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[personal profile] sciatrix
....and, well, I've been furiously typing on Facebook all week without much pause, except for marching. So I thought... well, might as well put the things I'm proudest of writing here now, so I can remember them.

Anyway. 

Okay, so in addition to being the only queer kid in a conservative Catholic family, I'm also an evolutionary biologist who has mostly taught and worked in red states. Went to first year of high school in Kansas city where local news interviewed me, age 14, about whether I believed or not in evolution; then I went to college in Georgia, and now I'm here in Texas. I have a lot of practice talking to folks who don't want to hear anything I'm trying to say and get emotional and defensive when I say it.

Here's what I've learned over the last five or ten years: first, you get through more than you think you do; people often take something like that and outwardly insist you're wrong, while they plant a little seed of doubt. Over time, as more people water that little doubt seed with disagreement, it grows and grows. You might not be around by the time it flowers and a person changes their hearts and minds, but that doesn't mean you aren't watering it.

Second, being too polite is counterproductive when it comes to issues that hurt you or your people directly. You have to show people that what you're talking about MATTERS. You have to show people that their actions do harm people, and sometimes you have to shock people out of complacency. This is especially something I've learned calling out family homophobia--the more polite and nonconfrontational I was, the easier it was for them to slip the whole issue under the rug and get back to Sunday dinner--even if *I* was hurting and couldn't do that.

Third, being too harsh is also counterproductive--you have to be able to extend out enough shared identity as a fellow human that they can't write you off as a faceless, scary OTHER. It's true that if you push too hard, you can alienate people and make them write you off as human before they'll let you water that seed of doubt I talked about earlier. The best way to handle that is to put a face on yourself--to say "Hi, my name is _____, and I'm a person too. I like cats" or "I fed you when you were sick" or "you and I played together as children" or "man, don't you like having a beer on a cold evening? because I do" or whatever. You put a face on yourself, you put on your personality, and you remind them that you're a human being just like they are--and therefore you're in the SAME group as them, not a different one that can be treated as a monolithic enemy.

White people, this is why being angry is our job when it comes to other white people because racist white folk are more predisposed to think of us as in-group than they are people of color--which means that it's on us to push harder than it is people of color, because we can BE more blunt and use stronger words before getting ignored than people of color can. They get written off faster as "not like me, can be dismissed", and it's a short jump from there to "not REALLY human" in the hindbrain or gut of people who aren't thinking too clearly.

On the other hand, as a queer person, I need you straight folks to speak up for me if your friends and family don't think of me as human. One of the big reasons that queer people have made strides so much faster than people of color is that we're at a particular advantage--all of us know straight people who think of us as their folk, because we're mostly born into straight families and they don't always realize we're queer until they've known and loved us and built connections with us for ten or twenty years. So when we come out, when we put a face to that identity "queer" and say "you attack queer folk, you're attacking your daughter, your cousin, your auntie, your father", well, that nudges a whole lot of people who might not have felt strongly about queer people right over to the side of "oh wow that's a PERSON." We're not abstract any more.

Now, the problem is that a lot of white people live in bubbles, bubbles where they might not know any black people, Latinx people, or Muslim people around them. This is in part because white people tend to hide and think of people of color as scary or weird or different, in part because they aren't thinking too clearly about the racism we've all accidentally absorbed from American culture. It's in everyone; you gotta make a conscious effort to work past it. And white people think that a Racist is a TERRIBLE HUMAN BEING, like a monster or something, without any other facets--because it's abstract to us, not something we can put a face on.

So our job, as white people, is to talk to defensive people and remind them that racism is a thing everyone struggles with, and that sometimes it's hard to see, BUT... that not knowing doesn't absolve you of your actions, because you should have thought to go look and do your reading before you acted. Doing a racist thing doesn't make you unloveable, but at the same time, it doesn't make you free of the guilt for the shitty situation we're in either. You let them be defensive and carry that emotional reaction, you let the emotions flow through them, and you bring it up again and again until they have sat with the emotions long enough to be capable of thinking again.

If they're emotional at you? Point out that they're being emotional. The sort of person you're talking about, Vonda, loves to claim that their viewpoint is somehow objective, but everyone else's is subjective, and their opinions are facts while everyone else's are biased and emotion driven. Don't let them keep believing that--call out that implicit belief and make them justify it. If they hurt you specifically, point out that you have a right to be angry or upset when hurt. If they claim that they have no dog in this fight, ask why they're arguing with you then, and ask why they're acting so defensive.

Basically: this isn't an argument you'll win in one go. But by having many smaller arguments, it is absolutely possible to make anyone--even the most intransigent person--re-evaluate their thoughts and change their mind. It might not be you who does it, and it will take a lot of people backing you up, and you might not be able to organize all of them. But that doesn't mean you can't be the first person to plant that seed of doubt.
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