Your Inalienable Rights Include Privilege? Elitist Liberals, Voting Rights, and What Words Mean
I waited to post this because I didn’t want to ruin anyone’s enjoyment of their grilled meats and loud explosions.
Yes that’s what I spent my 4th of July thinking about. And yes. I realize it’s not the 4th anymore. It took me a while to order my thinking and to be honest, I could think of a way to make the points I wanted to make without whining, which I try to avoid.
Then I saw two headlines that snapped it all into clear perspective for me.
George Zimmerman’s defense team, in a stunning, yet characteristically appalling act of complete cultural blindness claimed that “Trayvon Martin did, in fact, cause his own death.”
As well, Scot Nakagawa wrote and article today asking “Are Whites Touchy About Being Called Racists?”
Hey, guess what? My head, did not in fact, explode. I know! I’m pretty surprised myself.
Truth be told, some things actually became clear to me in a surprising way. Here’s what I figured out.
When you’re an activist, one of the things you sign up for is pain. Involving yourself in social justice causes, especially when those causes are personal, like racism, sexism and LGBTQ equality are to me, means that you’ll come up against hate of many kinds.
To be honest, that doesn’t bother me all that much. Lots of people are hateful. It’s kind of my job to shine a light on them. And the fact that hateful people don’t like me on the internet? You can’t see it but this is the face I make when I don’t care. The most they get from me is pity.
But when it comes from people I respect, people I may not know in person but have spent hours interacting with in the virtual world?
Yeah, that actually causes some real pain. It shouldn’t, because enlightened liberal privilege is tragically common. But it does and I really should stop being surprised and hurt by it after all this time.
Having gotten a face full of it over the past week? Nope. Still surprised and hurt.
It started with this.
Actually it started with the most common reaction to it, which was some variation of “this is so hard! I couldn’t have passed this. This test isn’t fair!”
Sigh. Look, white folks, it’s not about you, OK? The test isn’t unfair because you can’t pass it. You would never have seen the test. You would never have been asked to pass the fucking test. The test is unfair because only people of color were asked to pass it! The test is unfair because it was yet another obstacle that PoC were told they only had to overcome to earn their equality.
It was unfair because PoC had to earn their equality at all when Caucasians just got it as a matter of birth that was the problem, not the wording of the question of the test!
The above picture and the culture-blind, privileged shock connected to it came about in response to the Supreme Court ruling on the VRA. The logic SCOTUS used, such as it is, was basically that the VRA worked so well that the protections and safeguards that were necessary to protect voter access, especially for minorities, is no longer necessary because it worked. In other words, the program was so successful, we don’t need it anymore.
So, of course, several states jumped at the total lack of racism that remains in America and enacted new voter ID laws which are functionally poll taxes that will disproportionately impact minority communities.
Their logic was fundamentally the same on the Affirmative Action case.
Racism is over everybody! The Supreme Court said so! So did a surprisingly large number of people with whom I used to be friends on social media.
These big announcements are so useful for cleaning the clutter out of my feed.
A number of people likened Affirmative Action to discrimination. A further group of people defended the VRA decision by claiming that successfully protecting equal voting rights for 46 years means that those rights no longer need to be protected.
Um…how about no?
And then I got into a discussion about an incident of racism and sexism, the details of which don’t really matter, except to say that it ended in one of the most epic cases of White Woman’s Tears, privilege, and tone policing I’ve ever seen.
I mean it was massive and had several steps.
One of the steps was the privileged crying woman posting this.
So what does all of this have to do with the Zimmerman trial and what his defense team said?
It’s all basically the same statement and it reflects the same attitude. It’s blaming the victim of harm for the fact that the harm happened in the first place. The new and exciting aspect of this bit of idiocy is the claim that pointing out the problem is, in fact the problem.
You know what I say to that? No. Just no.
Telling the truth about racial politics in America from the point of view of those most negatively affected by it is part of the problem? No it really isn’t. Ignoring those voices and pretending that stating the facts rather than the facts themselves are problematic is, however, yet another clear expression of privilege. It’s the worst kind of derailing.
And I’m wondering why the hell we’re suddenly super worried about how much conversations on racism hurt Caucasian’s feelings and conversations on the lack of equality hurt straight people’s feelings and conversations on sexism hurt men’s feelings?
Why are we concerning ourselves with whether or not Caucasians are touchy about being called out on their privilege and racism?
I mean really, the fact that we’ve got to keep participating in those conversations at all instead of living in a world wherein we are actually treated equally isn’t enough? We’ve also got to allow ourselves to be tone policed so the act of pointing out the hurtful and dangerous behavior of dominant group doesn’t give any member of that group emotional pause?
How about no? Not just no but hell no. You’re supposed to have emotional pause when you say or do something stupid. That’s how consequences work.
Anyone who can’t check themselves and their own privilege long enough to hear that they’re doing it wrong isn’t an ally, they’re an insidious, if well-meaning aspect of oppression.
There are rules to being a good ally and one of the most important is “Don’t expect your feelings to be a priority in a discussion about X issue. Oftentimes people get off onto the tone argument because their feelings are hurt by the way a message was delivered. If you stand on someone’s foot and they tell you to get off? The correct response is not “Ask nicely” when you were in the wrong in the first place.”
Look people, there’s going to come a point in everyone’s life when they break the rules. You’ll say something stupid or thoughtless or wrong. And that’s when the people around you find out if you’re really their ally or if your just a liberal tourist. If you listen to the voices of the people you hurt, if you stop talking and examine both your behavior and the reasons for it, if you stop whatever the thing that hurt people was, then you’re still down as an ally. If you make the incident all about you and your feelings about your mistake then you’re a fucking tourist and shut up. We’re working over here.