Listening to Marginalized Groups

It’s been about a year since I chose to cut off someone that I once considered a friend. This person reblogged something that I found offensive on a blog that we shared. The intention wasn’t to be offensive, but this is a case of intent vs impact – Just because you mean well doesn’t mean you aren’t causing harm. At first, I wasn’t going to say anything (because I knew that they meant well) but then another friend mentioned it first, so I chimed in.

This “friend” didn’t get mad at the person who actually brought it up but somehow was mad at me. While I explained what was offensive about the reblog and even put it in terms of their own struggles, they refused to admit they were wrong. Eventually they apologized but it wasn’t a real apology. It was one of those “I’m saying sorry because I know I should, not because I mean it” situations. The reason that this bothered me so much was because this person was one that not only claimed to be a feminist but that I had trusted as both a friend and an ally.

As a person of color, it’s not okay for a white person to tell me what is or is not racist. They are never going to be on the receiving end of racism and they will never understand fully what it’s like. This doesn’t mean that they can’t have an opinion, weigh in and ask questions, but it does mean that as an ally their first concern should be listening and learning.

For example, as a Black woman in America I face both racism and sexism constantly.  However, I am still aware that I have certain privileges. I do not face Islamophobia, xenophobia, homophobia, etc. So as someone who very fiercely identifies as an intersectional feminist and an ally, if someone (with any identity that I personally do not have) told me that something was offensive to them, I would listen. Why? Because I don’t want to disregard their feelings.  Because I would (unfairly) be telling them how they should act in a situation that I will never be in. Most importantly, because it’s the right thing to do, and if I didn’t, I would be betraying everything that I claimed to stand for.

The bottom line is that you may not always understand someone else’s point of view but in situations like this you don’t have to because 1. It’s not about you and 2. what you don’t understand is still another person’s reality. And if we’re being honest, your unwillingness to take the time to listen and understand makes you a part of the problem.

The most important part of being an ally is using your privilege to help lift the voices of those who are constantly silenced. So when you stop listening, it makes it that much harder for those voices to be heard.


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About Bookmark Chronicles

Hi! I'm Rae. 25. Avid Reader. Book Blogger. Intersectional Feminist. Gryffinclaw. Coffee & Tea Lover.
This entry was posted in #BlackLivesMatter, Feminism. Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Listening to Marginalized Groups

  1. Rae-I really wish that more of the people in the community of my alma mater (Dickinson College) read your piece. At Dickinson, an opinion piece written by a woman of color (and a piece which actually made some points similar to yours) is being judged by many as racist. (As if being asked to listen instead of speak on first impulse is racist? Ugh.)

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This is such a great nuance that I think a lot of allies don’t understand. Being an ally is so much more about listening and learning. I always say, if I am being a good ally, then I am not using my voice to speak *for* you, but rather using it to give you a voice to speak *for yourself*. And I do think that that’s difficult for many people of privilege to understand because they’re so used to speaking first, especially in American culture, where a high value is placed on being “right.” But, for myself, I’d rather do the right thing than have to be right all the time and oftentimes that means admitting that I was actually wrong and learning from it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That was perfectly said, Lila! I agree, I’d rather do what’s right and help someone, not silence them. In this situation, the “friend” just could not admit that she had done something wrong and that’s what ruined out friendship in the end

      Liked by 2 people

  3. thingscarlaloves says:

    Reblogged this on Things Carla Loves and commented:
    As a person of color, it’s not okay for a white person to tell me what is or is not racist. They are never going to be on the receiving end of racism and they will never understand fully what it’s like. This doesn’t mean that they can’t have an opinion, weigh in and ask questions, but it does mean that as an ally their first concern should be listening and learning.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. littlebookynook says:

    This is a great post Rae, and I think it is so incredibly important for white allies to understand. My observation has been that white people (allies or not) tend to get super offended when they are called out for their behaviour, in most instances they get more offended over being called racist than they do over their own racist behaviour. To me, an ally listens and learns.

    We are all human and all going to make mistakes, so rather then shedding tears over being called out, admit that the mistake was made and move on, don’t do it again. I’m sorry that you had to go through something like this, it is disappointing and hurtful. And please know, that if you ever see something I say as offensive, you can absolutely tell me without me getting all pissy. I would rather know than not, it’s how we grow as people 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  5. It’s been so frustrating with a current situation here in Australia. We’ve got all these white people telling our Indigenous Aboriginal people, that they are being too sensitive with our “Australia Day” The Indigenous people have been calling it “Invasion Day” and for good reason too! It’s like America’s Columbus Day. It’s the day that settlers came and started to wipe them out. What is even more frustrating is that our Australia Day has only been a national public holiday in Australia, since 1994. They use all these excuses about how bad it is in the Indigenous community and it is, but it’s not exactly their fault entirely and has nothing to do with Invasion Day. I’m thinking it’s a much easier feat to change a public holiday, that’s only been around 94 then it is to fix those other issues…but ALSO, why not start fixing BOTH? Why not start with changing the day to show that we are hearing them. It’s so frustrating, because it’s so simple,lol

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah we’ve started calling Colombus Day Indigenous People’s Day instead. Some states have even made it official. It just doesn’t even make since. In elementary school I was taught that Colombus landed in Hispaniola so why tf is there a holiday named after him???

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Laura Beth says:

    I consider myself to be a white ally. What you said makes perfect sense. I strive every day to listen and learn from others. I’m proud to be the friend of several people who identify as LGBTQ+. I will admit, it’s hard to not get offended when being called out. We’re humans, we all have feelings, and feeling defensive at times is a natural response. The problem is when people feel defensive or offended all the time, as you stated.

    Here’s an example: Someone I consider a good friend sent me a very long Facebook message this weekend, expressing her concern and distress over an insensitive comment that was made on one of her posts, which had a found graphic with a perceived grammatical error. I didn’t make the comment, but I reacted to it with a “like,” and several others reacted as well. At first, I had no idea what she was referring to, but I went back and re-read the post and the comment. I replied to her, indicating that I was scrolling through and completely misinterpreted the insensitive comment. I apologized, and she responded that she appreciated my apology and understanding.

    Was I offended at first? Yes, I was. Part of it was due to the way she crafted the message, which didn’t give a lot of context, and I initially felt confused and lost. However, once I took a few minutes, fully understood what she was referring to, and considered her perspective as the one who chose the graphic and made the post, I realized I had made a mistake and apologized. I’m glad I didn’t react defensively with my words.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The way that you handled that situation is the way it’s SUPPOSED to be handled. Feeling offended or defensive isn’t the problem, it’s how you react to it.

      You took the time to go back and check yourself even though your initial reaction was to be defensive. This “friend” didn’t bat an eye when another white person called her out but became very aggressive when I agreed with what had already been said. If she had done what you did, I would have forgiven her and we would probably still be friends. But she was more focused on becoming the victim

      Kudos to you for doing the right thing in that situation

      Like

  7. Ariel Lynn says:

    I have a feeling I may possibly have an inkling of a clue about the situation you’re describing. I could be totally wrong though (&, as always, you’re welcome to put me in my place if I am!).

    If I do happen to possibly be correct, I do hope the person who initiated the conversation that you had decided to avoid didn’t upset you. Sometimes, I know, we just don’t want to have those conversations. & losing a friend is always difficult, I think.

    ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    • You definitely know the situation.

      I appreciate that this person brought it up. In this case they did exactly what an ally should do and I appreciate that 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ariel Lynn says:

        I’m glad that the person didn’t overstep his/her bounds. It’s important to let people decide what they want to talk – or not talk – about.

        We also can’t over-talk them about an important issue, or determine what is/isn’t important.

        I think it’s also important for allies to check in after situations to find out if there’s something they could’ve done better, or not done at all. Y’know, because, sometimes things get overwhelming in the moment &, looking back, we notice what could be done better with more clarity. 🙂 ❤

        Liked by 1 person

      • In this case, this other person bringing up the topic actually helped me gather my thoughts to say what I wanted to say.

        Absolutely. In the moment it’s hard but when you’ve had time to reflect you think of all the things that you could’ve said or done. I totally get that 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ariel Lynn says:

        Excellent. Good to know we’re… I mean, you & that person… ( 😇 ) are on the same page.

        I’d much rather be annoying asking for clarification in conversations online than put my foot in my mouth. Again. LOL

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hahaha smart choice 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ariel Lynn says:

        Thank you for saying so. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: February Wrap Up! 2019 | bookmarkchronicles

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