What Can a Liberal White Man Do?
This post is going to be uncomfortable.
If you’re conservative, it’ll probably make you cringe. If you’re liberal, it might make your gut hurt. If you’re straight, you might get defensive. If you’re queer, female, or a person of color, you might find yourself saying “Yes, AND!?!”
I hope you read it anyway.
I am a white, heterosexual cismale* from conservative Orange County**. My parents are from a red state. On the surface, I am the very demographic model of a Trump voter. And yet, I’m a queer-loving Francophile liberal artist in a transracial marriage, and I voted for Hillary.
I was completely shocked when Trump won. I still am.
Here’s the thing: it’s easy for me to be liberal. It’s cool, even. I get to stand up for marginalized people, write subversive books, and pat myself on the back–basically, I get to live out the old trope of the great white savior, all at very little risk to myself. Here’s what it costs me to stand up for women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community:
- I must sometimes endure uncomfortable conversations at family gatherings
- I get occasional hateful reviews of my book
- I have to see ugly Facebook posts from old school chums who joined the Dark Side
That’s literally it. People don’t harass me for how I look. TSA agents don’t frisk me. Police don’t shoot me. They don’t even pull me over. No one cares what religion I do or do not practice. Neither regular citizens nor presidential candidates try to grab my genitals. In short, if you remove empathy from the equation, discrimination is almost completely academic to me, like black holes or Schrödinger’s Cat. You know what my experience with discrimination is?
I got bullied in high school because people thought I was gay.
That’s literally the only thing. Okay, not the only. When I was ten, I sang at a convention of Asian businessmen and they wanted to touch my blond hair. It felt weird and invasive. And, once, when I was walking through Beverly Hills with my non-white wife, I got dirty looks from people of all races. Again: there were no bullets or laws involved. It was just people being assholes.
THAT IS NOT WHAT’S HAPPENING RIGHT NOW IN THE UNITED STATES.
Right now, queer people, people of color, and women are legitimately scared for their human rights and for their lives. Thing is, they have been scared–for years. For some of them, the fear has been a constant in their lives since childhood. To me, this election is a wake-up call; but to women, to the LGBTQIA+ community, and to people of color, this is only an escalation of the darker part of the American status quo.
As my one of my queer friends put it:
Straight liberal white people are just realizing how fucking backwards this country is. Queer people and people of color have known this all too well for way too long.
And here’s an amazing chain of tweets from the African-American male perspective:
Im talking to you now surprised white people.
I wanna bring you in for an empathy moment— 5’7 Black Male (@absurdistwords) November 9, 2016
(Seriously, click on that and read the whole chain. It’s better than this post.)
Ok, so this happened. Donald Trump is our President-elect. What can a white liberal man do? Here’s what I WILL do.
- I will listen to and amplify the voices of the women, people of color, and LGBTQIA+ community members in my life.
- I will take a stand. This means, among other things, engaging in conversation when I witness discrimination–especially micro-aggressions like “jokes” and off-hand comments. This is going to make me less fun at parties. Brace yourselves.
- I will carry extra weight. Women, people of color, and LGBTQIA+ folks are tired, stressed, and scared. It’s hard to defend your culture when you’re at your best, let alone under conditions like these. It’s up to their non-marginlized allies to pick up the slack. WE WILL.
- I will be active. I will speak up about their rights. I will vote accordingly. I will PAY ATTENTION to these issues and call my congressperson and my senator to let them know where I stand. There’s probably stuff missing here. See #5.
- I will keep asking the question: How can I protect the rights of marginalized people? And then I will listen to the answers. Do you have any? If so, please, please, please leave them in the comments below.
I love you.
*This autocorrects to “dismal,” by the way.
**The OC actually went blue for the first time since 1936 for Hillary!
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