Pins and Badges, Oh My!

So, the presidential election happened. That’s a thing. It has been a week and a day and I am still thinking and reading and talking and listening. God, I am listening, even when I feel like my veins are on fire, I am listening.

I’m an academic. And, in academic writing we stress the need to provide context (see the first paragraph), be explicit with the issue or problem, and define our terms.

Problem statement – Liberal White america responded to electing that man* with pins. Marginalized america responded to the outpouring of pins with variations of, “What the hell?”, “That’s not enough.” and “?!?!*^%^###!!!{}”. White america is now freaking out about our response to the pins.
White america – When I refer to White america I am purposefully referring to White, middle/upper class, cis-gender, straight, abled, neuro-typical  Americans. It is short hand. It is a generalization.
Marginalized america – Yeah. That’s the rest of us. It is short hand. It is also a generalization.

I am uniquely positioned because of my identity an an out, Latinx lesbian who looks vaguely beige (my father is Mexican and my mother is White american). I have always lived on the borderlands of White america.
Here is my answer to my White american friends asking me about our reaction to the pins, and to White America in general. The pins themselves are not “a strong message”. But they are not nothing, either. They are a first step for many in White america and first steps are important.
My worry (mixed with fear and frustration) is that history, very recent history, shows that a majority of White america does not hold the issues that directly effect me and my family (fill in all the isms – ALL OF THEM) in any kind of regard.
As a group – and again, this is a fact of population and voting records – the majority of White america does not share my beliefs, or consider my life or my rights. Period. I’m not saying White america doesn’t consider me important. No. I am saying that me and my family are not considered.
That’s it. That is what being Marginalized america means – not considered.
I have been told by friends, people I respect, (all of them White america) that the pins are a starting point. I am trying to believe that. I am trying.

TRIGGER WARNING – WHITE AMERCA
The following is going to be hard to read.
Gerd your loins, fortify with chocolate or pumpkin spice, but keep reading. 

My anger and the anger you are seeing from Marginalized America is simple. Why wasn’t Black Lives Matter a starting point? Or the Pulse shooting?

Where have you been, White America? We are under direct threat and you are showing up with pins? Let’s be clear. The pins are not for us. They are for you. And once again, White america, you have centered White america and marginalized us.
Where were you when this election was all going down? 4 months, 6 months, 2 years ago?Lifetimes have passed while we waited for you to take note, to consider, to act. And many of the liberal White people in my life now acting all “I’m shocked! Shocked, I tell you!” Yes, White america, we, the marginalized people are a bit miffed with you.
Because, White america, we told you this was real. We have been telling you … Watts, Crown Heights,the LA Riots, Stonewall, The UFW, Selma, Tijerina and the land grant movement. Look at history that does not center you, White america, and you will see, we have been telling you. And if you between the ages of 15 and dead, and you don’t know about those events I mentioned, that is about you White america, not me.
And many people in White america are frustrated with our response to the pins and are saying, “But what am I supposed to do!?!?!”
See, here’s the thing. We are telling you what you are supposed to do, but you don’t like the answer. I’m going to tell you and you are not going to feel good.
You should have shown up a while ago. You should have been listening to us. You should be listening now, but instead you are acting with the monolithic power you have always wielded to colonize, to overpower and to condemn. You are still not listening.
When we say, “pins are not enough” you need to listen instead of defending. Many of us in Marginalized america see the pins as a way for YOU to identifying YOUrself as “I am not with him (POTUS elect)” or “I am not one of those people”. This is a classic defensive move made by White america not to be associated with the action of your own race. If you find yourself making this particular move, speaking more than listening, writing more texts or tweets or facebook messages rather than reading, or trying to find a Marginalized american to relieve your guilty stress, please stop. Go and read Dr. Robin DiAngelo’s article, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard to Talk to White People About Racism, over at The Good Men Project.
When we call out White america for it’s actions, you need to stop giving us a litany of your personal accomplishments. This is also a classic White Fragility move Dr. DiAngelo refers to as
Individualism: Whites are taught to see themselves as individuals, rather than as part of a racial group. Individualism enables us to deny that racism is structured into the fabric of society. This erases our history and hides the way in which wealth has accumulated over generations and benefits us, as a group, today.  It also allows us to distance ourselves from the history and actions of our group. Thus we get very irate when we are “accused” of racism, because as individuals, we are “different” from other white people and expect to be seen as such; we find intolerable any suggestion that our behavior or perspectives are typical of our group as a whole.
When we say “we need your voice” you need listen to the words Marginalized america has already written and said. Learn about our history, our struggles and White america’s responses, and then amplify what we are saying and give us credit for teaching you. Stop excusing yourself from the conversation because it is hard. We know these are hard conversations because we have been having the same damn conversation for hundreds of years (please see American history referenced above and all over the web). We know it is difficult to talk about these things. There are resources that Marginalized america has worked on for years. We are willing to share. Here are some concrete ideas about how you can use your voice;
  • Listen and Learn – Black Lives Matter has put in a huge amount of time and effort into building a national coalition focused on developing a Black centered, civil rights engagement organization, focused around an inclusive agenda against all social  injustice. They are an entirely inclusive organization. The fact that so many in White america do not know this says more about White america than it does about BLM or Marginalized america.
  • Voice – I have been doing social justice/diversity/gay agenda-ing for many years. I am not asking you to do what I do. I’ve got my agenda covered. You get to have your own.
    I am asking you engage with your sphere of influence, whatever that may be, and push the conversation outward. Have the uncomfortable conversations with the people who said “Oh, I don’t know. They are both so bad” and then did not vote. Find a way into that conversation, because your people don’t believe Marginalized america.  White america does not see us, believe us, or take us seriously because our experience runs counter to that well known and comfortable narrative. We need White america to amplify our voices.
  • Amplify – White, straight, men, take care and listen carefully for ideas and comments made by people that are NOT like you. White, straight women, listen for ideas and comments made by people who are NOT White men and women. And, everyone else, keep that line of listening and amplifying going.
    And, this often gets lost — GIVE THE ORIGINAL SPEAKER HER DUE CREDIT!!! See how women in Obama’s White House did it.
And, I know that by pointing out that you are showing up a day late and a dollar short makes you feel bad. And I know your first reaction is going to be to defend and deflect and to tell Marginalized america that we are wrong to react and feel the ways that we feel and say the words that we are saying.
If you find yourself talking more than listening, or loading up on the “I” statements, or feeling picked on, take a deep breath and listen even more. As Christine, a White american friend said to her male White american colleague, “Your whole job these next few weeks is to be the literal, physical receptacle of the rage. You stand still and take it. You carry their burden these next weeks because it is too fucking much to bear. You witness their pain and SHUT THE FUCK UP.”
Look White america, my house is on fire because of the POTUS elect. You need to take some of the heat.

* (I will never put his name on any social media site because a) I do not want to add to the name by providing more trending power; b) we know who I’m talking about; and c) today, in this piece, right now I am not addressing him or his actions.
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9 thoughts on “Pins and Badges, Oh My!

  1. Wish I had a link to this yesterday when my co-worker told me she needed to speak up for marginalized people because we cannot speak up for ourselves. We’d be in danger if we did, she says. Or, I guess I could have just told her to STFU and listen to us because she does not know our needs. I felt such a dichotomy during this conversation (or, was it parallel talk?). She knew what she needed to do for me, based on what I’m not sure. I had lived experience and knowledge of the history. I need brown, disabled, LGBT+ allies who are willing ready and able because they *know*.

  2. Reblogged this on debraj11 and commented:
    Read this if you had questions about the safety pin issue. Read this if you have questions about what PoC are asking for and we are not terribly impressed that you are horrified by Donald Trump’s administrative choices. It will tell you why PoC aren’t surprised.

  3. Many thanks for this, especially for clarifying the need for folks like me to take the heat and the importance of remembering the names of who has taught me what.
    I was surprised and, frankly, alarmed to see Crown Heights included in your list of landmark events in the struggle for justice. I assume you have in mind the events of 1991 there that took the lives of Gavin Cato and Yankel Rosenblum, yes? I’d like to understand how you see these events – which I found quite traumatic, as the first pogrom (or anti-Jewish race riot) in the USA during my lifetime – as commensurate with the others you mentioned.

    1. I was traveling and just got back late last night.
      Re – Crown height, yes, the 1991 riots. As an outsider (I’m neither Jewish, nor Black, nor New Yorker) my understanding is biased and most likely not deep. As I see it, this was an eruption of violence between two marginalized communities (Hasidic jews and African American & Caribbean immigrants). Both communities have a long history of being both brutalized and marginalized by government bodies. The NYPD had and continues to have a contentious and violent relationship with the AA community in New York and, because car that caused the accident was with the Head (grand?) Rebbi (not sure about spelling or the title) was part of a NYPD motorcade it was seen as another way for the NYPD to crap all over the AA community. It was terrible violence directed, wrongly in my opinion, at the Hasidic community. In many ways it was among the more worrying examples of race riots because it occurred between two marginalized and traumatized communities.

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