*I fully acknowledge that I have made generalizations with this post, but I clearly do not believe that any one group of people can be characterized as all or nothing. There are good and bad and those that sit somewhere in the middle in every recognized group that make up societies around the world. I also acknowledge that this post is chock full of pessimism, but given our social history, given the continued ideology associated with racism, sexism, religious marginalization, homophobic slander, and all the other ways so many human beings find to both overtly and covertly hurt those they feel superior to, I just don’t see much to be optimistic about.
I’ve tried to start a post for days now but every time that I do the words circling around in my head get lost somewhere before they reach my fingers and keyboard.
What can I possibly say that hasn’t been said? What could I possibly add that will make the pain and sorrow and anger lessen? How many more times are we going to sit at our computers and try to write out and scream out, and remove our feelings and emotions and frustration and terror and pain?
Right now I hate that I am privileged. I am white. I am a member of a class of Americans that has never known hunger or homelessness or poverty of any kind. I am heterosexual.
I have never been stereotyped because of my race, the color of my skin or my sexual orientation. I feel guilt. I feel shame. Even though I have never been the perpetrator in any of the ongoing violence and hate, neither have I been an agent for change.
I am an atheist. Typically I am simply overlooked because of my lack of belief. I am not faced with disrespect for worship at a mosque, or because I cover my head with a scarf. I am not blamed for associating with ‘radicals’ because of my non-belief. I am not blamed for the ever growing number of lives lost to guns and hatred focused on difference. I feel as culpable as everyone else of privilege should feel. I am embarrassed.
I am a woman. I know sexism. I am an older woman. I know ageism. The marginalization I have encountered pales in comparison to the hatred displayed toward people of color; toward people of non-Christian beliefs; toward those in the LGBTQ community, and toward anyone who is deemed different or less in the eyes of of those of who can claim the label Euro-White Heteronormative American.
I have studied society and the evolution of class, race, gender, and religious systems. I have read about and written about the process that occurs within a group of humans as they begin to shift from egalitarian, open societies to structured systems based on wealth and power; based on sex and gender; based on skin color and family heritage; even based on innate characteristics that help to define who they will love or on how they define themselves and their bodies.
I have no doubt in my mind that we alone, not a god or other supreme deity, but human beings who inhabit this planet, are fulfilling the process begun ages ago when simple groups of people began to seek power, and possessions, and came to the conclusion that a select few were better, were right – while all the others were wrong, or inferior, or better off silenced.
I have no doubt that this process will continue well past my lifetime and well into the future.
Just stop hating, just listen and see and hear and understand. Just love and allow others to give love and be loved. Just accept. Just look at the beauty in difference. Just understand that underneath we are all human beings. Just stop…
Except stopping means backing down, means relinquishing control and power, means admitting to countless decades of mistakes and injustice and brutality and hate. Stopping means that the status quo, established when white European men founded this country, would be demolished. Our society would be in chaos as colors and beliefs and ideas mixed freely, as millions were encouraged to express themselves without fear.
White might be meant to express nothing more or nothing less than Black or Brown. Straight might go back to simply meaning a line that is not bent rather than defining a moral and sexual high ground that demeans Gay or Transgender. Those who follow a Christ-centered belief system might also choose to be open (and perhaps worship alongside) their Muslim or Jewish or Hindu neighbor.
Stopping also means looking deep into oneself. The history and background of many white Americans is filled with cracks and lies and deceit. Perceived superiority is just one of the many lies told to hold onto control. Is it really plausible to believe that those in control are, or will truly be willing to step aside, to admit, to relinquish control and give away the privilege they have done nothing to earn.
Again, I am ashamed to admit that my comfortable life and my privilege would be difficult to give away. I would fear the repercussions and the possible violence waiting for me outside my door if I woke up tomorrow with darker skin, or it was known that I loved a woman. I am embarrassed. I am guilty. I am unsure if an apology holds meaning, but I feel as if I have to apologize, to take some responsibility as a Euro-White American who has never been made to feel fear or confront hatred and loathing based purely on my race or beliefs or sexual orientation. I remember as a child/teen always feeling left out. I stood on the outside of groups that I wanted to belong to. Those were the groups of privilege and power, the leaders and the takers. I never made it into one of those groups but their influence was everywhere and I have not completely escaped their reach. Many might say that by some divine right I was a member of that group all along, and they might be correct. I certainly look like them, and I have come to have an ability to dress like them and live in comfort like them. I may be more like them than even I realize.
Be careful what you wish for…
My reality likely seems harsh to those who carry the faith that love will triumph, or that understanding and acceptance will take the place of hate. I understand the need to believe, because without belief there is no hope. Pragmatism apparently is my defining characteristic and optimism seems only to be for the naive. Our society is at war with itself and that war is almost surely not one that we can win.