When faced with the question of who it may be the most important to speak up for in life, one of the first aspects to address is who may be unable to speak up for themselves; who lacks the security and platform from which to speak up? Because of this, I think that it is absolutely imperative that we speak up for minority groups who are marginalized by society, whether we are included in these minorities or not. I will demonstrate the reasons for this with a particular focus on minorities defined by race and sexuality.
Racial and sexual minorities often lack representation or are misrepresented by the media and government institutions. The current White House administration, for example, consists of 24 senior members at cabinet level, only 3 of which are women (“The Cabinet,” par. 1). Furthermore, racial and LGBT+ people lack representation at this level of government. Such a lack of representation for any group of people is a serious obstacle to progress, and can damage social awareness at every level. The media also tends to be dominated by representations of white, heterosexual and cisgendered society. This means that issues that people from these marginalized groups of society face in daily life are often unaddressed. Issues such as homophobia and racism being neglected in this way by such central aspects of society means that it is all the more important to speak up for these sections of society.
This leads to the question of who is able to speak up for these minorities, as it often must fall to the majority to make the first steps towards change. Many minority groups of people who are marginalized by race or sexuality do not exist in an environment that would offer affirmation or even safety if they were to speak out against oppression. This means that it becomes all the more important to support minorities from a position of relative safety, in order to facilitate an open, secure environment for minority groups to exist without fear of discrimination and oppression.
However, in speaking up for others who are discriminated against in this way, there is also a risk that the voice of the minorities themselves will be erased. The voice of the majority is an essential part of affecting change, particularly in cases when it becomes dangerous for minorities to speak openly about issues they face. Spivak explores this in her essay “Can the Subaltern Speak?”. Spivak suggests that consistent prevalence of the majority voice on minority issues can remove any sense of real empowerment from those minority groups. Rather than simply imposing the voice of the majority, it is therefore important that we ensure that we are not only speaking up on the behalf of marginalized peoples, but that we speak up in order to protect and promote the rights of minority groups to live and speak openly on their own behalf, creating opportunities and a platform for LGBT+ people and people of racial minorities to be able to address these issues.
It is absolutely crucial that we speak up for people from any type of marginalized group in society. Particularly while there still has yet to develop an accurate representation of these groups of people in the media and in high-powered positions, it is important that we speak up at whatever level we can. Another reason that it is imperative that we speak up for individuals who are discriminated against is because this discrimination may render the situation unsafe for those who belong to those sections of society. We should speak up for these people to promote freedom.
- Spivak, G. C. “Can the Subaltern Speak?” Colonial Discourse and Post-Colonial Theory: A Reader, edited by Patrick Williams and Laura Chrisman, 1993, 66-111.
- “The Cabinet.” TheWhiteHouse, 2017, www.whitehouse.gov/administration/cabinet. Accessed 19 May 2017.