During the 3.5 years I have been blogging, I have not spoken about race or minority status hardly at all. I guess I’m not a good advocate for the underrepresented, since I’d much rather listen than talk about this subject. Everyone has such a unique perspective, and I can learn so much by just letting others share their experience and beliefs without having to advocate for my own.
I have to confess though that part of the reason I don’t talk about it is probably much like other people: it makes me uncomfortable. When I was living in Texas and talked about how I was treated differently for being Asian, I was told I was imagining it or being paranoid. Now I just feel like it will be perceived as whining even when I know it’s not imagined. Either way, feeling like it is unsafe to talk about mistreatment is its own form of abuse.
Diversity itself is diverse given we self-identify in so many ways: race, ethnicity, gender and gender identity, religion, disability, age, etc. Furthermore, each group has its unique issues and concerns, all of which are valid even if we don’t understand or agree with them. Since our issues are so unique, we minorities often don’t even understand each other, which can lead to disharmony or even conflict. Until we truly try to understand each others’ unique reality, we will struggle to work effectively and collaboratively together.
I feel the discussion could benefit from shedding light on our unique perspectives. Here is a sliver of some of issues minority groups face. This list is not comprehensive because I don’t fully understand other groups’ issues (and plus I’m trying to keep this blog-sized), so please share your experience so that can be added to the list, or corrected where I’m wrong or inaccurate.
- Blacks are treated with a high level of scrutiny by police and shop owners
- GLBTQs have to decide every day who to come out to and how (the shopkeeper, a colleague, etc.)
- Muslims are treated with suspicion in general
- Women feel vulnerable in places and situations that men take for granted, and often feel unwelcomed in certain leadership ranks
- Jews are treated like they are greedy and untrustworthy
- Asians are sometimes not considered a minority, even by other minority groups, but are still excluded from many ranks, disciplines, and social groups. We are not believed to be US citizens.
- Hispanics are assumed to be academically unqualified and poor. They are believed to be illegal immigrants.
- The elderly are treated like they are invisible or can’t hear
- Members of the majority may be generically grouped as bigots (‘you whites,’ ‘you men’), even if they are advocates and proponents for the underrepresented
This list does not even include violence, murder, discrimination, bullying, imprisonment, and harassment based on minority status.
The conversation around Trump’s statement that Judge Curio’s Mexican heritage made him unqualified for the job is upsetting on several levels. Though many Republicans said that Trump’s comment was racist and wrong (Republican leader Paul Ryan stated this was the racist comment was “textbook”), a poll reported on MSNBC stated that 66% (!) of Republicans did not think that comment was racist. Several who ‘spoke out’ against it merely said that he shouldn’t have said that. Kind of like: you never tell your wife her dress makes her look fat. Even when it does.
Oh wait. I thought we were all just being paranoid?
Racism and bigotry is alive and well but I believe that much of it is flying below the radar. If you ever catch yourself telling a woman or a minority that they’re being overly sensitive, making something up, or the mistreatment is their fault, ask yourself – really ask – whether unconscious bias is present.
Before you reject the presence of unconscious bias out of hand, realize that we all have unconscious bias (thus the term). Admitting we have such biases take courage because it requires we face an unstated fear. But like other fears, they hold much power when in the dark but diminish in the light. Being open, accepting and even compassionate for someone else’s reality, and your own, can lead to much insight, growth, love and healing. We all deserve that.