Reaching out, vs. introspection

ISO ways to talk about people traditionally excluded from institutions and systems that do not lump people together based solely on a characteristic of identity–even though they strongly identify with that characteristic. For example, predominantly white, middle-income, college educated community groups look for ways to “reach out” to “the Vietnamese.” Here’s another example: we talk of “the homeless,” as if we wear our homes or are our homes*. Some of us certainly identify strongly with our homes, but no one would describe me as “homed,” so why would I place as a predominant characteristic on a person the status of their housing? An example, I could say “there are many homeless people in Seattle,” vs “many Seattleites have inadequate or uncertain housing.” They are residents of Seattle. Full stop. People who have first hand knowledge of dire housing conditions have a particular stake in the outcome and a great deal of crucial experience that can inform discussions. If we focus on the fact of housing crises, we can focus on the issues and facts and not the personalities. Needful to say, I should not raise the issue of the status of one’s housing when that issue is not under discussion.

Back to the example of community groups wanting to do outreach…it seems to me that we are asking the wrong question. The question isn’t how to reach populations, but why aren’t we attracting different voices? That’s an inward examination.

Added: elsewhere someone mentioned the idea that “people are people,” which is true and can help with conversation, but that misses the point that the characteristic they share–skin, religion, gender–do put them at risk or form a barrier to systems, institutions, and services.


*Those homes are assumed to not be tents or RVs. Unless, of course, one is retired, and, typically white, middle-income, etc.


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