This is post number two in the My Art, My Activism series.
In my last post of the series, I mentioned vigilance, working to eliminate slurs and unintentionally hateful language or images from one’s work. (If you are so inclined to cross creativity with activism.)
I was thinking about vigilance, and a question found its way into my brain case.
How does a privileged person know when he or she is creating in a marginalizing way? How does someone outside of a marginalized group recognize othering or hateful language if the words they use aren’t intended in that fashion or don’t seem harmful?
It sounds difficult.
It sounds like a huge effort requiring a person to know everything there is to know about every kind of marginalization that exists in the world and then somehow put him or herself into the shoes of that marginalized person. But there’s still the chance for a mess up because no one’s perfect, and how do you fix that?
Listen and learn.
Go to the places where marginalized groups speak about the hardships they face. Read and listen to the words. Then act accordingly. If the community identifies a word or phrase (such as “lame” for instance) as hostile to them, do everything you can to work that word out of your vocabulary. Learn to say what you mean (like calling a rule “unfair” instead of “lame” for instance). Learn to own up to a mistake and be more diligent after you’ve made one (instead of calling the group “overly sensitive” or moaning about the unfairness of being “word policed”).
Rinse and repeat.