Great Responsibility

Over the past few months there have been a plethora of conversations surrounding race, sexuality, gender. The context has become very much majority vs. minority, privileged vs. non-privileged, oppressed vs. oppressed, the has and the has nots. In all of these conversations, there has been something that has been bugging me about all of them. I haven’t been able to put my finger on it until I read a post about a situation an alum from my HESA program, found himself in and reflecting upon:

“As I walked toward my apartment and crossed a dimly lit street, I could see a group of four white students getting ready to turn the corner while carrying on what seemed to be a light-hearted conversation. When they finally turned the corner and saw me, the conversation stopped, heads faced the ground, and one girl closed her button down shirt and clinched herself. They didn’t speak another word until I had passed them by.”

As is the nature of social media, comments and perspectives were posted in response. Reading through the conversations and posts I realized from the questions and points being made what has been bugging me about the nature of all the conversations surrounding identities and current events, etc. lately.

It not just the issues that are being discussed and whether white people are giving space to people of color, straight people giving space to the LGB community, male and female genders giving space to the transgendered community. Its the point of departure of the conversations. Rather than discussing the issues and addressing them, we get stuck in needing to justify or prove why a minority identity is feeling hurt or betrayed, rather than the issue itself.

I’ve seen in many conversations lately, and even in some of my own, where the individual with the minority identity had to “give the benefit of the doubt” to someone with a privileged identity because they “may not know”; Where a person with a privileged identity pushed bacity identity and demanded that they justify or prove why thek on a person with a minor status quo should change; Where I’ve been ask to explain why I deserve to have equal rights (i.e. marriage, blood donation, civil rights); Where a person of a minority identity is questioned for assuming actions against them were based on an identity when those who did the actions, did them based on assumptions.

I feel that these conversations are becoming more demeaning and dehumanizing over time.

Why is the majority able to treat minorities based on stereotypes and assumptions, yet minorities are required to show burden of proof before feeling hurt? Why do I need to justify my existence and identities before I’m considered for equal treatment? Why shouldn’t the status quo change?

Our conversations are centering around what “we” (people with minority identities) take away from the majority. Its as though we’re in a bartering system for rights and privileges and even just being human.

I love the iconic quote from Voltaire: ”

Courtesy of Brian D. Proffer

Courtesy of Brian D. Proffer

As a minority, its a privilege and power to have a different view and share different experiences . We have a great responsibility to educate others on our different identities, share our experiences, and advocate for ourselves and each other. But its even more so true that the majority have a responsibility to educate themselves, share their experiences and listen to others experiences and advocate for others and not to just give space to minority voices.

Tangent: And when I say to advocate, that does not mean playing ‘the devil’s advocate’ every time someone shares emotions or feelings over an issue or situation. The devil and his advocate have a place in businesses, meetings, conflict management and other such conversations. They do not have a stake hold in how a person feels or receives actions from others based on their identities. 

There’s a lot mulling in my mind right now and I’m just starting to unpack this. But felt I needed to get some of this written down to help me map out my thoughts.

Until next time

Peace, Love and Pandas!

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About bdproffer

I am currently the Assistant Manager for the University Activities Board at Michigan State University. After earning my B.A. from the University of Michigan-Flint, I entered the Student Affairs profession. After a few years in the field, I returned to school and earned my M.A. in Educational Leadership-Higher Education Student Affairs from Eastern Michigan University. In my spare time I blog about my thoughts and musings on current issues in higher education, student affairs, web 2.0, LGBT issues and general life inspirations and observations. I also volunteer for Kappa Sigma Fraternity.
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One Response to Great Responsibility

  1. Kelli Dowd says:

    Good post! I was thinking about it a lot too after reading our friends wall…I couldn’t figure out what to say. I wanted to yell at the one guy badly, and I might still…because it’s important that people in the majority group call out others in their group when their actions are harmful to others…unintentionally or not.

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