This post is part of the November Synchroblog, “Seeing Through The Eyes Of The Marginalized”. A synchroblog is a collection of similar articles or posts made by a diverse group of bloggers who have agreed to blog on the same topic on the same day. You can find a list of all the participants at the end of this post. If you’re a blogger & want to be part of future synchroblogs, you can join on facebook or go to our new synchroblog site and subscribe.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
Being “marginalized” means more than just belonging to a minority. Marginalized people are pushed to the margin because a society refuses to acknowledge their needs, their beliefs, their value, their rights and their concerns. As a follower of Christ, I want to reach out and help people who are marginalized – I want to be a good ally, who not only empowers marginalized people to believe that they matter and that what they have to offer has value, but also to change society and systems that continue the cycles of marginalization and oppression. Living that out is hard and even those of us who are sincere and well intentioned are prone to make mistakes. Here are some things I have been learning as I attempt to become a good ally to some dear friends of mine who often find themselves in the margins.
Someone said, “People who look through keyholes are apt to get the idea that most things are keyhole shaped.” That is what happens to us. We see the world through our position of privilege and it robs us of a realistic perspective – we need to step away from the keyhole we have been peering through, throw open the door and walk out into the open. Privilege is the biggest obstacle that an ally of any marginalized person or group has to overcome. It traps us into mindsets that make it almost impossible for us to understand what it means to be marginalized. This obstacle can be effectively dealt with and overcome, but many (maybe even most) allies haven’t taken the time to confront their own privilege and the part it plays in the oppression of others. Most are so accustomed to their privilege that they aren’t even consciously aware of it – white, male, straight, healthy, affluent, employed, included, heard, affirmed – whatever our privilege is, we need to acknowledge it, confront it and learn about how it is part of the problem. Without acknowledging the privilege we hold we cannot truly understand the experience of the marginalized or effectively contribute to their betterment.
The lack of humility is a definite barrier for those who want to see through the eyes of marginalized people and work for justice. The more one learns about privilege and oppression the more one will recognize oppressive attitudes and behaviors they have held, how little they know about what it is like to be marginalized, and how many things one has done or said in the past that is now considered to be dreadful … in other words, if you want to see through the eyes of the marginalized, be a good ally and fight for justice get ready to be comfortable with humility. Becoming a good ally means we have to give up the power that privilege has afforded us and allow humility to create space in us to listen, learn and grow.
It is easy for us to forget that those who are marginalized and oppressed are individuals with unique stories of their own. People within a marginalized group have unique and individual needs and concerns. We need to take the time to build authentic relationships with marginalized people, to listen to their stories, to see them as more than a project or a cause, to connect with them, learn from them and experience day to day life with them. The only effective way to empower marginalized people to believe they matter and are valuable is through individual interaction.
What help can you offer to those who want to become good allies to people who are marginalized and oppressed?
Here’s a list of all the contributions for this month’s synchroblog:
George at the Love Revolution – The Hierarchy of Dirt
Arthur Stewart – The Bank
Sonnie Swenston – Seeing through the Eyes of the Marginalized
Wendy McCaig – An Empty Chair at the Debate
Ellen Haroutunian – Reading the Bible from the Margins
Christine Sine – Seeing through the Eyes of the Marginalized
Alan Knox – Naming the Marginalized
Margaret Boehlman – Just Out of Sight
Liz Dyer – Step Away from the Keyhole
John O’Keefe – Viewing the World in Different Ways
Steve Hayes – Ministry to Refugees–Synchroblog on Marginalised People
Andries Louw – The South African Squatter Problem
Drew Tatusko – Invisible Margins of a White Male Body
K.W. Leslie – Who’s the Man? We Christians Are
Jacob Boelman – Seeing through the Eyes of the Marginalized
Peter Walker – Through the Eyes of the Marginalized
Cobus van Wyngaard – Addressing the Normalized Position
Tom Smith – Seeing Through the Eyes of the Marginalized
Annie Bullock – Empty Empathy
Christen Hansel – Foreigners and Feasts
Sonja Andrews – On Being Free