Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Voice

A short time ago, I came across a discussion amongst my friends who were avid writers. There was this author who took it upon herself to become a self-proclaimed advocate on behalf of the subjects she wrote about. Her justification for her decision was based on her own assessment that her subjects were "too oppressed weakened and devastated to vocalize their pain." While I commend her for her noble efforts, I found the reasoning to be a bit disturbing.

When my friend Bruce Reyes-Chow used to pastor Mission Bay Church, he'd consistently close with the benediction saying: "give voice to the silent..." My interpretation of that statement was a way to create an environment and empower those who are normally silent to be able to speak up for themselves.

Coming from the San Francisco Bay Area, there are a lot of interactions taking place which requires a need for a translator. If you were to speak or ask the person who's in need of a translator, they would rather learn the local language and not to place a burden on the need translating. Go to any English as a second language class and see the room filled. These new immigrants are so enthusiastic to learn our language so they can communicate on their own behalf. They're very aware that that is the price asked of them to pay in order to start a life here.

Yet, this author is speaking for a group of people because of their "inherent weaknesses." My question to this particular author would be what was the assessment procedure that she took in order to declare their apparent "muteness," or inability to express themselves? What would happen if one of the members of that group learned to speak for themselves and told her to "shut the f*ck up?"

Most importantly:

Do we have a right to determine who is capable or incapable to give a voice to themselves?

I'll agree with this author that her subjects were placed under very inhumane conditions. Very atrocious against humanity. However her conclusion of them due to their plight relegates them to additional victim-hood. The author speaks on behalf a a group of people victimized by inhumane conditions, not allowing them the voice nor the CHOICE to relinquish victim-hood. She said and published for them drawing a conclusion they may or may not attest to about themselves.

Speaking for someone else with your own assessment and conclusions does by no means, "give a voice to the silent."

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