Very thought-provoking questions you’ve raised. I remember being somewhat confused at hearing some colleagues (when I was in a sociology Ph.D. program) complaining that we only ever read the “thoughts of old white men” — when, in reality, many of the social theorists we studied who shaped the early field (e.g., Marx, Durkheim, Simmel) were Jewish men in a very anti-Semitic 19th-century Europe — a Europe that had been oppressing, marginalizing, and sometimes murdering Jewish people for well over a millennium. As such, these influential scholars were ethnic minorities, writing from the perspectives of the oppressed. (Not to mention the fact that, depending on who you ask or when you ask it, Jewish people were and are not always considered “white.”)

It’s unsurprising that such a demographic would spawn a field of study focused on structural inequality — and yet somehow all some of my friends could see was that these men were men… and that they were “white.”

I agree that curricula in everything from ivory-tower sociology to (as Gazi Kodzo highlights) elementary and middle schools do need to be more representative. And I agree with Kodzo that societies that are dominated by whites tend to navel-gaze at the experiences of Europeans, to the detriment of more equitable (and realistic) representation.

There is also something to be said for “reading the room,” and I appreciate the value and necessity of “safe spaces,” where one group can give voice to its own oppression without having to share “air time” with voices that might eclipse their cause.

But outright ignoring or minimizing the very real prejudices and oppressions faced by particular groups simply because their oppression complicates the narrative is misguided and ultimately unhelpful. Doing so effectively says that certain kinds of oppressions and violence are okay. Which is absolutely not the message society needs.

Racism is very complicated. Sexism is very complicated. Gender-based and other forms of discrimination are very complicated. We do a disservice to progress at large and to each disadvantaged community when we ignore the spectrums and intersections along which inequalities exist.

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