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White People

Over the last couple months I've been letting the draft of my post-apocalyptic comedy book rest while I digest the news.  I've been on a mission to get perspective, not only from those who supported Trump, but also those who are most going to be affected by his hate.

It's important to me that I understand this for lots of reasons.  On the most superficial, self-interested level: my novel is about this exact conflict between disillusioned, angry white Americans and immigrants.  I want to make sure the voices on both sides in my fictional world are genuine.  I want to be empathetic, not judgmental.  I want my story to live and breathe with real characters, not to cough and gasp out the sides of my ranting cake-hole while I pat myself on the back for being so socially conscious.

But on a more important, long-lasting level: I need to quit being lazy.  When I look back at my politics from younger years up to now, I imagine a hockey stick curve of awareness.  I lived in blissful ignorance of race, gender, and class in my childhood.  I had a blip of understanding in my teens, a superficial commitment to the idea that we're all "the same inside" (whatever the hell that means) and deserve equal treatment. In my early twenties, I started to grasp at nuance.

It wasn't until the last three or four years that reality slammed into my face.  I don't want to call myself enlightened - just like calling myself a "good" writer, that's too lofty a word to self-ascribe.  But I do feel like I finally get it.  At least, I get it enough that I'm having a hard time sleeping with the devil's sack-warmer in the White House.

It wasn't until this month, after taking in those different voices, that I realized: this is my fault.

Sure, I call myself progressive and I vote for social issues I believe in.  And sure, I had friendly debates at work with folks whose politics were only two degrees redder than my own about the exact, specific ways that social progress should be enacted.  And yeah, maybe I've tried to expand my horizons and read up on things outside of white boy nerd circles.

But at the end of the day... how many times have I ever heard another white guy say something like, "Man, if only them Mexicans would quit bringing measles into our country we wouldn't have to poison our kids with vaccines," and then turned to them and said, "Can we talk about this?  Because I think you have some bad information"?

Zero.

I can think of no times I've ever heard a friend or a relative spout off obvious nonsense that's loaded with hate and then followed that up by saying, "Hold up.  Let's first figure out what you're really angry at, and then let's grow up and be an adult about it."

What I can think about are dozens and dozens of times I heard that crap spewed straight into my face, and I either nervously chuckled or changed the subject.  For years, my tactic has been, "Well, let's just be pleasant to each other and have a good time."

I don't think I can tolerate that any more.  Because we're not having a good time.  We have the least qualified president in history and our daily conversation isn't even about policy anymore - it's about the basic concept of facts themselves.  People's lives are already being ruined and countless millions more hang in the balance, all because insecure white people either can't stand the thought of losing their dominance, or because they feel they're owed something.

And again, it's my fault.  It's the fault of all white people everywhere who let "having a good time" and "pleasantries" get in the way of course correction.  Hell, even just a month ago in this blog I've wondered about the right way to politely express my frustrations.

I'm done with it.  I'm sick of not saying anything in order to be nice.

I'm so sick of hearing white people complain about "their freedoms" while they trample others under their boot.  I'm sick of hearing the uneducated complain about their lack of jobs, then sneer and turn their noses up when you suggest to them - as was suggested to me when I was unemployed for six months in the middle of the recession - that they focus on self-improvement first, and then try to land some wages.  I'm sick of hearing the rich piss and moan about paying taxes and how the rest of us need to "take personal responsibility" when they've made their money off the misery and exploitation of the debtor class and then insist that they shouldn't have to clean up after their carbon emissions.

I'm sick of sitting there and hearing this shit and smiling because I think they might just naturally stop being self-entitled bigots entirely of their own volition.

It's not that I want to be a jerk to people.  It's not that I want to go on a warpath and start up shit with everyone I meet.  I still don't think those are the right avenues to get a point across.  I mean, I understand why Clinton used the word "deplorables," but I also know that was a bad idea.  Even in the face of white supremacism and fascism.

But lately, when I look in the mirror, I don't feel very proud of myself.  I see somebody with good intentions and not much follow-through.  I see somebody who's got the right attitude, but no spine.  Any time some white person looks at me and gives me that quiet little winking leer in their voice where they go, "It's cool, right?  I'm allowed to say my favorite words now?" then starts talking about those people and I just sit there and nod with a forced smile?  That's me letting evil spread.  That's me watching a fire burn another orphanage.

Some of y'all are just plain wrong.  And we're going to start having some awkward conversations this year.