the weblog of Alan Knox

Naming the Marginalized

Posted by on Nov 10, 2010 in love, service, synchroblog | 7 comments

Naming the Marginalized

This post is part of a synchroblog on the subject “Seeing Through the Eyes of the Marginalized.” It’s been a long time since I’ve taken part in a synchroblog, but I’m excited to get back to it, especially given this topic.

First, what does it mean to be marginalized? Here are a couple of definitions to get started:

1) Marginalization is the social process of becoming or being made marginal (to relegate or confine to a lower social standing or outer limit or edge, as of social standing).

2) Marginalization – often used in an economic or political sense to refer to the rendering of an individual, an ethnic or national group, or a nation-state powerless by a more powerful individual, ethnic or national group, or nation-state.

We all know the groups that are marginalized. Sometimes, the groups change from region to region, and from culture to culture. But, in my area, there are many different groups of people who are marginalized by society.

So, I began to ask myself, “How can I see through the eyes of the marginalized?” I realized right away that it was impossible for two reasons. 1) As long as I am not marginalized myself, I will never truly see through their eyes. And 2) “the marginalized” is a nameless, faceless, amorphous group that does not have eyes.

If I want to begin to see through their eyes – to begin to understand the marginalized – then I muse begin by getting to know them, by getting to know their names, and by listening to their stories. Once individuals replace the label “the marginalized,” I can begin to understand them.

You see, it’s one thing to care for “the sick,” but it’s something completely different to care for Tina. It’s one thing to care for “the homeless,” but it’s something completely different to care for Charvin. It’s one thing to care for “the widows,” but it’s something completely different to care for Peggy. It’s one thing to care for “single mothers,” but it’s something completely different to care for Shonna.

We can say that we care for “the marginalized,” but never get to the point where we actually no someone who is marginalized. We can even give money to help “the marginalized,” but in fact, we’re actually paying someone else to care for individuals for us. And, unfortunately, from experience, I know that often that money does not actually help individuals, because they are often treated as a group. (Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that we should give money to help groups. I’m saying that we shouldn’t stop there.)

It is only when we get to know the person, to hear their story, to learn about their struggles and pain and hopes and fears… it is only at that point that we will know who to love them and serve them. We love and serve people when we are no longer caring for “the marginalized,” but we are caring for Benny, Belle, May, Creston, Cathy, and Jimmy.

If you want to begin to see through the eyes of the marginalized – to truly understand their life and their plight – then begin by getting to know their individual names, and listening to their individual stories.

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There are other bloggers posting on the subject of “seeing through the eyes of the marginalized.” Links to their posts are below. I’ll add more as they come in:


7 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 11-10-2010

    alan, i am so glad you participated in this synchroblog and it would be great to have your voice back on future ones. i think it’s so true, without a name, a relationship, a heart, eyes, connection the chasm between will always exist. thanks for your thoughts & challenge to all of us. peace, kathy

  2. 11-10-2010

    Kathy,

    Thanks. I hope I’m able to participate in more synchroblogs.

    -Alan

  3. 11-15-2010

    Alan – Your words are so true – when we have a face, a person, a life, a friend we “see” things that were hidden before – everything changes.

  4. 11-16-2010

    How absolutely true. Being part of our local street church ministry has been a real eye-opener. And I have become part of an amazing family.

  5. 8-28-2012

    This post really worries and saddens me. Not because I disagree with anything that you have said (because I don’t) but because we live in a world and with a church that needs to hear this message.

    It so angers me that when someone speaks about caring for any group in society, that many within the church label as a ‘liberal’. And as such as some kind of outcast…

    This kind of message needs to be given again and again and again until it so affects our thinking that the oxymoron that is a self centred Christian is the minority within the church…

  6. 8-28-2012

    Excellent ! We truly imitate the Shepherd when we take time to do this.After all, He ” knows us and our name.”

  7. 8-28-2012

    Thanks for continuing to discuss this issue! I’ve learned that there’s a huge difference between caring for individuals who may be poor, unemployed, homeless, sick, etc. than to care for some amorphous group identified as poor, unemployed, homeless, sick, etc.

    -Alan

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