Reflections on Marginality as a Site of Resistance

Ferguson Protests | Washington, D.C. | November 2014

It wasn’t until I went to college that I attempted to articulate inequality. It was a process of over five years at the university in undergraduate and graduate school, I grew my analysis and critiques of planning and policy and asked questions about what the previous generations of decision makers created for my community and for communities of color across the U.S.

One of the pieces of work that helped me articulate these ideas was Marginality as a Site of Resistance by bell hooks. It taught me how to envision the space of marginality as a place of resistance.

Historically, people of color have faced discrimination in many ways, which has created a racial and economic divide. The history of this country that led to the marginalization of people of color started with slavery and lynching and transformed to police brutality and segregation then to redlining and predatory home lending thus, establishing a foundation of inequality in the United States.

However, bell hooks envisions this discrimination and marginality not as deprivation but as a site of radical possibility — a space for resistance. This space can be the central location for creating a counterhegemonic discourse. A space for transforming our world.

She asserts that marginality is something those that are oppressed should not lose, or give up but cling to because it nourishes our capacity to resist and to imagine alternatives a new and better world.

This marginality comes from lived experiences. Even if you move out of the “hood” those experiences follow you and inform the way you see the world.

I have chosen to follow a path that places me at the center of the political world in our country — Washington D.C. — the so called “belly of the beast” among some circles. Folks in those circles have questioned my progressive street cred especially because of the connections to political institutions I have made.

However, my identity is one that lies in the margins. There are layers of complexity to my identity. I am a woman but I am also Chicana. I have been educated formally in a university and also by life experience that has taught me how to persist and resist.

With life in the margins there exists a counter language, a resistance that is sustained by the remembrance of the past. For me, that past is a collective past. It is the trauma and violence that we as a community have collectively sustained. It is from this pain that the collective foundation of hope has been built. This collective hope needs to be sustained by future generations.

The #blacklivesmatter movement has demonstrated that the past and present have collided together with the friction of pain and hope and it has spurred a movement.

Raising the consciousness of hope is crucial for oppressed, exploited and colonized people. We as marginalized people should speak as our own liberators.

When we as a marginalized people imagine a new world and ask questions about how to deal with these confusions and contradictions in society we are really addressing how to evolve a new kind of world of consciousness that is transformative and synthesizing.

It is freeing. So in the words of Mos Def let’s get free.