We must all do something
“People will stop voting for Trump when it is no longer acceptable to vote for Trump. And we don’t get there by yelling “NO” once every four years. We get there by never letting anything slide, never letting anything go. By treating every racist microagression, every sexist joke, every ableist assumption like the threats to our future that they are. Together, we can make sure that this never happens again.” – Ijeoma Oluo
I want to be able to be angry at “them”. I want there to be a “them” to be mad at. I want to shift all the blame on someone else. I want to not have to own any responsibility. I really, really do. But I can’t do that, not if I am honest with myself. I need to do more than I have done.
Yes, I got over being afraid and started wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt on some days. Yes, everyday for quite awhile now I very consciously put on my Black Lives Matter wristband. Yes, I make a point of trying to find a balance with what and how I say things on my Facebook page in the hope that if I find the right balance it might spark something useful for someone. Yes, I have been willing to have difficult and sensitive conversations in my workplace. For a while there I was feeling pretty good about what and how I was being in the world. Openly taking a stand for those with less privilege than I have.
Then a couple of months ago someone I know was in the news for attacking a black man who was already being restrained. I was appalled at the video I saw, but I did nothing. In fact I immediately began making excuses for them in my head. Coming up with reasons for their actions. Those excuses in my head were fairly quickly followed by the awareness there really were no excuses for the behavior. But I didn’t post about it. Something right here where I live and I took no public stand.
A few days later as I was going to my car I witnessed a man yelling and screaming at a woman who was sitting in her car. I watched to see if anything was going to escalate. Eventually, she unlocked her passenger side door and let him in. Somehow I let this signal me that now it was OK and I could leave. I found out later the police were called. Here’s the thing, once again I did nothing. I know enough about domestic violence to know often the woman doesn’t act on her own behalf, but in that moment I found a way to convince myself I didn’t need to do anything.
I’m not proud of those two incidents. In fact, I’m rather horrified. I’ve taken a stand with myself since then. Wake up. Read more. Learn the history of this country beyond what the history books taught me. Listen more. Maybe more importantly, question why I think and feel like I do, even when I think I’m right. What is me being on auto pilot and what is an actual considered thought or reaction?
That’s where I was before the election. The election has been another wake up call. I am realizing how narrow my interactions are. My family, my circle of friends, and my social media interactions for the most part all think along similar lines. Most of what I read supports what I already think and feel. How lazy is that? This needs to change. I thought there was no way he could win. I really did. That privileged confidence and surety has to change.
A couple of days after the election my son-in-law told me in a very matter of fact way that nothing was really any different than it was before the election. I have read other marginalized people say the same. That has been haunting me. That I don’t always live up to my own expectations haunts me. How much I don’t know haunts me. How much I have let myself rely on Facebook and textbooks and what the news spoon-feeds me haunts me.
This is what I can do. I can question what I think I know. I can question my first and second and sometimes third reactions. It’s one of the only ways I know to get to the bottom of my own misinformed and misguided kneejerk reactions. I’m not always liking what I am uncovering, it makes me uncomfortable and angry. Good. That’s a starting point.
White readers, I’m talking to us here. Let’s all start with something. Your start may look different than mine, great we need to combat this from every imaginable angle. Then we don’t just start but we keep doing something and then we do what’s next and then what comes after that.
If we want to make sure this never happens again we must all do something for as long as it takes.
This post was written by Elizabeth Wilson