I think most people here agree that people in marginalized groups are authorities on their own marginalization. The marginalized person sees how others treat them differently, and knows exactly how much it hurts to be treated differently
On the other hand, I often feel like I have no idea how marginalization affects me. When I started talking about how race affects me, I found that it required research. First-hand experience wasn’t enough. This left me feeling that I’m not much of an authority at all. Compared to a white person, I simply had more motivation to look things up and retain the information I found.
Furthermore, I believe this is a common experience. That’s one of the things suggested by my research! Filipino Americans have relatively little cultural identity:*
Of the ten largest immigrant groups, Filipino Americans have the highest rate of assimilation. With exception to the cuisine; Filipino Americans have been described as the most “Americanized” of the Asian American ethnicities. However, even though Filipino Americans are the second largest group among Asian Americans, community activists have described the ethnicity as “invisible”, claiming that the group is virtually unknown to the American public, and is often not seen as significant even among its members.
Never have I identified more closely with being Filipino than when I found out that Filipino Americans rarely identify closely with being Filipino.
Understanding one’s own marginalization can also be more difficult at the intersection of multiple identities. When I’m holding hands with my boyfriend, I can generally guess why people are staring (also sometimes people say it out loud). But suppose I were visibly in a same-sex relationship and I were trans, then sometimes I might have difficulty identifying which is the source of stares.** And maybe it doesn’t even matter why, if I’m being made to feel ashamed of both being queer and trans.
Another problem with intersections is that it’s harder to find other people with shared experiences. I’m very interested in the male/ace intersection because I live in it, but there’s very little discussion of what that means. As I recently discussed, the concept of “toxic masculinity” is focused primarily on the masculinity of straight white men. This makes sense, since straight white men have a lot of cultural influence, but it doesn’t give me much of a way to understand intersectional masculinity. Perhaps personal experience isn’t enough. Maybe you need personal experience plus a community-supplied knowledge base.
Dear readers, have you ever had difficulty understanding your own marginalization?
*The main reason for the lack of Fil-Am identification is that in the Philippines they speak fluent English. Without the language barrier, immigrants have little reason to stay geographically clustered. Colonialism was also very successful in preventing Filipinos from feeling pride in their culture. From what I’ve heard, a lot of Fil-Am activism is about reclaiming that pride. Personally, I do not care for this.
**Also, the very question of multiple-causality is philosophically unsound.