“Just remember, love Trumps hate!” my friend types to me online. I roll my eyes. “I’m just so angry, that people won’t get active and do something. I feel alone. I feel like I’m losing my mind.” I type in reply. “I feel like people refuse to engage unless it affects them, and it’s so selfish, I can’t stand to be around people anymore.” “Just breathe.” my friend advised, “It’s not that bad! You’re just having a bad day. Even with everything that’s going on, we still live in the freest country in the world, and that is something that hasn’t gone away in hundreds of years. We should definitely keep writing our Representatives and stuff, but it’s a system that will work itself out. You don’t have to be so angry all the time. Remember what Lincoln said: ‘Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.’” I stare at the screen, even angrier, trying to think of a response that won’t break off connections entirely with my friend. “It was good talking to you.” I say, “I have to go make dinner! 😀 ❤ “, is what I actually said. What I wish I said was this:
No. That is complete nonsense perpetuated from a place of unbelievable privilege. Stop trying to tell people who have every right to get angry, not to be angry. They should be angry. You should be angry. I am unapologetically angry at this system and everyone who perpetuates, defends, and participates in it. Don’t talk down to me with bullshit, (also questionably attributed) Abraham Lincoln quotes and vague ‘positivity’ platitudes. Positivity platitudes are psychologically unhealthy, and don’t help people to actually deal with reality. Abraham Lincoln didn’t give a fuck about slaves, and he suspended the writ of habeus corpus, so let’s take him off that pedestal now, thanks.
Love does not Trump hate. If it did, we wouldn’t have such a hate filled world. Work Trumps hate. Education Trumps hate. Unlearning toxic behaviors and attitudes Trumps hate. Collaborating together as an intentional community Trumps hate. Working toward a societal system that isn’t based on a false meritocracy and hierarchies Trumps hate. Lot’s of things can help to topple the toxic hate filled structures we live in, but just love, on it’s own, isn’t one of them. We aren’t goddamn Care Bears. Is having love in your heart going to stop black teens getting murdered by cops? Is it going to stop Muslim girls from getting murdered by assholes literally wearing the American flag as a cape, as they slash those girls’ faces? NO. So stop saying that shit. Stop using LOVE LOVE LOVE as the bricks you build as a wall around yourself, to protect you from the scary things in the world that many other people have NO OTHER CHOICE BUT TO FACE EVERY MOMENT OF THEIR LIVES. Instead, get out here with the rest of us busting our asses to make the world a better fucking place, please.
Check. Your. Mother. Fucking. Privilege. Then, when you’re done, check it again, and again, and again forever. Never be done checking your privilege. Self critique forever. Self critique should be like breathing. Should be like your fucking heart beat. Don’t ever stop. Make new friends, and meet new people, and get involved in the community in ways that aren’t simply to be performative, tokenizing, and to make you look good on social media, or to make you feel better about yourself. Stop calling yourself an ally. Be an accomplice. Accept that unless you are Indigenous you are a colonizer. If you aren’t Black, Brown, Asian, or Indigenous, an immigrant or a refugee, you benefit from all the systems of white supremacy intended to keep those folks down; it means you are complicit in a system of white supremacy and you should ask yourself everyday what you are doing to dismantle that system.
Acknowledge that much of the everyday language we speak is built to oppress others from calling people “cr*zy” to “st*pid” and other ablist terms that seek to stigmatize mental health or intellectual ability, or even that the etymology of the word “bad”, as in the opposite of the word “good” comes from an Old English word for “hermaphrodite, womanish man”, equating trans identity with everything not good. Be intentional and thoughtful with the words you use. Respect the words others use to describe themselves. If others ask you to modify your words for their mental health, do that. Don’t go on and on about how “the system will fix itself”, or complain about how we have such a mental health crisis that no one is doing anything about, yet continue to refuse to take responsibility for the actions you take that cause others to have mental health issues. Part of living in a society is taking responsibility for it, and you can write as many letters to your Senator as you want, but you could also try treating trans people like human being with valid identities when they need to go pee. Mind your social media posts, and don’t be afraid to use trigger warnings; some of your friends will want that recommend for the the show you like on Netflix, and others of your friends may just feel uncomfortable telling you that not everyone finds certain topics entertaining (suicide, r*pe, domestic violence, etc), because some people have experienced those things themselves. Have the decency to try to empathize with another human’s different life experiences, even if they aren’t your own.
Stop pretending that pacifism, acquiescence to ‘authority’, and appeasement are the only options, or that they are even valid options at all. Put away your platitudes about peace and love and positive thinking, and get out some Martin Luther King Jr quotes instead. Yeah, the guy you might know as a pacifist. The man who focused on the violence inherit in the system, which you’ve been ignoring and propping up. The man who said:
“But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear?…It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.”
That is the quote that should be in your pounding away in your mind when you see windows being smashed, and people out in the street demanding justice. That should be the quote pounding away when you join them in the streets.
I watch you type words about how despite everything this is the freest country in the world, and maybe for a middle class white person like yourself it is. But my grandma and her dad fought for Latinx people’s right to be able to vote at all, and that was in my her lifetime. It was in my father’s lifetime. Slavery is still legal as long as people have committed a crime, and we implement large scale policies, such as the War on Drugs which essentially criminalizes being black. Slavery never ended, there’s just more paperwork now. We see Indigenous People fight for their right to clean water, because white folks don’t want dirty water, but someone’s water has to to be dirty because all that matters in our country are corporate interests. Everything we have is stolen from someone else. Everything we have is because of the exploitation of someone else. So take your positivity bullshit and keep it to yourself, because yeah, I’m fucking angry, I’m only going to get more angry, and I’m not fucking sorry about it.
So either get angry and get over here, or shut up and get the fuck out of my way.