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Your Inalienable Rights Include Privilege? Elitist Liberals, Voting Rights, and What Words Mean

July 7, 2013

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.

Louisiana-Literacy-Test

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.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Montanasid permalink
    July 9, 2013 8:34 AM

    Brilliant! Going to send this to my racist step-son and his parents in Bozeman.

    • July 9, 2013 9:18 AM

      Just know that by doing so you’re probably going to be soooooooo mean and hurt his wittle feelings. Because even after reading that, some people can’t help but flip it around to how hurt they are by being called out on their actions.

  2. July 9, 2013 9:06 AM

    I wouldn’t mention this except that I had to look it up for myself just a few days ago; it isn’t “inalienable”, it’s “unalienable” rights.

    • July 9, 2013 9:20 AM

      I know and I’m nerd enough that I really though about putting unalienable in the title. But most people know the word INalienable and I figured they were less likely to get hung up on the title.

  3. Jim Powell permalink
    July 9, 2013 4:43 PM

    Could you member of congress pass this test? Sure as hell couldn’t if you live in Texas.

  4. John G. permalink
    July 12, 2013 4:34 AM

    I’m trying to figure out what all the fufarah is even about. George Zimmerman isn’t even white, he’s Hispanic and has even stated that he thinks of, and sees himself, as an Hispanic American. So what does the White race even have to do with this case? You want to see phenomenal examples of Media sponsored racial discrimination watch to see if they make a media circus out of the De’Marquise Elkins/Antonio Santiago case… well maybe you haven’t heard about that one yet. Oh wait, I know, the media circus around the Channon Christian/Christoper Newsom/George Thomas/Letalvis Cobbins/Lemaricus Davidson/Eric Boyd/Vanessa Coleman case… oh, you haven’t heard about that one yet either? That’s funny, that one happened over 6 years ago. In terms of levels of HEINOUS, BOTH of those cases beat the Zimmerman/Martin by Orders of Magnitude and they were both interracial too. I guess they just don’t fit into The Agenda. For the Channon Christian/Christopher Newsom story click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LBwK7-tbVeM You be the judge, how does THIS compare to the Zimmerman/Martin story for newsworthiness? And here’s the De’Marquise Elkins/Antonio Santiago case: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0I5PvR_sNRE Again, you be the judge? Will this qualify for a media circus? I was trying to find some video to post of those two Intrepid Champions of Equal Justice for all, Railing and Agitating for Justice in either of these cases but I guess the Reverend Jesse Jackson and the Reverend Alfred Charles Sharpton, aka Al Sharpton must not be aware of either of these or else their Sense of Justice would have put them at the forefront of those clamoring for Justice for these innocent victims of Racial Hate Crime.
    Christian / Newsom Hate-Crime Murders – Michelle Malkin
    Michelle Malkin discusses the racist murders of Channon Christian and Chris News…See More

    • July 12, 2013 9:56 AM

      George Zimmerman isn’t even white, he’s Hispanic and has even stated that he thinks of, and sees himself, as an Hispanic American.

      That’s bullshit and even a little bit of research would have made that clear. Zimmerman identified as white. he lived as white. The Sanford police classified him as White and he was totally fine with that, until he was actually arrested and then he got all in touch with his Hispanic side, I suspect because it would lure the gullible into believing that race was not a motivator in his actions. Thanks for proving my suspicions correct.

      You be the judge, how does THIS compare to the Zimmerman/Martin story for newsworthiness?

      It doesn’t. I know you want it to, but they aren’t the same. You know, because none of the defendants in those cases are claiming that they had the right to kill their victims. All of the crimes in question were tragedies. The defense, in the Trayvin Martin case is a travesty. Its premise, that Zimmerman was in the right to engage and follow Trayvon, that Zimmerman is the victim and that his shooting of an unarmed child is therefor justified is racist on its face. It is yet another example of how society sees people of color as inherently less valuable than Caucasians, much like your entire post.

      And before you object to the above statement, if the entire premise of what you’re writing starts with “I’m trying to figure out what all the fufarah is even about,” and pivots to ‘look at all these white people who were killed!’ you’ve made it clear who you value and that value is exactly what you’re talking about.

      You probably should have read The Rules of Engagement before typing. As promised with in The Rules:

      Look everyone, look! We’ve got several examples of both derailing and simple piss poor logic going in one post.

      First the derailing:

      You Have An Agenda – nearly called out by name by the poster, it is the implication “that the marginalized person could never be speaking from a position of integrity or with pure intent because they have “an agenda.””

      It is easy to counter as well. Of course I have an agenda. Facts are my agenda. Logic is my agenda. Basic human decency and equality are also on there.

      There are also shades of It’s A Conspiracy! Because, you know, the murder of an unarmed child wherein the trial is still ongoing and the killer is likely to walk free to totally the same as the murder of an innocent couple six years ago wherein the defendants have already been tried and found guilty, tried again, found guilty again and are currently serving their sentences.

      Except nope. Not at all the same. It’s irrational to even make the comparison.

      P.S. I explained “what all the fufarah is even about,” at length, just like I explained how to act right in public. The fact that you gave neither post a close reading kind of proves the whole point I was making; “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.”

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