Every time a dedicated month comes to date with the intent to honor a group of traditionally oppressed people, my heart clenches. It is simply a reminder that not all people are created equal or at least not afforded the same opportunity, certainly not by an American system that strictly favors one group of individuals over the other. This is the failed mentality which continues to perpetuate racism and hate mongering.
While I wholeheartedly believe in honoring individuals’ contributions to the country, the mere fact that there is only one month dedicated to each marginalized community is insolent. If there was an equal and just society, there wouldn’t be a need for these months to exist in the first place. Who exactly do these dedicated months make feel better? It is really about the well-deserved honoring of the Hispanic community, women, African Americans and others, or is it about the mainstream Caucasian community in a subconscious effort to make themselves feel better about oppressing various marginalized groups? [pullquote]If you are Caucasian, male and heterosexual, you’ve hit the jackpot in terms of innate privilege. If you happen to belong to this group, hopefully you are using your unjust privilege to fight for the rest of us that suffer the perils of societal construct, whether we know it or not.[/pullquote]
There is only one specific group with a particular set of traits that does not have a month dedicated to it. If you are Caucasian, male and heterosexual, you’ve hit the jackpot in terms of innate privilege. If you happen to belong to this group, hopefully you are using your unjust privilege to fight for the rest of us that suffer the perils of societal construct, whether we know it or not.
Part of being an advocate for less privileged people is to understand their experiences to the best of your ability. Immerse yourself in a culture that is different to yours. Attend workshops that don’t necessarily relate to your plights. And, read. That is true for those that want to advocate for the broader LGBT community as well. Based on my experiences, the word token comes to mind. I’m sure I’m not the only one. How do I know when I’ve been used as a token? Well, it usually goes something like this … “Hey so and so, this is my lesbian friend Nicole.” I cannot remember a time when I ever introduced one of my straight friends as such. Another tip-off for me that I may not be dealing with an enlightened person is when someone exclaims, “No I don’t have anything against the LGBT community, I have gay friends (or substitute Hispanic, Black, Asian, etc. here.) These concepts are similar but the level of persecution one feels as a result of their sexual orientation and gender identity is grossly different than discrimination faced by racial and ethnic minorities and even more so if these individuals also belong to the LGBT community.
What are you doing to help the LGBT community and other underprivileged communities gain equal rights or be depicted differently by the mainstream or others that persecute them? If the answer is “nothing” then you are not an advocate and you do not truly believe in equality. We all have different personalities and there are many ways in which you can choose to be an advocate. It can be as simple as sharing your experiences, liking a post on Facebook that relates to the difficulties people of color endure, volunteering or working at an organization to assist in the end of discriminatory practices, or simply speaking up at a gathering when a marginalized member is assaulted by words, even if they are not there physically. Silence can never be an option for advocates, not for the LGBT community, not for the Hispanic community, not for the Black community, not for women, or anyone else facing persecution. Silence only lends itself to silence.
To my loved ones, I will continue on the path of most resistance and do my best to honor you, the way you deserve, each day of the year.
*Nicole Lashomb is The Rainbow Times’ Editor-in-Chief and co-owner. Nicole holds a Bachelor’s from SUNY Potsdam and an MBA from Marylhurst University. She can be reached via e-mail at TRT.