1 May 2015
I am exhausted.
And if I am exhausted, I can only imagine how exhausted people of color must be.
I can’t possibly comprehend the minority experience. My white skin and privileged lifestyle erode any chance of understanding what it’s like to have assumptions made about my character and ambition.
Being female gives me some insight, despite the fact we women constitute half the world’s population. I know the glazed look in conversations with men. I know the suppositions they bring when discussing repairs to my house or a vehicle. I know what it’s like to have my educated advice flung back in my face just because I’m a woman, to hear the faux concern as a man says “you’re smart enough to know …” when in fact he really means “shut up, you stupid cow.”
Yes, I know a bit of that pain, and of the struggle to fight discrimination by making myself smarter, pithier, and more knowledgeable about construction and machines than men expect most women to be. Still, it burns my ass to have to bring along Dad when buying a car…just to be sure I’m not getting ripped off. All things being equal, I shouldn’t have to do that.
But things aren’t equal. Maybe society has made some great strides in my lifetime, but things sure as hell aren’t equal enough after fifty long years, not for blacks, not for browns, not for women or gays. Babysteps. Why does it take generations to weed out the hatred from privileged hearts?
It’s been another one of those weeks. Social media blazes with discussions about religion, sex, skin color, violence, execution, and women’s rights. It’s so damn exhausting to follow or comment on news stories. For every heart-felt statement in solidarity with some crisis, there are five condescending voices telling them they’re stupid, ignorant, and just plain wrong.
I’ve noticed a recurring thread in those voices. Those people—the ones who patronize, criticize, and demonize the loudest—are the ones who most fear societal change. Nearly all are white men. On some level, I can accept it’s only natural. If I, as a white woman, can’t claim to understand the minority experience, imagine how difficult it would be for that segment of the population which has no possible scale of reference, which has always known privilege. It’s like trying to fathom a fifth dimension when you only live in three.
But this doesn’t excuse their lack of attempting to gain new perspective.
There’s just no arguing with people who believe our nation truly offers equal opportunity for all. They live in a world of paper ideals. They boil every argument down to perfect sound bites. They have never walked a mile in anyone else’s shoes. These same people would likely tell someone with severe depression to “snap out of it.” I made that mistake once—I was young and naïve, and I told another young woman to get a grip—and I’ll never forget the look of disgust on her face. She nearly struck me that day.
Just get over it.
Get over being born with skin that scares millions of your fellow citizens. Get over having a uterus whose contents you have no right to control. Get over your secret love for another man. Get over your PTSD from serving in the Middle East. Get over the grinding poverty that has hung on the shoulders of your family since 1863. Get over the fact that your ancestors were stolen from another continent. Get over the fact that your women were raped, your men lynched, your voting rights suppressed, and your dignity robbed for four centuries.
Just….get over it, will you? And while you’re at it, stop rioting and looting, which we all know is typical behavior for you folks.
Over and over I hear this refrain from disdainful, ignorant, white-skinned males who drop into conversations like paratroopers from hell and up-end otherwise enlightened discussions. They’re so predictable. They couch insults in cool dialogue. They say the same tired phrases, use the same laughable sources, ignite the same bursts of passion, and bully the women most of all because they perceive them as weak links, especially the females who also happen to be black.
I’m exhausted by it all. I try to make it my mission to learn more about the needs of my suffering brothers and sisters so that, even if I can’t help them, I can at least express my solidarity in language that doesn’t ring hollow. I have no time for the evil beings who populate the internet with their hate and their endless passive-aggressive trollery. They’re cowards, hiding behind the shield of electronic distance, and I wish everyone would simply cut off these creatures. Engaging gives them pleasure, lends legitimacy to their rhetoric. Rejecting them salvages the potential for real dialogue.
Imagine internet discussions where opposing viewpoints come together and part ways with a modicum of fresh understanding. Imagine a society that relies on empathy rather than dismissiveness to craft ideas that lead to better public policy.
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace.
But I’m not naïve. I know my ideals exist only on paper, lofty as the ideal of this Land of Opportunity. Neither one can ever be truly achieved, but that’s no reason not to try.
No matter how exhausting the process.
To read more letters, click on The Path!