I am sitting here, examining the landscape of social media forms of outcry over injustice and inequality, and I find that I have something to say.
No, I do not have something to say simply as a white man. Nor do I simply say this as a man, although my gender is unavoidable, even inescapable. What I have to say, I say as a human being. And it is not a question of quantity, but a question of value.
Even though it is ever popular to refer to individuals as members of groups, I find this perverse. To say someone is only ever anything is a form of perversion. This is increasingly popular to do with the issue of “whiteness.” Oh, you are white, they say. What can you know about the struggle of minorities?
He is just white.
She is just stupid.
He will only ever be violent.
She can only speak the way she was taught to speak.
Oh please, you are just mansplaining.
As George Orwell once said, if you want to know who your oppressor is, then find out who you are not allowed to criticize anymore.
Who are we not allowed to question in our culture? Easy answer: Whoever is the sacred groups in society, and if you are an American sacred society – I’m sure you know the answer.
I don’t know the struggle of minorities – obviously I could never know the exhaustive struggle of any one person – but I seek to understand any one struggle anywhere. Tell me your story. In other words, I refuse to make someone’s entire existence the recipient of outside influences, or make their value purely the make-up of their relation to a group. People are more than their surroundings, but they are certainly that as well.
When I label someone as merely a member of a group, I destroy them.
So, are we saying that in order to move forward as a country we should destroy one another?
Social Justice Warriors* have, whether unwittingly or lazily, destroyed the very groups they claim to defend – simply because they can’t seem to go beyond the status of a person outside of their group. Just attend any of their protests and you will find that if you are not one that is permitted to speak and contribute to the agenda, then it is not your argument that is attacked, but your very identity.
The myriad of voices in minority communities are not all honored, and the same goes for those in the gay community. It is only one voice that is honored, and it is the one which seeks to destroy the one’s it claims are the original destroyers – be they victims of “whiteness” or otherwise.
For example, you can say “Black Lives Matter!” all you want, but it may seem to the rest of us that by “Black” it means one particular voice in the Black community, namely the kind of voice which acknowledges that the primary issue in the world is the color of one’s skin as it relates to knowledge, power, or a lack thereof.
Another example might be saying something like “Blue Lives Matter!” and by “Blue” you mean anyone with an understanding of authority that shouldn’t question an officer of the law, even if you have constitutional rights to do just that.
Perhaps we could say something like, “Lives matter!” and recognize the unique and sensitive nature of the discussion, no matter the context?
The person who is suffering may be in need of justice, but it doesn’t make any sense to defend them by forgetting their value as persons.
I remember being told that people who go without food are not capable of having conversations about purpose or having dreams beyond their next meal. How can this be?
The reason given was from Abraham Maslow, the demigod of the humanities.
I responded to this person by telling her that the hierarchy was subjective, a kind of “fiction.” Indignant at the very suggestion that I had made, she demanded that I explain myself.
She was a little girl, maybe around 10 years old. I was her music teacher in Guyana, a third world country in South America. On the last day, she had brought me fruit, purchased with the last dollars she and her sisters had. My best student, she had spent the entire week going on and on about her dreams and desires for life. Not a single bit of it had anything to do with what the social scientists call “necessities.” These things, supposedly, were not supposed to be a focus in her life. Maslow was right. Except she didn’t care. Generosity, love, and thankfulness were more important than food itself.
However difficult it may be to realize, sometimes insight and understanding gives the hungry something more than a bowl of rice. And perhaps it is worth more.
The human being is not simply a statistic. She is a mix of will and resilience, given to existential passions and questions, food or no food.
The human being is a being of immense value, capable of living in such a way that an entire world is healed or destroyed. Surely, the effect of one humble life can transform a generation.
And finally, the human being just is: Open, broken, and a perfect receptacle of God’s mercy and grace.
*By Social Justice Warrior I mean a person who is committed to their deep addiction to indignation, willing to obliterate nuance for the sake of power shift, trading one “oppressor” for another.