assimilation, identity and tolerance

I stumbled on another blog that I ended up commenting on. And wanted to bring my part of the discussion here. The topic was balancing living a lesbian life in a mainstream world and not forgetting your queer roots or that there’s still oppression out for for other groups. Basically, how do you avoid assimilating.

I don’t think that being openly out and living on your own terms is assimilating.

We need to continue to oppose any unreasonable discrimination, speak inclusively of other groups and we need to gain financial and political power and wield it wisely.

Otherwise, we aren’t any better than the mainstream.

I have always believed that in order to deserve equality, you have to be prepared to offer it.

It comes down to, if I want something from you, I better offer the same or something on par back to you. Otherwise, what is your incentive to give me what I want?

“Is it ever appropriate to exclude a gender, or race, or religion, or anyone at any time?”

Yes, there is a condition for which it is okay to exclude a person or group. It’s when they refuse to work and play well with others.

Any religion or culture that advocates the slaughter of non-members of said religion or culture, hasn’t earned the right to be considered equal to other groups who actively refuse those claims and conduct.

A few years ago, when I worked for the Vancouver Women’s Health Collective, I took a call from a group who was setting up a Women’s Centre in a suburb. They were concerned at that time about women from the group R.E.A.L. Women – a right wing group who despite their claim that the woman’s place was in the home spent a lot of time on talk tv and radio programs.

Their concern was that the members from this group would join their centre and work to change it from within – and they wanted advise about preventing that.

I said it was very easy – you set out in your by-laws that you can only be a voting member of the society if you declare your agreement with the principles of equality and no discrimination against women on the basis of, among other things, ethnicity, sexual orientation, physical or mental ability, religion, gender identity, citizenship and socio-economic status.

Thus, any member advocating against any group now or in the future, can be dismissed from the society as being in violation of the founding principles.

There is no requirement to tolerate intolerance.

This is not to say that people cannot hold or express discriminatory views against others. It means we can exclude them from our company on that basis.

It’s sort of the Star Trek Federation of Planets idea, really – no planet can become a Federation member while their planet is engaged in or at risk of civil war or their culture remains primitively fixated on discrimination against groups of their own people or other planets.

Basically, sort yourself out and then you can come and play with us.

Only, we aren’t limited by the prime directive of non-interference, we can make an attempt to open people’s minds and sway them against discrimination.

“How does a person with privilege advocate for the rights of those without?”

Carefully and in consultation with said group.

Because just going out and advocating in a public way, without an understanding of the issues and the goals, makes you as oppressive to them as everyone else.

Which isn’t to say that challenging a person who says something disparaging about a group or person is wrong.

But setting up an event to raise awareness for a group that you aren’t a member of….

I don’t think people from outside a group can be a advocate leader for the group – we need to work on the side as allies, sharing resources, offering inclusion.

Man, I look over my volunteer resume and it makes me tired. but I used to belong to a group called the December 9 Coalition (the short version is Dec 10 is international human rights day, and as gay, lesbian, bi, trans, etc; we weren’t there yet)

Anyway, the motto for that group was basically

working across our differences for our common purpose.

Well all breathe air, eat food and need shelter, clothing and the ability to participate economically. We all also need other people, we are social creatures.

That’s a huge platform to build a bridge on to common understanding, issues and ground.


July 09, 2010: As this post is attracting a large amount of spam comments, I have disabled the comment feature.