I write about my son because when you cannot speak, you are denied power.
And no matter how loudly you scream, if others do not listen, you are denied power as well. If you are misunderstood, misinterpreted, or flatly ignored, you are denied power.
I think the reason J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is still so popular is because in The Philosopher’s Stone we are presented with a boy forced to live in a cupboard underneath the stairs. Harry is out-right ignored. At the beginning of the story, he has no voice. He is the boy in the kitchen screaming for a cookie. Harry’s advocate, of course, doesn’t show up in the form a a speech pathologist but half-giant Hagrid. And the rest of the series is spent showing you how Harry gains his voice. Harry is no longer a muggle, but a wizard and we are all muggles who want to be wizards.
Dr. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, who is not a harry Potter character, wrote about this very topic in her 1988 classic essay, “Can the Subaltern Speak?” Spivak says, in a nutshell, groups exist in our society that we cannot begin to understand; that they are not even capable of the sign for boat when they are asking for a cookie because we are unable and maybe unwilling to understand who they are. “…there are people whose consciousness we cannot grasp,” she writes.
And it is not that we aren’t listening, or that we can’t listen, but how we listen is the problem. Through differences, we only see ourselves.