Thursday, March 10, 2016

And the other side...It is still MORE my job.

      I am grateful for the feedback folk have given me on yesterday's blog and in response I have felt it was necessary to write a follow up.  The follow up can be summarized really as this:  while I think we are all called to confront injustice and to speak truth to one another, it is still MORE the job of those in power to speak up for those who are oppressed, dismissed and harmed than it is the calling of those who are being hurt.  I believe this as firmly as I believe we are all called to speak.
     I want to put this in more practical terms and feel the need to do so from both sides of the experience: both from the place of privilege and from the place of non-privilege.
     From the place of privilege: As a white person it is exponentially more my job to speak out against the injustice, racism, prejudice and bigotry that I see other white people doing, expressing and living. This is the case for many, many reasons.  First of all, the only reason I would say it is ever a person of color's "job" to speak out against racism is from the faith perspective of being called to love even our enemies.  That is no small thing.  But it is a very hard thing.  And it does set up the potential of allowing an abuser to be even more abusive.  But it is always, without exception, the job of a person of privilege to speak for those whose voices are not heard, for those who are experiencing meanness and abuse.  We have the model of our heroes, starting with Jesus, who always stood up for the women, the children, the "unclean" (usually those with diseases or disabilities), the Syrophoenicians, the Samaritans - every time those in power would reject, harm, stone, diminish these folk.  We who have voices that are already heard will be much more affective at getting our message out than those who are dismissed by the abuser.  It is much more likely that we will not be harmed for speaking up whereas people of color can be doubly attacked when they speak up.  We cannot, CANNOT stand by and be silent in the face of the cruelty that our brothers and sisters experience.  It is our job in every way to say what we see, to name the abuse, the meanness, the bigotry, the racism and to say "no more!"  It is our job to hold "our own" accountable.
      From the place of non-privilege: As a woman, I can speak out against a rape culture mentality, but I find that I am dismissed more often than not.  Despite my own experiences of being threatened, molested, demeaned, belittled throughout my life, often by strangers on the street; when I have named and spoken out about those experiences, I am often seen as "hysterical" or "making a big deal out of nothing."  Let me be clear, those experiences have made me who I am.  Childhood traumas which I will not detail here, but also having my chest and rear grabbed on the street by strangers as I've walked by them; having truly cruel, objectifying comments thrown my way as I walk to the store - these experiences cause me to live in a state of hypervigilence, and to feel unsafe with men I don't know (and sometimes even with men I do know).  These are not little experiences.  And while I will speak out when I hear a comment made that is misogynist and unseeing, my experience has been that it has little affect on those who hear the stories.  It is too easy to dismiss me.  I have also had the experience though of hearing men I trust gathered together in a place and group in which they did not realize I was present and could hear them.  I have heard the comments they have made about women, the belittling, the objectifying, the demeaning.  And I am all too aware that all it would have taken was one of them speaking up, saying, "what if I said that about your daughter or your mother or your wife?" for the atmosphere to have changed, for learning to have occurred, for awareness to have increased.  It rarely happens.  We all want to "fit in" and not "cause waves".  We don't want to confront the horrible things we see others do, even when we choose not to participate.  But the power of one person of privilege speaking out for those without can be enormous.
     I stand by what I said yesterday - it is all of our calling to speak our truth because we are all called to love even our enemies.  But I also believe with all my heart and soul that it is MORE my job to speak out against the injustices I see being done by people like me than it is for those who are being harmed to have to fight for themselves. We are called to stand up for the oppressed, to fight injustice and to be brave, even in the face of our loved ones, when it comes to confronting behavior that can harm or destroy another.