We Need You

So, an idea I've seen expressed quite a bit lately among progressives is total shock and disgust at the levels of sexism and racism that have been expressed during this primary, and, often, among people who aren't engaging in it themselves, but horrified by it, their shock and disgust is accompanied by a feeling of hopelessness.

Chet's post from yesterday is a good example of this, and I'm not singling it out to pick on him at all, but because I know that Chet is an extremely decent person who's expressing quite genuine surprise and dismay and who's feeling really hopeless.

And I know he's not alone.

He's not alone across this country and others, and he's not even alone at Shakesville.

And here's the thing: I don't want anyone who's feeling shocked and dismayed and overwhelmed and hopeless because of this primary to throw in the towel just because suddenly things seem very grim. We need those teaspoons.

So I want to tell you something, and I'm not going to sugercoat it; in fact, I'm about to kick you right in the ass, so steel yoursevles.

You feel that way because of your privilege.

It may be the privilege of gender, or race, or even inexperience—that particular privilege of simply not having experienced bigotry oneself, or lacking the interpretation skills to recognize it for what it is. Some people never have the privilege of inexperience, like a child of color in an all-white school; some people never outgrow it, like our current president. In any case, if you were caught unawares by what's happened during this primary, that's some kind of privilege speaking.

And, lest there be any confusion, let me reiterate that having privilege doesn't make someone a bad person; almost all of us have some kind of privilege or another. It's the refusal to examine our privilege(s) that makes us assholes.

But I digress.

Active racism and sexism is nothing new. They're not even "coming to the surface," or whatever phase one prefers to describe the unearthing of a supposedly subterreanean social issue. The only thing that's new is YouTube, the internetz, all the means of conveying to people who never have to experience racism and sexism firsthand the racism and sexism that other people experience in their everyday lives.

Obama's not shocked by the racism being used against him. Clinton's not shocked by the sexism being used against her. They were well ready for it—because they've faced it their whole lives. Not because of this primary. Not because their names and faces are widely known. Because they are, respectively, a black man and a woman.

And we would all do well to remember that every black man and every woman (and all other marginalized people) suffer this shit day in and day out, every day of their lives.

Now, quite honestly, I'm a little surprised (and a lot disappointed) by how much racism and sexism is emanating from the Left uncontested, but that racist and sexist language and imagery is ubiquitous in a primary between a black man and a woman doesn't surprise me in the least. I'd be shocked to hell if there weren't any racism and sexism, not the other way around.

And I suspect I'm not the only person who has lived with sexism and/or racism hir entire life who is ever-so-slightly amused and ever-so-slightly bitter that there are people who have the luxury of being surprised by the preponderance of bigotry being levied against Clinton and Obama. Of course there was going to be ugly, pernicious, unapologetic, despicable sexism. Of course there was going to be ugly, pernicious, unapologetic, despicable racism. That shit never went away.

We face it every day. It just doesn't make the news.

I have many email correspondents who want to know how I can still be hopeful, despite Shakesville documenting (so far) 104 incidents of sexism against Clinton and 46 incidents of racism against Obama (and of course there are many more of each we haven't documented), as if this primary is a cataclysm of resurgent bigotry, indicative of a cultural tailspin from which we won't recover.

And the truth is, I'm hopeful because I have to be. I don't have the option of pretending sexism doesn't exist.

I do have the luxury of pretending racism doesn't exist; that's my privilege as a white person, right there. I have that luxury, but I don't have the will. My will is to try to break through my privilege, though it's hard and I fuck up a lot.

I don't have the option of throwing my hands up and saying, "It's hopeless!" And I hope, beyond any measure that I know how to convey, that the people who do have the luxury of turning their backs on this fight, don't.

I hope, instead, you will say, "My eyes have been opened to what was always there. Now I see the struggle." I hope, instead, you'll dig in with your teaspoon beside me.

I understand that this primary has ripped off a lot of blinders, and that watching it unfold has been jarring to people who don't personally experience racism and/or sexism on a regular basis. But I'm freaked out that it's resulting in feelings of hopelessness instead of a rededication to fighting bigotry.

Don't let it get the better of you. We need you.

We need you.

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