It’s 11:18pm and I can’t sleep. The more I think about Social Justice, and what it means to be anti-racist, and what it means to be a champion “social justice” initiatives, the more I think about the plight and history of black people in America, and whether we have forgotten the first and last social justice issue in America.
Women, gay people, immigrants, people with disabilities, Muslims, Hispanic people, African Americans. These are all oppressed groups, but not all oppressed groups are oppressed equally. They all have different histories, different lengths of oppression, different amounts of human suffering, different legacies of discrimination that still exist to different magnitudes. We shouldn’t be ranking them, but I’m wondering if we have to? With limited time, effort, power, and money – do we have to? I think we do, at least pragmatically.
Life is Goddamn short. It really is.
Black people have gotten the shaft since day one, and still are getting the shaft, and will always get the shaft unless we–us social justice white folks–get sick and fucking tired of it and make it our number one priority, as history suggests we should. I know, I know: infighting is not the answer; in fact, it’s been a huge problem and brilliant tactic among white supremacists. We should all come together, hand-in-hand; all oppressed people should join forces, right? I don’t know. Will they?
Women have suffered sexism since men existed. But were they kidnapped from Africa? Shackled? Raped by white men? No. Black women have gotten it far worse than anyone, including Black men. Next, black men. 1 in 3 black young men will be part of the criminal justice system. This has a horrible effect on black women, black families, and of course the very black men it was targeted at – white supremacy wants black men to be second class citizens, and it’s been winning at this strategy since Linden Baynes Johnson. Next, the pure genocide, destruction, and displacement of Native Americans, the original inhabitants. The oppression was short, intense, and bloody, but doesn’t compare to black folks (I know that sounds horrible). Native Americans – the ones we didn’t kill – are generally poor but in the end, they got an apology from the government and casinos. Black people have gotten no apology, no reparation, and no casinos. Again, what I’m doing – ranking oppressed people – is stupid. But yet I feel the need to. Gay people have gotten an outpouring of support and enjoyed relatively fast success, especially white gay people embraced by a new young white generation. Black gay people are shunned among the black community, another form of black oppression. Immigration: all Immigrants have had an initial rough patch followed by integration into (white) society. Catholics, Irish, Asian, and (soon, maybe, although too early to tell) Hispanics. Black people, again, have always been given the shaft; there is no comparison here; we are talking hundreds of years. Black people are not like any other immigrant group ever in America, and shouldn’t be thought that way by social justice people.
As soon as white people are effected by any of these issues, it becomes a big deal and social justice outpouring.
I’m not even going to finish my thoughts. Numbers, statistics, history tells us what is the reality of human suffering. All I can based my opinions on is the books I’ve read. Not all suffering is the same, not all causes are equal, and some charity is better than others – and yet they are all good and worthy and just. We, as people interested in oppression, must be smart enough to tell the difference between bike paths and human rights issues, between 3% of the population suffering and 42% of the population suffering, between the history of slavery-Jim Crow-failed reconstruction-mass incarceration-gentrification, and the history of marriage inequality.
I am always constantly learning, but this is where I am in my journey. While my heart is open for all oppressed people, my heart is full for “People of Color”, and by that I mean the people who were initially enslaved. And still are to a real degree.