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Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Do you want to know what it feels like to be marginalized, or marginalized in ways you haven't been before?

Asked by Simone_De_Beauvoir (38857 points ) June 5th, 2009

My partner, white, young, able-bodied, perceived as a man and as straight and assumed to be religious by many and I were discussing some time ago that he, a passionate social justice activist for the LGBT community and not one to put a label of gender, sexuality or religion on himself, would want to know (not to trivialize the way Tyra Banks does it when she puts on a fat suit ro anything) what it would be like to be a minority, racially or what have you so that he can feel what a racist societal or a sexist societal gaze must be like…Have you ever wondered or thought it’d be helpful to you if you experienced yourself some sort of marginalization, discrimination? Have you ever put yourself in discrimination’s path via being an ally, for example, to a marginalized community or just to gain knowledge? And if you have experienced discrimination, did you wonder or have a better understanding of all discrimination because of your expriences or are some things impossible to compare? and if you have been discriminated against do you wonder or want to know what it feels like to be of a dominant identity or do you think that that wouldn’t be something you’d want to live?

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31 Answers

tinyfaery's avatar

I would never assume that my experiences of racism, sexism, homophobia are the same as anyone elses. For instance, I have experienced sexism, but this is no way equivalent to a black man experiencing racism. Discrimination and prejudiced are based on many factors, and I do not think we can compare any experience of discrimination or prejudice to another. This is one of the reasons I do not believe in the idea of reverse racism. There is no way a white person experiences the same type of discrimaination as a black person. There are always social, historical, and situational factors to consider.

I do believe everyone experiences discrimination and prejudice, but the experiences are not equivalent. To believe this is so is dangerous, in my opinion. It leads to people like crusader. Yikes!

Judi's avatar

Makes me think of the book Black Like Me that I read in Jr High.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

I’ve always thought how wonderful it must be to be a generic, non descript young white American male. There is no “in-the-closet” or choice in presentation when you are non-white and female, no blending in. I’ve seen and been the brunt of many types of stereotyping, discrimination and prejudices so I’m not much curious.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

Interesting question. Being female, I have experienced discrimination in many ways, throughout my life. I have not suffered nearly as badly as females from the past, because I’ve always had the ability to make decisions on my own and to vote. That said, I can imagine what it must have been like, simply because so many people still hold on and try to adhere to stereotypes regarding what and how women “should” be. Because of this, yes, I can imagine what people in the minority are forced to go through every day when it comes to dealing with bigoted morons.

In dealing with race, sexual orientation and being a woman, all in all, I don’t see them as too different – besides the fact that straight women and racial minorities now have more rights than gay people.

But it all boils down to the senseless oppression of human beings. I’ve also experienced racial discrimination. Because I’m a white female (actually a mutt, but it’s easier for people to call me “white”, so whatever) I have not experienced racial discrimination to the degree that minorities have (on such a wide-scale spectrum), but I have still experienced it nonetheless and it is not fun. Definitely not the same as possibly having to deal with it every day, but all experiences are real.

I also believe that everyone has been discriminated against in one way or another. Whether it is because of age, sex, sexual orientation, race, culture, religion… We’ve all gone through it at some point. Again, not necessarily to the same degree, but the experiences are still real. Still based on senseless words, thoughts, actions. Still stemming from the same kind of idiocy that fueled the massive hate and discrimination for minorities that we see today.

RedPowerLady's avatar

I would want to know, absolutely. Part of having privilege is not-knowing what it is like for “other” people. The more we break down those barriers the better for all of us. This does not mean that all types of discrimination are comparable however when we have our own experience to draw on it breaks down some of the privilege that allows oppression to exist.

In fact I get so tired trying to explain cultural and “race” issues to others. I would love it if everyone had more personal experiences to draw on so that it wasn’t so difficult to explain these things.

Now, I am from a group that is marginalized (Native American). But I also have what is called “skin privilege” meaning I have light skin (i.e. white skin). I would want to walk around with dark skin for awhile to see how much this skin privilege affects me. Intellectually I seem to have an idea but that is much different than emotionally.

Would I want to know what it is like to live as part of a culture that is dominant or not often marginalized? I want to say “no” just for the point of it. But the truth is “yes”. I’ve often wondered what it would be like to have life just that much simpler.

Have I ever put myself in discrimination’s path by being an ally etc…?? Oh ya, many many times. Every time was worth it and it is, in fact, just a part of my daily life.

Fantastic Question! Lurve for you!

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@DrasticDreamer and @RedPowerLady thank you for your responses – I always look forward to what both of you have to say

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Everyone is marginalized in some sense. Am I marginalizing this question by saying that?

Judi's avatar

I can remember when girls had to wear dresses in school and they wouldn’t let me play the bass in orchestra because it wasn’t lady like. I’m only 48.
I won’t even talk about the difference between fat and thin!

Darwin's avatar

I am from a group (like most of us) that is marginalized some places and not marginalized in others. I know this because I have been fortunate to have traveled many places among people who are not like me as well as having been in places where I fit right in.

It is certainly easier to not be marginalized, but it happens all the time, starting when you are the kid who isn’t picked for the team on up to the woman with the same qualifications as a man being offered a lesser job and the person of whatever appearance who is told their kind can’t enter into some place.

Certainly folks who have never experienced any other way of living must work much harder to see how others view the world, if they even realize that there is another way top see the world. Hence, education, travel and experience in other cultures should be the gold standard for everyone who wants to be a knowledgeable and wise adult.

Being marginalized for whatever reason sucks. Equal treatment is what I see as the ethical goal for all humans, and at least more people are aware of that now. We can only strive to make more progress toward that goal.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@Judi My grandmother (who is much older than you) talks about that all the time. You know what else she told me? I was a teen and was just starting to pluck my eyebrows. Well I plucked them pretty thin (as per the current style at that time). She promptly told me that in her day girls that had skinny eyebrows were thought of as hussies and it was a way of “advertising”. Haha.

Darwin's avatar

Yeah, well, they wouldn’t let me take wood shop in junior high because I was a girl. Five years later my sister got to take auto shop. People have told me to my face that because of my apparent race I would not be allowed to buy things at a reduced price. They have also insisted that I couldn’t possibly be speaking Spanish because of my appearance, while others have admired my children but said it was too bad they didn’t get my “good” hair. Others have been shocked that I can use chopsticks.

All of us are like those Russian nesting dolls. There are so many different aspects inside us that you really cannot judge someone by something external.

CMaz's avatar

Minority and stereotyping. I see them both as the same, walking hand in hand.
We become a minority if we allow the powers that be to manipulate our sense of who we really are.
Get enough together and you become a stereotype.
Discrimination knows no boundaries, race, sex or color. It is only from individuals lifting themselves up from that “distraction” that we find they are as good as anyone else. At that point, I really do not care what you think of me.
The biggest problem (I feel) with discrimination is some discrimination is a larger atrocity then others and the lesser don’t get an opinion.
I am a white male. I have experienced discrimination. (getting a job, not having the right faith, enough money or not good looking enough) Might not be as evident as the issues facing the blacks, or women. But we need to recognize it all to come to a consistent and long term solution.
Don’t think I would want to live in a neutral society. In the movie Logans Run. There was no individuality and you got offed at the age of 30.
Some conflict is good. Keeps us on our toes.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@ChazMaz I recognize all discrimination within reason (aka supported by facts) and I think there’s plenty of other conflict to keep us on our toes than discrimination – that keeps everyone down

CMaz's avatar

True. Very true!

RedPowerLady's avatar

@ChazMaz We become a minority if we allow the powers that be to manipulate our sense of who we really are.

I don’t think most of us have “allowed” anyone to have this power. It has been taken by force. That is what oppression is all about. They take the power no matter how much we fight against it. Not that there isn’t something to be said for us standing up to them (the powers that be) more than we are now, because I would certainly like to see that.

noelasun's avatar

I grew up in CO as one of the only asian kids at my school. The racism I experienced personally happened mostly on a playground. But I remember neighbors (teenagers) that prank called our house, claiming that my dad was stealing their newspaper. My dad’s english was very poor in those days, and I was the family translator. I felt so humiliated just getting those phone calls. The fact that my dad could be accused of something like that, the fact that I had to explain… that it itself was so upsetting. The worst part was that I was ashamed of my dad. It was so hard telling my parents what was happening.
because of my mom’s accent, even though she communicates extremely well in english, there have been many times people have conned my mom over the phone. They claim she added a new service, or agreed or misunderstood. It’s always been heartwrenching for me, because although I know my mom was probably correct, I’d have a hard time being confident while fighting for my mom over the phone. I’ve also found that people will say unprofessional things over the phone to my mom that they wouldn’t dare say to someone with an american name and perfect english.
I hate that I feel this way, but because I’m translating for my parents, for some reason I get really short tempered and embarrassed of them. Annoyed and resentful. because I know it wouldn’t have happened to someone who seem able.
I hate that I can’t be confident, but most of all, I hate how angry I get at my parents.
I can feel myself flushing as I write this.

Kayak8's avatar

I was actually quite surprised when I started working in HIV (mid 80s) how marginalized I quickly became. Folks would wipe their hands on their slacks or skirts after shaking my hand and learning my occupation (and some still do). People made all sorts of assumptions about me (and my clients) that included sexual orientation, class, race, and just about every stereotype you can think of.

I am so grateful for having these experiences as they have given me opportunities to educate, to find my own internal sense of strength and sense of doing what is right, and to recognize that my family of origin was completely supportive of my choosing to work in this field.

Dansedescygnes's avatar

Well, like I always say: I’m white and male, so I have 2 out of 3, which ain’t bad. The third of course being sexuality.

I’ve never really been discriminated against. Not in real life, that is. On the internet all the time because of my age…lol

But I haven’t really experienced real discrimination. I am fully expecting it to happen in various ways once I decide to come out of the closet. Do I wonder what it’s like to be marginalized? Kind of. Because people who haven’t often don’t understand what it’s like to be discriminated against and thus can’t really address the issue as effectively as they could. I think that being discriminated against, while of course unfortunate, unfair, and wrong, could help you in the long run.

figbash's avatar

I’ve experienced this in a few different ways in the past, but more recently, I was marginalized in way that I haven’t been before.

When I was laid off from my high-level job, I was a dead-man walking at the company for a few months prior to my end date. I tried to be upbeat and optimistic, and was clear about the fact that it had nothing to do with my performance, but I was shocked at how suddenly people’s treatment of me changed, and how badly I was treated.

I had originally been actively recruited by the organization for my past performances and was given a job with a lot of exposure and responsibility. I was successful at it and received two merit increases as a result. When my position was eliminated due the economy, people suddenly stopped talking to me in the elevator, wouldn’t discuss work-related things in my presence, and awkwardly left the lunch room when I came in for coffee. I got constant looks of pity. The Human Resources Department that had so aggressively pursued me became unavailable for my inquiries about next steps, COBRA and outplacement. I was still in the office with a month to go, when the department had their Christmas party, and chose not to invite me. I had to sit there as everyone whispered plans so that I wouldn’t hear, then left me alone, in my office, while they were gone.

I know people have a hard time dealing with people who are laid off. There’s a bit of survivor guilt, but I didn’t expect that I would be treated with such a total lack of respect, dignity, or regard. It made a very difficult situation even harder and eventually I just asked if I could continue wrapping up my work from home.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@figbash that sounds terrible, people are dumb

figbash's avatar

Thanks, Simone. It was pretty humiliating. People think that if they talk to you, somehow they’re going to get lay-off disease or something. Ugh. I just tried to keep my head up, and tried to leave on a high note. I even threw my own going-away party. Fun.

tinyfaery's avatar

@figbash That is fucked-up. Good riddance. You will find something better.

SuperMouse's avatar

@noelasun your story touched me and saddened me. Lurve for dealing with a difficult situation and sharing your story so eloquently.

@figbash, I was given a couple of months notice when I was laid off, I didn’t realize how fortunate I was to have been treated respectfully by my co-workers. My heart goes out to you.

I guess the only time I have personally felt marginalized is as a non-traditional college student, but honestly that is so minor compared to what some people endure on a daily basis it almost isn’t worth mentioning.

I have experienced it vicariously because my man is quadriplegic. By virtue of using a wheelchair he is marginalized at most every turn. Are there steps to get into your house? He can’t visit. Is the checkout counter built for an average sized person? He’s barely peering over the top if it. That is just the beginning, parking for a van with a lift, fitting under desks and tables, people staring unabashedly and asking incredibly stupid questions. He handles all of these things with grace and style. Me? I spend a lot of time wanting to smack people.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@SuperMouse oh I definitely understand wanting to smack people on behalf of another – one of my best friends is trans but is tall and stands out ‘cause of her blue/pink/whatever hair color and ‘cause she didn’t do a lot of physical changes to look ‘like a woman’ so a lot of people just gawk and say awful shit and I’ve gotten into altercations because of it

noelasun's avatar

@supermouse My sister was handicapped too, and I felt the same way. I’m really not a person to get into physical fights, but for her, I turn into someone else. I think I was more this way because my sister couldn’t speak and was mostly paralyzed. It’s one thing to be mean to someone who can fight back, but cruelty towards those that can’t speak out.. It’s disgusting, and they need to know it is.

Facade's avatar

I’ve experienced discrimination from other “black” people for not being “black” enough. It used to bother me. Now I know they’re just ignorant. I also feel discriminated against for being a Christian but that comes with the territory

nayeight's avatar

I, like Facade, have experienced discrimination from other black people for not being black enough. Not fun. I was constantly mocked because of the way I talk. Most of my friends were white so I was the token black girl at the lunch table or at sleepovers. I didn’t mind, in fact loved it. It still bugs me sometimes when I talk to someone on the phone and then meet them in person for the first time and they are startled that I am black. They never make a big deal out of it but I can always tell that I’m not what they expected (white). My parents were always talking about “the struggles of being black” that were invisible to me then. They grew up in Philadelphia in the 60’s & 70’s and told me stories of whites throwing bricks at them when they had to walk through the white neighborhood on the way to school. My friends where white and they were so nice so in my mind, it was hard so see white people doing that. I have since experienced discrimination from whites but the interesting thing is that when it happens, sometimes I think they shouldn’t discriminate against me because of the way I was raised and not because it’s wrong. Like if they knew my friends or that I listen to rock that they would apologize and treat me like other whites. It scares me when I think like that because I feel stuck up, like I think I’m better than other blacks who are actually “black” that experience the same thing. Or like I’m an elite black person because of the way my white friends treated me differently than other blacks. Fucked up, right? I don’t like thinking like that.

wundayatta's avatar

Well, it can mean that you have to try to “pass” for normal. If you can get away with it. But that means hiding and keeping up a false front, and never really being able to let your guard down. Of course, you could “come out,” but that’s a risky endeavor that might have dramatic consequences. You might lose your job. You might be ostracized. People might not let their kids play with your kids. Your family might disown you. You live in a world where no one understands, unless they are like you.

And a lot of times, if your mental illness is untreated, people think you’re crazy, and they turn away from you, and cross the street to avoid you, and literally hold their noses passing you on the street. They wish you could be taken away to some institution where they never had to see you or be reminded that you exist.

This leads to people stigmatizing themselves. They refuse to admit they are ill, and then they don’t get treated, or they don’t comply with their treatment. But they hate themselves for not being like the majority—the mentally healthy. They try their hardest to pass, and, of course, we’re right back at the beginning of this rant.

Yetanotheruser's avatar

I am white, male, straight, raised Christian. When I got back from Vietnam, (early 1970’s) I became the ultimate rebel of that era—a hippie! I refused to cut my hair (unless I really had to) and I led an alternative life style (which means I moved in with my girlfriend). I thought I had really experienced the other side. I thought some of my lifestyle choices caused marginalization for me, and I could relate with any other type of discrimination or marginalization.

Many years later, (in the mid-to-late 1980’s) I met the woman who is now my wife (she is black). One thing led to another, and we decided we wanted to get married. Her family had no problem with the racial difference, and certain members of my family had slight problems (one brother told me I’d never have any white kids).
Although I can not prove it, I am sure lost several jobs or career opportunities because of our inter-racial marriage. One time I had a difficult time writing a check in a store because my wife was with me.

BBQsomeCows's avatar

only if I’ll get to feel immolated without the burnt flesh

let’s make a deal!

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