Gary De Velder
Abounding Service, Founder & Executive Director
What does Marginalization have to do with Me?
You and I — all of us — marginalize others.
To marginalize a person means to push him out to the edge of society, or to the edge of a group, or to the edge of an established circle. It means to treat someone else as “less than” in some way. We often don’t realize we are doing it. I — we — impact lives in ways we don’t even know — usually not because we WANT to marginalize (although there is too much of that), but because we don’t take time to listen. We don’t develop relationships with others. We don’t understand.
Perhaps you have never thought how you marginalize someone. You wonder what I mean. We marginalize anytime we devalue someone based on a difference to the commonly held ideal. It may be skin color, language, hairstyle, dress style, body configuration, material possessions, religion, country of origin, or anything else that is different.
You may still wonder why I am saying this applies to you, particularly today. Let me explain. We are hearing a lot about racism. Most of us say, “I am not a racist,” and, probably you are not. I certainly cannot judge. I am no authority on racism, although I do recognize my responsibility to oppose it. However, I know marginalization, not because I am an academic, but because I have witnessed it all my life. I have fought marginalization my whole career because everyone I have ever met engages in marginalization.
For example, I worked with Native Americans when a common view was that anyone who looked like an Indian was a lazy drunk. I worked with religious education teachers who assumed anyone not following their teachings was condemned for eternity. I worked with people affected by disabilities who were assumed to have no value to society. Now I work with refugees who, because of their country of origin or inability to speak English, are assumed to have no value at best or are terrorists at worst.
I have seen how marginalization can lead to obvious results, like physical death or abject poverty, but usually results are more invisible. We don’t visibly see a person’s dignity destroyed when he is the only person followed by security in a high-end store because of his skin color. A child with a disability does not realize how her hopes for a meaningful life are diminished every time she is spoken to as “something other than,” or “less than” other children.
We are a lot alike, you and me. In our inner cores we want to lift people up, not push them down. Most of us know or sense we are all significant people of God’s creation and don’t want to treat anyone else less than. But, sadly, to a degree, we do, to the detriment of everyone.
We need to change. I believe we CAN change, if we want. We can lift others up rather than push them down if we learn to live meaningful lives by understanding and responding. I hope you will interact with upcoming blogs as we dialogue about how to change our world.
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