A prominent discourse today is that of being other-ed by society, be it as a minority, as a woman, as a non-White person, or as an intersection of different identities. As you scroll down your social media feeds, you might come across numerous posts about discrimination against women, minorities or other marginalized groups. More and more people are being vocal about their experiences as the Other in the margins of society.
When coming across such discussions, do you ever feel that 'these people' seem obsessed with non-existent issues? Are you annoyed by articles where women discuss their encounters with sexual harassment and everyday sexism? Do you roll your eyes when minorities talk about facing discrimination? Do you lament that they are playing the 'caste card', 'playing victim', or engaging in 'reverse racism'? Do you state matter-of-factly that if one goes looking for oppression they will find oppression? Or are you someone who agrees that there was oppression, but it's all in the past and we are an equal society now?
You think, "Why can't they stop complaining now?" What you don't realize is that you have the option to skip that post and move on... the 'other' doesn't.
If your answers are mostly yes, this article is for you. This is for those people who complain about the 'other' speaking up and vocalising their oppression 'all the time'.
I understand, these discussions make you uncomfortable and defensive. It feels like a personal attack on you. You think, "I get it. Why can't they stop complaining now?" What you don't realize is that you have the option to skip that post altogether and move on with your life. However, the 'other' doesn't. She/he/they are still subject to prejudice, discrimination, and often life-threatening hate in a world that disowns them. Black people in the US can't wear hoodies without fearing being stopped by cops or worse, killed. They can't protest without being accused of rioting.
Dalits are told their oppression is now over and they should just move on. They are told that they no longer need reservation since you know some educated Dalits who are financially well off. You tell them to work hard instead of asking for handouts. Women are still blamed for the exploitation of their bodies. They are told there is no such thing as 'marital rape' and that they probably 'asked for it' anyway. When they talk about workplace discrimination and glass ceilings you tell them only merit warrants growth, as though no female is ever worthy of a promotion on her own merit.
If you are a man, no one is going to come up to you, put a hand on your crotch and ask you when you will have a child.
None of these groups have the privilege of 'skipping' these experiences. The micro-aggressions, sexism, misogyny, racism, these are all part of their everyday lives. They cannot avoid it, no matter how uncomfortable it makes them, no matter how tired they are. This discomfort is their reality. It's a burden thrust on them since birth and they have no 'block' option for it like you do with these 'social justice warriors'.
If you are a man, you will never fully comprehend what women put up with on daily basis. You will not know how it feels to have your worth reduced to your womb, breasts and hips. No one is going to come up to you, put a hand on your crotch and ask you when you will have a child (a woman once stroked my belly and asked me when I am going to have a child). You will not be made to feel guilty for being ambitious even after having children. You will not have to field questions about 'work-life balance' and justify your choices at each step. You will not be the subject of endless debate about whether you can have it all.
No matter how good your heart is and how well-intentioned you are, you will not understand the vulnerability one feels when outnumbered.
As a light-skinned person, you will not understand how heavy skins can become, how much a colour can weigh you down. You will not experience the noose of this colonial hangover tightening around your neck. You will not feel the shame dark girls are made to feel for something beyond their control. You will not grow up hearing that your skin is ugly, your features are ugly, your hair is not normal. You do not have to feel bleach burn your skin in desperate attempts to be fair and lovely because someone told you that you would have been prettier if you'd just been a little lighter skinned. You simply will not know the damage inflicted on the self-esteem of generations of people as they grow up hating their own skin.
As a majority, in any country, you will not know the fear minorities live in. No matter how good your heart is and how well-intentioned you are, you will not understand the vulnerability one feels when outnumbered. You do not see the pain we feel when we are told it's a favour that we are allowed to call ourselves a citizen of the place we have our roots in. You will not get the fear gnawing at the back of our minds about the possibility that we could one day see our neighbour turn against us. You will not feel the pressure to bend over backwards and prove that you love your country.
If this truth makes you uncomfortable, so be it. No change ever came out of a society comfortable with its oppression.
These feelings of fear and vulnerability are real. The resulting anger is real, it is valid, and it needs an outlet. It needs no justification. It needs no sugar coating. It needs no toning down. Injustice that is meted out against the 'other' isn't modulated, then why should their voices be?
So the next time you read an article against White supremacy, upper caste hegemony, or the patriarchy, don't think of it as an attack on your person. It is an attack on your privilege. Your incredible privilege to live comfortably in the status quo, to go through life without your skin or name or lineage or genitals coming in the way and holding you back. You must fully understand that this not everyone's reality. These articles, these 'rants' are calling out those who implicitly support oppression of the 'other' by benefiting from and upholding an unjust system that favours some over others. These other-ed voices will not cease until they are acknowledged, engaged with, and a balance of power is achieved.
If this truth makes you uncomfortable, so be it.
No change ever came out of a society comfortable with its oppression.
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