enemies, allies, and community: calling ourselves out, or just walking away

check your privilege! it’s fun and easy and just may change your entire life!

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the thing about homophobia is that it wears you down.

i think anyone who challenges the status quo can attest to this: even when it’s not constant, the recurring need to validate your right to be present, to exist, to be proud of who you are as you are, to have opinions and be respected for them… is just damn tiring.

especially when you’ve got this headtrip going on, telling you that you can’t just walk away.

i really, seriously, truly believe that there are no enemies, only future allies. this belief, combined with my relative privilege, gives me a sense of responsibility to call people out on their oppressive language, ideas, and actions, and discuss it with them. for the most part, i think this is a good thing. most of the sexism, racism, ableism, and homophobia that we all encounter on a daily basis is the result of peoples’ habitual thoughtlessness as opposed to outright maliciousness. it’s not that we’re ignorant so much as we haven’t thought things through.

given an opportunity to talk about our attitudes, we can see the faulty logic and the hurt in our words and actions, and strive to do better. most of us choose to do this not because we feel a need to “help out” the victims of sexism, racism, ableism, and homophobia, but because on some level, we recognize that as long as we continue with our oppressive viewpoints, we are preventing ourselves from relating authentically with our community: whether we realize it or not, we’re stopping others from feeling safe around us.

usually, i feel secure enough in myself that i can enjoy facilitating these sorts of conversations, and quite often do.

but sometimes i don’t want to do it. sometimes i resent that i’m asked to educate others about how they’re oppressive, even when it’s me that’s asking myself to do this, especially when it’s me they’re oppressing. sometimes i don’t have the energy to cope with the defensive backlash that happens when people are told their words and actions are sexist, racist, ableist, or homophobic. sometimes i’m too drained to explain that we’re all oppressive and it’s okay to admit that, as long as we’re not accepting it, as long as we’re working on it. sometimes, i do just walk away, because my need to protect myself overrides my need to build community.

but even in those cases, the hurt simmers in my mind and heart, and i wonder what to do with it. often i rant to a friend or two, and feel better. when i’ve been a student, i’ve written a paper about it. at times, it has fueled my involvement in political actions.

today, it’s becoming this blog post.

a couple years ago, i was talking with a mentor and used a common colloquialism that denigrates indigenous folks: i realized the offensive nature of what i’d said the instant it came out of my mouth, and was overcome with shame and embarrassment. my mentor told me to calm down, and then said: “the decolonization of our language is an ongoing struggle, but a necessary one, and we all need to take part.”

i think about this all the time.

we can’t let our shame of our thoughtless hate get in the way of dismantling that hate.

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(UPDATE: there’s a bit of a follow-up post here, with some constructive ideas for dismantling hate)

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2 responses to “enemies, allies, and community: calling ourselves out, or just walking away

  1. i sometimes wonder why it seems so hard to ‘draw the line’ when ones need for self care outweighs ones ability to address things in a given moment. And I mean that in a way that I often feel like I let myself down, I often get angry with myself, it further drains me, when I find I just can’t do it yet again. It is in those moments that I have to remind myself that respite is a necessary part of this whole process. Walking away does not make it counter productive, it is what allows one to do this in the first place.
    Thank you for writing this entry… it felt like a great funneling of my own frustrations in those moments into something more productive.

  2. Walking away does not make it counter productive, it is what allows one to do this in the first place.

    yes.
    yes, it is.
    thanks.

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