We have to be better than the other side

I’m not saying it’s fair… it’s just the truth

Ann Arbor, MI 1996 Keshia Thomas throws herself over the body of a man with SS tattoos to save him from an angry mob

It has been an absolutely fucking awful week and a half. I am going to be 100% honest, I had not one, but two different conversations about the Google Memo that left me in hysterical tears. I looked at photos of the white supremacists marching through Charlottesville and I wept. What made me the most despondent, the most hysterical, wasn’t my own feelings being hurt- but the idea that these are the words, the voices, the images that my students are consuming right now.

The idea that one of my students might see these fucking idiots who get to raise their voices so loudly and think their own voices will never be heard over this insanity. Why?! Why does it make national news when a white man writes all his hate down in a neat letter, but when people of color and women have been screaming for love and equality it’s considered a “fringe interest group”. How on Earth do we have a president afraid to condemn this behavior because he might “alienate his base” and then turn around and point fingers at the anti-nazi protesters?! WHAT IS THIS WORLD OUR CHILDREN ARE GROWING UP IN?! I couldn’t handle it. I can’t handle it.

This blog post is titled “We have to be better than the other side”. I thought, don’t release this blog post this week, that’s not what anyone wants to hear. Don’t call for us to be better when all we want to do is to meet their hate with our own. Don’t ask us to listen when all we can hear is the pounding in our own ears. We don’t want unity, we want to tear them apart. I want everyone of those sexist, racist idiots to regret every choice they’ve ever made. I never again want to look into the faces of my interns as they ask me what the Google Memo means for them and tell them “you should read it because you’ll hear those things eventually anyway”. I wish I could say “He’s just one person”. After last week we know he’s not.

The photo I included at the top of this article should probably make you pretty angry. In a world where otherwise reasonable people think it’s ok to punch someone because they are a Nazi, seeing a young black woman put her body on the line for one is likely not going to resonate with a lot of people. Before you dismiss her actions (and the rest of this post) you should listen to what she has to say about it:

I rediscovered this famous photo when I was surfing reddit today. I clicked on the comments, expecting to see a cross section of what has been happening on the rest of the internet: leftist cries of “intolerance will not be tolerated” and right cries for “freedom of speech”. I was wrong. In the comments I found this:

Reddit user /u/Therealbradman pulled the following quote from Mr. Picciolini’s interview:

“when they [white supremacists] receive compassion from the people they least deserve it from, when they least deserve it, that, to me, is the most transformative process”

Compassion when they least deserve it. Is that not the true opposite of hate? Is that not the antidote to all this? It made me think about something James Damore said in his now infamous memo:

In highly progressive environments, conservatives are a minority that feel like they need to stay in the closet to avoid open hostility.

Now if you are extremely left, like me, you might read this and the following might pop into your head:

“Of course hateful ideologies need to stay in the closet! Of course we are openly hostile towards that!”

That’s what I thought at first, then I went back and re-read it. I have been reading “conservatives” as literally synonymous with “racists”. I know that’s not true, but if I am honest, I feel like they are synonymous. The idea that someone thinks that way makes my insides grow hot with a hysteria that is dangerously close to the surface these days. This hysteria threatens to spill out the moment anyone identifies themselves as “conservative” or “republican” or even worse “Trump supporter”. In thinking about this I realized I have turned these people into cartoons, vilifying everything about them at the drop of a hat.

That’s not fair. I wouldn’t want anyone to treat me that way and I know that because as a woman in tech I have been treated that way. Declaring myself a “feminist” and acting on those ideals had real consequences for my career- but we’ll save that story for another day.

I know you didn’t like what was in that Google Memo. I didn’t either, but he deserved to say it. I’m sorry! It’s true! He didn’t incite violence or distribute obscene materials (legal definition of free speech). Frankly if you read it, all the worst stuff points to the clear fact that this guy has been put down and ignored for a very long time. Is that not what the angry racists were all saying? That they weren’t “angry racists” they just felt ignored?

I GET IT! THAT IS SO FUCKING STUPID! I know, the idea that white men feel like they aren’t listened to any more is sooooo fucking OFFENSIVE. It unfortunately doesn’t mean we get to actually stop listening to them.

We simply have to be better than that. If we want everyone at the table to have equal say it’s not fair to use the same tactics the oppressors have used to gain our own ground. We can’t say “everyone who has previously had a voice shut up, your turn is over”. If we want equality, we have to give equality. We need to find a way for everyone to get a fair say, even if you hate what they’re saying.

You can’t fight exclusion with exclusion

If there is one big collective lesson we on the left need to take away from 2016, it’s that ignoring the parts of people we don’t like is going to come back around to BITE US IN THE FUCKING ASS. So either we can actually be the bigger people and try to listen to them, or have to deal with Trump 2020 and an entire army of James Damores, which is a dangerously real possibility. For every white supremacist that marched there are 10 guys who think “I would have gotten into U of T if it weren’t for affirmative action”, for every James Damore there are 100s of guys who think “She only got that promotion because they want to promote more women”. The more we shut them out, the greater their numbers grow.

So for all our fucking sake- let’s treat these crazies like we would actually want to be treated. I know they won’t show us the same courtesy, but let’s be real, we’re the better people anyway- might as well act like it.

DEAR WHITE PEOPLE: Yo, I say we all gotta be the better people- but really I am talking mostly to you. For generations people of color have played by the rules and forced change while smiling as their oppressors treat them like animals. That shit is exhausting. This is not a “poc have to be better than white racists” post, this is “those that believe in the values of equality have to be better than fucking idiots” post. It’s our turn to step up. I don’t want to hear “I’m just not political” from any of you. That’s a privilege and if you continue to rest on that you are siding with the oppressors. You don’t have to go put yourself in front of Nazis driving through crowds, you just have to start paying attention. Start joining the conversation. Start listening. Start taking this personally.

So, let’s give the conservatives their free speech, it’s the right thing to do, and if we can put our hysteria away for just a moment- things might actually change for the better.

Liked this? Hit the little ❤ so others can find this post. Keep an eye out for more posts from Kasey every other Tuesday as she tells stories from both the classroom and the tech industry. Next post coming 8/29/17

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