This is a guest post from Sparky, of Spark in Darkness. Many of you are familiar with him from Livejournal, as well as from his insightful and often hilarious commentary here. Each Tuesday, Womanist Musings will be featuring a post from Sparky.
Yes, of the many many many many, oh-so-many things that annoy Sparky, I think there needs to be a spot near the top of the list for peacemakers.
I’m sure we all know a few, in our families, at work, among our circles of friends – the peacemakers. The people who just cannot stand a raised voice or a harsh word. The people who have never seen an argument they don’t want to stop and who really really want everyone to like everyone else.
And is this a laudable instinct? Probably. In many ways the world would be a better place if there were more effort to build bridges, look for middle ground and everyone sit down and talk and listen. But not everything is that simple.
I can’t get along with bigots. I can’t, I won’t.
I won’t play nice when someone espouses bigotry. No matter how politely they word their bigotry – their bigotry alone makes them unacceptably rude and due a verbal beat down.
I won’t grit my teeth and just “let it go.” Our society is partly the bigoted thing it is because of so many people letting bigotry passed unchallenged. And don’t tell me “it’s not worth it,” because we’re talking about the ongoing fight to prevent bigotry being acceptable. It’s worth it. It’s necessary. And I’ll decide what’s worth my time and energy, thank you.
Don’t ask me to “agree to disagree,” people disagreeing on whether or not I’m due human rights or human respect isn’t something I agree with, nor is it something I’m going to let lie.
Don’t tell me it’s their opinion. Since when are opinions so damn precious? When did opinions become inviolate? Just because it’s an opinion doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be challenged or shouldn’t be argued against. My aunt’s of the opinion that throwing out her own body weight in scraps on her garden will only attract birds. The rats in the area are of the opinion that if the fool’s going to provide a free buffet every day then they might as well stay. Beloved is of the opinion that, despite years upon years of turning a bright lobster pink, this will be the year he’ll tan a nice, golden brown. There’s no reason an opinion can’t be complete drivel – in fact, I’d say that’s the norm.
Don’t ask me to “have a discussion” or “open a dialogue” or “start communicating”. Why would I want to discuss anything – especially whether or not I deserve to be treated like a full human being – with a bigot? It’d be like talking the human rights of prisoners with Torquemada, or the dignity of office with Boris Johnson.
Don’t ask me to meet someone “half way”. Where’s the half way on treating someone as fully human? Treating them as a little human? Almost human? Giving them some respect? You can have these rights but not those? You can have those rights but I’m still going to raise a generation to hate you, despise you and drive you to suicide? Where is the middle ground here I’m supposed to accept?
Don’t say we both have valid points. Or if you are going to say that, don’t run when I ask you to explain what points the bigots have that you think are “valid.” And yes, I will ask you and I’ll argue with you too.
Don’t ask me to be quiet when you don’t even have a reason why I should! And if you do have a reason (say we’re at a funeral and you’d rather I didn’t vault over the coffin and give Uncle Arsehole a good kicking which is, I admit, generally considered bad form. I could scratch the coffin and they’re expensive these days) don’t use it constantly. Don’t ask me to be quiet “for your sake” because I want to know why you’re invested in me enduring bigotry.
Don’t tell me the many many good qualities a bigot has and expect me to be friends with them. Don’t ask me to just “not bring it up” or “avoid the topic.” Don’t ask me to censor my life to make them – and you – more comfortable.
Don’t make excuses for them. You – and they – don’t have any good enough.
Don’t ask me to ignore bigotry because you want to focus on X and Y – you don’t set my priorities and why should X and Y require bigotry? Why should they be built on a foundation of injustice? What is so important about X and Y that they mean justice for marginalised people can be ignored? That’s not to say these causes aren’t important – but that doesn’t mean justice can be just set aside.
Y’see, Peacemakers, every time you speak, what I tend to hear is “sit down and shut up.” Because I, we, aren’t talking just to cause trouble, or because we love a good fight – and no, we don’t. It’s the biggest straw man in the world that marginalised people ENJOY these battles to be treated like full human beings. We’re speaking up – angrily – because we have to. We’re speaking up to protect ourselves. But you’re trying to stop us doing so.
Silence supports the status quo. Our peace, our refusing to make waves, ensures that the world will continue as it is – and as it is is oppressive, prejudiced, bigoted and deeply unjust. It is hurting us and we need to speak to stop that. You stop us fighting and you help those attacking us and holding us down.
You want a quiet life, I get that – but the cost of that quiet life is us shutting up and taking it. Or smiling and saying thank you as we’re abused. You want to keep everything nice and peaceful – but it’s not peaceful for us. You’re so invested in peace and quiet that you’ve lost sight of right and wrong and a polite, soft-spoken bigot is still a bigot. Oppressive people who smile nicely, say please and thank you and use coasters are still oppressive people.
We don’t want to make peace with these people, not as they are, not until they change. And if you ever prefer “justice” to “peace” we’d like you at our backs and by our sides; not wagging your fingers and gagging us.