There is a lot of privilege in my life. I may be female, an atheist, and have a lot of “extra padding.” I may have spent my early years very poor. I may identify as bisexual (a shock to many of my readers, I’m guessing…cat’s out of the bag! I just happen to be in a monogamous heterosexual marriage so often “pass” whether intentionally or not). I may be part of what we consider to be a Chinese American family. But I am also white, educated, and doing OK financially. I am, generally, happy with my life. I am surrounded by wonderful friends and have a husband and daughter I adore.
Generally, I recognize (or try to recognize) that privilege and seek to serve as an advocate for those who may not have as much of it. I view it as my responsibility to use my privilege to be an ally for those who may not have as much of it or whose privilege may manifest in different ways.
Today, though, was one of those times were all that privilege and all my attempts at being a strong ally and all that work with appreciating diversity and helping others do the same just sort of flew out the window. I can’t get into specifics, but some ridiculous comments were made about a couple of my friends (one who is very dear to me) by a person or people who I wouldn’t really call friends, but people I interact with and will have to continue interacting with for the foreseeable future.
And my response when I learned this was to, literally, be speechless. I was so shocked and pissed and just — ahhhh! — that I had no clue what to say. So I said “what???” And then I said, “yeah…just…yeah…” — and I said that a lot.
Sadly, I think I’m more prepared to deal with racism (and sexism and faithism and sizism and…) when it comes from people I can label as inexperienced, uneducated, naive, and so forth. I recognize that this is the form my biases take — I assume certain viewpoints are less surprising from certain groups of people. That’s something I need to work on; I’ve been trying to see everything as a teaching moment and recognizing that I have to be willing to interact with anyone who has what I view as an incorrect viewpoint. Essentially, I’m working on my stupidism.
But when stupid comes out of the mouth of people who should know better, people who like to talk about being all understanding and supportive and touchy-feely, people who are in roles that mean their stupid could more easily be spread to others — then I find myself wondering how the hell to deal with it.
And when stupid comes from someplace that you can’t just walk away from, how do I keep interacting with the stupid person as if there is something redeemable in them. How do I continue to retain my goal of changing that stupid into something else?
And if I can’t handle this when everyone involved is an adult (well, in age at least), then how the hell am I going to help Pkin deal with this as she gets older?