Understanding your own privilege

Graphic by Alan Li

It happens from time to time that a celebrity says something offensive towards a specific community. It can be intentional or accidental, but it always causes online controversy. They say something insensitive, or they debunk a popular,  non-canon relationship. This isn’t the issue, as they almost always apologize. The issue is the articles, blog posts, and comments sections that come out of these situations.

These articles, blog posts, and comment sections are full of straight people with opinions. I’ve seen everything from, “I’m sure they didn’t mean it,” to “get a grip, stop being a special snowflake.” There are multiple problems with this.

People with privilege do not get to decide whether or not something is offensive to an oppressed community. When you try and police what offends people, you are oppressing them further.

People are people. We are full of emotions that include anger and sadness at offensive behaviour.

A recent example of this happening was in the “Supergirl” internet fandom recently. One of the main actors, Jeremy Jordan, debunked a very popular, non-canon relationship, Lena and Kara, that is very important to  many fans. He sang about it and mocked the “ship,” while another actor, Melissa Benoist, proceeded to call him “brave” for what he had done.

Controversy abounded on the internet, many people called Jeremy out, while others  defended what he had done. The majority of people defending his actions were straight, who proceeded to  tell the LGBT+ community that he “didn’t mean it,” “didn’t know what it meant to fans” and that “we shouldn’t be offended, it’s not canon anyway.”

People were policing the emotions of an oppressed community in favour of an actor they loved. Even after the actor took to Twitter to apologize and the people who were offended accepted his apology, the community who had originally supported him stood up to say  that we never should’ve been offended in the first place.

This is a minor example. However, there can be more extreme and severe examples in the media, wherever you turn.

Trying to decide whether or not an oppressed community is allowed to be offended about something is a very aggressive thing. It may not seem harmful to the average, privileged person, but next time you try and tell someone that they shouldn’t be offended, consider why they are offended in the first place.

Instead of silencing the voices of the oppressed, raise them  up and make sure they are heard . Their feelings are different from yours and you don’t get to decide if they get to be offended about something that targets a minority.

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