When people say “it’s getting better”, it’s easy to agree, though we’re all working out quite recently that’s not quite the whole truth so help you God. What we thought we were erasing was only being suppressed, marginalised, unfollowed, unfriended. Ignorance and hatred are left alone to fester, or kept together to infect each other, and some of us effectively ghettoize divisive and dangerous behaviour. Cooking beneath the brush waiting patiently to burst into bushfire. Waiting for a spark, just one.
A spark like Donald Trump, or Vladimir Putin. Like a terrorist threat, an airborne epidemic or a missing child. Like a Brexit or an apartheid or a plebiscite. These are all as much incite as they are insight, and the ability to not just determine the difference but persevere to probe the problem is what will ensure progress triumphs over prejudice. How many times have you pushed people aside, railroaded or abandoned them when they pose an offensive statement or question? If you’re me, you’ll have done it quite frequently. It’s natural to surround ourselves with people who agree, people who align. We consider our presence in people’s lives to be so valuable, that by withdrawing that as a means of punishing certain behaviours or interpretations, they have been suitably punished and about-faced. More often than not, we do it out of awkwardness and aversion to conflict. The truth is, this just hardens the opinion or the actions, makes them immune to threats of isolation or seclusion because that’s how they’ve always been treated. When someone offends me now, I still demonstrate reproach, but then I show what reprieve looks like, by providing compassion and response.
Los Incotables, Erik Ravelo
I once worked with a young man who answered a question I asked about his life using the word “bitches” to describe the women in his life. When I asked him why he used that word, what emerged were some venomous thoughts about betrayal and dependence. When I asserted that he should not take those feelings out on women by calling them that word, he informed me I was the first person in his life to suggest such a thing. His peers who were present showed much agreement. Now if I’d come across these opinions online, galvanised by the separation and relative anonymity the internet provides me like a dangerous weapon I need no licence or background check to operate, and encouraged by the conduct I see from other online women I truly admire, I’d have taken the guy to shreds. Called him a sexist, called him a disgrace and dismissed him. His views won’t have changed, they’ll likely be affirmed, and I’m exhausted. What I might have done, if I had the time to deal with the hordes of men with views like his, is engage, is discuss, is show that retaliation of his devaluing of me is beneath me, and lead by example that the answer to our discriminative ways isn’t fire upon fire upon fire, but cleansing, steady and tidal water. We need people in there to burn the rage back, but for some of us, the journey is in rivulets through the zone.
The most dangerous thing for darkness, is to come into the light.
Brexit and Trump have shone stark lights on racism, capitalist suppression and political damage to working-class communities as well as far-right feudal nouveau for education, health and equal rights. This has awakened the politically lethargic, the apathetic and ignorant to demand information. We ignored the rumblings when Russia and Africa silenced and incarcerated gay people, but a lone gunman has brought homophobia around the world to light, where scrutiny upon it led to unparalleled action against gun laws and resurgence of equal marriage campaigns.
The reduction of interpersonal interaction due to a digital divide that is technically classist, is dulling our sense of debate or deep connection over issues of any kind of leading by example. I am grateful, though it has taken years, to openly discuss unconscious, but no less impactful, homophobia with my close friends, colleagues and family. To address the outcomes at their source, not at their symptom. It is important that you educate your opinion without investing pride in it, and that you engage with other opinions without investing pride there either. If you can really look at the root of these issues, it’s often something deep that requires compassion, not dismissal. It is always up to you to do something about injustice, but don’t do it from a distance or up in the idealism. Do it in the dark.