With the age of technology firmly embedded within our modern culture, we have an unprecedented level of communicating with each other as a species and on a global scale. This interconnectedness is, at least in part, what pushes our world to feel like it is constantly speeding up and changing. Every day we are able to hear and connect with voices that, in the past, have been pushed to the margins of society. Make no mistake, this is a good thing, and it pushes societal progress further. We can’t have an equitable society until all members are able to participate. As these societal changes keep happening, it is important to consider yourself and your place in it as not to be left in the past with dated ideals. As society changes, we all have to change with it.
There never has and never will be a “one and done” approach that can guarantee you will never have an issue, but you can take steps towards becoming a more holistic and open minded person. One great way to try and continue keeping an open mind throughout your life is to make a consistent effort to listen and internalize the voices and perspectives of those who may not have the same types of privilege that you do. It is important to remember that privilege is real and you may have had negative experiences despite it, and I don’t doubt that for a minute. Privilege is better considered as a set of barriers or filters one must pass through. If you are a recipient of the privilege, you will pass through the uninhibited barrier, but this isn’t the case for everyone. Because it can sometimes be difficult to see, it is important for everyone to consider their own privilege whether it be because of their race, gender, sexuality, ability, etc. We need to listen to the people who are inhibited by these barriers and believe them when they talk about their experiences.
A second general tip is to think about what are commonly spoken about vectors of oppression in society such as racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, etc and if you find yourself pushing against these people or thinking that they are just going too far, think about why you think that. Do you have some sort of bias against these people? Do you think that everything is fine in spite of what they say? Consider that you may be of these opinions because you have not been able to experience the kinds of things that they do and how their perspective and experience might differ from yours.
Finally, accept that you’re going to be wrong. The best allies and supporters are still not perfect. Being on the outside of a marginalized group of people almost inherently means that you will find friction at some point about something. When this happens it is critical for you to do three things. Accept that what you did was wrong. Do your best to learn why it was wrong, how it affects people, and what you can do to not repeat the mistake. And understand that your actions have consequences. If you do harm to another person, the way they react is up to them, and it is up to them to the extent they wish to keep you around and sometimes apologies are more for the person apologizing than the person who was hurt. It sucks, yes. But the best thing you can do is learn the lesson and take the knowledge into the future. We are all recipients of some kind of privilege and it is a matter of how much we choose to grapple with, understand, and accept that you may not face challenges that others do. We are all learning to be better people and it is important not to let something that could be a learning moment turn us against progressing with the rest of society.
Blu Thomas can be reached at [email protected]