Sunday, December 4, 2016

Time to Get Real

I have been nervous about writing something like this for some time, which means I’ve also been thinking about it for some time. I have never really attempted to be explicitly political in the past, partially because I didn’t often consider myself possessing the expertise necessary to write well about political issues, but also because I was afraid political material might alienate or bore some of my audience. But today, this is my place, and I’m gonna say what I have to say. 

Since the election results were announced, I have thought of a number of different angles through which I could engage in the conversation. I could write an open letter to Trump supporters, highlighting the fact that although so many of them try to negate his bigotry or disassociate themselves from it, they need to accept that their vote supports his whole platform, including the Islamaphobic, misogynist, KKK-indulgent aspects. I could write a similar message to liberals and leftists, making recommendations on how to cope and what to do to prepare. I could write something simply addressed to my own community of radical activists, encouraging them to take heart and take care of each other. I could even write about the fear I feel in my heart, as a queer woman but also as an ally who has friends and loved ones in many POC and other marginalized communities that are now even more dangerously threatened. What I am going to write encompasses some of those sentiments, and some others too. 

First and foremost, this post announces a new direction for Good Vibrations. In the past I have hinted at adding a more political slant to my material, but now more than ever, it is absolutely critical that I address the pressing issues in our nation and in my own life and activism work. I am a writer, I have always been good at it. If that’s how I can contribute to social change,  cultural revolution, and the safety and preservation of marginalized communities, then so be it. I am showing up for that. 

Next, I want to say that, as a white person, I have never been more horrified by whiteness at large. White supremacy has reared its ugly head in this nation, big time, and while I’ve spent a fair amount of time studying it and can claim to understand it on some levels, I cannot condone it, and find it difficult not to hate. I violently reject this idea of whiteness and white supremacy. I am not here to dominate, I am here to lift other groups up by doing whatever I can. I want to write more about what it’s like to be a white person at a time when the white identity is so shameful and ugly (But then, when has it not been? Whiteness was created to manipulate political constituencies and prevent rebellion through false ideas of supremacy). I want to be a white voice for racial justice, when white voices are needed. I want to discuss the experience of rejecting racial privilege, comfort, and complacency in pursuit of the justice we all deserve. 

However, what I don’t want to do is create more of the same issues we evidently have in this country in the media and the press. I don’t want to create a bubble; I don’t want to push people with different perspectives out. I hope I can make my writing legible, factual when needed, and de-sensationalized, but I also want to be able to speak freely about my ideas, because that is a privilege we all still have. 

What some of you might know is that I’ve been living in a small town of 871 people in southern Missouri since July. There are more Confederate flags in this town than people I would call “friend” - it’s not necessarily a very open or safe place. As you might imagine, this place is an echo chamber (and sometimes what feels more like a cesspool) of alt-right religious fervor, homophobia, racism, misogyny, and so on. It is also a place marked by deep poverty, heavily affected by drugs, riddled with police corruption, lacking in educational and diversity-exposure opportunities, and so accustomed to violence against women that it is commonplace. This is where Trump supporters live. I’ve been talking to them every day. 

I’m telling you about this because I want to show you why I think it’s so important that I, and other writers, not only speak up, but also create conversation, in hopes that our ideas will reach faraway ears and perhaps be answered, or at least discussed. I believe it’s important for people like me, heavily educated and also possessing white privilege which will give us a voice in spaces where those of others are disregarded, speak up about progressive and anti-racist ideas and bring them to the attention of people who think differently from us. And then, listen to their responses, and evolve together. I have had some excellent conversations with high schoolers about Black Lives Matter, white supremacy, privilege, and the like. I’ve had less progress with people who are older, perhaps because they’re more set in their ways, but there are Democrats who live here too, and they’ve been excellent conversational companions. 

Aside from my point about conversation, I am also bringing up my experience in Missouri to point something out. People like the ones I’m now surrounded by need justice too. They need freedom from capitalism, which is destroying their towns by plundering local economies. They need the decriminalization of drugs, they need police accountability, they need an end to the patriarchy. They need educational opportunities, and they need to experience diversity in order to understand that it’s not scary, and they don’t have to hate people who aren’t like them. They need freedom from the ideological prison of fundamentalist Christianity. They need what radicals, activists, and community builders have to say, even if they hate us and want to hurt us. 

It’s hard to come face to face with the ugly racism and bigotry that is so pervasive in our country, and among white communities such as this one. It’s also hard to look at these people with compassion, when I know they would refuse to grant the same to me should I tell them I am queer. The best I can do is diffuse my anger and try to appreciate that they are people too, just like me, and that if I believe in justice, I have no business hating them or trying to put them down. Instead, my job is to lift other people and other perspectives up. 

I want to extend a hand of friendship, love, and encouragement to anyone who reads this: I am here for your liberation, and I hope you will be here for mine. This time in our nation, and in our world, is a perilous one, and we need more than ever to create conversations, communities, and take care of each other, even if we don’t agree on everything. I believe it is possible to get along with people you can’t agree with, as long as they are not hurting you or anyone else. I believe that people are more likely to correct their prejudices when an issue is made personal to them. And I believe in the power of solidarity to defeat the ugly and hateful tendencies of Trump and his supporters. I believe in the basic goodness of humanity. I have to, I love it too much.  

I am here to talk, discuss these issues or others, give love and support, or whatever you might need, any time. I want to acknowledge that all of my ideas, especially those on racial justice and white supremacy, stem from people of color's ideas and leaders of thought, and I invite you to investigate more into what they have to say about white people's position in the continuing pursuit for racial justice, perhaps starting with this handy guide compiled exclusively by POC, "Opportunities for White People in the Fight for Racial Justice". I am going to continue to be vocal and stand up for what is right: justice, safety, and the alleviation of suffering for all people. If you care to join me, excellent. I’ll see you along the way. 

With love, support, and defiance, 


Images: 1, 2, 3

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