I stayed home today because my balance is not yet all that good, but I mean to be involved. Today, January 21, 2017, is the day of women's marches all over the United States. There are different sets of urgencies--that of health care and the honoring of women's bodies and their/our choices, the deserving of dignity and equality of all kinds of diverse groups, including--including just about everyone.
The ringing and quasi-melodious voice of Tamika D. Mallory, the young African American activist and organizer, touched me big time when she spoke of standing up for the most marginalized among us. There are diverse motivations for those who are attending these marches of today, and those who would have wanted to. But I suppose that although most of the issues resonate, the notion of "marginal" and "marginalized" for me rings a crucial bell. And that's because I have been noticing just how easy it is for a number of people, as individuals or as groups to become marginalized.
"Marginalizing," means treating a person--a group or even concept--as insignificant or peripheral. To marginalize can mean to sideline or to trivialize. In an age where celebrity has meant importance and power to many of us, to be on the sidelines watching the strong and dominant people can feel like we have a marginal position. Any of us in families or groups where we have either not fit in, agreed not to fit in, or we have been ignored to the stronger beat of those who were louder or performed more dramatically, may know the feeling. Of course there is also marginalizing as in not rendering people important or deserving to be heard, and then there is marginalizing all the way down to making people subhuman, that is not even considering them worthy of attention or treatment that would include a modicum of dignity.
Over recent years, I have in my own way paid particular attention to American acts of torture, including the use of brutality that has yielded suicidal depressions and years of post-traumatic stress. To my regret, I have seen those victimized to be truly marginalized, in terms of their seeming not worthy of the basics of human respect, including the assumption of innocence before proven guilty. I have seen the issue marginalized, under the radar for most.
Today, however, there is the face of much fear about the Presidency of Donald Trump, in terms of his "America First" rhetoric in which he has made our Allies, our poor people--many people feel excluded, disrespected and as such marginalized. There are of course immigrants, Muslims, Mexicans; the list goes on. And as important there are the warnings that Trump has uttered to and about the press, an entity that has already been subject to exaggerated editing by financial and corporate considerations.
There are of course reasons for us to have our concerns about separate groups of marginalized people; for one reason or another we are either part of that group, or we identify personally and politically with a particular interest and a particular arena of racial injustice, as one example. At the same time, I am starting to see how this division seduces us to marginalizing certain people and even groups in our daily lives.
As someone in the mental health field, my pain over issues of torture also involves some of the planning and procedures having been empowered and led by actual psychologists. However when I read about the streets of Chicago and terrible racism--including brutality--enacted towards black citizens, I am appalled as well. And then I hear about the people in the Philippines murdered in the streets even if they are only suspected of merely using marijuana in a dictatorial terrorizing regime, and I am sickened. And then I realize how perhaps I'm becoming too limited in my focus.
Finally I question my own role in marginalizing. It's a teeny bit like noticing all the pregnant women when one is a pregnant woman, noticing all the older people when one is a baby boomer and entering into that phase. Somehow we need to become more inclusive. And by this I mean truly learn to live the connection to the notion that we are connected to all people, and that human dignity can't be limited to our own enclaves. The human climate affects us all, and affects our capacity to experience emotional flexibility and empathy, as well as the admission of scientific knowledge about physical climate that too many people in power are trying to marginalize.
I would also like to ask the organizers of today's marches to help us push ourselves to include issues and people that we sometimes, well yes--marginalize. I remember reading that Angela Davis had said that Bernie Sanders could have used a bit of coursework on blackness, the better for him to understand aspects of our population that he was perhaps less than literate enough about. She was not condemning, just right.
Perhaps we need to recognize that to focus in one area alone is to forget, to perhaps even marginalize too many other important arenas and people. This might mean, and I suggest here, a group of issues being drawn up and added to, which would commit to helping us all to become better informed. We need more literacy without being humiliated for arenas of ignorance. I have, as one small example, told a number of psychologists about the role of the American Psychological Association in acts of torture. Rather than staying in a sort of shock about how they could not know, maybe we need to be teaching each other.
Those of us, who are white, as Robin Di Angelo and Tim Wise advise us, need to learn more about our own racism, about how we have marginalized black people. The idea here is to open ourselves to the radical possibility of learning how and why we marginalize in our own lives.
The better to CHANGE.