Fighting for Equity and Inclusion in Everyday Life
People often say, "If I was alive back then, I would never let those injustices happen." 2018 is not free of deplorable injustices. Racism, sexism, classism,
and colorism continue to ravage the nation. We are alive at a time when we can still do something. When we need to do something. We can march, write,
post, vote and scream that we want equity and inclusion, but how does this look in everyday life? How do we stand by our convictions in this time?
How do we use our voice to be heard and raise up others?
1. Self-Reflection: Reflect on who you are and what your beliefs are. Are they rooted in fact or feelings? People hate marginalized groups. Until they are exposed to an individual of that group, when they learn about individual characteristics and personality traits. Give groups that same chance. Learn about the nuanced differences, understand your bias. Question why you feel uncomfortable around a person of color. Are they doing something to make you unsafe? The arrest of the two black men in Starbucks, earlier this month, could have been avoided had the barista engaged in some self-reflection.
2. Label Your Privilege: Did you go to college? Can you walk down the street, holding hands with your partner without fear of repercussions? Can you jaywalk without being stopped by the police? Can you get a job by asking a family member? Do you have reliable transportation? We all have some form of privilege, which allows us access and gives us a voice in particular situations. If you see something, that would never happen to you because of your privilege, use your privilege for good. If you see young girls uncomfortably engaging in conversation with an older man, ask them if they are okay, provide them with an out. If you are cisgender and see a trans person hesitant to walk into the bathroom, offer to go with them. If you are white and a black person has the cops called on them for something that you have done countless times and the cops were never called, take out your phone, start recording and engage the officers and then post it on social media. Step up when you are safe and others aren't, simply because of their identity.
3. Is Your White Fragility Showing?: If you are engaging in social justice correctly, you should be surrounded by a diverse group of folks. This means you will see and hear things that may make you uncomfortable, especially if you are a non-marginalized group member. You may experience this discomfort when other protesters say, "white women benefit from the patriarchy," or "white passing individuals have it easier." You may bristle or want to remove yourself. This doesn't make you disingenuous or a bad feminist it just means you are inexperienced. POC and members of the LGBTQIA community have faced multiple intersections of discrimination on a daily basis so we talk about it, on a daily basis. Non-marginalized group members are taught not to talk about it, a concept introduced by racists to keep racism alive and well. Pin it as a marginalized group member’s issue - not our own - and to prove how "not our problem" it is, we won't even talk about it. When white people engage in this important work, that nagging feeling in your gut that you should leave, that desire to fight back and respond with "not all white people," or "I don't have privilege, I was raised by a single mom," all those defensive tactics are your reaction to hearing about such issues for the first time. Instead of running away from the discomfort, embrace it and remind yourself that, for you, this is temporary. Marginalized group members simply do not possess the on and off switch and must engage in these conversations regularly, whether we want to or not.
4. Ask What You Can Do and Then Listen: People of color, women, members of the LGBTQIA community do not exist to educate you but if you have a relationship or are starting one it is perfectly fine to ask questions. Ask what you can do to help end toxic masculinity, the patriarchy, and racism, but the next step is extremely important: You have to listen. Don't interrupt. Don't speak over them. Don't correct them. Don't deny their experience. It's not easy dredging up those memories, reliving past racist, homophobic, transphobic and otherwise hateful encounters. If we do, we want to be sure that you will hear us and believe us and then stand with us. There is nothing worse than explaining your experience only for the asker to say, "well, are you sure that's what it was?" or trivialize it even more by trying to one-up it with an experience that doesn't even come close. This can be as simple as a trans person saying, this is my name and you responding with, "you'll always be (insert dead name) to me." That's not a compliment because that person has never been their dead name, that's what they are explaining to you when they introduce their true selves. It is not a reflection of your understanding when you correct someone that is sharing who they are with you. We also know from an awesome study, presented by Teen Vogue, that calling a transgender person by their name decreases the rate of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts, so listening matters.
5. Be Inclusive: Your feminism needs to include everyone. Victims of sexual assault, transgender people, gays, lesbians, queer, questioning, pansexuals, bisexuals, asexuals, sex workers, black, brown, native, not just those that are white passing and fem. The feminist movement stands in direct opposition to the toxic patriarchy. It is an inclusive movement that says, "we want everyone to enjoy the same rights, the same freedoms that are often granted, without question, to men." We cannot call ourselves feminist if we adopt the same exclusionary practices of the patriarchy. The moment we begin changing the message from "we stand for everyone" to "we stand for some," we have committed a tremendous disservice.
The All This website and podcast were started by Val Day-Sánchez and Kendra Berglund in hopes of creating a space for marginalized group members and communities. Representation on media tends to be extremely homogeneous. This instantly places a value on non-marginalized members. Val and Kendra maintain that it is important that we see ourselves in media, all of us, because representation matters. They wanted to educate and discuss what a gender fluid pansexual black person and a queer daughter of an Iranian immigrant experience living in America. It is a perspective that isn't celebrated in traditional media even though they know they aren't the only ones living this reality. All This celebrates diversity by welcoming it with inclusion. Check out their podcast at allthis.org.
This is a personal essay. All views and opinions expressed in this essay are those of the authors.
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