Charlottesville: Stand with Communities of Color

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

– Martin Niemöller (German Lutheran Pastor)

I stand with our marginalized communities who are standing up and speaking against Wooly Thoughts updatedWhite Supremacist groups that have now been given space and voice by our president.  Whatever they call themselves, Alt-Right, Nazis, under any name they represent the worst elements in our country.  I’ve been struggling, as I always do, around what I can do to help.  I’m trying to find the right voices to listen to and to amplify.  Here’s what I’ve got right now.

Attend vigils if you’ve got one near you and you’re able to attend.  Here’s a site to find one near you.

Donate some money to one of the organizations working there right now.  Here’s a list.

And this: Talk about it.  Having these conversations can be really hard, but the responsibility of anyone who wants to act as an ally to marginalized communities.  Another friendly reminder:  Ally is not a noun, Ally is a VERB.  It’s a thing you do, not an identity you get to claim.  If you want to say you’re an ally, now is the time to prove it.  Call out racism when you see it.  This is especially true if you’re a white person like me.  It is my responsibility to use my priviledge to help support those people who don’t have access to the spaces that I have.  And it’s HARD, I’m an introvert and I hate confrontation, but if I don’t use the power that I have, it benefits those people who want to hurt our most vulnerable communities.

An in the vein of trying to be a better ally: The Hard Truth that Good White People Need to Hear.

I have just one thought about all the media I’m seeing right now.  I really don’t like the phrase “Silence = Consent”, because that’s SUCH a dangerous thing to imply.  I understand why people are saying it and (I think) what they’re trying to say.  If we don’t speak up when we see shit like this happening in OUR country, we’re giving tacit support.  We NEED to speak up, we need to act up.  And we also need to own up to the fact that this is our problem.   BUT, the word consent here is problematic.  I don’t want an issue of semantics to derail the real discussion going on here, the focus needs to stay on the issue.  But I needed to voice this.  Tone policing is shitty and that’s not what I want to be doing here.  People are justifiably outraged, and they should be.

However, consent.  When a person is raped and they didn’t or couldn’t say no, their silence is not consent.  However, if you witness a crime and you don’t tell someone about it, take the actions that you’re able to take, you are complicit.  You’re letting shit happen and dismissing it by saying ‘it doesn’t affect me, I didn’t participate’.  And that’s not okay.  There’s always exceptions, sometimes you have to keep quiet because it isn’t safe.  And I don’t advocate putting yourself into direct harm if speaking up puts you into an unsafe situation.

Honestly though, most of us “good white folks” aren’t risking our safety when we speak up about racial issues.  Yes, it’s uncomfortable, yes it’s difficult, yes it might be scary, but for the most part, we’re not risking our physical safety in bringing up the issue.  It’s something we really need to do if we want to put our money where our mouths are.  No more empty lip service.  DO SOMETHING.  Don’t foist it off saying ‘it wasn’t me’, or ‘it doesn’t represent my hometown’.  It’s our problem and it’s long past time for us to face it and start fixing it.

I’m going to end with a quote from the Hard Truth article:

The country doesn’t actually need “good white people.” What it needs are actual allies; allies who listen to people of color, allies who don’t speak over people of color, allies who do not need to be told that they are good, allies that do not center their activism around whiteness, allies who are not colorblind. If this is too much to ask, if you grow defensive when challenged, if your first instinct is to lash out, maybe you were never actually truly a good white person to begin with.

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How to be a Better Ally to your Queer Friends

wooly-thoughtsDear Straight Allies,

I’m writing you this open letter because I know that you’re awesome people.  And I know that you want to be the best allies that you can possibly be.  But here’s one thing I’ve been hearing a lot lately from my straight allies and it’s making me want to tear my hair out.

When I confess to you that I’m afraid in the wake of this election (and let’s be honest, through the entire election process), here’s what is really not helpful to hear.

“Aww don’t worry, it’ll be okay, you just have to be strong/brave.”

Firstly, don’t tell me it’s going to be okay when I’m essentially watching my home catch fire.  Between promises to repeal a great deal of LGBTQ legislation, to appoint bigoted white supremacists to positions of power, and the fact that other less informed friends and family don’t have any idea that it’s all happening.  I actually had a family member try to tell me that Trump supports gay people, and they linked me to an article showing Trump holding up that (upside down) rainbow flag.  They honestly thought that seeing that meant Trump was an ally.  It made me feel so depressed because they are an otherwise lovely person, but they had NO IDEA what a Trump presidency could mean for me and my wife.  Because they didn’t have to know, it’s not a problem they have to deal with every single day.

Friends, your queer friends are feeling freaked out right now.  We have good reasons to be fearful of what’s coming at us.

Secondly, and more importantly, don’t tell me to be brave.

I am living in a country where HALF of the population thinks that I am less than human.  Thinks I should be given electrical shocks to cure my perversion.  Thinks that corrective rape is a perfect solution to my ‘problem’.  Thinks that I am the same as a pedophile or that I must be down with bestiality.

I live every day in this reality.  So I am brave.  I’m brave every single time I come out (which is a continual process not a one time thing) to someone and I wonder how they’re going to react.  I could tell you stories about sweaty palms and how I can physically feel my heart beat speeding up when I’m mentioning my wife to someone new.   I could tell you about the time I stood across from the Phelps clan while they shouted about how God hated me.

I could tell you about the very palpable fear I felt when my wife and I went to Pride right after the Orlando Pulse shooting.  I actually made a plan for what I would do if there was a shooting at the parade.  I planned how I would grab hold of my wife and pull her behind me, making sure to cover her head.  I made sure we had good sneakers on so we could run if we needed to.  While we marched in that parade, and in a rally downtown near home I watched every window in every building around us, I looked down every alley, just waiting for a sign of something wrong.

I am brave.

So, instead of saying that, what I’d love to hear is this:

Say that you’re sorry things are really hard right now and ask if there’s something you can do to help.  Don’t spout platitudes at your marginalized friends. Just be a friend, listen, and offer to help where you can.  And I mean actually listen, don’t interrupt with a story you heard from someone else or some queer news bite that you looked up.  Listen to us, and trust that we know what we’re talking about.  And when we say that things are looking bad for us, trust us.

And then get involved and take action.