For me, it is relatively easy to understand where oppressed people, even if I do not belong to that marginalised group, are coming from. Why? Because of my own position in life.
As a black woman, I have seen marginalisation and oppression, overt and (because I live in England) not-so-overt racism. I know how words, actions, structures, and institutions can set you back in life. That’s why, for instance, I would never refer to a gay person as a f**got, or say that it is not a big deal, or insist that I can sing it in a song as long as I’m not homophobic. But why? You might ask. Because I see these concepts, explanations and arguments as false and redundant based on my experience of hearing another another word: ‘nigger’.
For me, it is easy to relate to marginalised communities and spread love, as opposed to hate, because I have been a direct witness to the effects of hatred. Maybe that’s why it has been so difficult for me to understand how white women in America could vote for a misogynist, simply because he echoed their racism. Or how so many black men can be so savagely homophobic and misogynistic. When talking about hate, I am referring to words and actions of hate, to superiority complexes, to refusing to accept the ‘other’.
The white (middle class, heterosexual) man is the definition of privilege. When we talk about structural racism or classism or sexism, when we talk about institutional bias, we must remember that certain structures were built in order to support these isms by those who never felt their sting. The privileged knows no oppression and cannot relate to it easily. Such people do not know what it feels like to be assumed inferior because of the way you are. No one asks them, when did you decide you were heterosexual? No one asks how it feels to be a man. They don’t have to think of hairstyles before job interviews (they just need to be clean and presentable). They don’t have to keep their emotions in check either, since being the presumed rational sex, any outbursts are unlikely to become career ending. Such people, can get very far in life by being extremely mediocre. In short, as a general rule, their lives are comparably easier.
I have coined what I am talking about here as ‘the veil of being a white man’. If you are a white, middle-class, heterosexual man, you can go your whole life being unaware of many injustices, and still be completely fulfilled.
Most people do not have the option to ignore oppression, as it’s likely to affect them negatively at some point. Even the wealthiest black person can still feel the effects of structural and institutional racism, simply by being assumed inferior when they walk into a room.
If you represent any privileged group, I urge you to think twice the next time you want to spread hateful messages towards a marginalised community. I can’t help being black, the same way she can’t help being a woman, they same way he can’t help being gay, the same way they can’t help being non-binary … You see my point?