“All I have to do is cover your big mouth and you’ll be dead, but that would be too easy and too boring”
This is an angry post. I may regret it later. But if this blog is about ordinary people, I guess I cannot pretend they are all awesome. Some really suck.
I’m preaching to the choir. If you’re reading this, we are probably like-minded and I am spewing the obvious. I apologize in advance if it is boring. But I have lost my groove. Recently, some of the nasty forces I have always known as general have become acute and personal.
I am handling it with the elegance of a donkey. My frustration is palpable. I am awkward and annoying. I have lost my sense of humour even in the most benign situations. Over a recent weekend, I watched a friend back away from all conversations I was party to. I don’t even blame him.
The time will come for me to articulate the details. In the interim, last week’s events have got me all wound up.
As everyone knows, the Boston Marathon got bombed. The guys that did it suck. That much we agree on. Then we splinter.
Immediately, the internet lit up with intolerance. Not surprisingly, Muslims were targeted. One man punched a Syrian woman walking her baby in a stroller and yelled ‘Fuck you Muslims’ in her face. In the interest of national security, of course.
Far better people have spoken to the far-reaching impact of the nastiness that follows tragedies. I count myself among the many holding my breath and hoping it does not lead to worse foreign policy, decreased civil liberties or more excuses for bigotry.
I posted a disturbing article about a young Saudi victim injured in the blast and subsequently detained for no reason besides ethnicity. My friend Mike Coffey re-posted it. To date, it has received 90 comments. Despite myself, I chimed in.
Article: Several cases of racial profiling happened following the bombing, hopefully we don’t use this tragedy to further institutionalize racism as we have in the past.
Dude: Whatever works. It’s not like an old white granny did it.
Chorus of people: Whoa Dude. Here’s a bunch of facts that show 44 out of the 62 mass murderers in America over the last few years have been white males.
Dude: You are a bunch of pretentious jerks with all your fancy facts. I don’t have white privilege. I served in Afghanistan and they killed my friend. Screw you all for calling me racist, I’m entitled to my opinion.
Me: Dude, racial profiling and racism boil down to far more than opinions. The impact is far-reaching and pervasive.
Dude: I’m a fucking paratrooper.
I finally had the sense to exit the conversation when he started arguing Chechen is an ethnicity.
The next day, I listened to my facialist bemoan her existence while painting on a serum. Her poor white civil servant husband is routinely overlooked for promotions that go instead to unskilled darkies. Her poor white son makes a measly salary as an IT Consultant because, well, he is white. Her poor white daughter has been mugged at the hands of the black mob. They shall have no choice but to leave their spacious beachside bungalow with maid and gardener eventually, there is just no place for them here anymore.
The same day, the Employment Equity Commission released its report showing whites constitute 73% of top management positions in the private and public sector. Blacks occupy 12%. At 34%, the gender gap soars above the global average of 18%. No offence lady, but if your son isn’t going anywhere in IT it ain’t because he is a white male.
A few things to get off my chest:
- Opinions are awesome and everyone is certainly entitled to them. You can love death metal, believe in reincarnation and be all for big government. But if they promote ignorance or come at the expense of other people, they have crossed the line. Whether Muslim terrorists or Black criminals, the moment you separate yourself and decide someone else’s rights or needs are any different from your own, it begins translating into reality and impacting real people. And you suck.
- Facts. If you are not interested in them, do not like to read or current affairs aren’t your thing then shut your mouth. It you fall within 9% of South Africa’s population that gets 73% of the best jobs but maintain you are marginalized or insist Islam condones terrorism, you are a dangerous idiot. For the record, “knowing someone who…..” does not a statistic make. If you need one, they are out there in droves. Pick up a book.
- Check yourself. If you only share your views with a certain ‘type’ of person and deliberately not the poorest, darkest, gayest, oldest, most disabled woman you know, they probably ain’t right.
- Oppression persists less because of people who wake up in the morning and say “how can I keep X people down” than because of people who fail to see it for what it is. Sure, there are white supremacists and radicals of the like, their greatest service to their respective causes is letting the rest of us off the hook by setting the bar so very low. Oppression is not a yes/no or good guy/bad guy question, it is an institution. Pay attention.
- Pity. It is not the same as equality or respect. Put it away.
- No this is not in the past. We do not live in a colourblind, post-racial society. Ignoring the issues do not make them go away, it denies people’s experiences as well as the root causes.
- Privilege exists. If you’re white, you have it. If you’re male, you have it. The list goes on and we all fit somewhere along a spectrum. Privilege does not make you a bad person, ignoring it does. Claiming victim does not absolve you of your responsibilities to give a shit, it just makes you a prick.
- Check your spelling. The correlation between ignorance and terrible writing is pretty damn high.
And now I am done with this conversation. If you have something to kick it up a notch and will make me better or smarter, by all means. Otherwise, I made a resolute promise a long time ago to never move backwards. I am done being muted by ignorance. There is too much work to be done and too many smart people to learn from.
Now let’s talk quickly about ordinary people:
I met Mike Coffey poolside in California. My sister was diving for USC and competing at Stanford. She was not at the top of her game and threatened me within an inch of my life if I came to watch. Thus, she was super happy when I showed up and Aresenio Hall’ed her back 2.5. The water carries sound perfectly. The other spectator in the stands turned around immediately. “So, you’re a diving fan?”
He was the strength and conditioning coach for Stanford Athletics and it turned into a 4 hour conversation over chopped salads. Years later he came to Montreal to support a SHLF fundraiser and became the only man to ever crip walk in a Canadian winter. Proving that good things come when you least expect, 8 years later he is back in Florida and we’re still friends.
As an educated black man living in the South, this is a storm he weathers daily. When I asked him how he deals, I felt his shrug through my computer “You would be surprised how many people think like that.” So big ups a huge hug to Coffey for being a seriously cool guy and for handling himself so much better than I. The world needs more people like you.