Step Up/ Step Back

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Why I Step Back 

You may be feeling confusion because of how we communicate at the New York City General Assembly and related movements.  I am writing this because it is not the job of traditionally marginalized voices (i.e. female, queer, black, etc.) to educate dominant voices (i.e. white, male, heterosexual, etc.) about systems of oppression.  It is the job of dominantly-voiced allies like me to do so.  We call this “Step up/ step back.”

Nobody wants to stifle anyone else’s energy, but as dominant voices we often do so unintentionally. I was not raised in anything resembling a “PC” household, but I have been learning to step back and build healthy dialogue.  Never let yourself be judged for circumstances of your birth, but if you feel someone is judging you consider that a perfect opportunity to step back and practice compassion.  Many of our brothers and sisters are judged and marginalized on a daily basis.

The purpose of this list is to reveal the systems of power that give dominant voices like mine privilege in our traditional social discourse, and to help all allies understand when, why, and how to STEP BACK and empower traditionally marginalized voices to STEP UP.

-I expect some level of authority because of my education.

-I feel comfortable using academic terminology.

-I have always been told that my voice is important.

-As soon as I have something to say, I feel like I should say it.

-When I speak, I expect not to be interrupted.

-I was taught that aggressive speech is admirable.

-Every time I personally feel slighted, I am inclined to demand justice.

-I often feel that I represent “we” and I hear marginalized voices as “they.”

-My voice sounds like most voices in the media.

-Most leaders look like me and I feel comfortable leading and expect others to follow.

-People know how to address my gender identity.

-I normally feel that my good intentions justify my words and actions.

-When there is a crowd, I instinctively move to the front.

-When there is a conflict, I want to be involved whether or not I have anything to contribute.

-I often feel that others need and want my help.

-My voice is never eclipsed by my sexual objectification

-I do not fear violent reactions.

-My native language is the only language I ever need.

-I was raised to expect people to respond to insensitivity with a sense of humor.

-I have never been admonished for excellence.

-When I am eloquent and knowledgeable I am never called “feisty” or “uppity.”

-I expect the police and government to serve me, and I feel comfortable engaging in arguments with them.

-I am more interested in what is said than how it is said.

-I sometimes view conversations as having winners and losers.

-I am inclined to talk mostly about things I’m interested in or proud of.

-I am naturally more interested in conversing to report, plan, or act than to build rapport.

-I normally value data over personal experience.

-I was raised to value muscle and intellect but not spirituality or compassion and I often expect my values to be the norm.

-I use the word “I” a lot.

-Most metaphors and expressions are relevant to my culture.

-I never feel judged for my sexual orientation, and it is considered normal for me to express my sexuality.

-No hate speech exists that would dehumanize me or my heritage.

-People assume I have money and a lawyer.

-I love to work, think, and act alone.

-The status quo largely accepts and feels comfortable with me.

-When I look at groups of people, I might not immediately notice if most of them are white men.

-People value my time and don’t expect me to console them or listen to their personal problems.

-People often are reluctant to share their opinions with me if they don’t think I’ll agree.

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