No marginalized group is a monolith. However, the news media, other systems, and society believe that marginalized groups are homogeneous. I represent only my experience, understandings, and interactions with people in the Disability community and other marginalized groups. I feel it is completely okay to disagree except as James Baldwin said, “when your disagreement is rooted in my oppression & denial of my humanity & right to exist”. So long as it leads to discussion that could lead to further learning, however, rants and screaming are not helpful, nor is listening just to reply. It is truly impossible for one to know everything about anti-oppression, even if it’s one’s area of interest.
As a settler who has grown up in a colonial, patriarchal, capitalistic, and white supremacist systems I am trying to unlearn these ways. Knowing this is what I grew up in, I’m okay with being wrong and I expect not to know everything. How is one to learn if they are (A) always right (B) comfortable in every situation? When making mistakes and unintentionally hurting another, it sucks, and I will not lie. What we need is to complete the repair work with the harmed individual if they are willing. Take aways from mistakes is not to get defensive when you are called out or in and most important is not to do said action again. This is the way I have learned, but not even trying to take a step because you are afraid of not being perfect is an actual form of procrastination.
My question is, how are you going to learn in the first place? No one is perfect at this, and perfection is a myth, but that is a topic for another day. But as someone who is a settler and understands, you cannot expect marginalized groups to teach us for free the non-whitewashed version of history. This is on you unless you are going to pay for someone who has advertised their services. I encounter ableism of some sort daily. I do not know how and what the experience of racism is, so it is a privilege to learn about it. To learn about the non-whitewashed history, one can start with the abundant books written by individuals who are of that particular marginalized group. (Insert link to my chart). Reading any of these books can be a start. There are also YouTube, Instagram posts, Facebook posts, and documentaries. At this point I would call it wilful ignorance not to know the non-whitewashed version of history. Or to understand that racism, homophobia, transphobia, and ableism is a daily issue for so many individuals.
Just a start
Reading the books on the list or many other books written is just a start. Or consuming any other information mentioned above. My question is, what is one going to do with the information once we have read the books? I have asked this question to myself frequently. I agree with all this information; it seems overwhelming. The information that is presented is not to make one feel guilty for what their ancestors did, you cannot change that. However, to show what our ancestors did (I am not immune from this) and the why of the way things are today. To leave the world in a better situation than when you were born into it. We cannot change the past, but we can change and address the present and the future.
What I currently do as a volunteer with a grassroots group in my city that is holding the different levels of government accountable to Reconciliation in Canada. Many social issues have gotten so much attention in the way of reports and research. As Michelle Robinson of @N8V_Calgarian states, we have given many reports and solutions. Action and follow through on the calls need to be taken. Volunteering can be very formal or informal and everything in between. How I started with the local Reconciliation action group was a call out on Facebook for volunteers. I have been with this group for the last two years and I have never felt so welcome and continue to learn from everyone involved in the group.
Besides volunteering, book clubs are great for learning about these topics. To meet other people who want to learn like yourself. The other people in the book club may be at various learning levels, which is great so that you can learn from each other. Besides learning from the book in the book club, the conversations are also where the learning can also occur. My note for this is if you are called out for saying or doing something that is improper (racist, homophobic, ableist etc.) please do not get defensive even though that may be your first reaction. For another person to say that what one has said is say ableist is hard to say this in front of a group, so respect what they have to say. From my experiences, they usually are not calling you ableist; it is what you said that is ableist, which is different. If one is to get defensive, one is losing out on a learning opportunity.
In it for the long haul.
So, your next question may be what you do in the long term. Ibram X. Kendi has spoken about being an anti-racist, which is a verb meaning to act. Before and during the Covid Pandemic, attending workshops is a way to gain knowledge. If one is unavailable to attend the workshop, they may record them and send the recording out. Or there are many talks on YouTube that address “ism”.
Another long-haul tactic is calling out jokes that are ableist, homophobic, racist, anti-Indigenous, etc. One can make it known that these jokes are unacceptable to be spoken around you. This may take some time and one may find that they may call out the same family member over and over, but hopefully they will eventually get it. Besides calling out jokes, one can start using inclusive language and be aware of your language and check your assumptions. For instance, do not assume everyone you meet is heterosexual. Also, support representation in the media and entertainment. Overall, individual action is where we need to start; we cannot wait for Governments to make the change.