I guess there are things that we usually don´t realize that they exist until we start getting aware of the issue and relate to it, and then we see it everywhere. It happened to me with the issue of the visibility versus invisibility of the marginalized groups, and recently I see it everywhere. In most of the meetings with activists or educators I participated in the last months I wanted to stand up and explain it, in most of the cases I didn´t so I decided to write about it.
First, let´s clarify what do we understand under visibility or invisibility of some groups. Here I am mainly referring to the broad representation in any sphere of our lives, where the biggest ones for me would be entertainment (TV show, music industry, film industry etc.), news, public figures etc. So, if one group with specific characteristic is visible on the streets, in the media, in politics, culture, business etc. and no one reacts surprised about it, it means that this person is visible. We can take here as an example white, heterosexual men. And if some groups are not really represented, you see someone with x characteristics and you focus on the characteristic x rather than what this person does, it means we might have a problem with visibility, and what it follows inclusion. Still not clear? Let´s see some example – Adele, fat female singer, why I wrote fat? Well because it is what you can find in the media, people don´t see her only as a singer, but fat singer (although recently there are tons of article about her weight loss). Probably you remember as well the 2018 US elections, where ¨all the media¨ were talking about the first Muslim and first Native American women elected to Congress.
Why we need visibility of the different groups?
For me the thing is clear, the visibility represents inclusion, and we want inclusion. Somehow, I see it that the visibility defines ¨normal¨ in our societies, and whoever don´t fit to the concept of ¨normal¨ in the specific society face microaggressions. Lack of visibility might lead to the self-invisibility – meaning that the person feels they should not be visible – in the photos hide behind, for the media interviews send colleagues and avoid to be in the public eye.
And why it happens that some groups are invisible?
Probably there are many different reasons, but I would like to focus on one that I find very important and we can work this through youth work – empowerment! There is not scientific research behind this theory, just my personal reflection, from what I have observed about myself and others. First of all, I was a person who was trying to avoid being in photos and videos, why? Because I am fat, and somehow it felt bad to do it. Secondly, I was doing the evaluation of one audiovisual project for migrants, where all the partners were mentioning the issue that not many youth in the project wanted to be in front of the camera, my question is why? I have answered it in my head. In the last week meeting with the professionals working on the topic of islamophobia we have talked a lot that when journalists are calling us for the contacts of someone from Muslim community to give an interview, it is hard to find someone. And we can multiply the examples more and more. It seems that we have some vicious circle – there is no representation, but if there are opportunity there are no people because they don´t want to be pointed out as the ones who are different, and who doesn´t fit. For people from the marginalized groups it takes a lot of courage to be visible, to speak in the public, be in front of the camera or even walking on the streets feeling comfortable with themselves. It is not the case of everybody, but it exist. And only if we will work on the empowerment of those groups, and only if they will accept who they are, as they are, and not feeling second class citizens, we will be able to bring significant change.
And how it is related with invisible racism?
Because both issues use the word invisible – it is a joke:D We define invisible racism as the form of racism in which the harmful behaviors are normalized and accepted by the society. And I am sorry to tell you but those behaviors are the reason for invisibility of the different groups. The small put downs, calling the offensive
nick names, avoiding some people etc. it leads on the long run to the certain feeling of stress, doubt in own self, and it most probably is one of the reasons why we are not visible.
Fat, migrant, female, cancer patient.