Stop Telling Us To Be Nice
Seriously, just stop. You need to just stop. If you’re not actively opposed to marginalized people you have to stop doing this.
Let me explain.
If we’re talking about marginalized people in the developed world today, we need to talk about America. Sure, there are plenty of other places in the world we could discuss right now; we could talk about Britain and Brexit, we could talk about the far-right Svoboda party in the Ukraine, or the far-right Golden Dawn party in Greece, or the recent successes of their German equivalent, Alternative für Deutschland.
But nowhere else is the contrast so stark as in post-Donald Trump America. Nowhere else is quite so diverse, or holds itself up as the world’s champion of freedom and equality.
And nowhere else is a marginalized person so likely to be thrown into the bonfire for being less than polite to cishet white people.
Yeah, we’re going there. Because apologies to those of you in the audience, you are totally the problem, twice over again for cishet white men. Even those of you who don’t think you’re part of the problem — it’s time to start recognizing that, yeah, you’re a part of it. When you don’t speak up, when you try to “keep the peace,” when you got offended by that last paragraph, it’s all part of the problem.
Moreover, there is a veritable plague of those least-affected by the damage Trump’s government can do telling marginalized folks, “just wait, it won’t be that bad, he’s very positive in some ways, sit down, shut up, stop complaining.”
Know when the last time we heard that was? Right before the election, when we were repeatedly told that he couldn’t possibly win.
The time before? During the Presidential primaries, when he couldn’t possibly win.
That’s why we’re talking about America; because that list goes backwards again and again and again, and every time we’re told that we’re too angry, too intolerant, that we have to keep the peace — and that if we’re good, cishet white people will take care of it.
That’s perhaps the one positive thing to come out of Trump’s election — nobody can argue anymore that being polite works. Nobody can say that the problem got fixed when we were quiet and calm and kept the peace. Conciliation got us here. Period.
It’s hard to imagine how anyone thought otherwise to begin with — Rosa Parks mostly got a court battle and lost her job for her peaceful protest (the Civil Rights Movement wouldn’t make any significant progress for almost a decade, and Parks wasn’t even the first to protest in that exact manner — that goes to Bayard Rustin in 1942, Irene Morgan in 1946, and Sarah Louise Keys in 1952.)
All legislation aimed at people for peacefully existing while wanting the same rights as everyone else. And that’s not even starting on the very physical consequences to every peaceful marginalized person out there; the other thing Parks got was death threats. She’s not even slightly alone in that.
Lest you think that’s all alarmism, lest you still want us to hold out a “wait and see” attitude, to accept that it “won’t be that bad,” there is no doubt whatsoever that both Trump’s platform and government are anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-LGBT, anti-Black — you name it, if it’s not white, Christian, cisgender and hetero, they’re against it.
Since coming to power, Trump has appointed an exclusively anti-LGBT cabinet — most notably, his vice-president, Mike Pence, who supports “conversion therapy”, better known as “torture gay people to try and make them not gay.”
Meanwhile, as Zak Ford of ThinkProgress notes, Congressional Republicans are “optimistic” about their renewed opportunities to put into place anti-LGBT “religious freedom” laws.
I could go on, making lists for every marginalized group which was at all significant in this election, and many others besides; the point is, it’s not blowing smoke. This government is genuinely dangerous to marginalized people.
And yes, there is always some sort of progress to be pointed to — some form of “See, how can you say we’re not moving forward.” Same-sex marriage is a favourite example these days.
But it ignores a few facts, First, that same-sex marriage took America just short of forever, compared to most other developed nations. Second, that it’s still under fire and while you were all patting yourselves on the back for a job well done, we’re still fighting.
Third, that it never should have been a question in the first place — and that’s what you all keep missing. The entire concept of equal rights is that everyone deserves equal rights, and when we’re told that we should be thankful for what we’ve got, it’s telling a child you’ll give them a candy if they’ll be quiet.
Sorry, and we are grateful, but what we want is equal access to that candy bag you’ve been clutching for the last several centuries. We are glad we made some progress, and we’re thankful you helped, but we’re not in this to be thankful for the status quo’s table scraps. And while that one issue may have been the end of the fight to you, it’s just one tiny step to us.
The truly galling part of all of this is that when it comes to silencing marginalized protest, marginalized anger, marginalized-ever-so-slightly-suggesting-you-might-not-be-absolutely-perfect, it all stems from a single place — heaven forbid that you feel embarrassed, or guilty, or even consider modifying your behaviour for one second. Why consider that you could be wrong when it’s so much easier to turn that accusation around and continue feeling superior?
Well, enough. Quit it. We’re not going to stop anyway, now more than ever.
And if you really, truly believe that you’re doing anybody any favours? Just remember that the next Donald Trump might be coming for you. And we’re sorry for that.
Because we already, emphatically, know how that feels.