Raising an Advocate: Checking Your Own Prejudice

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Raising an Advocate
Welcome to the first post in the Raising an Advocate series! Before we get started, I want to go over some ground rules for those who want to participate in the series:

1. This series is open to everyone who wants to truly learn and create positive dialogue that will help us educate our children on all -isms.

2. Comments will be disabled on blog posts to insure that people are not able to hide behind “anonymous” screen names. If you want to participate in the conversation, there will be a pinned thread on the Mamademics FB page each week for dialogue.

3. Comments that are blatantly rude or condescending will be removed and the poster may be blocked from leaving comments in the future.

4. Belittling of commenters will not be tolerated. We are all sharing personal experiences and they shouldn’t be invalidated in anyway.

5. That being said I encourage everyone to challenge themselves to move beyond your personal experience and ask yourself if this is something that happened due to one individual/group of people or because of a larger institution/system of oppression.

6. This one is just a suggestion, but if you’re not going to blog along with me I encourage you to purchase a journal, so you can keep track of your ideas.

I spent a lot of time trying to decide where to start with the series. It was clear to me that we needed to start with ourselves as individuals, since we’re the ones educating our children, but where? After some thought, I decided a good place to start would be with our own prejudices and where they come from, so I’m going to share the moment I realized I held a prejudice and how it pushed me to become a social justice advocate.

Prejudice can be defined as a unfavorable feeling or opinion because of race, religion, sex, etc.

When I was 20 or 21, I attended a leadership retreat for all campus leaders at my undergraduate institution. At the time, I was an executive board member  of the Christian  sorority on campus. During the retreat, we participated in a lot of different exercises that were meant to not only teach leadership skills, but to also help create community. It was during one of these activities when I first realized I was prejudice.

I can’t remember the name of activity, so I’ll call it “Step Over the Line.” During this activity, the facilitator would say a statement and depending on your beliefs you would step over the line or stay where you were. I did not have any trouble until the facilitator said something like “Cross over the line if you believe homosexuality is a sin and gay people are going to hell.”

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A page from one  Sesame’s favorite board books, A is for Activist 

I remember standing in the middle for a long time. Over my undergraduate tenure, I had made friends from lots of different backgrounds. Some of those friends were new because I’d just met them that weekend and yes they were gay. While I stood on that line trying to decide what to do, I reminded myself that I was there as a representative of a CHRISTIAN sorority and my Pentecostal upbringing certainly told me to step over the line. I’m sure others were waiting in the middle trying to decide which way to go as well, but in that moment I felt completely and utterly alone. Time passed and I knew we couldn’t move until everyone chose a side.

I crossed the line. I crossed the line because that’s what I’d been taught and what I was supposed to believe. I crossed the line and immediately burst into tears. I’m talking shoulder shaking sobs. And you know what happened? The gay people in the room left their space on the other side of the line and embraced me. I had just told them that because of who they are they’re going to hell, and THEY were comforting ME.

I’d like to say that I immediately became an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ rights, but it was a gradual  thing. It started with me telling myself to look beyond what I was taught and find more information. I participated in the training to become an Intergroup Dialogue facilitator where I learned more about different systems of oppression. I started small with friends who made disparaging remarks against the LGBTQ community, and I’d gently correct them. It moved to family and correcting people who used the word “gay” as an insult and then eventually I started speaking up during political conversations.

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Finally, it culminated in me changing my FB profile picture last March in support of marriage equality. I captioned the picture “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”- MLK Jr. It was the first time that I made my advocacy “public.” I’m sure this seems small, but changing my picture led to several people “un-friending” me and a huge family blowout when I challenged my then 16 year old brother on his point of view. While I was proud of myself for not backing down and letting it be known where I stood, I was extremely proud of myself for letting my friends know that I am in their corner. It was my way of no longer being a “closeted” supporter of LGBTQ rights. It was my way of acknowledging the privilege that I hold as a heterosexual woman whose marriage is recognized not only nationally, but in every single state.

Instead of considering that experience an isolated incident where I made a few gay friends, so I could say I’m not prejudice because I have gay friends after all, I owned up to my prejudice and worked to change it. I allowed a moment from 8 or 9 years ago to change me in a way that will benefit my son in the future. He will grow up being exposed to all types of families. So, if anyone ever asks him that question, I hope he won’t find himself straddling a line confused, but that he will be able to state very clearly that love is love. I hope that when I share this experience with him in a few years, yes I’m going to tell him, that he will be shocked and appalled at my original position.

Do you remember the first time you realized you were prejudice? What was that moment like for you? How do you plan to use this in your parenting? Or how have you already done so? Let’s continue the conversation here: Confronting Your Prejudice Discussion

 

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Danielle S

I'm a wife (newlywed), first time mom, and doctoral candidate in English (and my grammar still sucks). Mamademics is a merging of my two “careers”–motherhood and academia. This site chronicles my life as I attempt to balance my roles as a wife, mother, and academic.

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About Danielle S

I'm a wife (newlywed), first time mom, and doctoral candidate in English (and my grammar still sucks). Mamademics is a merging of my two “careers”–motherhood and academia. This site chronicles my life as I attempt to balance my roles as a wife, mother, and academic.