I closed the tab.
I haven’t been silent though. I’ve called my state representatives, even though I hate cold-calling people. I have to write up scripts in advance to get through such phone calls, and even then, my voice shakes. I’ve attended vigils and protests, even though I get panicky in crowds (and I think the abandoned baby stroller could possibly be hiding a bomb).
I recognize I am a person of privilege. As a cis-het white woman, I understand being discriminated against because of gender, but not because of the color of my skin, my religion, or my sexuality. I’ve had men suggest I wasn’t capable of doing my job because I didn’t have a Y chromosome, men who tried to talk me out of buying a stick shift because I didn’t want to be ‘thinking while I was driving’, and bosses who justified paying me less because I wasn’t the breadwinner of the family–despite the fact I am single and the sole representative of my household.
But no one has described me as an ape or suggested I wasn’t even human.
I’ve had inappropriate advances made on me by people in positions of authority over me. A tutor frightened me so badly I dropped the class. By the time the professor made a sexual advance on me, I’d perfected the art of inflicting pain and making it look accidental. I’ve also had a stalker–I know what it is like to be afraid for my safety–but that was one person. Yes, I am frightened by crowds. Yes, I am uncomfortable walking anywhere alone after dark–I don’t know many women who aren’t. But I don’t know what it is like to have people assume I’m a slut because of the color of my skin, or want to kill me because of who I’m sleeping with. I don’t have a whole class of people looking down on me as I walk along the street, with a single glance assessing my worth as a human being and assigning me to a category of ‘them, not us.’
I can sympathize with those who experience this sort of thing every day. I can tell myself I get it, but I really don’t. What I’ve gone through in my life isn’t even close. It’s like having arachnophobia and coming across a Daddy Longlegs in your house, imagining it’s a Black Widow. It might feel like I know what others are going through, but I don’t. Not really.
I don’t know what the average POC goes through on a daily basis. I don’t know what it is like to be a Muslim or Jew, or a member of the GLBTQ community, or anything other than what I am: a middle-aged white woman. I don’t know what it is like to watch my teenaged boy get into a car with friends and worry that he will be shot simply for being a black male. Or fear I will be attacked because I don’t look a certain way. On a given day, I might get eyestrain from rolling my eyes so hard at someone’s condescension toward me, but that’s usually the worst thing that happens.
I might be treated like ‘the little woman’ but I’m not treated as though I don’t have the right to live.
It’s not the same.
I am a person of privilege.
And as such, I don’t have the luxury of keeping my mouth shut right now. As long as things were inching their way toward better, it was easy for me to be a supporter.
It’s not so easy anymore. It’s downright scary. And the sad thing is, for the first time, I’m getting the tiniest inkling of what it’s always been like for the people I claim to support. Yeah, I could get hurt. Even killed. Something my friends live with all the time.
Things are coming to a crisis in this country. It’s not a matter of right versus left anymore. It’s a matter of right versus wrong. I can stand here and say I voted for Hillary and I believe in universal health care and a minimum wage that lets people afford a place to live. I can say I support marriage equality and sensible gun control and abortion rights and affordable birth control. I can rant about our current government and the death of democracy, voter suppression, gerrymandering, the Russian interference into our elections and the most corrupt administration the US has ever seen, but it’s not enough to believe these things. I have to voice them. Loudly.
I believe that standing up for what is right, saying no to the neo-Nazis, the KKK, and the consumption of the US by Russia is so important, I have to make my voice heard. It doesn’t matter if I’m scared. It doesn’t matter if I might lose readers. Hell, that’s the least of my worries. Frankly, if you don’t feel as I do on these matters, not only will you probably not enjoy my stories, I’d rather you not read them anyway.
Yeah, I know. I’m nobody. A no-name author in a niche genre. I’m sure there are people out there who’d rather I go back to chatting about the upcoming release or sharing pictures of my animals. Believe me, I long for the days when the most distressing thing I had to deal with was book edits and some silly brouhaha on Facebook. I feel as though I’ve been under siege for the last year or so.
So imagine what it’s like to have felt that way every day of your life?
I’m not a brave person, but this is too important. And I won’t shut up.