A Medium writer threw down the gauntlet.
I have lived in two worlds: America, where they may embark on a new civil war as we still fight the last one; and Canada, where, far from perfect, folks get along a lot better.
My first experience with a black person in Canada, a few weeks after landing, demonstrated something I’d never seen before: What I call The Wall.
I got on the bus and happened to catch the eye of a young black woman who smiled effortlessly at me. As if I was some random stranger on a bus worthy of a genuine smile. I smiled back — I hoped I didn’t look too idiotic given she’d caught me utterly off-guard— and sat down thinking, “What just happened?”
It wasn’t the American Black Person Smile, who either avoided my gaze or gave me a tight-lipped I’m just being borderline polite, honky look, the kind where the lip corners rise but the eyes remain hostile or, more often, aloof.
It was such a normal easy smile. Like I wasn’t the enemy.
And there it was. I saw what I didn’t.
The invisible wall of omnipresent, underlying wariness of The Other.
I didn’t see The American Wall until I interacted with a black person without it.
And then I thought: I must have contributed to The Wall, too.
I’m not sure what I’ll do when I revisit the mother country again. It’s been over a year now. I’ve been gone so long (sixteen years), and in the last four half my people have gone bugshit, stark raving lunatic white supremacist crazy.
Us v. Them has gone toxic and viral. The Wall is taller, longer, and thicker than even Donald Trump’s fevered favorite fantasy, but it’s between our ears.
One day, when I go back again (I hope this year) I’ll be more scared than when I visited in Christmas 2019. What should I expect? What level of hostility awaits? My white skin will protect me from Trumpers if I keep my mouth closed; not so much if I encounter black hostility. I probably won’t encounter any black Americans except at stores and gas stations. Apart from my family, I may not let others know I’m American. I’m just a Canadian visitor; passing through. You have a good day, eh?
There’s a real mother of a wall between me and Medium (American) writer Jeanette C. Espinoza who threw down the gauntlet to me directly: How are you going to fight racism? Our exchanged comments went nowhere fast but I thought: It’s a good question. Challenge accepted.
Fighting racism isn’t my raison d’être as it is for Jeanette, who’s black, especially as I live in Canada where racial issues aren’t nearly as boiling-point. I’m against racism, of course, but I’m against a lot of things I don’t consciously fight every day. It’s like contributing to every worthy charity; you can’t, unless you’re Warren Buffett. There are two things I can do. The first: I write about racism. Occasionally. Pretty sure ‘occasionally’ is about how much far-left Medium can handle, since I don’t go in much for self-flagellating, white-guilt suffering, virtue signaling, or parroting the party line.
I write about what contributes to The Wall, since every day, it seems, heavily-left-skewing Medium is filled with articles written by black people telling white people how no matter what they do, they’re wrong and racist, however subconsciously. I write about how we all contribute to The Wall. To add a little balance.
My own personal raison d’être is pushing feminism to evolve past ‘80s-appropriate victimhood mentality and taking charge of one’s own life; knowing when to stop blaming The Man and ask who’s really holding you back, whether The Patriarchy lives as firmly between your ears as it does on the street.
I challenge others, and myself, to live the cliche be the change you want to see. White feminism shares a few things in common with black civil rights activism. The victims make the same mistakes with the dominant group.
I say over and over to white feminists: You can’t fight misogyny with misandry. And I say to the anti-racist set: You can’t fight racism with racism.
Just because misogynists and white racists are the ruling party doesn’t mean their moral sins are okay for the rest of us. Otherwise we become exactly what the Republicans have become: The High Church of Hypocrisy.
Hypocrites aren’t moral leaders. We must root it out of ourselves even as we yank at others’ roots.
My middle-of-the-road culture war views critique the ideologies skewing our ability to see anything clearly other than our own blinkered interests and interpretations. It’s why Jeanette and I sparred and why I’m challenging myself to delve more into what I’m going to do to fight racism. I take to heart Julia E Hubbel who writes about how she challenges herself to feel uncomfortable. To see the reality others live, that I don’t.
I look for the unpopular, less-discussed, nobody’s-talking-about-X point. I challenge my own on the left because we’re all challenging the right. Fish in a barrel.
Living in Canada changed my focus. You challenge what’s at the summit; in the U.S. it’s been right-wing ideology backed by so-called ‘Christian’ evangelicalism for decades; in Canada it’s ‘progressivism’’. America showed me where conservative thought goes too far; now I see where liberal thought does the same.
You can’t be the change you want to see until you challenge your own hypocrisies and excesses. It’s something we must do every damn day, even as we strive to change the world. It’s hard, for all of us.
My issue with anti-racism is the inability for many blacks to challenge their own racism. Or to accept, like perpetually aggrieved feminists, that at some point the buck stops with the person in the mirror.
Here’s the thing: Change comes slowly, but it moves toward progress. Women are edging closer to power. Hillary Clinton will never be President but Kamala Harris might be. The 2018 Congressional influx of women, including non-white women, blew my mind, as does the steel-spine reaction of tough power chicks post-insurrection. I listened to Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez’s podcast fighting insurrection amnesia and refusing to shut up or apologize. I loved watching Nancy Pelosi get back to business-as-usual days after the insurrection without giving those terrorist bastards the time of day.
That’s the tough-as-nails old broad I want to be some day.
Non-white candidates are infiltrating the white halls of power, and in a few more decades America will be considerably less white than currently advertised. With growing numbers come power. And power is directly proportional to owning your responsibility.
The part of power no one likes nearly as much.
Racism is like privilege: You can’t see it when you‘ve got it. Blacks correctly charge whites with not seeing their own privilege; well, huh-huh, try telling a black man about his male privilege. White feminists deny they’re misandrist, or that misandry even exists, or that they can’t be misandrist because The Patriarchy rules and they’re oh-pressed.
Sound familiar? Replace white feminists with black anti-racists and misandrist with racist and The Patriarchy with White Supremacy.
Let’s try it: Black anti-racists deny they’re racist, or that black racism even exists, or that they can’t be black racist because White Supremacy rules and they’re oh-pressed.
Not All Feminists/Anti-Racists, of course.
I’m quite certain some feminists will live forever with their self-ascribed victim labels, no matter how equal the sexes become. I expect some blacks will never give up victimhood even if they got elected to the whole damn Congress.
Sorry, but what we’re all engaged in is bad old-fashioned tribalism. It’s what makes us human.
I now live in a culture less-tribal-than-thou’s, I’ve seen what America can become. Canada is far from perfect but I will die here. I can’t move back to the U.S., ever.
It’s not only the Trumpazoids. How do you go back to a country where darker citizens regard you, on sight, as the enemy?
I wouldn’t know how to act anymore. The (younger generational) hard and far left contribute to division and bigotry with the same blinkered fervor as the far right. Everything is racist (or misogynist) and a microaggression; every reference to biological sex is transphobic; anyone with a political view even slightly different is automatically labeled An Evil One.
I wouldn’t want to talk to Americans whose gender seems mysterious in case I use the wrong pronouns or get yelled at for asking which they’d prefer. I don’t want to talk to black Americans who might react with hostility no matter what I say; and is some white guy going to think it’s okay to sexually harass me or say something nasty, even though he’s not sporting Trumpwear, because so many women voted to legitimate a sexual predator who regards women either as fucktoys or fucking useless?
Identity politics, regardless of which side one is on, have torn America apart. Don’t flatter yourself if you’re on the left; you’re part of the problem too.
While genuine white supremacy is by far America’s biggest racial problem, black racism is part of the toxic stew just as feminist misandry juices the MRA ranks.
Discourse has gotten so divided we forget the stories on the opposite side of the midpoint, and they’re not always what we think. The ones just t’other side aren’t crazy conspiracy-spewing white supremacist hatemongers who cheered Derek Chauvin as he knelt on George Floyd’s neck. Some of them, in fact, are still conservatives but no longer, or never have been, Trump supporters. They’re turned off by how extreme the right has become.
I can relate.
If the left is an ace at anything, it’s pushing away its allies.
Unchallenged black racism ensures white racism will remain. It reduces the allies in the dominant group and when you’re disadvantaged, like it or not, you need their cooperation.
Theoretically, if all men (all colors) collectively decided women’s rights have gone way too far and they’re going to roll the clock back to 1900 when things were ‘much better’, what choice would we have? If the civilizing influences since First Wave feminism were cast off, we’d lose autonomy over our bodies and our re-infantilized lives.
They could beat and force the resistance out of us.
Comparatively, if white people all made the same decision, everyone else would be rhymes-with-tucked.
After watching the insurrection attempt, I’m not sure America isn’t headed down the same path as the regressive Middle East, where domestic terrorism is quotidien, and life sucks far worse for women and minorities.
We can’t treat each other well, like the black lady on the bus — you know, like we’re nice, normal people, when we draw battle lines and Us vs Them teams with our obsessive labeling of ourselves and others.
So what else will I do to fight racism? I did say there were two things I could do.
My core mission state is for myself, and for others to Be the change you want to see.
How well do I live that? Better than I did a few years ago, but with some backsliding from the Year of the Plague.
It doesn’t seem like enough, though. Then I got inspired over the weekend. I’ve started working again; I can finally afford to give money once more. As I listened to one of my favorite personalities on Bloggingheads.tv on YouTube asking for Patreon donations, I thought, Glenn Loury, you got it. I’ll give to you. You bring well-balanced views on racism and anti-racism.
This aligns with my preference for more balanced views, with some self-analysis, to contrast the unself-aware ideological hyberbole one customarily finds on the hard left or right.
Where else could I donate, in alignment with my values?
I found various venues supporting mental health and education for people of color. Then I remembered Kiva, the microloan non-profit I gave to for awhile. This aligns with my values of helping others help themselves. Kiva allows individuals or small groups to ask for small loans — anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand — to fund or expand their small business and they’re expected to pay it back. If they don’t, you’re not out much. Most of them did. I invested in women in Third World countries.
This time, I looked for entrepreneurs of color in America. And I found a few; one black woman wanted to expand her perinatal health education and consulting business geared toward black and indigenous women; several black men wanted money to support their Turo car rental business, and I picked one — a fellow immigrant who landed at age twelve — and funded his endeavor too.
And there it is. I will continue to challenge what I consider to be toxic beliefs and attitudes on the Left, but I will also give money to various causes supporting American people of color aligning with my values.
And when I visit the U.S., I’ll do my best to treat everyone as though they’re nice normal people, and fight The American Wall.
Whether they’re MAGA hat wearers or a hostile black person with a hate-whitey look on their face when they see me.
I can’t fix them; I can only fix myself. And be an example.
The change I want to see.