Friday, March 1, 2013
March 1, 2013
As an ally, I had a wake-up call this past month, Poppets, in the form of two separate events, a thousand miles apart. One took place among people from the
Pacific Northwest. The other,
among people from the Louisiana and Mississippi. Let’s start
with the happy one…
David and I were out one night when we met three women. Two, Sarah and Trisha (not their real names), were a young couple. The third was Mama, Sarah’s mother. Sarah and Trisha were young, articulate, happy, ambitious, gorgeous, you name it. They were confident in themselves, each other, and their place in the world. Mama spoke of both of them with great pride, telling us about each of their accomplishments and goals. As the evening wore on, Trisha invited us to her family’s picnic the next weekend. Her mom would be cooking and her dad always had a couple kegs of beer. It was a huge event with friends and family from all over. Mama could drive us all in and drive us home again. It was the epitome of family and love and hospitality at its finest. And yes, two young lesbians were at its core. Now, I admit, I don’t know their story. I don’t know if coming out and acceptance was easy or hard, loving or painful. I can tell you that the kind of confidence and comfort these two young women have does not grow in a vacuum. If it was hard or easy, they know they are loved and supported by their families and friends. They have the strength of knowing they are okay behind them, and that’s a powerful gift.
Which brings us to the second event. A friend of mine, who happens to be a gay, Black man, got into a discussion with acquaintances of his. One of these people made racially derogatory and anti-gay statements. My friend called him out on them. Not rudely, but appropriately. The situation escalated until the bigot stormed off in a huff. At which point, the rest of the group got on my friend’s case about hurting the other man’s feelings. About not embracing the teaching moment. About being divisive instead of inclusive.
Really? A straight, white man says nasty things about gay people and people of color and his feelings are the ones to be considered? Again, let me be clear. This wasn’t someone making a good faith effort or who spoke out of ignorance and was willing to learn. This was someone who used derogatory language and then escalated when he was told he was being inappropriate. But the gay, Black man should watch his tone.
Neither of these events is particularly noteworthy, or surprising. Until I tell you that Trisha and Sarah are from
and Louisiana, and the group who were more
concerned about the bigot were the ones from the Pacific
Northwest. That’s when it becomes a wake-up call.
We need to remember, each one of us is an ally to someone, in that each one of us carries privilege somewhere. Maybe you are gay, but male. Female, but able-bodied. A person of color, but straight. Each of us is an ally to someone. But this doesn’t give us carte blanche to pat ourselves on the backs and know we’re “the good guys” because we’re aware, or we reject out and out prejudice, or because we hang out with the other good guys. Just because we’re from the “right” part of the country, or we don’t run around using slurs, doesn’t make us the good guys. Being part of one marginalized group doesn’t absolve us from having to be sensitive to another. How are we raising our lesbian daughters? Our transgendered sons? How are we treating our children’s Black boyfriend or their Hispanic girlfriend? In situations where we have the privilege, who are we more concerned about? The person who was rude? Or the person who defended themselves?
It’s easy to stop asking ourselves these questions. It’s easy to rest on our laurels and point the finger at others. Too easy, Poppets. So this month, let’s not rest. Let’s take note of the times and places where we have privilege and make sure we are actually being allies, not just claiming to be. Let’s stop lumping everyone together and making assumptions. Let’s work on making our corner of the world a safer place, by starting with ourselves.
Until next month, Poppets, take care of you.