A Guide To Becoming A Minority Group Ally

A Guide To Becoming A Minority Group Ally

Navigating social oppression in the US.

In light of the election results I thought I'd share this again for anyone that doesn't understand why minorities are freaking out.

Navigating the Terms

Sociologists define minority and majority groups based on their social power, or more to the point, the ability of one group to oppress another. Due to politically endorsed institutions such as slavery and sexism individuals who are not "White" and/or female have been oppressed systemically since our country's founding. Since the sociological definition of minority does not have to do with population size it has become more correct to refer to majority groups as Dominant and minority groups as Subordinate.

Subordinate groups consist of any individuals who are not white cis-gender straight Christian males. The LGBTQ Community, all individuals who identify as any "race" outside of white/Caucasian, anyone that does not identify as Christian, anyone identifying as female, disabled, and many other individuals are all apart of the subordinate group or minority community.

Oppression has many forms like prejudice, discrimination, and racism.

Prejudice is when an individual uses a stereotype to characterize an individual that they do not know. For example assuming an individual likes a certain food item because of their perceived nationality or ethnic characteristics is prejudiced. Also assuming and individual is unintelligent because of a physical handicap is prejudiced as well.

Discrimination is a physical act against another person because they are a minority. For example a use of force on an unarmed individual because they are perceived to be dangerous due to their ethnic background. Using a racial slur or sexually objectifying a woman verbally are also acts of discrimination. Terminating a worker because of their minority status and even not including someone in a group are all acts of discrimination.

Racism, sexism and many other such "isms" are systems of oppression that reinforced by the actors of the law like police officers, members of congress, and senators. Once a majority group has normalized itself and it is interpreted as the default for what is proper in a society the members all gain a power and influence in society. Accessing education is easy for members of the majority due to income inequities so their power and influence becomes passed down their generations. These individuals do nothing to actively investigate the plight of the minority and act on their prejudice as a whole. Thus it becomes increasingly difficult for individuals of the minority to access education, have social mobility, or own property which means their pursuit of happiness is interrupted by this system.

Because our brains are hardwired to identify things it is nearly impossible to view another individual without judgement. I am not saying that individuals should attempt to not see people as different from them. It is better, instead to acknowledge your bias internally. When we do not know or understand someone our brain fills in what we do not know with stereotypes, getting to know people from minority groups that make you uncomfortable is a great start to seeing beyond what makes them different from you.

Understanding "Ally"



1. What Is Inequality?


The evasion or stripping of rights that benefit the dominate group.

Income Inequality can result in Location Inequality which leads to greater exposure to stress, poor air, bad water, and an unstable economy. (URBAN ECOLOGY)






2.War?

The use of the word ally implies a war. There is a sort of social war for minority people that they must battle every day. Each day colloquial language, discriminatory coalitions, and governmental policies impact the lives of people who are highly underrepresented in politics. This is a war. Lives are being lost, trans-lives, Muslim-lives, female-lives; will you fight with us?

3.Oppression can be systemic and covert

Systemic Oppression

System- A series of networks, typically a cycle where the inputs and outputs are dependent upon one another.

Oppression- Withholding rights

Therefore Systemic Oppression is: A political cycle that withholds rights.

Macro-Aggressions are a distinguishable historical event that set precedent for a legacy of prejudice

4. Covert Oppression: Micro Aggressions
An insult, gesture, presumption, verbal or physical assault against a minority person or group.
  • The Danger of #JK

Comedy is an excellent stress reliever and way of dealing with complex subjects in simplistic formats. Jokes become dangerous when they reaffirm systemic inequality.

5. How to Be an Ally No one is asking you to become a superhero but getting educated about the history of minority people is a great place to start. After education comes activism; join a movement, donate to a cause, attend BSC meetings, become a part of ODB. Live every day to make difference, don’t let jokes slip by without addressing them, don’t be afraid to correct people, and don’t get testy when you get corrected. Become aware of your privilege, practice mediation, encourage minority people and support individuals that you see struggling around you.

Resources

§AAPD (American Association of People With Disabilities) www.aapd.com

VocaLady www.vocaladymagazine.com

NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) www.naacp.com

HRC (Human Rights Campaign) www.HRC.org

GLAAD www.Glaad.org/gotyourback


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Are You Privileged?

Privilege - a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group.

During finals, someone asked me how I got such a good grade on my organic chemistry final and I just said "I studied" and he proceeded to tell me it was because I am privileged.

When I argued with this Hispanic man (I need to mention his ethnicity because he used mine as an argument) he said "You're American, white, college educated, and have married parents." (All the things he listed were also true for him - he was born in the United States, his parents were married and legal immigrants, he was also college educated.)

The only thing he lacked was my skin color, so I assume he was trying to point out my white privilege, which I know 100% exists, but was not the reason why I got a good grade on my final.

It really made me think. I came up with a million arguments as to why I wasn't privileged. I'm not American, I'm actually a Brasilian DACA student who's DACA expires right before graduating college meaning that, yes, I am college educated, but may not be a college graduate. Yes, I do have white skin and my parents are happily married, even though it wasn't always that way.

So, maybe not all of the arguments he used we exactly my privilege points. But I did realize, after thinking long and hard, that I am very privileged. I have a car, a cell phone, a warm place to live, plenty of food to eat (probably too much if you ask my mom), friends and family who love me unconditionally. I have a job that pays for what it needs to. I am very privileged.

Privilege is having access to the internet and a computer. Privilege is waking up in the morning in your own bed with blankets. Privilege is picking up your phone to tweet or write an article every time Donald Trump does something that you don't agree with. Privilege is being able to hug you mom every day and complain about all the stupid their parents ask you to do. Privilege is the smell of coffee in the morning. Privilege is being upset when things don't go your way. EVERYONE has some sort of privilege that the next person does not.

It may not be apparent, but everyone is privileged. Even the snot-bag that pointed out my privilege because I passed my exam. Maybe he doesn't have the privilege of being responsible enough to stay up and study the night before he has an exam, but he does have the privilege of going out the night before his exam. And that makes him privileged all the same as me.

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My Encounter With A White Person Who Didn't Understand Their Privilege

And what I learned as a person of color.

Just the other day, in my women’s studies course, Gender, Race, and Class, we began the class with a bit of a controversial discussion relating to white people and the N-word. Discussions ensued about the topic, and as you can imagine, there were some differences of opinion. The discussion then progressed into the topic of white privilege.

Now, let me give you a little bit of perspective. In this course, there is a group of approximately only 14 students, including myself. Of all those students there are only two people of color — myself, and another student who is a transfer.

Ironically enough, it seemed as though the majority of the other students understood the concept of white privilege and recognized that they had it. One person, however, did not.

This person claimed that white privilege isn’t really a “thing,” as we are all born with the same rights and have the same opportunity to accomplish the same goals. They argued that they have known white people who have never had a home and have struggled financially their entire lives and they have equally known people of color who become very successful in life and have never worried about finances. That, they argued, refutes the idea that white people tend to have some kind of upper hand.

To refute this, the other person of color in the room and I offered examples of how white privilege exists in our society, to no further understanding from the person. More impactful, however, was the example illustrated by another white person, in which she told us a story of an experience she had at a local Starbucks.

She explained that in her experience, she entered into a Starbucks and ordered coffee, and as she was waiting for her coffee, she found herself standing in front of two police officers also waiting for coffee. She expressed that in realizing the two cops were in her presence, she “felt a little safer than [she] had before.” And for a second, she said she thought about her position in that moment and realized her own privilege, for in that moment, she was released of any fear.

In contrast, this is not something that can be said by many people of color, who in light of a growing number of cases of police brutality live in fear of being caught “walking while [insert non-white adjective here].”

Despite this illustration, the person aforementioned still could not recognize there was any privilege, insisting that I have the same opportunity as them, regardless of the color of my skin or the ethnicity of my parents.

The issue they failed to realize is that this, in fact, is not true. Though perhaps, in theory, it may be true that I was born with the exact same rights and opportunity, in essence, in the very substance that makes me who I am, that is not the case.

The person of color’s reputation has forever been tainted into being “the other” and “less” than a white person, and this reputation has successfully, psychologically infiltrated the minds of every member of society, including people of color themselves, through historical social constructs.

That is the realization that dawned on me altogether. Even if I work hard enough, end up in the same places, do the same jobs, it will never mean the same. It will never be interpreted the same. Many flaws will be found to condition and diminish my success. It will never be as praiseworthy.

It’s like the resume experiment. Two identical resumes and different names, one white and one ethnic-sounding, and the white-sounding name gets the job.

THAT is white privilege. White privilege is feeling safe around cops because you are not perceived as a threat by default. White privilege is being portrayed for your good qualities when you commit a crime and getting a charismatic shot in the paper instead of your mugshot. White privilege is the President of the United States referring to Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and “criminals,” Muslims as "terrorists,” black protestors as “sons of bitches,” but white-supremacist Neo-Nazis as “very fine people.” White privilege is having your successes elevated and your failures downplayed.

White privilege is not understanding your privilege.

And so, after the class, I went to my car and cried for a very long time because for the first time I really realized, no matter how great I become, I will never be esteemed with the same regard as a white person. And better yet, we will never understand each other. Like the great German thinker Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, “No one has ever properly understood me, I have never fully understood anyone; no one understands anyone else.”

No matter how hard I try, the white person has never walked in my shoes and therefore will never understand me nor the essence of their privilege, and I as a person of color will never understand anything more than marginalization.

Cover Image Credit: Sabrina Sanchez

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