So I upset a white woman today. A straight, white, able bodied, cisgender woman. I did this by saying her professions of being colorblind, or more accurately “I treat everyone equally; we are all the same under our skin,” were offensive.
Here’s what happens when you are a marginalized person immersed in communities largely populated by people with dominant identities. The upswell of support for this white woman was immediate and fierce. Her hurt feelings and bruised ego necessitated calls of “explain yourself!” directed at me.
Why is it never enough for me to say this is offensive, it’s not true, and it’s not helpful? Why is it never enough for me to tell you I am tired of swimming upstream while you hum Pete Seeger protest songs and pat yourself on the back? My heart is breaking from bearing witness to friends, acquaintances, and strangers whose bodies and lives are on the front lines of my white culture’s violent racism, but that isn’t enough for you. The tons of science and scholarship disproving colorblindness as possible or worthy of pursuit, curated for you by me on my Facebook wall, isn’t enough. Instead what I hear is it’s just “one opinion,” it’s just “semantics.”
Rather than feeling seen, and feeling heard, and feeling taken care of, I have to build a case—while the white woman didn’t have to explain herself at all.
So when you ask why I’m not saying #AllLivesMatter, when you say that pointing out difference divides us, my answer is this: You know me, you love and care for me, you know my social justice expertise and in fact you often rely on it, lift it up, and brag about it, yet it is very clear to me that one white woman’s hurt feelings matter more. This is why I must insist that #BlackLivesMatter, because it’s a knee jerk reaction to care about one white woman’s hurt feelings no matter how many clear, reasoned explanations someone you know brings forward. This is exactly why we have to keep chanting that #BlackLivesMatter—we have to keep chanting it long enough and hard enough to make a dent in the need to protect one white woman’s feelings.
As a queer white man, I am keenly aware that the burden I feel of swimming up this current is nothing compared to what my friends of color experience, and the pain I feel simply serves as a point of empathy. And I’m also aware that if my white friends won’t listen to me, they sure aren’t listening to a community of color expressing its outrage.
So what will it take? What’s required to call you forward? Why were the hurt feelings of one white woman so important? What would it take to shift from there to “I wonder what has my friend, who is usually so patient and kind, so upset?” What would our world look like if those of us on the margins could bring our selves, scars, and all and it was enough to trump a white woman’s hurt feelings?