Stop telling people how to feel. More specifically, stop telling people who are different from you, that their experiences and feelings are wrong. I have come across this too frequently, mostly on social media platforms. It is so narrow-minded, un-empathetic and quite frankly arrogant. What’s more, it seems particularly common that the situation involves a privileged party dictating to a non-privileged party – or a group in society which is targeted for one reason or another – that their perceptions and opinions are invalid.
A black person points out an extremely racially stereotyped news article, rightly so, about a crime which was committed by a black person. Furthermore, he compares this to a very similar situation involving a white person who committed the same crime and how differently these are portrayed in the media. A white person then proceeds to reply to this valid and important observation with a degrading and nonchalant racially stereotyped response, completely missing the point of the comparison and completely missing the clear and accepted racism in society. When this is further pointed out to said white person, he makes the argument, for example, that everyone has the same opportunities but there are more black people in prisons. Ignoring the undeniable racism carried out by judges in regards to sentencing; police search and arrests and the criminal justice system as a whole. Too many white people are in denial of the concept of white privilege and how this has a immeasurable impact on people from other races, ethnicities and backgrounds.
Not only is white privilege too often denied but people also have the audacity to tell non-white people how to feel about it. If someone feels they are treated differently because of their race, you can’t tell them they are exaggerating or they are imagining it. You can’t tell them to feel otherwise because it makes you feel uncomfortable. If someone says there is a racial problem in society, you can’t tell them they are wrong just because it’s not a problem for you.
A Muslim woman wears hijab, of her own free will, because it is a part of her faith and her identity. A western woman tells her she is oppressed and that she must be liberated. Said Muslim woman states passionately that she chooses to wear hijab, that she loves wearing it and that she is not oppressed. Western woman dismisses this completely and claims that Muslim women who choose to wear hijab and say that they are not oppressed, are in fact so oppressed that they can’t even see that they are oppressed. They are so brainwashed and forced to be submissive resulting in the claim that they choose to wear the hijab. They can’t possibly love wearing the hijab, because I wouldn’t. How can you claim someone is brainwashed because they have a different view from you.
Don’t you see the same could be said about some western women. I could say that some women have been brainwashed by mainstream media to conform to a way of looking and dressing; to having plastic surgery and wearing excessive makeup, to revealing their figures and all of their skin. But I don’t.
Society needs to listen to those who are marginalised, those who are oppressed and dismissed by the majority. Society needs to listen to the minorities so that their voices and views can not only be heard but so that their experiences can be understood.