Since this story started bubbling up in my mind, thousands of people have died from the Covid-19 virus, millions have found themselves in potential peril,, while tens of millions live in fear of the great unknown we all face on the other side of this world wide pandemic. As a student of leadership and a member of multiple disenfranchised groups I found myself empathizing with the newly disenfranchised. The story is a quick read, with a little food for thought. Comments and sharing are always welcome.
In this post:
Story: Queers, Crips, and White Lives Matter
I recently heard author Ross Gay while listening to the program On Being. Gay read his essay “Loitering’.” In the essay, Gay points out that race based fears can be softened by the presence of indicators of affluence. As I listened I realized that many of the insightful voices I hear come from those on the edges of influence in American culture. This is a stark contrast to the power struggle that is playing out under such banners as “Make America Great Again (MAGA) ” and “White Lives Matter” which seem to focus on an American mythology that is gone but not forgotten. Most recently, protest organizers have been able to capitalize on the frustrations of those who have been displaced as the world copes with the Corona pandemic.
As I listen to the voices of people of color (POC), persons with disabilities (PWD), women, and queer people; I find common themes in those voices.
- Driving while black is a thing
- Employers doing a complete about face after learning of the race, gender, sexual orientation, or existence of disability in a qualified candidate is a thing
- Disparaging remarks about queers, POC, or PWD, on the assumption there are none in the room, is a thing
I cherish the opportunity to gather around deep conversations. I have had the good fortune to be able to engage with people from a variety of social and cultural backgrounds. Ironically, as a child, I was exposed to many people who immigrated from the same place, “the old country,” and served the same food, “try it, you don’t like it don’t eat it.” The conversations I engage in allow me to explore being open, honest, and vulnerable with my peers. I value these associations because they accept me for who I am and they help me to recognize how I can be in the world.
When I spend time engaging with queer people, persons with disabilities, and people of color, I am able to appreciate the importance of being a part of one’s own tribe. The challenges of inequity, disenfranchisement and discrimination are clear and present. When disenfranchised groups gather, the elephant in the room is readily acknowledged.
In contrast, groups that gather around shared interests (running, writing, yoga, etc.) are likely to be more diverse and also less candid in their communication. The focus on a common interest acts both as a conduit for, and a barrier against, sharing. Common interests can carry unstated expectations regarding social status, common values, access to services, etc. It may be awkward to acknowledge barriers to basic resources.
- Assuming others have access to food, shelter, and health care is a thing
- Assuming a willingness to show up, and work hard will ensure the well being of yourself and your loved ones is a thing
- Assuming others are safe in the place where they sleep is a thing.
The United States has been the home of great wealth creation, as measured through Gross Domestic Product (GDP). For many, the American Dream has never quite materialized despite much hype, pulling on boot straps, and gnashing of teeth. Wages have been flat for the past 40 years while wealth has concentrated into a shrinking slice of the population. As the United States becomes more diverse, the voices of disenfranchised groups are more easily heard. It might be argued that the voices of white, middle class, persons are being drownd out. Or, there is an on-going battle to avoid recognizing the elephant in the room.
As the middle class shrinks and social safety nets weaken, the experiences of more and more people who identify as straight, white and middle class are coming to resemble those of disenfranchised groups. Rather than turning away from the melting pot the United States used to be so proud of, it may be more productive to focus on reframing our American mythology to reflect who we are and how we want to be in the world.
Food for thought:
- Distinguish broken systems from broken people
- Acknowledge the inherent injustice of capitalism
- Acknowledge the inequity that is both pervasive and effects different people in different ways
- Recognize that we are each of us broken, and yet, we are all whole persons
Food for engagement:
- How do you engage with others based on the physical/social cues you receive from them?
- How do you respect the privacy and dignity of others while genuinely inquiring about their well being?
- How do you distinguish between healthy personal boundaries and fears of being overwhelmed by the challenges others face?
- How do you share your own vulnerability?
- How do you engage with those whose lives/expereinces are very different from your own?
Ross Gay — Tending Joy and Practicing Delight – The On Being Project
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For more information:
Dan Lococo, PhD
, Barrier Knocker Downer
Affinity By Design, LLC Bringing people together to get things done Mainstreaming on Main Street Supporting organizational environments inclusive of persons with disabilities in professional/skilled settings
Web page: www.MainstreamingoMainStreet.com
Copyright 2019, Dan Lococo, All rights reserved