Recently, I’ve seen a lot of articles and comments to the effect of “butt out of our culture/movement; it’s not yours”. Basically, if you’re not one of us, you’re oppressing us. (Yes, “oppression” was the word used in one case, as was the sentiment that anyone who isn’t part of the group is automatically in the oppressing group, even when they support the rights of the oppressed.)
As a straight, white female, I know I’ve got at least two things counting against me right there. That’s why I dislike being made to identify myself when I want to get involved. According to several comments (all from the same person) I’ve seen on the subject of LGBT rights, because I’m straight, I’m part of the oppressing group, even if I don’t actively oppress, and the only reason I want to help the movement is because I want LGBT people to bow and scrape at my feet; I want infinite gratitude. I know anyone can say anything on the internet, but honestly, the idea really makes me squirm. I don’t want recognition; I want people to have equal rights. I don’t want to be some magical savior, lording it over the people whose rights I fight for—nothing will have changed in that case.
Believe it or not, I actually, truly, honestly believe that all people are equal, and it incenses and deeply saddens me when that equality is ravaged by others, well-meaning or otherwise. Watching “Dry White Summer” (about Apartheid-era South Africa) in 12th grade, I asked to go down to the counselor’s office, where I broke down sobbing. I just don’t understand how people can treat each other so horribly, especially over things that simply can’t be helped—that simply don’t matter. (I can’t say I’m completely culturally color-blind—I’m a product of my own culture, after all—but I am actively working on it.) It really, honestly distressed me to see a movie that, though fiction, was based heavily in the hatred and violence that really went on—that still goes on today.
As to co-opting someone’s culture, anyone who knows me well can tell you that I’ve always been interested in the ways other people live their lives. Other cultures are fascinating to me, and if something from that culture is something that I would like to emulate, I try to emulate it. It’s not that I claim it as mine—I remember where it comes from, and I’m forthcoming if asked. I don’t think that’s disrespectful. From what I’ve heard, it isn’t, but I guess I’m just a little confused on why it would be if I give credit where credit is due.
As to fighting in someone else’s movement, I understand the want to be able to stand on your own two feet; to say “enough is enough” and make things change. But you aren’t going to make things change if nobody else gets involved. The oppressors stay oppressors, the minority stays the minority, and those who continue to stand by are of no help. The math just doesn’t work out. I don’t get how you can say that you want allies, but you don’t want your allies to fight. I don’t get how you can say “this isn’t your fight”. I’m a human; you’re a human—we’re equal, and I want to make sure that everyone else respects that. I don’t want “brownie points” or adoration—brownie points mean nothing, and I’m not going to fight for nothing, and I’ve already touched on the adoration part of it. I’m content to sit back and think “I helped these people to win this well-deserved victory” without having anyone else think or know so.
I understand holding a fierce pride, in owning who we are. I understand that I’m not a racial minority, or LGBT. But that doesn’t mean I don’t honestly care about the well-being and rights of people who are. That doesn’t mean that I’m going to stand by and watch as someone else says that they’re wrong for being who they are. Were it the other way around, were I in the minority (and, being a woman, some days, I am–okay, “marginalized” is probably a better word here than minority, but you get my meaning), I’d want the support. I’d want others to be willing to stand up for me. Yes, I’d want to do all I can to fight in the first place, but I don’t think that having people who aren’t like me help demeans me or what I’m fighting for. I don’t think it oppresses me.
At the same time, I’m not going to tell the people I’m fighting with to just sit back and let me take care of it—that’s about the most hypocritical (or at least self-aggrandizing) thing a person can do, and is completely counter-productive. There’s strength in numbers, pure and simple. That said, I’m not going to force other people to join me if they don’t want to. I believe that it’s a choice, and I’m not going to let anyone tell me that certain fights aren’t mine to join. I’m not going to muscle the people who started it out of the way; rather, I’m going to do what I can to support them. I’m going to do what I can to make sure that people have equal rights, that they are free to live their lives as they are, and not pretending just so that society will approve. I don’t do it to be edgy—I do it because I’m tired of watching people I care about get stepped on and treated badly. (Funny how having a friend or family member in any sort of minority group makes you want to help out… It’s like I care about the people that I, well, care about.)
So please, don’t assume to tell me what my intentions are, or what I want to get out of being involved in a movement. I want to see everyone treated as equals, plain and simple. If there is some other reason that I shouldn’t get involved in a movement I feel is worthy (aside from it being somehow against equality), I’d like to know what that reason is, and if there are any questions about why I want to be involved in a movement, I’m happy to clear those up. But telling me that I’m an oppressor (or, at least, in the oppressing group–when worded that way, I don’t see a real difference) and then not allowing me to prove that my interests really do lie in equality isn’t okay. Focusing on what makes everyone different isn’t going to help anyone. I thought the point was to say “Hey, I’m human, just like you, so why don’t I have the same basic human rights?” If anyone believes in everyone having those rights, why not let them fight by your side so that you can have them?