And Here Comes The Social Activist

I’ve been playing with this post for awhile now, and today I’m in a frustrated enough mood to post and finish it.

Not that I don’t experience it on a day to day basis, but the bigotry I’ve been subjected to within the last few months has been ridiculous. I don’t know if it was the release of Brokeback Mountain, the recent fights in court for gay marriage, or what. But people are taking the existence of the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] community to heart.

A few weeks ago, I was at a bar to celebrate a friend’s 22nd birthday. On our way out, some drunk derelict took it upon himself to throw in some half assed insult, saying that she looked 34, not 22. Not being one to sit by and let someone insult my friends, I confronted the guy by saying Hey listen. She’s 22, so maybe you should work on being a little more polite.

Now, this is the thing that gets me. That he considers this to be an acceptable thing to say to ANYONE.

Well, maybe you should work on not being so gay.

Oh. Okay then. Let’s play.

Well, actually…I am gay. So maybe you should work on not being such a jackass.

Then I turned around and left. Because there was nothing else to say to him.

I’ve already spoken about the issues I’m dealing with personally, which I fear, while they may seem unique and unrepeated to me, are more than likely all too common. If nothing, this should prove that latent and quiet, so to speak, bigotry is just as harmful as anything else. I’ve always found it interesting how the general populace avoids being associated with such words as racist, homophobe, sexist or bigot like they would avoid the plague itself. Yet the qualities of the person and the requisites of the definition match up like puzzle pieces.

Then I read in the D.O. [page 2] today about the reaction the LGBT community had to a recent court ruling that upheld the decision to deny the right of marriage to gay couples in New York. This just put me in a worse mood. Apparently, the reason that the appeal failed was because the judges cited the traditional definition of marriage as a union between man and woman “that long predates the constitutions of this country and state,” emphasizing its “critical importance to its role in procreation.”

There is no way for me to comfortably convey my disappointment with the reasoning behind quashing such a vital and integral step towards equality. I cannot, for the life of me, understand the thought process that goes through the mind of an individual who wishes to deny another human being equal rights.

I got into a thread fight on Jon Armstrong’s site awhile back [I ended up losing my cool, a bit, as you’ll see…all comments by John are me] with a certain individual whom I don’t know. I guess it was foolish of me, but I had always felt distanced from hate. I believed it was something that only a few ignorant individuals had the gusto to actually come out and voice to people. I was surprised, to say the least, that a discourse like the one that had occurred in that particular thread followed the course it did.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from my education, though, it’s that there is an inbred superiority complex instilled into our culture. Specifically, into those that are not considered to be a minority. Continuing with this acquired knowledge, I know it isn’t my issue. Bigotry of any kind is not the problem of the afflicted, but the problem of the persecutor. Racism is a white issue. Sexism is a man’s issue. And homophobia is a straight issue.

It’s frustrating, because sometimes there seems to be no one that minorities can depend upon. I had gotten into a heated discussion with my boss about some of the things that I’m not happy about concerning the resident advisor position this year [I’m in my third year]. One of which being that, as an RA, I’m required to attend a 2 hour dialogue circle every week of one semester to have discussions about race and gender. While I do not disagree with the goal of the program, I do question the enactment and thought process put into the program.

The only people required to attend these circles were RAs. I will be the first to admit that discussions about social problems are a necessity. However, how much of a difference will be made in a room full of [for the most part] forward thinking, open-minded individuals? Not only that, but in order to register for what group I was going to be placed in, I was asked my race and sexuality.

When I enter the group, there are about 12 people. A mix of men and women, but 2 or 3 were visible minorities. The rest were white. This seems to be a trend to me. When forward thinking, well intentioned people get together, they spread minorities around for diversity’s sake. This way, we can make sure to educate those around us.

Good thing us minorities were around. Because without us, how would they receive their diversity education? Picking up a book is apparently too much to ask.

If there was one thing I could tell every single person, it would be this. Educate yourself. Go to public events you wouldn’t normally attend. Go out of your way to experience new things. Pick up some journals by bell hooks, Millie Bruce Pratt, Jonathan Kozol, or even Michel Foucault. Very simply, become an educated individual.

It’s the least that can be done.

14 Responses to “And Here Comes The Social Activist”

  1. nicole Says:

    One of the things I talk about the most when speaking of diversity is the “quiet bigotry” you wrote about. Everyone has their prejudices, no matter how much of an activist one may be. It’s tough to fight with yourself about the things you were blatantly taught or the things you accidentally picked up throughout your life. I don’t mean you shouldn’t fight it, just that it’s tough.

    I think my intrigue in this concept of “quiet bigotry” is why I liked the movie ‘Crash’ so much. The “quiet” bigot (Ryan Phillippe) was the one who actually killed someone with his hidden, and perhaps unknown, prejudices. It made realize that I, or anyone really, could be capable of truly affecting life with these hidden, yet still ever so present, biases.

    Unfortunately, it’s a vicious cycle. I suppose it’s up to trial and error to figure out how to break it, which is sad to me. But, at least there are people willing to try.

    I realize there is so much more in your blog to comment on, but that’s the part that resonated the most with what I’ve been thinking about lately.

  2. rainbow fish Says:

    I like how calmly thoughtout your views are. None of that angst and yelling. I suppose there is bigotry and there is disagreement (sometimes I find their reasons logical!). Peace.

  3. The_Scumfrog Says:

    Don’t worry pal… In the last week I’ve had both Black Looks by bell hooks and The History of Sexuality by Foucault open and on my lap. I think its important, and we all know this, to practice what we learn in everyday situations. The tides may not turn this decade or the next, but one day the wave will be larger enough to knock over anything that stands in its way.

  4. aka Brandi Says:

    Headed to work, but not before a Standing Ovation aimed your way…

  5. becca Says:

    You couldn’t have said it better, except for two things…

    “Racism is a white issue. Sexism is a man’s issue.”

    Not always true. This can definitely go vice versa. I’m not a black person, but I have sensed racism against the white race from blacks.

    I live in New Orleans and recently heard, just like everyone else in the damn country, the idiot mayor say that New Orleans will be “chocolate city the way God intended it to be.”

    Now, I know that’s not a great example seeing as the man is undoubedtly insane. However, there are other instances (similar to ones where you might have felt hatred towards people with homophobia) that I have felt hatred being white. Now that that’s said, people might disagree and be angry, but it’s just the way I have felt on those certain occasions. It really does go both ways.

    Being a woman, I have seen friends HATE men. Holy hell, they really, really, really hate men just because they hate them. They want to be better than them. They think they are better than them. And, that’s just that. I don’t know why. I don’t understand their logic in it, but it’s true.

    Otherwise, you’ve got the thing nailed.

  6. Annie, The Evil Queen Says:

    Amen and Amen, John. Well thought out and well stated. I am baffled by the opposition to gay marriage and don’t understand hating large groups of people you’ve never met. I wish I had an answer for you. I agree that ignorance is a major part of the problem and education is key.

  7. John Says:

    Becca,

    The idea of sexism, racism or homophobia is something that has been debated a LOT. Basically, a white person cannot be racist and a woman cannot be sexist. It goes back to privilege.

    A black man or woman can hate any other race they want, but do they receive any benefits from it? No. Where as white people receive ‘white privilege’ [read the article by Peggie McIntosh]. This means that they receive benefits, regardless of whether they mean to or not, because we live in a racist society.

    I, as a white man, receive benefits from being white. A black man cannot receive any benefits from racism towards whites. They are still subjected to the racist ideologies of our society.

    Same thing for women. I receive privileges from being a man, much more than you do for being a woman. It’s the glass ceiling idea.

    If you google search ‘white privilege’, you can see what I mean. If anyone ones, I have three surveys that show white privilege, male privilege, and straight privilege.

    Best,
    John

  8. leahpeah Says:

    amen, john, amen.

  9. John Says:

    If you want some reading on what I was talking about [racism vs. prejudice] pick up Dr. Beverly Tatum’s book Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together In The Cafeteria?

  10. Flubberwinkle Says:

    John,
    I hear ya! Ignorance IS intolerable.
    You say it all when you write: Become an educated individual.
    Amen.

  11. becca Says:

    Hey John, It sounds like we’ve got different definitions for racism, sexism, Xism, etc.

    It seems as though your definition is someone in a benefiting majority class that hates a minority class.

    Whereas my definition of Xism is when anyone in any class hates another class.

    Excuse my elementary example here; I have a three-year-old. Read ‘The Sneetches’ by Dr. Seuss…

    One class of Sneetches hated the other class of Sneetches for no apparent reason other than for the fact that they lacked stars on their bellies.

    The Sneetches did not benefit from hating the other class of Sneetches because there were an equal amount of them with and without stars upon thars, yet the Sneetches were racist anyway.

    Basically it just comes down to I still feel hurt when someone hates my class (as well as you should too) whether they benefit from it or not. They are being Xist. Just my opinion.

    One love,
    Becca.

  12. V-Grrrl Says:

    I will never understand why heterosexuals feel threatened by gay marriage…It certainly just looks like a power play in the name of “tradition.” If the legal hair-splitters are hung up on the semantics of the word “marriage,” then call it a civil union or give it another name. Don’t deny its very existence just because it doesn’t match the words in our current vocabulary.

  13. Liz Says:

    I stumbled across your site – and I agree with you. This is an especially troubling issue for us social activists in the Red State of Oklahoma.

  14. Brooke Says:

    After I saw Brokeback this last Friday, I was sullen for days. (I wrote a big long blog entry about gay marriage a while back, so I won’t bore you with more.) But more than anything, I kept thinking about how a life can be ruined from an inability to declare love.

    How, in any kind of a just world, can this make sense to ANYONE?

    Keep on keepin’ on, John.

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