It’s a joke in our household, but today the joke – alongside an excellent post that Maddie put up on BadAssQuiltersSociety – got me to thinking.
Where do I fit in the world of inclusion?
I’m not sure it’s a question that I even get to ask, or that will be welcome. Maybe it will be seen as something akin to a rich, white guy asking in the face of an affirmative action program, “Yeah, but what about me?”
But then again, maybe that makes the question worth asking.
Lately I’ve been thinking and posting a lot about embedded racisim, unconscious rape culture, homophobia, and all the ways in which the privileged classes mindlessly – a more apt term than “unconsciously,” deliberately chosen because “mindlessly” implies a more willful form of unawareness – participate in maintaining the status quo. To those enraged about the (unfortunately not uncommon) events of Ferguson, it’s too easy and pat for those of the privileged classes to say “Well, if they’d just obey the lawful orders of a policeman then they would be ok.”
I’m really not that concerned with those who hate overtly, with those who disrupt funerals because they think “the gays” are taking over the military and undermining our morality, with those who wear white hoods, with those Fox Network shock jocks who exchange spewed hatred for ratings. More precisely, they concern me greatly but at least we can see them, and most of us see them for what they are: hate-mongers. At least you can defend against the enemy you can see coming.
No, the ones who concern me are those who stay silent, or who don’t or won’t recognize the hatred of differences that is so embedded in our culture that we don’t even see it when it slaps us in the face. Listen to the experience of Lavar Burton – yep, the guy known for being Geordi La Forge on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and for promoting child literacy, as told here in Think Progress:
Listen, I’m gonna be honest with you, and this is a practice I engage in every time I’m stopped by law enforcement. And I taught this to my son who is now 33 as part of my duty as a father to ensure that he knows the kind of world in which he is growing up. So when I get stopped by the police, I take my hat off and my sunglasses off, I put them on the passenger’s side, I roll down my window, I take my hands, I stick them outside the window and on the door of the driver’s side because I want that officer to be relaxed as possible when he approaches my vehicle. And I do that because I live in America.
That last line really gets me: “because I live in America.” Ouch.
Still think simply “obeying a lawful order” makes everything ok? Well, let me ask you this: would it occur to a white guy to do that ritual, and to make sure that he taught it to his son?
No, it wouldn’t, and if you can’t admit that you might just as well stop reading.
Today, though, I want to ask a different question, one that I fear those who daily find themselves the victim of both deliberate and mindless hatred will find self-serving. One that I fear might seem – or maybe even might be, to my horror – yet one more example of mindless hatred. I hope instead that I speak out of empathy, but others will have to be the judge of that.
This question: Where is there room for men in the conversation about rape culture and mindless sexism? Where is there room for those of pale skin in the conversation about racial exclusion and hatred? Where is there room for heterosexuals in the conversation about the right to marry regardless of sexual orientation?
Where do I fit in that world? Where in the initials LGBTQ – or QUILTBAG, as was amusingly posted in response to Maddie’s article – is there a place for me, a straight, educated, financially successful white male?
I admit it: some days I feel like my nose is pressed up against the glass, excluded from the world of those whose views I most want to hear, those who I strive to understand and include and speak up for when I see hate. Yes, some days I actually am jealous of the subculture world in which Maddie and Flaun have status and I don’t. There is no “S” for “Straight” in the letters that describe that world.
Does that seem perverse, to be jealous of those who are the object of derision and discrimination, both deliberate and mindless hatred?
Maybe. Probably. But I don’t have a solution for a problem that I don’t even fully understand, and that I’m not sure even feels a welcome question.
People ask me why I would focus on including men in my work. People have even bristled at references to helping men become better versions of themselves. Just to be clear: it isn’t my intent to exclude women. Or anyone.
It is my intent to make sure to include everyone in the solution to hatred and misunderstanding in the world. It is my intent to address the issues unique to those in the privileged class who are allies but who are afraid to speak up – and believe me, many of them are afraid – for fear they might say the wrong thing or be shunned simply because they aren’t different.
What do we do to include people who aren’t among the excluded classes, and should we even care?
How’s that for a Sunday morning paradox?
Dr. Les Kertay, Awakened Moments