Progressive Inclusion: Throwing Metaphorical Punches at Literal Neo-Nazis (essay)

“All the world will be your enemy, Prince of a Thousand enemies. And when they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you…” ~ Richard Adams, Watership Down.

As a progressive liberal, right now the World feels like it is against me. The institutions of American society do not work for me or represent me. Yet, this sense of alienation is nothing new to large swathes of the general population. People of Colour, Queer folk of all stripes, any minority or marginalized group don’t need me to point out the obvious. Black lives matter. There should be equal pay for equal work. We shouldn’t fear for our lives or our livelihood due to our religious beliefs (or lack thereof) or anything as physically superficial as the colour of our skin.

They might –rightfully- say with some exasperation to me, “Welcome to the party.” It’s been a fight that they have been waging for decades. And I come late to the struggle with the ‘baggage’ of all of my privilege.

I’ll never forget the day after the American election. I was in our store, struggling to understand what had just happened, when one of our customers came in. He looked at me and laughed –not in a mean way but with sad empathy- and gave me a hug. “We’re all niggers now,” he said.

The n-word is shocking. It is so loaded with centuries of hatred and oppression. It is something that exists only to hurt. To dehumanize. But with it, Dre was offering me empathy. He was inviting me into his pain. And legitimizing my own.

“Welcome to the party.”

We have to be better at legitimizing people’s experiences and pain.

As progressives one of the most important things that we must do is continue to be inclusive. We have to recognize that we can’t consider ourselves feminists and not stand up for the rights of other minorities in our culture. There is no feminism without racial equality. You cannot be an advocate for the Queer community without including trans* people in the conversation. We cannot pick and choose. Because those divisions are what are used to separate us.

I am not becoming any more comfortable with confronting people when I am presented with racist or sexist behaviours. I am a shy, introverted, Canadian. Sometimes I duck my head down and don’t say anything. Because it is easier not to say anything than to speak up.

I will never become comfortable with confrontation. And it is a good thing that I never become comfortable with confrontation. My discomfort is a measurement of recognizing that something is wrong.

And I need to remember that something is wrong. This is not normal. What we are living through right now is not normal. And we who are lucky enough to live our lives without the constant spectre of overhanging bigotry should make certain to remind ourselves about that. And to use our voice to advocate.

We need to punch Nazis. To remind ourselves that Nazis are there.

Yet, as difficult as it is to confront someone that does not share my beliefs… it is ten times more difficult to confront people that are part of our own orbits. When ideas like those espoused by the TERFs find their way into progressive discourse we must be equally vigilant in calling those ideas out.

We need to advocate for each other. Because it feels like there are so many out there working against us. They want to catch us out… they want to kill us…

But first, they must catch us.

Welcome to the party.

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