Worrying about the feelings of privileged groups undermines advocacy.
When a social project gains mainstream attention, the dialogue around it often shifts. Suddenly the focus is no longer the aim of the activists, but how their actions affect the privileged majority.
Such intolerance for marginalized groups consolidating their own identity, rather than existing as peripheral to the majority, is complacent at best, and prejudiced at worst.
“Because I am a Girl” was a global campaign developed by Plan International, with the goal of denouncing and redressing gender-based discrimination.
Despite all it accomplished for young women—like influencing laws prohibiting child marriage and promoting equal access to education in 17 countries—the initiative was accused of villainizing and ostracizing boys.
Securing fundamental rights for girls was less of a priority than continuing to stroke the global male ego.
There was a “Because I am a Girl” club at my high school. It was well attended, but almost exclusively by girls, which troubled my school’s administration.
Like other critics, administrators at my high school worried the club was making male students feel unwelcome or demonized. Surely that was why the teenage boys weren’t joining the club to empower women.
The school changed the name of the club to “Champions of Change” the following year, losing all but a couple of its female members and failing to recruit male students.
Forcing social projects to accommodate the perspectives they’re trying to escape understandably demotivates people from engaging with them. Similar discouragement could result from criticism of critical race theory (CRT).
CRT acknowledges discrimination as existing not only between individuals but being systemically ingrained in North American sociopolitical frameworks.
Republican lawmakers accuse the theory of making white students feel bad and have banned it in several U.S. states.
This move is obviously not a humanitarian attempt at protecting everyone’s feelings.
Both racialized and non-racialized students will be disadvantaged by the lost encouragement to discover and dismantle their biases.
Disallowing critical race theory signals a disregard for the emotional and long-term well-being of racialized students, as well as a disinterest in de-popularizing discriminatory biases.
“Because I am a Girl” never excluded or villainized boys, nor does critical race theory target white people. Men and non-racialized people are unharmed by the advocacy implemented by both.
A club about female empowerment doesn’t have to appeal to men for one
reason—the club isn’t about them.
Some white students could feel uncomfortable learning about inherited privilege, but that discomfort shouldn’t be avoided over reducing the generational and continually revived trauma experienced by racialized students.
Advocacy should never aim to alienate members of the majority, but their participation isn’t the priority.
Coddling the majority reinforces existing value systems. Being challenging or unappealing to some is crucial to informing and mobilizing others.
We should all accept discomfort in the name of advocacy and education. Nobody benefits from pandering.
Cassandra is a fourth-year English student and The Journal’s Editorials Editor.
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