Letter to the Editor: Listening to and believing marginalized people is imperative

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Our culture provides many of us benefits that, through no fault of our own, are unearned and, more often than not, these unearned benefits are paid for by people who, through no fault of their own, are vulnerable and marginalized in our culture. When we are in a position of privilege with unearned benefits, it's difficult to recognize the people paying for these benefits, but until we do systemic inequities and injustice will continue.

Listening to vulnerable and marginalized people, and believing them, is a necessary first step in recognizing our privilege. As I reflect on my own situation of privilege, I have identified several groups of privilege to which I belong. Here are my suggestions for what we, as members of these groups, should do:

As males who have received unearned benefit from our rape culture, we must listen to survivors of sexual assault when they share their stories of sexual harassment and rape. And believe them.

As men who have received unearned benefit from our patriarchal culture, we must listen to women when they share their stories of discrimination and harassment.  And believe them.

As white persons who have received unearned benefit from our racist culture, we must listen to people of color when they share their stories of systemic oppression and brutality. And believe them.

As cisgender heterosexual persons who have received unearned benefit from our transphobic and homophobic culture, we must listen to LGBTQ+ and non-binary people when they share their stories of abuse and harassment. And believe them.

As people who have received unearned benefit from globalization, we must listen to maquiladora workers, migrant farm workers, and other laborers when they share their stories of sub-minimal pay, squalid working conditions and inhumane treatment.  And believe them.

As documented US citizens who have received unearned benefit from our xenophobic and anti-immigration culture, we must listen to DACA and undocumented people when they share their stories of fear, of families being ripped apart, of midnight raids.  And believe them.

And after listening, understanding, educating ourselves and empathizing as best we can, we each need to humbly and respectfully say “I hear you, I am with you and I want to help. I am doing my part to educate myself to unlearn oppression, and I want to take action to support you.”  And then listen.  And then decide what action or inaction to take.  And acknowledge that even having this choice is yet another unearned benefit of our privilege.