Monday, November 21, 2016

7 Things: Being Good is a Constant Journey

I'm seeing a lot of things out there is this changing world.  With the rise of racist and xenophobic attacks a lot of people are trying to explain that they are not racist, not sexist, not xenophobic, not ableist and then trying to pull out examples that prove their claims.  So let's talk. 
1. Just because you once - or maybe even now - had a friend who was not exactly like you, this does not mean any bad phobias or -isms you had absorbed by living in this world just disappeared. 
2. You friends, family or coworkers of whatever marginalized group do no exist to reassure you that you are cool.  You may have a relationship with someone that allows you to check in and review things, but people of color, people of other religions, people who are disabled, people who are of a different sexuality than you, people along the gender binary, people from other countries, and every intersection therein, are not your sounding board.  And remember even if your relationship does allow for that, think carefully about how much and how often you are asking this person to be your interpreter.  How much others might be asking the same thing of them.  How their might be other ways you could work on yourself that don't ask others to live through harmful stories to help you feel better.  You would, I hope, never expect that victims of sexual assault should constantly listen to your stories about being groped or harassed to confirm that.  This is kind of the same thing. 
3. If you do not have friends of different identities, you should work on that.  No, I'm not suggesting there's a magical checklist that will make you good once you've achieved it.  I'm saying that the more that you can expand your circle, the more opportunity you have to listen - emphasis on the word listen - the more information you will have about other's experiences.  If you live somewhere homogenous among one identity or another, you can make use of the internet.  But, I refer you back to the above.  You can forge real relationships on the internet.  But people you have had a fun exchange with once, people who work as reporters, bloggers, or other information disseminators may have already shared the maximum amount of the information they are willing to share.  And your cool Facebook convo is not a free pass to their experiences.  
4. Being racist, ableist, xenophobic, anti-religious, or homophobic is not just about being nice to somebody once.  It is a constant journey.  If you let your state or federal enclave pass laws that harm folks without pushback, then you are part of the problem.  If you are great, until you notice your school, your neighborhood, or your workplace tipping too much into people not like you, and then you start fighting back, or just pull your kids from that school, move, and change jobs, you are part of the problem.  
5. If you vote for people that spew hate because the rest of the things they promised sound good, then you are part of the problem. If you vote for people that did not spew hate during the election, but then they sit quietly and let terrible things occur, you are part of the problem. 
6. If you tell your kids, your friends, that the terrible things that happen to them don't matter because the person probably didn't mean it that way, then you are part of the problem.  Yes, context is useful, but it does not trump harm.  People who come to you about harm will just stop telling you things.  It won't solve the harm, and those harming them will continue on.  We cannot show up for every fight, but if you can't even bear to let people tell you their stories, you are not only not stopping harm, you are contributing directly to it. 
7. If every time someone says, hey, I have concerns about this thing you did or said, you react with vitriol, saying that no one can ever win, no one is ever happy, then you are part of the problem.