On -isms: Life Lessons

By | Thursday, June 11, 2015 Leave a Comment
Look, I get it. You don't understand how other groups feel about various issues because you don't know anyone from that group to shed any light at all on the situation. 75% of all white people in the United States have social circles that are composed of nothing but other white people. The research I'm linking to there was focused on race, but I strongly suspect you'd get similar results if you asked people about sexual orientation and/or gender identity. It's no wonder that so many people go around confused and conflicted about social issues -- they simply don't know anyone in situations that they might hear about. They don't know what racial discrimination feels like. They don't know how familial ostracization might affect a transexual.

To be fair, there's not, to the best of my knowledge, a handy app that lets you befriend minorities that aren't normally in your social circles. And seeking out minority friendships for the sake of your own education/enlightenment is pretty disingenuous and insincere. So how might you bridge that gap?

Let me showcase a couple recent webcomics. First, here's a couple of installments of Validation from the past week and a bit...
Validation, strip 1
Validation, strip 2
That's a fairly direct bit of education there for the uninitiated. That kind of bluntness is actually pretty rare in the strip, but that's what makes it more palatable. The over-arching story is not an endless parade of preaching, but rather a character-driven storyline which makes it more interesting and engaging. Reading it regularly is just enjoyable in and of itself, and that you might pick up a few things if you don't have any trans friends makes it all the better.

Here's Trans Girl Next Door from a few days ago...
This is actually an issue Jon Stewart brought up when Caitlyn Jenner was in the news for her Vanity Fair cover shoot. This shows precisely what women deal with all the time, but since most of them are brought up these issues, it's considered normal. It's only by removing the socialized thinking via someone who did not spend her life raised as a woman that you highlight the absurdity here. Again, not every installment so blatantly lays out the difference that male privledge offers, but by getting involved and engaged with the characters, these messages resonnate more when they are used.

Having friends to talk about difficult issues that might not seem to have a direct impact on you can be very beneficial. You see the friends as individuals whose words carry weight. You're less likely to casually dismiss their feelings or experiences because you've already established a concern for their well-being. The same holds true, albeit to a lesser extent, for fictional characters. You can still grow to care about them as individuals, fictional or not, and so when they do face hardships -- even fictional ones -- you're more likely to root for them and try to understand where they're coming from.

So even if you can't/aren't interested to find a group of friends that includes more than one Black person, you can still take advantage of what webcomikers are putting out there. It's not as good or powerful as having those minority friends in the first place, but I'm sure all the creators would agree that some connection, even if it's to a fictional character, is better than none at all.
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