I should be walking my dog right now. She’s sitting at my feet, imploring me with those sweet brown eyes to get up! let’s go! grab that leash! But I’m avoiding eye contact with her because I’ve got something on my mind and I can’t grab that leash until I get it out of my brain, which means I’ve gotta get it out on paper.
Pretend this is paper.
A while back, my friend shared a warning on Facebook about a recent run-in he’d had with a random dude at a nearby public park. My pal didn’t use any adjectives or disparaging names when describing this person, just that Mr. Rando admitted he was patrolling the park looking for some “guy-on-guy action,” but had to be careful because the community watch and local police were trying to shut that shit down. My pal said he was sharing the incident as a PSA because he knows it’s a family park where a lot of us take our kids.
Most of us commented a simple “thanks for the heads up” and then someone with a lot of pent-up racism and perhaps a bit of self-loathing commented:
“So Muslims take over cities, gays take over parks. This is America. We are unsafe in places and we do not even know it.”
Now let me tell you that the person who espoused such ignorant vitriol is a self-proclaimed Christian as well as an educator, one of my former teachers. Did you just throw up in your mouth, too?
“Gays and Muslims” are making America unsafe, but all those straight white guys shooting up our schools? They just need a little Jesus.
Listen, dude in the park was wrong to perversely patrol any place where children play, regardless of what kind of action he was looking for! But if he were a man looking to hook up with a woman in that grimy park bathroom, would my former teacher have commented the same way? Not likely.
On second thought, she probably would’ve slut-shamed the girl. Silly me.
Now more than ever, we’re making sweeping generalizations because it’s easier than making an effort to separate the individual from the group. Every walk of life has its bottom-feeder deviants: leaders in religion and politics; educators and doctors; athletes and celebrities; men, women, and even parents. It’s disgusting what the basest of the base will do and the new lows to which they sink. It’s confusing and frustrating when they’re in a position of power or esteem because their behavior is in sharp contrast with what’s expected of a supposed upstanding citizen. It’s that very contrast that makes them more appalling and their actions more unacceptable. But…
One horrible soul hiding behind a cloak of Christianity doesn’t mean every Christian is a hateful racist.
One despicable teacher trolling social media doesn’t mean all teachers are homophobic assholes.
One disrespectful adult refusing to acknowledge her own culpability doesn’t mean every adult is willing to infect a child’s mind with their own prejudices.
And that’s what’s been bothering me. Every time I sign on to Facebook or Twitter, I’m inundated with memes and posts and articles pinning us against one another. It’s bothering me that adults create a culture where my friend’s biracial child is told no one will play with her at school because she “looks different.” Kids don’t grow up thinking those things; someone sways them.
The commons–sense, courtesy, and ground–are slowly slipping away and we’re seemingly forced to take sides and become part of the sweep. There have always been people who celebrate the kind of anger that clearly lives within my former teacher; that will never change. But I feel like we had been doing a better job of tolerating one another’s differences, at least we had been trying.
Maybe that’s just my perspective because I’m a middle class white lady who has never experienced the likes of racism or homophobia. But I can tell you right now, all minorities–including women–are fighting for our own stage because everyone keeps Kanye West-ing our microphone with their selfish agenda. And I think it pisses some people off that we keep fighting.
We are perceived as trouble-makers or hateful when we advocate for our piece of the pie. If a feminist supports women-owned businesses as a show of solidarity, she’s a “man-hater.” When a black film celebrates black hair, it’s “racist.” When an immigrant intertwines influences of his country with American ideals, he’s told to “go back to where you came from.” How very inconvenient are we to want to belong, to feel as though we deserve our space, too. If we’re not sitting pretty like my dog, waiting patiently for our turn, we’re in the wrong.
And that’s why we raise our voice.
It’s not impossible for everyone to have a voice and for that voice to be respected. But when people in power continue abusing their privilege and double-down on efforts to divide us, our voice changes. It sounds angrier, more desperate, less patient. We’ve waited long enough for our turn, so when we advocate for our own instead of playing by the rules that were created solely to keep us down, don’t be surprised when we meet our limit for bullshit and call you out on yours.
An adult should know better. A teacher should do better. We all deserve better.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go walk my dog.