First, I personally never think of strangers as possible protectors any more than I think of police that way these days. A person is either the type to come to someone’s else’s aid or they’re not. So I never thought of the pins in that regard. But all this other stuff?
Indignation about the honest discussion of an issue is something I’ve dealt with before. A lot. It’s a microaggression that’s meant to be crazy-making, whether the arguer realizes it or not. The indignation is meant to shut down input from the person(s) affected. It happens in boardrooms, break rooms, at bus stops, over kitchen tables. It happens in families at Thanksgiving dinner when somebody wants you to shut up about what some tiny gesture really means in the vast reality of our lives.
Here’s a story: Over the breakroom table, in the supermarket where I worked in the early eighties, a white guy was talking to another about how the Jewish people didn’t own slaves and didn’t believe in it. The other guy was saying how can you know that, and if it’s true then how did Jews in the south get around it. The original speaker said this was just a fact. A people as historically oppressed as the Jews, wouldn’t be slave owners. They worked against it.
The second guy began to look a little sheepish, like — why are we having this conversation in front of a black woman like she isn’t here? So I spoke up gently and told the original speaker that he was wrong. He gave me an authoritative little spiel and seemed to think he had put the whole conversation to rest. I asked if he knew how the majority of black people got their last names after they were freed. He gave a tentative nod, but I reminded him anyway that a John owned by a family named Johnson would likely call himself John Johnson. He agreed. Then I told him my mother’s maiden name was Cohen and spelled it out.
There was only one reason why this guy stopped lecturing and started thinking — my specific personal testimony. Yes, those were the days before personal computers were ubiquitous, but information didn’t just become available because of bytes. He was being a pompous, self-righteous, jerk who didn’t want to be challenged on what he didn’t know. And he was supposedly on my ‘side’. We only call things like that ‘microaggressions’ because hardcore aggressions can get so much worse.
You know this already H. Nemesis Nyx , so do most of the people I interact with here, but I need to write it down now for anyone who might see this and does need to hear it:
We don’t talk about white privilege to make you feel bad. We reference it because it’s a true part of the problem. Anyone who can’t have it be part of the conversation, isn’t trying to help. Trying to feel better about one’s self isn’t the same as trying to be part of the solution. You shouldn’t be quiet any more than I should, but asking for input and searching for reliable information and then studying it more than you talk — that’s the key to saying something helpful when you do.
I wish I could say it clearer and more effectively than that, like a good sound bite or an eye-catching click-bait title, but I don’t know how. It’s the mind-fuck nature of the controversy that has me feeling that I have to say it at all.
I’m tired of all this swirling around inside my head, and the outside confusion that makes it feel so much worse. I know it’s hard when we’re trying to be inclusive and fair (because that means we’ve got more issues and ideas to deal with and get right), but the bickering only helps the side that thinks ‘progressive’ is a bad word.
When we know better, we can do better. We’ve got to learn better fast.