This question was posed to me by an acquaintance via email two days ago, who was
frustrated and offended curious that I feel the need to speak up against anyone who says anything I take offense to. This acquaintance, a married black man in his 30s, was a co-worker about give years ago and he recently started reading my blog. Of course, he is convinced that I’m an angry female who refuses to have children not because I don’t want to have them, but because of my refusal to succumb to societal pressures and expectations. He’s also convinced there is no such thing as male privilege, which I of course find laughable.
As social justice bloggers, we continue to face push-back, resentment and outright verbal lashings from those who remain indignant of their prejudices and privileges in the good ol’ U.S. of A. We continue to receive lengthy emails from people offended by a blog post that contradicts what they’ve been told throughout their lives. These correspondences serve as a constant reminder that our work is now needed more than ever–to communicate to the masses that their bigotry and judgment clouded by their privileged is indeed not the norm and not conducive to moving American society forward.
As a woman of color, I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve received from mainly white men and women, as well as some black men, who remain steadfast that my views on white privilege, my questions about feminism, my writings on black women and my alliance with the GLBTQ community is something they can’t swallow. These detractors often pose the emails, as well as Facebook and Twitter messages, as if their questions, their denials and their refusal to think outside their privileged box is my problem and they are the exception to the rule. Ironically, their writings and opinions are often laced with many examples that confirm my perspective, which instills more confidence in my positions on various subjects.
Anyway, in an attempt to answer my acquaintance, I provide the following:
I speak up because no one has the right to make a marginalized person feel uncomfortable or offended in their presence.
I speak up because whiteness has been and continues to tell black women like myself that our kinky hair, thick lips and hips and dark skin isn’t attractive and other women of color that their red, olive, yellow and brown skin can’t compete with the white, Eurocentric beauty standard.
I speak up because all black women and girls have the right to feel safe and wanted in their own communities.
I speak up because no man has the right to cat-call a woman while on the streets. I speak up because no man has the authority to treat a woman like trash just because an outfit she’s wearing shows a little skin. I speak up because rape culture continues to make women feel like the sexual violation of their bodies was all their fault and the actual rapist–you know, the one who actually commit rape–just couldn’t help himself.
I speak up because people who are overweight have the right to take up as much space they need without feeling ridiculed or like second class citizens. I speak up because fat-shaming and the obsession with thinness continues to drive young girls and women into a spiral of eating disorders and complications that could eventually take their lives. I speak up because the proliferation of shows, diet books, etc. designed to help people lose weight is masked as fat elimination and hatred. I speak up because there are overweight people who actually feel confident, sexy and beautiful and are perfectly fine in their own skin. I speak up because thin people have no right to blame overweight people for their “lifestyle” as the cause of them being diagnosed with any disease or ailment. We wouldn’t dare do this to a breast cancer patient, so why do we feel the need to do so with an overweight woman diagnosed with diabetes?
I speak up because people who don’t identify as Christians–or with any other religion for that matter–have the same right to not have their faith–or lack of faith–trampled up on or disrespected by any person, institution or government entity. I speak up because no one should be coerced–physically, mentally or emotionally–to participate in any religious ceremony or feel threatened because they reject the status quo when it comes to religion.
I speak up because people who are considered poor and with limited means are not a drain on society and should not be shamed from applying for much-needed aid. I speak up because politicians and those who consider themselves comfortably middle class have no right to single out struggling families as the blame for why the safety net in this country is broken.
I speak up because many white feminists, while proclaiming their embrace of anti-racist practices, often deny the privilege granted to them by patriarchy and hold women of color in contempt for not fully embracing an ideology that historically has not been kind to us. I speak up because the feminist movement continues to be entrenched with racist, cissexist, transphobic women who remain indignant that they indeed are the niggers of the world.
I speak up because no cisgendered person has the right to make a transgender man or woman feel inadequate or less than because they do not fit into society’s dictations of what men and women should look like. I speak up because cisgendered people of other marginalized communities, including the black community, have no problem with openly expressing their transphobic hatred, which often leads to violence against our transgender brothers and sisters.
I speak up because every woman has a right to seek an abortion and no pro-life activist has the authority to participate in slut-shaming to get their point across. I speak up because every woman should feel comfortable in their decision to have–or not to have–children. I speak up because it doesn’t make a woman any less of a woman if she decides not to have children.
I speak up because members of the GLBTQ community have the inherent right to the same rights and privileges their straight brothers and sisters often take for granted. I speak up because GLBTQ people shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not they will run into the wrong homophobic bigot who is more than willing to act on his violent threats.
I speak up because people with disabilities should not have to face off-the-cuff, ableist comments from people who believe they have the right to define their disabilities for them. I speak up because people with disabilities continue to face places and spaces that aren’t accommodating to them and push back from policy makers on why these accommodations are even necessary. I speak up because people with disabilities should not be patronized by able-bodied people as being “brave” and “courageous” for facing each day with their disability. I speak up because, despite the prevalence and awareness of children with special needs, these children continue to face inexperienced and short-tempered teachers and care takers.
I speak up because bigotry, hatred and eliminationism doesn’t take a holiday and neither should social justice activism.
Why do you speak up in the name of social justice?