Cultural Intrusion

Say that you’re a member of a minority. You’ve been part of that minority all your life, or at least since childhood. It’s one of the most marginalised groups in society, frequently oppressed by the mainstream. You’ve had to fight for your rights all your life, and even to be included in mainstream society.

Then, gradually over time, you find that more and more people are saying they are members of your group: how do you feel? It isn’t altogether clear whether they do or don’t, but they have never done so in the past. They call themselves activists and become the most vociferous members of the community, despite seeming to only have fairly tenuous links to it. What has always been an innate part of you, to them has been a choice; that is, they seem to choose to call theirselves members of your minority for political reasons, for instance by suddenly emphasising aspects of their personas previously left ignored. They belong to some of the most privileged groups in society but like the politics of fighting oppression without ever really having experienced it. Ashamed, perhaps, of their status as white, straight and able bodied, and attracted by the glamour of being a persecuted rebel fighting for social justice, they adopt the pretence of being a member of a minority, often going so far as to apparently fool even theirselves.

So what do you do? Do you just accept them, giving them the benefit of the doubt? Or do you see it as a form of cultural usurpation or intrusion? While you have, for the most part, escaped the worst of the persecution, there are people you know in your minority who have suffered horrifically. These newcomers know nothing of such experiences, yet still seemingly presume to speak as if they had, adopting the language of activism as though they pioneered it. Would you not feel indignant at this usurping of your life experience? And to add insult to injury, when you try to question them, they dismiss you as a bigot, as though you were one of those people you have resisted all your life. Would you not feel frustrated and angry at such apparent audacity? Or do you just accept it as an aspect of the very principle of inclusion for which you and others have struggled all your life?

One thought on “Cultural Intrusion

  1. This reminds me of recent article in The New Yorker about queer activists who dislike presidential candidate Pete B because he passes too easily and has not suffered for his difference. The gy assimilators when for marriage equality while their more queer compatriots still suffer workplace and housing discrimination (both still legal). Many of these out-queers don’t want to copy heterosexual marriage but to find a new queer form of bonding. In the African American community you something similar in issues about lighter and darker skin color because both in the African American community and America at large, light skin is preferred. In the deaf community there is resistence to implants that might allow them to be hearing. For you difference is an identity you were handed while for others it appears more like on that they have chosen to acknowledge. This is a nuanced world that you need to feel allows you claim difference if you wish. Disablity os such a broad term. I understand your feelings but I have no advice.

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