By Shayna Herszage, College Democrats Vice President of Criminal Justice and Racial Equality
This year has been one focused on minority groups that, for a long time, have been silenced or muffled by our global society. This has included the movement for equality and safety for Black people, the protests against the genocide of Uyghur Muslim people in China, and, in recent weeks, the mourning of several victims of anti-Asian violence in Atlanta.
In the face of each of these movements, those of us who are not part of the group in question must walk a thin line. On the one hand, we may not stand idly by as the blood of our neighbors is shed — it is our moral imperative, as members of the global community, to stand up and get involved when there is injustice happening in the world around us. However, we do not want to speak over the people who are actually part of the targeted community in question; doing so risks contributing to the silencing we aim to combat. As we get involved in social justice, progress, and the fight for equality, we must ask: how do we take part in the fight without becoming a part of the problem?
Firstly, we must understand our roles here and how we are meant to relate to the affected groups. When we get involved with combating injustice, it is not an act of chesed, kindness. Members of marginalized groups are not victims to be pitied, and they do not need saviors — they are working to make the world a better place. As such, we should not refer to getting involved with the pursuit of racial justice as working with other people, rather than doing chesed for them. This shift moves us away from pity and closer to collaboration, a relationship that is appropriately respectful and dignified for the groups in question. The change of wording may seem trivial, but these minor changes affect our outlook on ourselves, our actions, and those targeted by the injustices at hand.
Additionally, it is important to realize why we are here. Of course, everyone involved in the fight for equality is here, to some degree, because they wish to pursue equality. But the question is: why are we, the people on the outside of the targeted group, present? We serve a clear purpose, and it is not to act as savior or speaker for those being silenced. We, the people on the outside, are present to amplify the voices of those who are so often kept quiet. If the members of a marginalized group are the only ones fighting for their justice, it becomes easy for the rest of the world to ignore these voices. However, if others join the struggle — listening to the targeted group, sharing their voices, spreading the word to their own communities and beyond — the fight will not be ignored. The louder and more widespread the fight for justice becomes, the more apparent it is that the desire for racial equality can not be avoided or ignored for much longer.
So now we know that we should not speak over the affected groups in question. That said, what should we be doing? As outside allies to the affected group, we should work to spread their voices. Discuss the issues, but ensure that the discussion includes members of the relevant group. Share the statements, social media posts, and articles of members of the affected group to make their voices more widely heard. As outsiders to the group in question, we are not here to lead the way, nor are we here to be the saviors of people who can lead and save themselves; we are here to help ensure that their voices are heard as the struggle for their justice rages on.
Due to the fact that I myself am an outsider in these fights for equality, I am recommending here some of the many incredible voices of People of Color speaking out for justice:
Rayhan Asat, a lawyer and speaker who advocates for Uyghur Muslim justice, including fighting for her brother’s release from prison.
The Stop Asian Hate movement, which has helped in rallying people together for solidarity and support of Asian-American communities, as well as providing information in general about the cause.
Roxane Gay, a writer, professor, and social commentator who has published literature about feminism, body image, and equality for Black people in America.