Lately, I have seen a very troubling one-upsmanship on which groups of people are having it worse. It usually goes two ways. One group uses the differential in magnitude of the problems to bludgeon the other group into silence. The other group sees the way society has treated them unfriendly and refuses to acknowledge there is a difference in magnitude of suffering, or deny there is suffering altogether for anyone outside their group.
The magnitude of inequality absolutely makes sense to consider for prioritization reasons. But I want to give a warm and friendly reminder that just about everybody has some element where society is unfair to them, even in positions of “privilege” (god I hate how that is thrown around as a buzzword), and each and every one of these inequalities is no less real (classic case is when a male gets sexually assaulted, or men are pressured to act in the norms of this “masculinity” bullshit).
And honestly, we don’t owe society a goddamn thing. Society owes us. We were here before society and civilization, and society has caused a lot of people to fall between the cracks, some of whom cannot reemerge.
Today, I want to share some of the ways in which I am a minority, and embrace who I am through the fact that I am a minority.
I am a minority not just in the sense that I am a second generation Asian-American. I am a minority as someone who leans introvert (at least, I assume the ratio of extroverts to introverts is more than 1:1). It is hard to speak up sometimes, to share ideas that I have, and to take credit for good ideas.
I am a minority as someone who is deeply dysfunctional in emotional health. Growing up, and especially ever since I became a teenager, I have had perennial self-esteem, anxiety, and insecurity issues that I have never fully resolved. I have lashed out in ways driven by this lack of self-esteem and comfort with myself that has alienated people who care about me, people who want to be my friends, and people potentially interested in recruiting me professionally.
I am a minority as someone who grew up in a tiger parenting lite household and in a household with a clearly unhappy marriage. I have seen how dysfunctional and toxic my parents are around each other, and I have seen how broken their conflict resolution mechanisms are. I have seen how the threat of divorce is openly and casually thrown around to influence behavior. I have seen so many inflammatory shouting matches when the initial grievance that sparked it was relatively minor. I have seen the way my dad uses brain surgery 20 or 30 years ago as a crutch and an excuse to not change his ways. I have seen the tension antiquated gender norms causes to both of my parents because my dad got laid off in the early 2000s and became a stay at home dad, and my mom suddenly became the breadwinner for more than 15 years. My brother and I have been dragged in every once in a while into this toxic relationship as pedestals each parent uses to spew hate at the other. Why else do you think I have anger issues and low self-esteem?
Hell, I am a minority as someone lucky enough to go through an upper-middle class, quality school district, and a quality and very prestigious program in college. I am a minority in that I have met so many driven, sharp, amazing people along the way, even though my social circle is predominantly upper middle class and that creates blindspots in perspectives and life experiences.
I am a minority as someone who has finally been able to admit deep-seated mental health struggles (I got diagnosed with bipolar disorder) and seek professional help to jumpstart the recovery process.
I am a minority as someone who felt intense loneliness because my support structure wasn’t there and because I had zero close friends during college.
I sure as hell felt like a minority when I energetically supported Bernie Sanders this presidential election, clashing with my predominantly professional and upper middle class friends group who strongly leaned Hillary Clinton. I sure as hell was a minority when I then supported the Bernie or Bust movement and actively resented all the calls for Democrats to have “unity” at the expense of productive dissent. I essentially disagreed with like 99% of the country when I voted Jill Stein in this presidential election not because I liked her, but explicitly to spite Hillary without excessively rewarding Donald Trump, who I hate orders of magnitude more than I hate Hillary.
I most certainly feel like a minority when I want to seriously tackle the post-mortem process and figure out exactly why Democrats didn’t click with Americans even as President Obama enjoys historic high approval ratings, and why so many people voted against their own self interest for the authoritarian strongman who claims to have answers for them and care for them, but frankly doesn’t give a flying fuck about them, only himself and his elite cronies.
I am a minority when I say civility is important (despite multiple streaks of lack of civility), and especially a minority when I say we need to walk in the shoes of even the xenophobes, racists, misogynists, anti-Muslim, and anti multiculturalism segments of society. Who knows? We might be able to convince some of them to reform their ways.
I am a minority when I agree with elements of all sides of debates of all the polarizing and emotionally charged issues of the day, especially in things like abortion, sexual assault, and gender equality. But the moment they say “you’re either with us or you’re against us,” I am also a minority when I say I am team nope the hell out of here, not getting involved in this.
There are just so many ways I am a minority, and so much of it is tied with but not immediate apparent with the extrinsic factors of who I am: my race, my gender, my life background. I have my own immensely unique life story to tell, and yet none of the experiences I have gone through has not already been explored in some way by someone else.
Please, be tolerant of a multicultural and pluralistic society. Create the conditions for vibrant and productive dissent. Allow for maximum exchange of perspectives where everyone leaves the conversation learning something new.