Inter-cultural insults, Part Deux
Imagine what it would be like if a fireman were not allowed to speak about his experience of fighting fires because we lived in a culture in which being a fireman was something feared, bad or something to be ashamed of… sound crazy?
How often have we witnessed a [fill in the blank] woman, an immigrant, a person of ANY ‘color’ that is not 'normal' to the majority, a person with a 'different' sexual orientation, a physically disabled person, or someone from a minority political party or religion prevented from voicing pain, or simply a different perspective? Think of the times when a sexist remark is told in a family, office or on the news and a woman makes a defensive remark. Have you seen it result in silence, ridicule or private gossip about the woman later that day? On the other hand, how often have you seen a black person or a woman turned to and asked to speak for “What do women / black people think about …?” These scenarios are often delivered with complete innocence (and ignorance) about how offensive they are.
To deny another person or group to speak to the various parts of their identity and their meaning and choices in life is the essence of acting with superiority over another. Those who seek to deny the full humanity of another person in a free society are rightly subject to the social burdens of such behavior….it is the way we train members of our society to learn the rules and value of fairness that we all share.
Fill in the blanks for the following question and imagine what it would be like if this question were directed at you:
Hey (your name)! Explain to the rest of us (in this group) why you and other members of your (race, religion, gender, orientation, ability…) do this or that stupid, harmful, mindless, embarrassing thing?
If you think about that…do you feel that at some level you are being asked to justify your membership in that group? Whether you are a woman, man, black, white, immigrant, LGBTQ?, older, younger, able-bodied, religious or not such a question is an insult. Demanding as opposed to asking someone to speak for their entire race, group or class will probably be taken affront to their humanity. This is a two way street…the majority group feels this offense too!
So what do we do to get to know one another in all our different roles? Simple…ASK! Ask if the person would be willing to give their more personal perspective on a group they are a member of. Be willing to take “No” or “not now” for an answer.