So in my Gender and Sexuality Studies (henceforth GSST) class, we read this essay/speech called "Coalition Politics" by Bernice Johnson Reagon. And I loved it. Here's what was my very favorite part:
Respect means when somebody joins you and they need to be white, you give it to them. You turn it over and you say: Okay you got it—you are white. I could save your life, but okay you got it—you are white. That’s called allowing people to name themselves. And dealing with them from that perspective. Shaking your head in your little barred room about it, or if somebody’s crazy enough to let you sit on the stage for a little while will not help the situation. It won’t stretch your perimeter.I love it because you can replace "white" with anything and it's so applicable. I think it's an incredibly human urge to want to label each other - to want a paradigm to work within - but I think that allowing people to name themselves might be one of the most powerful things in the world. Because really, who am I to say what someone else is? Really? And who is anyone else to say that I've named myself incorrectly? Sometimes it can be phenomenally uncomfortable or even just new and strange to call people what they name themselves, but I think it's the only way things ever get done.