning, you’re growing. It’s a sensational experience. But, there’s something there, lingering in the metaphorical dark. You can see it in your peripherals but you’re not quite ready to acknowledge its existence. That entity that you’re not quite ready to face, is the injustice of other marginalized groups who’s demands mirror your own. “We deserve equal rights.”
As a black queer female, I am a living breathing piece of a political movement whether or not I want to acknowledge that. And trust me, I’ve tried to say that these parts of my identity do not define who I am but they do. They have impacted my relationship with the world around me and how I’ve developed as an individual. I’ve experienced racism from the mother of the white male I dated in high school. I feel the slight sense of discomfort when I show my girlfriend affection in public. And I feel fear when a man approaches me to ask me out for drinks after he’s followed me to my car in a dark parking lot.
Still, It is easy to remove yourself from a story that is not your own. It’s a subconscious decision we make: I don’t receive X type of discrimination, so I don’t feel inclined to learn more about it. I could say, I am not a transgender female, and choose not to learn or care about their experience because it does not affect me. But what happens here is our feminism, our fight for equality, becomes less inclusive and more self-involved. It is ironic, we want inclusion, but we neglect that same plea from other groups who seek the same justices. What I have learned, and what I hope one might take away from this, is that it’s not just about me and my experience. It’s about the collective experiences of anyone who has ever been treated less than because of their gender, race, and/or sexual orientation.
I am a cisgender female, so I am afforded the privilege of not knowing what it’s like to have my gender questioned. I don’t know what it’s like to feel out of place in my own body. I will probably never have firsthand knowledge of what it’s like to live the life of a trans person. But, like me, they want the freedom to be who they are without fearing the loss of their rights because society perceives us as “less than”. If we’re going to talk about taking sides it’s obvious you want to be on the side of anyone who is fighting for their basic human rights.
Well how does one “check their privilege”? When do you know you might need to take a second and ask yourself, “Am I speaking from an advantageous position? Am I putting myself in their shoes?” The easy answer is, when a marginalized group is telling you they are marginalized listen to them. Don’t interrupt either. Listen to understand, not to respond. And if you’re still not sure, ask questions. I am an advocate for educating yourself on the issue so that you can form your own well informed opinions on the subject. Or you can wing it, and maybe make an ass of yourself, and learn the hard way when you get put in your place via the comments in your attempt at an insightful Facebook status.
Being progressive means that you’re aware of the world’s need to change and grow, and that in order to be an asset to the movement you have to spearhead your own individual growth. So, you wonderful boss babe, keep fighting, keep reading, and keep learning. As I said before you’re on the right track but remember that as humans we need to work together to lift each other up because that’s how we all succeed.
(Photo Source: Instagram @shadinasaur)