I am surrounded by an incredible crowd of people who generally believe they want what is best for me. I'd say about 30% are the kind that REALLY dig deep and support me how I need support. Another large percent are people who are just generally good people. They don't set out to be intentionally offensive. They don't cook up ways to be hurtful or damaging to others... they just live. Part of just being, though means that messages that are dominate in our culture infiltrate how you see the world. Not being actively intentional about how your beliefs and world views are formed means that you can, at times, accept the status quo. When the status quo is antithetical to the wellbeing of minorities, just being can become detrimental. Thinking critically is hard, there isn't an app we can use, and often it takes owning mistakes that we don't always feel are our responsibility.
So you aren't marching with the Klan... that doesn't mean you aren't guilty of racial bias and racism.
So you aren't saying people should "keep it at home" or encouraging "reparative therapy"... that doesn't mean you aren't guilty of overlooking LGBTQ needs because of your hetero-normative world.
No one likes to feel guilty. Guilt serves the function of letting you know when you are off track. Guilt is the red flag that signals that something is not right in me and in the world. There are times that we feel guilty and instead of slowing down and reflecting on what is prompting our guilt signals, we try and squelch whatever experience activated the guilt. Lately, this has meant that those of us who have been calling out the racism we are still experiencing in our communities have been asked to pipe down. We can't make people see too much or feel too much or think too much. We can't remind people that it is 2015 and Eric Garner's family is still wondering how to navigate a new year with the loss of their beloved family member.
You seem so angry and aggressive
You are making this about race when it isn't
Can you focus more on the solution than the problem
You are ruining your reputation by being so hostile
These phrases that folks who continue to talk about race and social justice hear are indications that something is being activated in the people who read and hear our words. We are stirring something up. The request to temper ourselves is a request to lessen the strength of our impact. Did my words offend you? Good. They should. Deaths of unarmed Black boys and men should offend you. Injustice should offend you more than my words reflecting the injustice.
A couple of days ago a friend saw me for the first time in a while. After she promptly freaked out about me being "SO skinny", a concerned look came over their face. She shifted her feet back and forth waiting for the line to move forward at TJ Maxx and then grabbed my hand. "I want to say this in love. I've seen your posts about Ferguson and all the race stuff... I know you aren't a hateful person." I just stared. And she continued, "I don't think you realize how many people you are alienating. Especially with your "Dear White People" post." I felt my whole body get warm as she squeezed my hand and continued on, "I remember being in my twenties, and being so passionate, but just tone it down a bit, okay? NWA is a small community and I am concerned no one will want to hire you because of your Facebook."
Maybe they won't hire me. But do I want a job with people who require my silence about justice?
I inhaled and looked at the phone cases hanging on the display in the check-out aisle. They were tussled about and damaged from being handled over and over. I looked at her with a controlled smile and I spoke: "It sounds like my feelings about injustice have stirred something up in you... I wonder what it is." She looked jarred. I wondered if she expected me to accept her advice and saunter off. It was clear she most certainly didn't expect me to not take responsibility for how she was reacting to what I had to say online.
She didn't say anything else to me as the cashier gestured she was ready to check me out and I walked away.