“Dare to object to prejudice and injustice” – Gloria Ray Karlmark.
Feminist standpoint epistemology theory has crystallized for me in a whole new light. I am no longer surprised that individuals, and indeed institutions, can profess to be ‘progressive’ yet remain unable to recognize systemic injustice. Standpoint epistemology explains to me the inability of an individual differently located to recognize identity-based oppression and discrimination occurring in their immediate environment. How does one explain to a different ‘other’ that talking through what the ‘other’ believes to be a ‘personality conflict’ will not lead to real or lasting transformation? Should one even try?
Well, this past week I resolved to follow Gloria Ray Karlmark’s exhortation. I dared to object to prejudice, to call discrimination by name and say yes, it was on the basis of racism, sexism and ageism, at the very least. To my surprise, my objections evoked yet another intersecting explanatory variable – a remnant colonial mentality; in a different era, my ‘oppressor’ (if we were to call him that) and myself would have had a colonizer/colonized, exploiter/exploited relation. A refreshing analysis indeed from a ‘different other’ but with whom I share the female and feminist identities. My proposal for a structural solution – to put in place an explicit institutional anti-discrimination policy – was well received and accepted.
There is hope that those in positions of epistemic privilege can help willing others in different social locations ‘see’ – perhaps not ‘understand’, but nevertheless ‘acknowledge’ – prejudice, oppression, discrimination – in hues they cannot experience.