Reading books is just one tool that can be used to learn about cultural groups so you can gain further knowledge, skills and comfort adapting.Questions? Feel free to Ask! What Book Are You Reading?
Our human identities are complex, and we find meaning in the differentiations of gender, sexuality, ethnicity, race, age, ability and social class. While diversity could be treated as something beautiful, essential and celebratory, it has led to a long history of conflict, power struggle and oppression. At their best, groups seeking justice and equity have worked to rid of such discrimination, but their approach has often broken down the complex human identity to one aspect, negating the whole person as well as the various ways people experience a particular identity.
The current fight for Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender/Questioning/Intersex/Asexual (LGBTQIA) rights, for example, has hardly touched on the ways in which people experience their sexuality differently based on their gender, social class or race. (See this Colorlines article for more on this topic.) In other words, men experience sexuality differently than women, white women experience sexuality differently than women of color, upper-class women experience their sexuality differently than lower-class women, and so on and so forth. In the public eye, the LGBTQIA community has been most commonly depicted and advertised as being white, educated, upper-class, middle-aged and male, while the community itself is incredibly diverse.
Just as institutions have drawn a line between LGBTQIA people and people of color, so has the media. And it hasn’t done much besides pitting two oppressed groups against each other, while erasing the presence of LGBTQIA people of color. For too long, the need for unity has been misnamed as a need for homogeneity. But, as Audre Lorde said in her collection of essays, Sister Outsider, “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” At long last, some people are throwing away those tools. Old methods of approaching equality are being tossed aside, and research shows that strategic partnerships that bond oppressed communities are not only vital, but can wield enormous power. The NAACP has formally supported marriage equality, as have celebrities of color, and activists are changing the philanthropic landscape by addressing the needs of the whole person. (Read more about these stories, leaders and collaborations.)
In the words of Audre Lorde,
“You do not have to be me in order for us to fight alongside each other. I do not have to be you to recognize that our wars are the same. What we must do is commit ourselves to some future that can include each other and to work toward that future with the particular strengths of our individual identities. And in order to do this, we must allow each other our differences at the same time as we recognize our sameness.”
Share your thoughts! How do you see race and sexuality intersected in social, economic, and political spheres? In what ways are you asked to compromise pieces of your own identity in the guise of working towards equity?
By Sarah Super