I'm not known for being a shrinking violet when it comes to sharing my opinions and perspectives, though I spent the first half of my life as a shy introvert. I make no claims to sainthood, or being irritant free. But until this past weekend, the phenomenon of unfriending on FaceBook was only something I read about in the Atlantic. Suddenly, I was unfriended for the first time by a white male friend of a friend when I called him out on my own FB feed for his advising everyone to just ignore neo-Nazis and white supremacists. (Why is this a bad idea? Rolling Stone's article on that can be found here). He said he had no choice but to unfriend because of my “aggressive actions.” Here is what my reply would have been, in some universe where it would do some good. It would not have been the least bit constructive, or likely even heard, in this universe. So, it is shared here instead.
"Aggressive actions." No one has ever said I was aggressive. Defensive? Get in line. Hence, this blog posting. Perhaps it is not so much about what I said as how you, your friends and family choose to perceive it. “Attacking”. Oh, gosh. White fragility is the phenomenon when white persons become weepy, indignant or outraged when someone legitimately implicates them for something they’ve said, done, or not said or not done. “How dare this person imply something about me?” But getting back to attacking, the current President of the US attacks people and outright lies on an astonishingly frequent basis. Neo-Nazis pepper sprayed, kicked and ran over peaceful demonstrators, and laughed about it afterwards. But I am too aggressive for asking folks to pay attention and to not simply ignore white supremacists? For quoting Heather Heyer’s mother, “If one is not outraged, one isn't paying attention”? I found your reaction surreal. Or, as the current President would tweet, “SAD!”
You both “admire my perseverance” but “tire of my persistence”. Still, he persisted? It seems you respect my passion, but really wish I was more like you and stayed in the middle of the road. Didn't ruffle any feathers. It also seems you sit on the proverbial fence, seeing “many sides.” That perfectly embodies the themes of a Jim Morrison poem “Adolf Hitler”. Loosely paraphrased, by not choosing a side, you sit on the fence, and your testicles hurt. You say dialogue is important, but observe all exchanges from a position of white male privilege, and do not take kindly to being challenged. Not "attacked", rejoined. Not “scolded”, invited to take a real position. A moral position. Not the 2% homogenized milk platitudes you tend to issue, which at best do not amount to a hill of beans, and at worst, appease KKK members.
Your position of simply ignoring neo-Nazis and white supremacists as you originally stated was untenable in that it was on the wrong side of history, and/or came out of a refusal to learn from history. My challenging you spurred a clearer response from you on FB. It was part of a dialogic process, and fully warranted. To characterize it as simply an “attack” not only lacks nuance, it’s lame and dishonest. I’m held to account by folks at various times as well, and while it isn’t comfortable, it’s important if we are to grow, to evolve, as people.
You said I sometimes come across as if I am trying to “educate” your friends and family. I'm an educator, and a social science researcher. I have a lot of education, and I produce knowledge. So sometimes I do not speak with total humility, and I may come across as if I have something important I want to impart or share. But, ironically, if anything, I’ve been holding back. Self-editing out 90% of what I actually think. What’s that you say? What kinds of things have I been editing out? Well, for one, your repeated expressions of nostalgia for a "peaceful perfect past"— a longing for a Norman Rockwell painting of simplicity and of conflict-free families and communities— are inherently problematic. That idyllic fantasy denies (whitewashes, if you will) so much pain, substance abuse, domestic violence, sexual abuse, Jim Crow, racial terrorization, and suffering people have gone through, sometimes right next door, across the tracks, or under that very same roof, but went unacknowledged or deliberately ignored to “keep the peace” around the dinner table. That silence or quietude wasn’t all love and peace. Often it was interlaced with fear, ignorance, complicity, and cowardice. Posting a sign with a red line across the word “hate”, taking a position "against hate" as a faceless abstract entity, isn't really meaningful. It's not courageous. It's playing it safe. Like you’re running for office, wanting to be all things to everybody, so you can catch as many votes as possible. But it’s like being against cancer, or homelessness. As my best friend would have said, "Who isn't?"
We all profess that everything that we say and do is well intentioned. But in the end, what the heck do we stand for, really? Being “the good guy”, mainly, on FB. Which is gratuitous and self-serving, ultimately. If people who see themselves as “the reasonable middle” can’t take a position or handle a little heat from the left or right, dialogue in this country becomes DOA. I am still friends with folks on the right, but it isn’t easy. I am trying. Hard. Every day. Why is it so difficult now? People on the right support wholeheartedly the current president, who is an ethically compromised ignoramus with a proclivity for lying, and a theocrat vice president who thinks we can pray away the gay. They are, respectively, a demagogue and an ideologue, who don’t give a hoot about everyday citizens’ health care, wellbeing, and wish to move out of economic precariousness and into prosperity. They just want more for themselves and their billionaire buddies. It’s not okay to “go along to get along” with that. Or with KKK apologists, accidental or otherwise. So, it's okay to take a position. It’s about integrity, and authenticity. This isn't high school, and it’s not a popularity contest. Some things matter a lot. Peace out.