A Serious Topic Allies of the Marginalized Need to Understand

Jeremy Fugate • 22 December 2017
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What is a generalization? Merriam-Webster defines it as:

1 : the act or process of generalizing

2 : a general statement, law, principle, or proposition made broad generalizations about women

3 : the act or process whereby a learned response is made to a stimulus similar to but not identical with the conditioned stimulus

 

Generalizations are used by those in power to propagandize and marginalize those that are and have been in the minority, this is very true. However, we allies of the oppressed need to have a serious discussion about the contextual difference in what a generalization conveys when used by an oppressor versus being used by the oppressed.

Point one: When an oppressor (in this case this should be read/defined as anyone of a privileged social class that is actively not an ally to the marginalized social class in question. In this article, let us assume the oppressed social class as our friends whom are transgender, and the oppressors would be CIS people whom dismiss pronoun changes, etc) uses generalizations, it re-enforces stigma and usually false beliefs about the oppressed. In example, when an oppressor states that mis-gendering someone isn’t something potentially life-threatening to a transgender person, this is a dangerous generalization that not only dismisses the struggle that our trans friends go through daily, but also stigmatizes mental health issues often tied to bullying.

On the flip side, when a transgender person states something to the effect of: “I can’t stand CIS people”, this is not oppressive, nor the same as an oppressor dismissing a struggle. These sentiments are that the majority of those that fit into the generalized category are oppressive to them and that likely at the time of stating such a generalization, they were feeling attacked by many from that group.

We allies need to understand this fundamental difference, and allow those of marginalized communities to vent their frustrations about the oppressive class(es) that we may happen to be a part of by birth, because, if we take offense and combat our friends in these communities, they will become further marginalized by our good intentions at talking about using more accurate language. We need to remember that those we are allied with, are not attacking us personally with these generalizations, but venting a larger frustration with a majority that does oppress them.