There is something deeply unsettling to me about a trend that is fast-gaining currency - how a lot of privileged people in society, who choose to “fight” certain causes involving lesser-privileged people than them, go about it. This set me thinking or rather, asking: does a privileged person have a louder voice? I think they do; they are listened to more and their opinions are considered more valuable. And yes, privileged allies, when they use their enhanced voices at all, should use them for the less privileged. That means using their voices to enhance ours, to increase our volume – they need not and should not speak for us; what they should do is direct people to us and let us speak to them themselves. They should not stand on our shoulders; they should, instead, give us a hand up.
I can’t touch this subject without covering a particularly vile out-branch of it. A privileged person will decide, in the name of understanding marginalization, to play-act as one of the marginalized for a certain duration of time. You’ll hear numerous reports of people deciding to live homeless ostensibly because they “empathize” with the situation of the homeless or you might hear of a report of some straight, Cis man hanging around gay bars for the feel of what it is to be gay. This is a mockery of the situation of these people.
I am also awed at the ability of most privileged people to play victim. When they come across a case of prejudice against a marginalized group, they set out to center themselves into the situation completely – they begin to yap about their experience (irrelevant) and their feelings (irrelevant), how hard it is for them (irrelevant), how much they’ve learned (do we care?) and how they’ve grown as a person (still not caring). Now, let’s think this over; could there be a more self-centered way of discussing someone else’s marginalization?
Faking it doesn’t mean you understand someone’s experience – you can never get the full impact of living as marginalized. You can’t sleep in the streets for 3 days and know full well what being homeless means. Here’s one reason why: even during the time you are there, there’s always the assurance at the back of your mind that should the going get too tough for you, you can always abandon that life and go back to your good life. The truly homeless have no such privilege; they have to stay the course of the hard life no matter what and that alone makes you two totally different people even though you both live on street corners. All this mummery can do is give you the FALSE IMPRESSION that you understand.