“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
This concept isn’t novel. In fact, it’s quite old; it first appeared in Arabic and Chinese proverbs. However, it is typically thought of in terms of warfare (Britain and France uniting in WWI) or business (Microsoft and Apple against Google). I’d like to shake things up a bit and use it in a different context: combatting prejudice that prevents us from appreciating diversity.
The thought took shape after attending the diversity forum last Tuesday, a follow-up to the diversity forum this past spring that was organized by three faculty members of our Sociology department. It opened with short testimonies from seven speakers, one of them yours truly, spanning the range of “diversity” here on campus. The resulting discussion, which skipped between ideas and propositions, was incredible; if you missed it, you missed out.
I found myself delightfully surprised at the range of speakers chosen for the forum. Each represented a minority in society, whether racially, as in Latino- or Filipino- or African-American, or in terms of sexual preference. So many underrepresented groups were finally given a voice, with each little segment on the pie chart of diversity, a common topic at this forum, represented by more than just a colored slice or a percentage.
It then struck me that as many students from Hawaii identify with multiple racial minorities, so, too, do many members of society identify with multiple minorities in general. The most common, I found after some research, is that of the ethnic minority LGBT community. Those who fall into the so-called double minority find themselves unable to fit in to their racial group because of their sexual status, but unable to fit in to an LGBT group because of their race. It is, essentially, a no-win scenario.
This parallels an important point that was brought up at the forum: at what point do we need to stand up not only to prejudice against our own minorities, but for others as well?
The answer in today’s society seems to suggest that really, we don’t. Studies have found that gays of the racial majority have a tendency to recreate the oppression they feel as a sexual minority on those of a racial minority. In Hawaii, home to many racial minorities, we see that although sexual minorities are tolerated, they are not accepted into our culture and still face prejudice and gay slurs, against which no one seems to be protesting.
This makes no sense to me.
We seem to forget that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” When I speak of “the enemy,” I’m not talking about the Caucasian majority, but about prejudice in general. If two people are on the receiving end of prejudice of any sort, why wouldn’t they unite to fight against it? Even some members of the majority are taking a stand in supporting the minorities; these people support minorities of any sort while the minorities seem to only be willing to support themselves.
Yes, the fight for diversity and against prejudice isn’t an easy one. Sometimes we forget who our enemies are. But for the sake of the double minorities and for minorities in general, let us not shoot ourselves in the foot by supporting this hierarchy of oppression and instead help others to help ourselves.