because silence is not a solution
I'm sorry. I've been part of the problem.
I've been angry--furious--but feeling so helpless because it's like every goddamn week someone gets murdered by the police for the "crime" of existing in public while black and people rightly protesting this are being met with excessive police force and there are white assholes destroying shit under cover of the protests because while it is a FACT that "a riot is the language of the unheard" (thank you MLK) it's so goddamn easy for malign actors to coopt riot conditions to do shit like burn down bookstores and then yell "but antifa did it" and, what the hell, does anyone really need me to explain why I'm feeling angry and helpless? Seriously?
And I've been thinking, "I'm a writer, I should goddamn write something, what else am I here for?" But then I think, "I'm a fucking privileged well-off cis white woman, who am I to speak?" And then I think, "Well, leverage the shit out of your privilege and SAY SOMETHING," and then I think, "What the fuck can I say that doesn't sound like cheap token virtue-signalling performative hashtag so-called allyship?"
And so the anger turns inward and the helplessness overwhelms and it turns out my natural instinct is to turtle down. Just hide away in my own petty personal triumphs and tragedies, keep my mouth shut on anything substantial, and wait for the storm to pass.
And, wow, isn't that a big ol' sign of my white privilege all blindingly strobing neon? "I'm overwhelmed, so I won't think about it." White privilege is what allows me to go through life only thinking about issues facing people of color when I choose to, when I'm strong enough to, when I feel it would be useful. POC don't get to choose not to think about it, any more than I get to choose not to think about issues facing women. You don't get to choose not to think about the issues you're living. The world tends to shove those issues down your throat at every opportunity.
And it turns out that while anti-racism can't begin and end with a hashtag, and performative allyship is deadly, silence isn't any better.
Here's a thing--here is a huge stonking hypocritical thing:
I've recently been dealing with an emotional upset regarding a small online gaming community I've been part of. The member who said something misogynist and then doubled down when called on it was only the inciting incident, upsetting enough in the moment but not in itself the thing that's caused me to go on hiatus from that group's activities. No, the sustaining emotional upset came from the way the rest of the community handled it. A few community members moved very quickly into Missing Stair Defense mode--oh, I know them personally, they don't mean anything by it, they're going through some personal stuff, I promise this is totally unlike them--and that's a huge red flag. An individual asshole can stop being an asshole, or they can leave the community; but a community with a pattern of Asshole Advocacy has a serious problem with how it enacts community.
But worse than the Asshole Advocacy is the utter silence with which the whole group initially responded to my protest. Me, out loud in voice chat: "Hey, I'm not comfortable with [person] tossing misogynist slurs around casually like that." Them: CRICKETS. The Asshole Advocacy only came after I pushed back by repeating myself into the deafening silence--and that wasn't easy, let me tell you. And that's the major reason I continue to be on hiatus from that group despite certain members reaching out to me and telling me they've talked to the offender who feels super bad about it and promises it won't happen again. Because silence like that tells a body, "They don't have your back. You can't trust them. It will happen again, and this is how they will respond."
Yeah, so. Flash forward to today. Me, checking in with another social group's online communications hub for the first time in about a week. And reading post after post of people, primarily POC, saying, "I'm out, y'all. I've been waiting for someone to say something about George Floyd and the protests and #blacklivesmatter, but the silence has been deafening and I no longer feel safe here."
I'm ashamed. I'm a goddamned hypocrite and I'm ashamed.
So I'm not going to be silent anymore. Maybe I feel helpless and overwhelmed, but I can't let that be a reason to stay silent, when other people maybe also feel even more helpless and overwhelmed and also in fear of their lives. I've been proceeding from the somewhat unconscious assumption that these are issues affecting other communities, not mine; events happening in other states, not the one I live in; stuff going on outside my door, which I can close and lock while I hunker down inside the house and ignore the world. And I need to stop doing that. I needed to stop doing that yesterday, or more like two weeks ago.
I still don't know what, effectively, I should say, what I can do, but I'm going to move forward with the intent to fucking learn. Seek, learn, implement. There are quiet things a person can do: donate money to activist organizations, write Postcards to Voters, send letters to government officials. There a personal things a person can do: check in with friends who are directly affected, offer help.
And there are public things a person can do, like write a blog post like this one, admitting fault and asserting the intent to get better. Yeah, maybe it's still a species of performative allyship and hashtag activism, maybe it makes me look like yet another self-centered white person exercising my guilt and making it all about me. I don't know. I have to risk that, because silence is worse. Silence tells my friends that I don't have their backs and they can't trust me. Speaking, I might fuck up, but if I fuck up, at least I can learn from the fuck-up and do better.
#BlackLivesMatter is very easy to say, and yes, a lot of (predominately white) people consider their job done once they've said it. But it's even easier not to say it at all. Activism can't end there, sure. But it's a place to start.
So I'm speaking. And I'm sorry.
This blog isn't going to stop being my actually writing blog, primarily concerned with those personal and petty triumphs and travails to do with one woman's writing life. I also reserve the right to squee about fountain pens, geek out over video games and books and TV shows, and whine about first world problems. But this blog is going to stop totally avoiding matters of substance, because that's no way to live.
Friends: Stay safe out there. Or don't. Take big risks in the name of justice. Know that I love you. And I've got your back.