Another day, another person spinning out because they insist they know better than the people who actually deal with the same shit over and over and over every fucking day of their lives. After watching a pattern of behavior unfold itself over years, I’ve come to the conclusion that JT’s decided to walk the path of the privileged paternalistic ass at an early age. Many of us do. Hopefully he’ll have the courage to realize it’s a dumbshit direction and make a course correction, before he turns into a Mark Farris.
But I’m not really here to talk about him, or to him. Said all I needed to say in a private communication. If he chooses to make his response public, I shall fisk it thoroughly then. But I won’t be doing it for him. He’s proven beyond a reasonable doubt that he’s incapable of comprehending why he’s not the ally he claims to be. There are, however, onlookers who watch the famous folk go careening off the track and realize, oh shit, that’s a slippery road. I’d better listen to the people who drive it every day before I, too, end up in the ditch, shamefacedly waiting for a tow.
I was one of those speed-demons, once. Happily, this was in the days before I could make a spectacular ass of myself in public, but I’m sure I managed to put my foot squarely in it many a time. I had that condescending attitude towards many minorities. Figured they’d be better off if they were quieter, politer, more patient, less demanding, and for fuck’s sake, why are they attacking their own allies? Sheesh, you’d think they’d be more grateful that these non-minority are trying to assist them with helpful questions and sage advice, sticking up for their rights and all (as long as they aren’t obnoxious about it). Fucking good thing I didn’t come to any sort of activism until later in life, because I would’ve been that clueless git getting it with both barrels from someone utterly fed up with JAQoffs.
I learned a few things before I had a chance to unhinge my jaw. One: STFU. Two: Listen. No, really listen, not merely allow the minority in question to jabber until they were done and I can get on with what I was splaining to them. Three: I am bloody fucking ignorant, and a lot more privileged than I’d ever realized. Four: Ignorance is no damn excuse. It’s my responsibility to educate myself, and apologize if I spout off without having done so.
Looking back, it’s not those paternalistic folks counseling calm and accommodation who changed the world. No, it was the stomped-on folk themselves, getting loud and in-your-face, who did that. Do you think Rosa Parks would’ve struck the match that lit the kindling of the Civil Rights Movement if she’d moved to the back of the bus, explaining meekly on her way why this is sort of not nice? Nope. I don’t think Martin Luther King could’ve done what he did without being loud and defiant. Not to mention, don’t know if you’ve noticed, but he wasn’t white. And those more radical folk, the ones who terrified the poor privileged white people? They helped. They made it impossible to ignore the issue. They made it impossible to return to the status quo.
Women weren’t handed their voting rights by enlightened men: they fought tooth and nail for them, enduring vicious attacks along the way.
LGBTQ folk haven’t made strides in equality by letting straight folk decide when and where they would be allowed to become equally human. They’ve done it by being loud and proud, and pulling the hetero cis people along in their wake.
I could go on and on and on, and on further still. But the point is, this paternalistic bullshit is just that: eau de cow’s arse. And it’s sadly predictable. Scratch the surface of any civil rights movement, and you’ll find plenty of people not belonging to the oppressed class who have all the advice on how to make waves without rocking the boat, and oh, you might want to make those waves barely noticeable, because otherwise someone in the status quo may become inconvenienced.
I know part of why that is, being a member of the white middle-class cis hetero contingent: it’s fucking uncomfortable.
It’s really unpleasant to watch clueless (intentionally or otherwise) people getting reamed by an outraged minority, and realizing, “Ohshit, that coulda been me, I think like that!” It’s damned uncomfortable to admit that people are pissed off for a reason, and probably would be pissed off at you, if you popped out with your privilege. It hurts to admit you are privileged, despite whatever disadvantages you may suffer. It’s painful to admit you, too, are one of the prejudiced, uncomprehending arseholes these poor folks deal with day after day after day. It’s really godsdamned difficult to change. And it’s so hard to shut the fuck up and listen.
I went through it when I starting reading Natalie Reed’s blog. Oh, the things I wanted to say… she pushed all my buttons, made me angry and uncomfortable and afraid. I wanted to tell her all about how she was turning off potential allies, how she should be kinder and gentler and so forth. But I kept my mouth shut and kept reading, and eventually, after much thought and reading in other places, realized she was right and I was wrong. I also realized that if she hadn’t hit me with a hammer, that privileged shell of mine wouldn’t have cracked. And that has been true of every other minority or disadvantaged person who’s hit me with hammers of their own. Their passion and anger broke through the comfortable fog of Being Right Because I Am White Cis Hetero Middle Class.
Hopefully, those on the path of the privileged paternalistic ass will have their own Damascus moments, and realize it might be a fantastic idea to try following instead of leading for once. To listen, learn, and accept the fact that you will never, ever know what it’s like to walk in those particular shoes, so don’t bloody pretend you know every blister. You’re going to be stumbling around, and it’s uncomfortable as hell, and sometimes you’re going to fall down and skin your knees, because it’s not so easy and smooth, this other path. You don’t know where you’re going, and you have to follow even though you liked being a leader. It’ll make you want to scream sometimes. But for all that, I’ve found it the better path. The people are more interesting, the world is full of variety I’d never known, and there’s hope that humanity will get shit figured out if enough of us walk this path together.
I’m glad for all the screaming that got me this far. Thank you, my loud and proud and demanding friends. Please continue to drop the hammer when I fuck up. I’ll appreciate it once the stinging stops. Hopefully, a few more of my fellow privileged people will join us here soon.