To Those That Want to Stay on the Sideline
Dear Privileged People in My Life,
I am speaking to you all. I am speaking to the lighter skinned individuals, the males, the Able-bodied and Minded, the Rich or financially comfortable, the ones that are loved, the ones that have a home, the ones that Belong, the ones that are straight, the ones that are cis-gendered, the ones that are... If you're missing from here then put yourself with everyone else. This is to you all.
Be accountable. Accept that you carry privilege that others might not. And ask yourself why? Why don't people have privilege while you do? Then remember every moment that someone with less privilege reached out to you and mentioned this. How many times have you been a witness, and/or a contributor to this oppression? How many times have you stood idly while others suffered, and even though you're good and didn't cause it, you benefited.
We ALL benefit from oppression of others at different times. I, as a Male, benefit every single day because of the oppression that Women face. Every day. As a slightly White Passing individual I benefit every day because I am not darker skinned. Don't think for a moment that I'd be exactly where I am today if I was black, or more 'foreign' looking.
Now here's the thing. You exist, you benefit from this privilege. You want to be an ally? Then sit down and listen, and most importantly, pay attention. The people that are being oppressed do not owe you an invitation to join our movements, or to do the right thing. That is your job.
If you do not want to be an ally, then you can continue to enjoy your life on the sidelines as people struggle for their lives. This is a personal decision. Silence, in these situations, is agreement with the Oppressor. But it is your decision to stand on the side lines. Here are a few tips to make easier on yourself and everyone around you if you decide to stay on the sidelines:
1) Be very clear about where you stand. You don't want to join movements then don't. But make it very clear that we can not count on you to be there when we need you most. Many people will still want you in their lives, others will not. Having this conversation is critical as it defines expectations and your relationship moving forward.
2) Do not downgrade the problems the oppressed are facing. You want to stay out of it, then great, but don't go around trying to sell everyone the idea that there's NOTHING to stand up against. This does more harm than you not showing up.
3) If you are asked directly to support and you ignore, this will be held against you even if you've made it clear that you can't be involved at a certain time. When someone reaches out they are grappling for some kind of anchor to keep them afloat. If you don't want to be involved then tell them that.
4) Do not expect us to come to you for emotional support if our problems are linked to oppression. This one is tough for many individuals to handle. You may be an incredibly supportive individual, but supporting someone in Social Justice movements is entirely different than supporting individuals that are not dealing with systemic oppression on a daily basis. As many of you know, I have had an incredibly rough year, and dozens of amazing people told me that they are there for me, always, and I completely believe them, but the ones I actually reach out to are a mere few, because I can not go to you to talk about my PTSD that is stemming from Systemic Oppression if you're on the sidelines watching as my life is continually torn to shreds.
5) Ask yourself what needs to happen for you to get involved. For you it might all be the same, but for someone living it everyday is much of the same but entirely different. Figure out how much injustice you can watch before deciding to do something about it.
6) Remember that you chose the sideline, nobody put you there. Many times individuals will react negativelt due to Privilege Shame, destroying themselves and/or others so that they don't feel guilt about the situation many are living through.
Sure, some people will call you a bad person for this, and you might be, but ultimately we're human, and trust me, we'd much rather have you be upfront about all this and stand aside and let us do our thing, than for you to join movements and destroy the individuals from within doing some of the things I highlight above.