(I do still exist, I just moved in to a new apartment last week and have been busily doing many things that are not writing)
In the trifecta of reasons why our friend P doesn’t have to do anything about sexism, racism, homophobia and oppression, though he knows they exist, recasting blame is the most frustrating to deal with, in my experience. Again, it’s interconnected with both defensiveness and guilt, but I feel like there’s an extra layer to unpack in dismantling these blame-deflections before we can get at the actual point.
There are tons of variations of the blame theme, all amounting to “Everything is fine here in my corner. Look over there.” Claims of reverse discrimination, saying that “real” racism now comes from POC, casting blame on feminism for the ills of men. These are pretty obvious tactics for making sure that, whatever else is going on, we’re not talking about P and we’re probably no longer talking about oppression.
The variation I’m most frustrated with lately is the blame that excuses inaction by refocusing on the missteps of those who speak out in the first place. Al Gore shouldn’t get the Nobel Peace Prize because he drives a private jet, John Edwards talks the anti-poverty talk but gets a $400 haircut, Bono has no right to tell us to do something against global poverty unless I see just how much money he’s personally giving to the cause. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. Look over there. It’s not that these people aren’t right, it’s just that I don’t have to listen to them if they’re not perfect.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t criticize these people for their shortcomings, or that we should excuse, say, a self-identified feminist who ends up saying something racist or even sexist. I, personally, want to be called to constant self-improvement and have no expectation that I’ll ever reach 100% on the mythical scorecard I’ve been inventing, but I’d like for people who care about me and about the world to help me get closer.
The thing about focusing on the stones that Gore is throwing, Bono is throwing, Edwards is throwing, and then pointing to their glass houses is that all you’ve done is throw your own, slightly smaller stone, and now you’ve retreated into your own glass house. Why does Gore’s jet and John Edwards’ hair matter? In what way are those things standing in the way of making changes to your won life, from seeing the opportunities to have a positive, creative impact that are staring you in the face?
I’m not grading my own moral self-evaluation on a curve. Someone else did something worse, the next someone else neglected to notice something equally or more important, and another someone else falls short or is a hypocrite. Fine. Agreed. Also irrelevant, and leading us to talk again about why not to act, why not to change, when, just like when we somehow ended up on not-rapists and not-racism, that’s the exact opposite of the point.