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Understanding and Celebrating Marginalized Voices

The Doe Team

by The Doe Team

| April 14, 2022

What marginalization is, what the consequences are and how to overcome marginalization. 

The foundation of civil discourse is the inclusion of points of view and opinions from different walks of life. The failure to include underrepresented groups and marginalized voices can deprive us of a broader perspective.

Let’s explore what marginalization is, what the causes and consequences are and how to overcome marginalization in society.

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What Does It Mean to Be Marginalized?

Merriam-Webster defines “marginalization” as relegating someone to an unimportant or powerless position within a group. It describes the experiences of people who live on the fringe of society and suffer discrimination because of unequal power relationships.

Marginalized communities are systematically excluded from mainstream social, economic, educational and/or cultural life due to their race, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, physical abilities, language, immigration status, mental disabilities, economic status, homelessness, physical disfigurement and more.

These underrepresented groups don’t conform to the master narrative of mainstream society and, therefore, experience social exclusion. Their voices are suppressed in the media and public arena. They lack power, resources, privilege and self-efficacy to improve their circumstances.

Marginalized individuals experience disparities in various parts of their lives, including in healthcare, employment, legal rights, politics, housing and access to services. They’re often silent victims of discrimination, violence, social stigma and assault. They may even be exploited or mistreated by caregivers, family, neighbors, friends and professionals.

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The Causes and Consequences of Marginalization

Causes of marginalization include the lack of social mobility, communication barriers, cultural differences, intergroup misunderstanding, economic segregation and more.

Discrimination and biases can lead lawmakers and community leaders to create structures that keep underrepresented groups from participating in society and voicing their opinions. Meanwhile, poverty may prevent marginalized individuals from having the time and resources to advocate for themselves.

Marginalization often creates a vicious cycle, leading to more segregation of the underrepresented groups. This, in turn, reinforces the biases toward them. For example, people affected by homelessness often can’t access mental health services or social benefits to improve their situations—causing them to become even more marginalized.

Marginalization impacts all of us by making our society less equal and stable. It prevents us from tapping into the talents and experiences of a diverse population to expand our worldview.

Marginalized communities often experience increased crime rates. Without the means to earn a living, people may be more likely to turn to criminal activities to make ends meet. Violent crimes are committed against marginalized people because of misguided biases and discrimination.

Additionally, marginalized individuals may struggle with feelings of alienation and depression. The lack of access to mental health resources further exacerbates their marginalization and perpetuates the stigma and stereotyping of the group.

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Overcoming Marginalization Starts With Empathy

There are many ways to overcome marginalization, such as taking political actions, advocating for public services and changing unfair systems and practices.

But we must build our actions on an understanding of the underrepresented groups and marginalized communities. Changes must come from each of us as individuals, for example, by reflecting on our attitudes and supporting alternative voices.

We must not hide from the past. By understanding how communities become marginalized, we can get to the root cause and create systems to prevent history from repeating itself.

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Celebrating Marginalized Voices Through the Years

Listen to and celebrate marginalized voices to build the foundation for advocacy. You can tap into the power of narrative-based discourse to open new vistas for understanding, questioning and resisting inequality.

Reading anonymous narratives and books from marginalized authors can help you broaden your perspective and participate in discourse on the topic. Here are some examples (more info about these books through the previous link):

  • Native American—Delphine Red Shirt
  • Women of color—Phoebe Robinson
  • People with disabilities—Nicola Griffith
  • People with illness—Leland Cheuk
  • The socioeconomically disadvantaged—Janice Erlbaum
  • LGBTQIA+—Rae Spoon

The Archives of Sexuality and Gender program offers international perspectives on LGBTQIA+ activism and culture. It examines populations and areas of the world previously underrepresented in prevailing scholarship on sexuality and gender.

Meanwhile, the Teenie Harris Archive at Carnegie Museum of Art consists of over 70,000 images, offering detailed and intimate records of the Black urban experience.

The Village Voice is an American news and culture paper that started out as a platform for New York City’s creative community. It’s considered the country's first alternative newsweekly.

For an international perspective, check out Exit newspaper. It’s a monthly LGBTQIA+ publication that has played a pivotal role in the formation of the LGBTQIA+ community in South Africa since the ’80s.

Be aware of the sources and intentions of the media you consume. Mainstream media often portrays marginalized groups through a marketable, stereotypical lens. Seek out self-representations from members of underrepresented groups not designed to meet the expectations of mainstream audiences.

Final Thoughts

Marginalization can limit our perspectives. It introduces perceptions and biases that can prevent us from developing an objective view of the topic. By overcoming marginalization, we can support conversations and discussions that can lead to a more fair and open society for all.

Perhaps you have a story to tell that will help others broaden their perspectives. Pitch your story now for a chance to be anonymously published on The Doe.

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