We all want to be good friends and allies, and have each other’s back, especially now, when it seems as though politics, media, and even popular culture are working to divide us. With this in mind, this is the first part in an ongoing series of ways in which we can all work toward fighting against the urge to make being an ally about us, but instead about the community as a whole. In that spirit, we always appreciate feedback on how we can be better at supporting both marginalized groups within the geek community, as well as the geek community as a whole. Hope you enjoy!
It can feel exciting when you come across spaces where people are sharing their similar lived experiences, and you want to show that you understand their struggles and help make their journey an easier one. Your instinct may be to share your own experience to show your solidarity. This can be a good tactic if you have similar experiences or if you have the same level of privilege as those in the group you are with.
However, there are also times when the best way to show that you have other people’s back is by sitting quietly and listening to those with less privilege, who have a shared experience that is not yours. You can do this by acknowledging that their experience is real, and that it has caused them difficulty or pain, even if your lived experience is not the same thing.
You can then share your new understanding of other groups’ shared experiences by going out in the world and reminding your fellow travelers of their own privilege when they mock or express disbelief of the shared experiences of less-privileged people. The best way to have people’s back in this instance is not to convince those with less privilege that you “get” them, but to make others with your same privilege see those with less.
Waving your #MeToo hashtag at less-privileged people with a shared experience is like rolling up to a #BLM meeting and shouting “OK, SO THIS ONE TIME AT BANDCAMP…!!!” Don’t be surprised if you get firmly corrected for that.
TL;DR — Tread more lightly in others’ spaces. Stop, breathe and listen. Accept other people’s boundaries. Most importantly, apologize, pick up after yourself, and do better if you make a mistake. This is how you have each other’s back the best way possible.