I’m always a little afraid to start a new season of Orange Is The New Black because it’s very emotionally-draining and I always get sucked into it faster than a bug down a flushed toilet. What a metaphor.
I went to Six Flags the other day and made the bad mistake of wearing a tank top with no sunscreen. That decision, paired with my vampire skin, had added up to some interesting tan lines, and by “interesting tan lines” I mean that I look like a nightmare and am trying to get my skin back to normal and I have to start working at my summer camp job where I get shirtless. And there are already hot people at camp, so when this human potato rolls up shirtless, with tank top tan lines no less, it become a big pota-no.
I’ve been following the whole Rachel Dolezal story and have been finding it so interesting, especially with the multiple connections people are drawing between her and Caitlyn Jenner. At first, I was like, “Um, what?” and then I was like “Oh, maybe,” just because people were saying that on one hand, people are largely accepting of Caitlyn Jenner, but we are condemning another woman for trying to cross some large divide. But then, after thinking and researching it more, I felt like we were wrong in comparing Caitlyn to Rachel.
Janet Mock summed it up excellently in a series of tweets. She wanted to completely stop the connection between trans-womanhood and Rachel Dolezal. She said that trans women of color are attacked daily because of “this pervasive myth that we are pretending to be someone we are not, and therefore should be extinguished.”
And I was thinking about how Rachel said that she felt black and identified as black and I realized that I didn’t know what that meant. I have never really felt “white” because I don’t think that’s a feeling. I think the only way to really feel a certain race or way or identity is to feel the pressing of society’s expectations on you. I was on Tumblr and saw this amazing post that said that young black women are subjected to so much fetishization and discrimination and expectations. Rachel didn’t go through that because she is white, and never had to be subjected to the unique experience of growing up as a black person in America. She chose to opt into that, and I think that’s where I become angry.
I am not black, so I will never understand what it feels like to be discriminated against because of the color of my skin. Being born a white person offers me some privilege, a privilege that is so pervasive and invisible to my eyes that it almost doesn’t seem there, but I guess that’s kind of the point of being privileged. You don’t have to think about it, you have the luxury of not thinking about skin color.
But I am a self-identified gay man. And I do understand that unique branch of discrimination, of unsubtle looks in the school hallways as people analyzed my clothes and my gait, of the terror of answering phone calls because I worried it would be pranks or loud chants of “faggot,” of trying to come to terms with a sexuality that was not embraced by my community, of being completely alone in dealing with everything. And so I put it into terms of that. If I discovered that a leader of the GLAAD organization was a heterosexual person pretending to be a member of the LGBTQIA, I would firstly be like, “Why?” and secondly I would want to scream.
Because that person has no right to pretend to understand the struggles I went through. They have no right to stand next to me and claim my childhood terrors, my psyche’s scars, my shattering, as their own. And so while I am not and will not ever be a black person or understand that unique struggle, I can sympathize, and I can understand why Rachel’s actions were so perverse. She did not have any right to claim those struggles as her own. Allies of minorities like gay or black are valued and crucial parts to the fight for equality, but she overstepped her boundaries and tried to claim those plights as her own. A white person does not understand the discriminatory experiences of a black person in the same way that a straight person does not understand the experiences of a gay person. You can sympathize, you can become angry, you can respect, but you will never know exactly what that felt like, what that struggle was. And that’s why I’m mad. Because she took something that didn’t belong to her and wore it as her own.
I usually don’t write about more political issues or discussions like the Rachel Dolezal situation because I am always so afraid of making people upset or being disrespectful or insensitive, so I welcome other opinions and thoughts. But I think it is important to open dialogues about issues like these, because they matter. I considered writing about the Charleston church shootings as well, but I haven’t fully verbalized my words, so the only thing I can really express is deep sorrow for the lives lost and anger that our government officials are dancing around the notion of racism as a motivation.
I think we, as a country, need to be angrier about things. We need to stand up and yell and get emotional and express our thoughts. Because anger is a powerful motivator. Anger, not blind rage, can be molded into something powerful and unbreakable and raw.
We need to be angry about the way black people are treated in this country and in the world. We need to be angry about how TV networks deal with uncovering child-molesters like Josh Duggar. We need to be angry about the violence and vitriol aimed against transgendered people. We need to be angry that it is 2015 and we are living in a society that does not value equality. We need to be angry.
I was about to apologize for not posting a funny, witty little blog today, but I won’t. This blog is a reflection of me, and I don’t want it to come across that I remain cheerful and untouched by the atrocities and unfairness of the world. I don’t want that to be something people think about me, but I also think that we, everyone, has a duty to start dialogues about contemporary issues. We need to start dialogues. We need to start action. We need to be angry. We need to care.