I have often heard people say that it’s important to be able to voice your opinion and disagree with others’ without being accused of hate speech. To an extent, I agree. I think everyone has a right to voice their opinion, and when people are able to do so respectfully, it can be an opportunity to share knowledge and learn. And being able to disagree with someone without tearing them down is a rare asset.
I also think, however, that it’s one of those sentiments that is basically true but is taken out of context way too easily. It’s one thing to respectfully disagree when it really is just a difference in opinion. Trending topics – fashion, news, pop culture, even politics – are never black or white because there is always more than one perspective.
But where minority experiences are concerned, I think it’s to easy for people to judge, or make inappropriate jokes, then feel attacked whenever anyone calls them out. A controversial issue might be a mere joke or topic of debate for some people, but for others, it will be their reality. Surely they have a right to set the standard for how seriously their struggles are taken?
For example, when neurotypicals dictate how we should talk about autism without input from autistic people, it feels like they are trying to speak over us. I understand that some neurotypicals mean well, but it saddens me when we are seen as a subject or learning tool, rather than equals. When they think that places of work and education don’t need to be more disability friendly, they have probably never struggled with the system in these places. When they declare people like me to be broken by vaccines, it is as if they think we would be better off sick or dead than autistic. And autistic people who disagree are often met with hostility.
It doesn’t stop there either. When people in racial minorities complain about racism, some white people get offended and think they are complaining about the entire white population. Then, when said white people get called out for any racism, they insist they’re just voicing their opinion. I have been teased at school because of my mixed heritage. I have had strangers shout racist things at me for a laugh. This isn’t an opinion; it’s a reality for me. I can only guess how much worse it is for fully non-white people.
Then there’s homophobia and transphobia. I have seen posts on social media saying that these terms are nothing more than an unfair accusation. I realise that many people have strong beliefs about this, but too often these get in the way of listening and trying to understand when LGBT people talk about their struggles.
Am I being controversial? Possibly. Perhaps that’s what comes of having so much time to reflect on things and nothing interesting going on! But I also think this is an important topic to consider, and I hope this post helps fellow minority people feel seen.