Monday, February 1, 2010

February 2010

Hi Poppets! Have you seen the movie Avatar, yet? I have a confession: I have not. Not being much of a fantasy geek, it just doesn’t hold that much interest for me, even if it is on track to being one of the top-grossing movies of all time. It seems everyone has something to say about it though, which is why I think I’m probably the only person in America who hasn’t seen it yet. Generally speaking, I don’t listen to reviews much. As a writer, I know how subjective they are. However, one particular review (in fairness, posted on Facebook by the friend of a friend of mine) led me down some interesting paths.

The FB post was written by Mark (not his real name) who happens to be a black man. His comment was “once again, the white man saves the day, but it was still a great movie.” When my friend, who happens to be a white woman, told me about this comment, she finished with the aside, “Mark’s gotten a little militant.” My response was “Actually, so have I.” And we both laughed and that was the end of it.

Only it wasn’t the end of it for me. That line, Mark’s gotten a little militant has stayed with me. At what point did acknowledging subtle, culture-wide, frustratingly acceptable prejudices mean one was militant?

Over the last several months, I’ve read bloggers and articles from people of color, women, members of the LGBT community, and yes, even some white, straight folks, who are pointing out these prejudices in everything from comic books to public policy. Movies where the supposedly strong woman still has to be rescued by her male counterpart. Comic books where the token gay character is nothing more than an animated stereotype. Policy that claims to protect one group of people, while throwing another group under the bus. And let’s not forget the justice of the peace at the end of last year who refused to grant a marriage license to an inter-racial couple because of the “emotional harm” society could do to any children resulting from the marriage.

My friend and I grew up together. We wore out cassette tapes of South African songs of freedom. We wrote letters to politicians. We wore ribbons and peace signs (back before they were in style again). Now, twenty-five years later, a black man acknowledging – with humor, nonetheless – the underlying theme of the white man saving the day is militant.

I’ll be honest; I’ve never considered myself militant. I am an unapologetic rights activist. I write for the Betty Pages, even though I’m a straight woman. I write about the racism surrounding our President even though I’m a white woman. The Constitution still means something very important to me. I listen and I talk; I teach and I learn. Does that make me militant? Maybe. Apparently. But I can live with that. For me, it beats the alternative of silence.

And, on an only slightly related note (so please forgive the bad segue), I don’t only call out others when I think they’ve been wrong. I try to admit it when I am, as well. Last month, I called out the President for not standing up more strongly for the LGBT community. Since then, Mr. Obama has appointed the first openly transgendered woman to a Presidential position. Amanda Simpson, formerly Mitchell Simpson, will be a senior technical advisor to the Commerce Department. This is the bravest step any president has ever taken on our behalf, don’t fool yourself. Thank you, sir, for proving me wrong. In spite of last month’s article, I still believe this man is a friend of ours and supports us. If I’m going to call out others, I should call out myself as well. That, too, beats the alternative of silence.

Until next month, Poppets, take care of you.

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