“Not All!”

Son of Baldwin
[IMAGE DESCRIPTION: A meme of the cartoon character, The Kool-Aid Man, bursting through a wall. The meme reads: “Not all white people!”]

I should state for the record that I don’t think all white people are consciously racist — or that all religious people are consciously queerantagonistic or all men are consciously misogynistic or all non-disabled people are consciously ableist/disabelist etc. When I talk about racism, queerantagonism, ableism/disableism and other oppressive psychologies, I’m talking about prevailing systems and institutions and the people who, wittingly or unwittingly, prop them up and perpetuate them.

Unfortunately, non-racist, non-queerantagonistic, non-misogynistic, non-abelist/disableist, etc. systems and institutions do not prevail in this country. They are exceptional — as are the people who, at the very least, grapple with, question, confront, challenge, undo, excise, abolish, and heal their oppressive, privileged roles in the various hierarchies. And the proof that they are exceptional rests in the fact that oppressive categories, institutions, peoples, and systems not only exist and are dominant, but thrive. And beyond thrive, they set the very tone for existence and reality.

If the majority of people weren’t participants in and perpetrators of oppressive paradigms, there’s simply no way these paradigms would continue to be so successful.

So my point of view is that it isn’t necessary to shout “NOT ALL!” whenever we have these discussions.

We know “not all.” But we’re also aware that even though “not all,” these systems remain entrenched, vicious, overwhelming, and primary.

Entering a conversation to announce “Not All” is merely a derailing tactic and the defensiveness actually reads as guilt.

I just think that if we’re going to employ “not all,” then we should do so when it actually serves justice and topples injustice. It should be meaningful, rather than used as distraction, deflection, and defense, and as an attempt to spare people their hurt feelings.

For example: “Not all” drug dealers and drug users are black or brown (in fact, studies show the opposite), yet, most people arrested for these things are black and brown.

And some people will try to flip it, too, like: “Well, not all Christians are queerantagonistic. You don’t like it when gays are subject to blanket statements. So don’t do it to us.” As though power dynamics are meaningless and the comparison is remotely tenable.

When gay people are kicking straight people out of churches and creating laws that ban straight people from getting married, and bashing straight people in the heads with pipes on the street, and giving straight people electric-shock therapy to turn them gay, then we can talk on a level playing field.

Until then, it’s just: #FalseEquivalence.

I will stop my criticism of the “Not all!” argument only when oppressive paradigms and peoples are actually the exceptions and not the rules.

Originally published on June 23, 2013.

Son of Baldwin

Written by

Author of the upcoming novel THE PROPHETS from Putnam Books. Coming in 2021.

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