[TRIGGER WARNING: THIS ARTICLE WILL PROBABLY PISS YOU OFF. THAT’S WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT.]
I am often identified as a member of perhaps the most hated group on this planet: straight, white males. For all it’s said that my “kind” have the greatest privileges in the world (I certainly won’t deny that), I have been told I cannot comment on things like systemic sexism, rape culture, discrimination, oppression, racism, violence… the list really goes on. The thinking is that straight, white males have essentially been responsible for every bad thing in human history. Therefor, they have no right to make comments on the problems they cause.
This is not a post meant for me to stand up and say, “I matter! Straight, white males have an opinion, too!” I already know I have a voice, and I understand that my voice does matter. I’m a person, just like you. And basically—no offense—fuck you if you think otherwise. I mean that with respect, and I don’t mean that sarcastically. Really.
I certainly do experience racism. I certainly am avoided in public. I certainly am labeled, and there are certainly negative expectations placed on me by vast portions of society.
I face unique struggles for: having a penis, having tattoos, wearing facial hair, being white, living in a van. The list goes on. As a unique person, I face unique challenges. Everybody does.
We all suffer discrimination. We all suffer bigotry. That’s the point. We already share common bonds, but we ignore them because we want to say “our” pain is greater than “theirs”. In reality, those things can’t be judged equally. Pain is not an objective experience. Our similar experiences should be bringing us closer together.
I’m not here to say your pain doesn’t matter. It absolutely, most certainly does. You have the right to feel it. I’m saying your pain does not delegitimize someone else’s pain.
The purpose of this post is to make clear that we all suffer discrimination because—in one way or another—we proliferate it. Everybody’s a bigot somehow. Most bigots are bigots because they don’t understand, and their actions appear to the informed as purposeful evil. Truthfully, most people are causing infractions against a subset of the population without any mind to the harm they cause. Many people don’t even do this intentionally.
People who say “ladies and gentlemen” probably aren’t doing it to offend the sensibilities of agendered citizens. Rich white people that donate to golf clubs but not homelessness causes are not self-centered pieces of shit—they’re supporting what they know. Fathers that beat their sons for homosexual tendencies might be expressing deep-seated child abuse in the only way they know how. Straight people that go to gay clubs might want to avoid the predation they experience at “straight” clubs. (Although, to be fair, I know plenty of straight girls that have been just as preyed upon by lesbians, and I have personally been violently accosted by gay men at gay clubs.)
Some women literally pick up their children when I walk near, y’know? People avoid parking next to me because I’m a bearded white guy hanging out in a big, white van. You should see the looks I get when I walk through a Macy’s—as though I’m only there to fuck people up and sexually assault all the women. Funny thing is, I’m actually a really nice guy with a ton of perspective and broad life experience. But, people act on instinct. They discriminate without even realizing they do it.
But, those are easy examples. What about the things we don’t do?
How many of us are practicing the same bigotry and discrimination that we preach against… without even knowing it?
For example: people who think homophobes are disgusting creatures. Have you gone to a rural American community and scheduled an information seminar on your sexuality and preferences? No? Why? Is it because you are afraid of being beaten for your beliefs by super-conservative rednecks? Is it because other communities have done abhorrent things to homosexuals and LGBTQ citizens? Okay, that’s fair. But is every rural community that way, or do you just assume as much? You’re afraid of what you don’t understand, so you don’t teach. They’re afraid too. Isn’t it possible that because they don’t have open examples in their communities, they have no gauge for the actual truth?
How many African Americans are visiting schools in rural Kentucky to discuss the tribulations of black youth in inner cities? How many transsexuals are scheduling speaking time at Republican conventions?
How much can we do as a peaceful and informed people to bring the message rather than scream the message? How much are the educated and inclusive actually divisive and hateful?
Remember when known white nationalist Richard Spencer got sucker punched on the street just for speaking his mind? Is he an asshole? Yeah, I think so. And so is the person that attacked him for his beliefs. True warriors of peace fight with information and education, not fists. And yet, so many have called for neo-Nazis to be hung, set on fire, shot. White nationalists have been violently confronted by counter-protesters that seek to harm rather than listen. Their words are delegitimized before they even speak. They’re scared for their lives, and they’re protesting because they think white people are being hated into extinction. (Which isn’t totally inaccurate, in all fairness.)