Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Not offended

I get a lot of comments from people who say “I’m a woman and I’m not offended” or, more recently, “I’m native and I wasn’t offended!” at this video, or in general at whatever discriminatory comment or movie or song or whatever that I’m critiquing.

The reason why this argument doesn’t hold strong is because I could easily find someone who does identify as a woman, or native, and is offended. I could also easily find a GLBTQ ally who is offended. But is this necessary in order for the “unoffended” to recognize what’s wrong? 

If someone in a marginalized community raises a concern, it's quite common that before their concern is even heard they have to legitimize it. This, my friends, is disrespect. Plain and simple.

Usually when someone is offended and recognizes this verbally, they’re met with how wrong it is for them to be offended by a discriminatory statement. They say we ultimately chose to be offended. It's our choice to find it insulting. It's our choice to feel belittled. These are the same people who say marginalized folks shouldn't show pride for their community and identity. Failplz.

So the logic is, “I’m not even insulting your community, and if I am, it’s not offensive or disrespectful because I say so. If you’re offended, that’s your fault.”

Acknowledging when something is discriminatory towards a community, be it your own or one you are an ally in, isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s not a testament to how “thin your skin can be,” how “badly you take humor,” how “tight your ass is,” or how much you just need to “get over shit.”

The people making these insulting statements/jokes, or approve them in media, are usually one of four types.

1)      The Privileged Outsider: The most common. They aren't in the community and are very open with their lack of care. These are the types of people who will go on about how their sense of humor is clearly superior to yours, and you need to “lighten up.”

2)      The Pseudo Ally: They aren’t in the community, but attempt to publically recognize what they did/said was wrong by using a friend as an extension of themselves. “I’m not racist, I have a friend who is black!”

In a larger institution, it might come off as something like Richards stated, the Summers Eve advertising agency founder, as a defense for their racist ads. “Our in house multi-cutural experts confirmed the approach.” 

3)      The Convenient Member: They claim to be in the community to waive any kind of trouble they could get in for being so disrespectful. These people aren’t in the culture in its entirety, but cling onto stereotypes. “My great great long lost grandmother was Cherokee, so don’t think I’m being rude, I’m totally 1/16th native which makes my Halloween costume okay.” 

4)      The Normative Spokesperson: They are in the community, in the culture, but are still fine with the insults. I’ll direct you here for some examples. 

Regardless of the category, it all boils down to one thing: They have no respect for the concerns of community being targeted.

They don’t care to recognize how damaging stereotyping is.

They don’t care to recognize how hurtful insults are.

They don’t care to recognize how detrimental it can be to treat your culture like it is up for grabs.

They don’t care to acknowledge the very real, dangerous and violent ways that accepting this disrespect can manifest itself.

They don’t care. They don’t care about the community. They don’t care about the people in it.

If you cared about people being raped, you wouldn’t make/laugh at rape jokes.

If you cared about people being beaten to death, you wouldn’t make/laugh at jokes targeting that group.  

If you cared about people being bullied, you wouldn’t enable bullying by discriminating the people being targeted. 

If you cared about people being abused, you wouldn’t accept their abuse by paying money to the people perpetuating it.

And a hint, people who typically experience this = people of color, GLBTQ folks, people who are overweight, underweight, redheaded, disabled in any way, have an accent, women, work in the sex industry, etc. Sometimes these categories and communities intersect.  The bottom line is: They are different and they are marginalized. From something as “little” as a joke to something as real as murder.

Most people don’t like to be disrespected simply because someone more privileged than them decides it’s okay and has a big powerful mouth. People don’t like this because, believe it or not, they like to be treated as people.

So, if you don’t get offended? Who doesn’t recognize the things listed above? You’re entitled to your opinion. But you should at least recognize that in accepting and perpetuating those beliefs, you’re also excluding yourself from a large portion of that wonderful community.

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