It has been a wild time of confusion and bewilderment as we wrestle with what a Trump presidency means for this country. We are all grappling with conflicting ideas about slacktivism, patriotism, peaceful protest and inclusion. We watch as appointment after appointment seeks to dismantle the progress we thought we made.
I’m starting to feel less awful but I’ve been struggling. That struggle has been compounded by many conversations online that are filled with microaggressions. Where loads of white, cisgender people have discussed how they’re coping with sharing Thanksgiving with family members who may be Trump supporters.
It bothered me and so I posted this because I thought maybe it’s our unwillingness to have these conversations that have gotten us to this place. It’s at least a part of the problem.
Seventy comments later and I’m still bothered so I thought I’d clarify a few things.
My post was not about flipping tables. It’s not about alienation or division. It’s not about allyship for the sake of marginalized people. It’s not about the white guilt you may instantly feel when you see posts like mine. It’s not about sending fragile people into dangerous spaces. Ever. Anyone who knows me knows that I would never advocate for that.
For years I’ve called the unwillingness to disrupt the dinner table a problem for child survivors of sexual trauma. It’s this bizarre behavior that keeps offending adults seated at the table without accountability or justice. And here I am addressing another kind of silence at the same table.
Because it’s not about Thanksgiving or safety pins. For me, it’s about how some people *cough* (privilege) have options and other people *cough* (oppression) do not.
I’ll admit it. I’m jealous. I’m sorrowful. I’m grieving. I feel betrayed by allies and white feminism. I wish for an invisibility cloak so that I don’t have to feel so fearful and vulnerable in my brown skin. I feel heartened by safety pins while I’m equally distrustful of them because I don’t know that it means anything.
In a perfect world, I’d wish for a few things from white, cisgender people and here they are:
Death to allyship. I don’t want an ally. I came to this realization as I was listening to Roxanne Gay as a guest on the podcast Politically Reactive. To paraphrase; racism, xenophobia, ableism, homophobia, and classism should be intolerable to all of us. It shouldn’t annoy you or hurt your feelings for someone else. My wish would be that you take it personally because it’s wrong and it doesn’t matter if it’s not directed at someone physically in the room.
Which brings me to my next point.
Just be real. One of the difficult things to hold emotionally has been the explicit proof that while I have insulated myself into a circle that includes liberal, progressive, feminist friends, the reality is that although they are active and vocal publicly, how they react privately, in the absence of a person marginalized or oppressed is underwhelming. So, maybe you can understand why I’m ready to host a wake for allyship. If you’re not for equality and civil rights in all spaces then maybe you’re not that into it at all.
Think critically. I’ve noticed that the initial response to these challenging concepts is defensiveness. I know that some of you have tried. I’m not unclear about how this is difficult or how it will likely cause rifts in relationships.
I have a dear friend who has spent time reading evangelical Christian progressive blogs in preparation of having difficult conversations with their family. I have friends opting out of family dinner because that is what will bring home the point. There’s more than one way to skin a cat.
The most important thing to remember here is that as a white, cisgender person, you have more privilege and more power amongst your own family than I or any other marginalized person ever will. We all have a responsibility to use our privilege to defeat oppression around us whenever we are able.
Do the actual work. Do the real, deep, interpersonal work that it takes to inspire hearts to change. Many have disconnected from the people they know with dangerous ideologies. Today I wrestle with the fact that we didn’t make as much progress as we thought. We just had more power.
This one doesn’t just apply to white cisgender people. This applies to anyone who has given up on someone. Maybe we should reevaluate when and where we’ve decided that people are lost causes. I couldn’t continue to do the work that I do if I didn’t believe that people can change.
Click here for tips from the Southern Poverty Law Center on responding to everyday bigotry.
People who are visible in their oppression will NEVER be able to opt out. Not ever. Not once. They will always have brown skin. They will always rock that wheelchair. They will always have that accent. They will always be in love with someone of the same gender.
They will always go to the store, the hospital, the ballpark, the bank, their place of worship in their body.
This is the frustration. It is the absolute inability to opt out while others can take their safety pins off that hurts – especially when we know that you do take them off the moment shit gets real.
I’m asking you, as a friend. Wear whatever visible symbol of safety you want. Hang it on your door or in your office. Make it your profile pic and shout it from the fucking rooftop. Shout it from all the rooftops if you must. Get a safety pin, fuck Trump, stand with Standing Rock, tattoo on your chest.
But here’s the thing;
Integrity is who you are when nobody’s looking. – C.S. Lewis.
I’d like to thank every person who has been willing to have this conversation with me as I felt through all of my feelings and thoughts on this one. I have been unapologetically angry and inconsolably sorrowful lately. Which, you know, hasn’t been a walk in the park for anyone.