13 Things Marginalized Americans Wish Male Politicians Knew
As a proud Latina and Mexican-American, I'm used to people saying hurtful things about me. Rarely are these insults more painful than when they come from a politician, however. Whether or not a politician actually represents me in office, I still take offense to their hateful speech because, as an American, I don't want those values to be reflected in government at any level. Speaking as one, here are some things marginalized people wish male politicians knew about them and their causes, because we're so tired of having to explain.
Everyone is on a perpetual learning curve, so it's important to give politicians, particularly those from non-diverse backgrounds, a chance to catch up to where the most forward-thinking activists are right now. But at the same time, marginalized communities shouldn't have to consistently educate people. These struggles for basic equality have been going on for centuries and those who haven't gotten the message by now are probably refusing to accept it, not incapable of learning.
More than anything, marginalized people don't want to feel marginalized anymore. When we are included in conversations, hierarchies, and decisions, that goes a very long way toward decreasing the power distance between the privileged and the marginalized.
So, politicians, make sure you don't just read about marginalized people, but actually talk to and include them as well.
We Aren't Overreacting Or Being Hysterical
When marginalized people say there's a problem, there's a problem. We don't make up systematic oppression.
We Are A Community Of Individuals
Yes, there are things that tie us together, be it our race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, etc. But that doesn't make us all the same. We have different experiences, and you can't assume anything about us.
Let Us Speak Instead
Instead of making assumptions about us, or letting people who aren't members of our community speak on our behalf, ask us about things! Let us tell you about our lives and our experiences instead of acting like you know everything already.
We Come In Peace
Our cause isn't directly harmful to you — we are trying as best we see fit to make the world a better place, for us and for you. We like to think that the justice we strive for will bring everyone up together.
We Are Your Friends, Or At Least We Should Be
If you can't look around at your life and see at least one person who could humanize our cause for you, you need new friends. If you diversify your social circles you'll diversify your perspective, and you might just come to see our point of view.
We're Still Fighting For The Basics
I promise you there is no "agenda" to take over — right now many marginalized communities are still fighting for basic human dignity, not power. So don't aggrandize our requests by thinking we're trying to take anything from you.
There Are So Many More Of Us Than You Realize
In many marginalized communities, the activists who are vocal are only a small fraction of the communities they represent. You need to extrapolate from what you're seeing and hearing, and realize that there are many others who feel the same way but don't have the resources or security to speak out.
Our Histories And Cultures Deserve Respect
We are so much more than what you see today. We're the product of all the generations that came before us, many of whom fought even braver battles than we are today. Everyone should learn about those histories, especially the people who are claiming to representing us in government.
And That's Part Of The Reason Why We're Fighting
We cannot let the sacrifices of those who came before us be in vain, so there's pretty much nothing anyone can say or do to stop us. Progress cannot be stopped, so you need to get on board this train or it's leaving the station without you.
We Want The Same Things You Do
We're all trying to buy into the American Dream, but right now we're telling you that systemic forces are preventing us from even imagining reaching the levels you can.
Mostly We Just Want To Live Our Lives And Not Get Murdered
Things like abortion access and the Violence Against Women Act and classifying trans homicides as hate crimes aren't us asking for special privileges. We honestly just want to make it through the day alive.
We Don't Hate You Automatically
We don't have a problem with men — our issue rests with institutionalized sexism and the patriarchy. If you sincerely want to work with us, we'll be more than happy to have you. On the other hand, don't undermine our legitimate problems with you by claiming we're blinding hating. If we're voicing our concerns with you, you'd best believe they're real.
It Might Be Better If You Just Let Us Be In Charge
Cis, male politicians may think that they have the right combination of personality, passion, and timing to effect change, and it's admirable to have the self-confidence and altruism to want to take on the responsibility of public office. But consider this — nearly every male politician who came before you had the same idea, and the vast majority of them have been wrong. It might be time to doubt yourself just a little and let somebody else step up to the job, especially if that somebody gets to represent and advocate for their marginalized community.
If all politicians knew these 13 things, it sure seems like the nation would be better off than it is now. Peace, justice, and equality are everyone wants, but people have to learn how to want those things for others, not just themselves. Until then, myself and other members of marginalized communities will continue our struggles for freedom.