By now I am sure most of the country has seen the picture of Arizona Governor Jan Brewer waving her finger and shouting (or maybe she was yawning, though I doubt it) in the President’s face. The Christian Science Monitor does a pretty bang up job of trying to look impartial. This is, of course, a lot of bull. Had this been President Clinton, however he confronted her, she would never have gestured like that at all. It would never have occurred to her to raise her voice, or her hand, to a white President.
Now I realize that there are certain people who will read this that will never be convinced of what I just wrote. These are the folks who do not see racist bile in signs with watermelons in front of the White House or photoshopped pics of the first family as chimpanzees. These people are quite comfortable with their hatred and I haven’t the time or energy to deal with delusional fools that actually believe straight, white, Christian men are somehow victimized in this country simply because they don’t always get their way.
What has me worried is the number of self described liberals, people offended that someone disrespected member of their team who have denied the racist undertones of Governor Brewer’s behavior. They display a knee-jerk defense of their own race, and against accusations of racism that is sad on so many levels. It is sad because they can only see racism if it is blatant. It is sad because they cannot see the difference between racism and bigotry: “black people can be racist too” (quick lesson: no they cannot. Yes they can discriminate and hold bigoted views, but they do not live in a system where their race holds the levers of power.) It is sad because they are unwilling to face their own racism, own it and attempt to move past it to do what is needed to undo it.
I wish that this was the first time I’ve seen something like this, and I hope it is the last. Unfortunately just a few months ago this picture was making the rounds on liberal forums and FB comment threads. Just to make it clear, I am no friend of Michelle Bachmann (after all she has a pretty clear hatred of people like me.) Displaying her as a sex object and making jokes that encourage our rape culture however are beyond the pale. This was lost on more than a few liberal men (and sadly one or two liberal women.) I don’t know what is more troubling, the fact that any man can think it is okay to humiliate a woman like that for any reason, or the hypocrisy involved (had this been Secretary Clinton you can bet many of the men making these comments would have been quoting Andrea Dworkin.)
These statements and jokes alone would be a little less troubling were it not for the reaction when they are called out. The defensiveness displayed by these people is itself offensive. Is it so hard to take a step back and reflect on what you said and did? Is it so important to drag out a list of your diversity bona fides everytime someone dresses you down for defending racism or making homophobic, transphobic and sexist statements? Would you rather be viewed as a good guy than take that little extra effort it takes to really be a good guy?
No one is perfect. Hell, I’ve made cis sexist remarks and I’m a trans woman. When I have though, and I’ve been called out, rather than accuse the other as being too touchy, I let myself feel the guilt of my actions, take a deep breath and think of how I can be better. I know it is hard when you enjoy privilege to accept that you are a beneficiary of it and even kind of painful to admit it when it is pointed out to you. As difficult as it is though, you have it so much easier than those without and to claim victimhood when you are asked to look in that mirror is selfish, self defeating and just plain rude.