A Siren Blares in An Indifferent Ocean

Just found a .txt of a post that I wrote on November 13th, 02016 — shortly after the election of Donald Trump — when I was still using Bookface. My, how much we've Progressed since then!

“In my senior year of high school, I took journalism in order to expose the dogmatism, near-sightedness, and ignorance I saw in society. I criticized politics, religion, the concept of race, homophobia, the march of technology, the education system, among other things, and stirred up a fair amount of controversy – and my teacher defended my freedom of speech, even when we received complaints from people who viewed me as a bigot (re: my religion article, in particular), for which I am eternally grateful. Among those who were offended were friends of mine, most of whom I was able to have productive, meaningful conversations with in which both sides learned from one another, however much our views still differed in the end (I did lose a couple though).

That was 10 years ago.

I have since witnessed the rise of a certain strain of ‘liberalism’ which would have undoubtedly attempted to shame me back into silence, and whose adherents, to my eye, have become increasingly reminiscent of Orwell’s Thought Police. Many of my friends are such people, and however well-intentioned have created a toxic environment in which even if I agree with much of their views, there are certain sacred narratives which we dare not examine too closely. You may know what sort of thing I’m talking about right now, and if you don’t, consider for a moment the following statement, just as one example: I believe racism is an issue in this country but I don’t support the Black Lives Matter movement and I don’t care for the concept of Privilege.

How does that make you feel? Uncomfortable? Here I am, a 'person of color' with black and indigenous roots, who people frequently mistake as Middle Eastern or at least foreign, who has been a human rights activist most of my life, saying that I disagree with almost everyone I know about how to approach racism. In my experience, even to suggest some level of disagreement here makes many people worry that merely acknowledging that my view has any validity puts them at the risk of being labelled a racist. In my experience, it is almost impossible in most contexts where 'POC' are discussing these issues to bring up a counter view like this without being shamed or shouted down.

I bring this up not to get into the specifics of racism (not now.), but to challenge anyone who reads this to consider whether this is the kind of society you want to live in, and if so, where is it leading us? In my opinion, this is one of the biggest contributing factors to the outcome of the election and will determine how things pan out from here. Why should I support your ideology or movement when I can’t be honest about my views, however considerately I might put them, without fear of being shamed into voicelessness? Would you rather someone such as myself be trying to shout over you to be heard? Should I form my own insulated, dogmatic tribe?

And this is coming from someone who is already an honorary member of your tribe, who already values listening to your ideas, however much I might disagree, and who is open to civil discourse. What option is there for those outside, who might yet be swayed to at least compromise?

Most of the reactions I’m seeing in the aftermath of this election remind me of my earlier years as an activist in which I was much angrier, idolized groups like the Weather Underground, and had romantic notions of what a revolution would look like. Maybe I was right back then, but as it stands, I’m not currently interested in this line of thinking and acting. I do understand it though, and I sympathize with those of you who will follow the path of panic and anger. As for me, I will continue to try to find ways to support freedom of speech, empathy, and reason, while opposing tribalism, dogmatism, and violence.

That is all I have left to say about this situation right now.”

Shortly after writing this, I got entangled in an extremely frustrating exchange with a 'Friend' who identified as a 'white ally' of BLM, and whose profile picture was the ubiquitous BLM slogan. Suffice it to say that I ended up 'unfriending' and blocking him because he was dogmatically (and furiously) convinced that he had a definitive understanding of my experience as a brown-skinned person, and of my responsibility to other brown-skinned people. I guess I can't really blame him since he was just doing his job as a 'good white ally' by nobly educating and speaking on behalf of helpless Victims Of Color like me.

No doubt he is basking in the glory of the imminent Revolution now.

Further reading:

My Skin Is Not A Flag For Your Cause

#AmplifyAlbinismAwareness: A Slogan That Will Probably Never Start A Global Movement