Oh I’m just kidding, give me a break. Take it easy, you know I don’t mean it. There are good things happening too, we don’t need to always hear about the bad stuff. You know what I meant though. But #notall….

The language of the entitled. The words of the upper hand. The thoughts of the advantaged. It’s (not) funny how much our privileges shape the ideas we share and the way we communicate. It feels all too natural. And let’s be clear here, I’m not speaking from a pedestal; guilty as charged. The real challenge comes when you’ve been called out on it. Let me check you for a second. Let me check me for a minute.

It does not matter how laborious the effort, how endless the task, how mountainous the charge. You don’t get a pass because you didn’t mean it. You don’t get a pass because “everyone knows what you mean.” You don’t get a pass because you’re black, white, wealthy, poor, educated, in the company of friends. You don’t get a pass because you experience injustice in some other form. You don’t get a pass because you didn’t know better. You don’t get a pass because no one gets a pass. Sure, you can jump the turnstile; you’ve probably been jumping it for a long time now. And it’s certainly your own decision. Cool beans. But don’t think for a second that you can throw out garbage and no one is ever going to ask you to clean it up. Live in that garbage all you want, all it does is make you stink. Pee-effing-you. Closing your eyes won’t make it go away and sticking your fingers in your ear only makes you an ass. The solution, though, is quite simple: own it, apologize, and make the effort to outgrow your assery.
Being a woman–a black woman, a Narragansett woman, a mother– has given me a lot of experience with injustice.  You don’t need to share my exact same experiences to be able to empathize with them or for me to be able to empathize with others who experience other inequities. I do care, however, to try to open myself to be examined. For others to examine me, but more importantly for me to examine myself. It is easy to get so wrapped up in our own battles that we forget we aren’t the only ones on the battlefield. You can fight the wars against racism, sexism, religious persecution, human rights, animal rights, political agendas, etc etc etc take your pick. But your fight (or lack thereof) means nothing if you aren’t willing to accept two simple truths:

A. Your cause is so intrinsically caught up with every other fight for social justice that you can not truly advocate for your own cause independently from the others.

B. You are very likely (and probably unintentionally so) on the oppressive side of someone else’s battle for social justice.

These ideas are not my own; many have written eloquently about intersectionality. The term was first coined by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw in the late 80’s so I’m coming into this 30 years late but it’s as relevant as ever.

I never cease to be amazed at the lengths people will go to to defend their problematic behavior and attitudes when the truth is *EVERYONE* is problematic. Without exception. You, me, your mother, Auntie Gwen, and the postman. I’m making it a practice to exclaim this loudly because when you start calling out assery ‘too much,’ people become hyper eager to vilify you and paint you as a hypocrite. So this is my opportunity to nip that straight in the bud: I am problematic and am going to fuck up, and if/when I do then it is your responsibility to say something about it. From there, let my response be an indication of my character and my values.

And now I throw the ball back in your court. When you come out of your face with bullshit or you passively and ‘innocently’ hold onto some really backwards ideas, I’m going to say something about it and let your response be an indication of your values. And I understand why people are quick to defend themselves–that’s the most natural reaction in the world, self preservation–but instead of doing the same old thing, I challenge you to challenge yourself. To examine yourself. To reflect. To think freely. To think critically. To think plainly. Most of the big ideas that uphold oppressive attitudes are really simple contradictions to what you likely already attribute moral value to.

If we are so resistant to being wrong, what opportunity do we give ourselves to point true North?
And what do we rob others of?

 

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