It Matters Who Says It

Identity Politics, Intersectionality and Supporting the Rise of Voices Not Previously Heard

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I routinely have debates with cis-white- straight males about their feeling of frustration with the prioritizing of women, people of color and LGBTQIA voices over their own, even when they happen to be saying the same thing.

The Bernie Sanders Sinkhole

Bernie Sanders is an example of this. I don’t think that its a coincidence that Bernie Sanders is a cis-white straight progressive man, who is routinely defended by other cis-white straight progressive men. Would I personally vote for Bernie Sanders or Kamala Harris (a young black female Senator) if given the choice? Kamala Harris for sure, even if she didn’t have as “perfect” a record as Sanders. And it’s taken me a long time to figure out why.

When I tell these white men that it matters who says it, that I trust a women to speak for women’s issues more than a man, they say this doesn’t matter who says it.

They pretty much say that they are colorblind and gender blind, but the white male just has the more progressive platform. Well, for one, the white men are privileged enough to be able to be more progressive in a lot of cases because our country is built around supporting their ideas. If a woman or person of color is less progressive, that doesn’t mean that they are a worse candidate in my mind. It means that they might have bad politics, but it’s also essential to take into account that they are playing in a harsher environment than the white man is. Sometimes they can’t afford to be as “radical.” This is not always true, sometimes the white male candidate just has more progressive ideas than marginalized candidates. I am skeptical of this, however, because of America’s history.

Our country has an explicit history of white people, specifically white males, saying they know best how to take care of marginalized voices, instead of just letting those marginalized voices speak for themselves. If you really believe in equality and accountability, you will hand the keys over to marginalized voices without needing to micromanage with your white male experience. It’s the marginalized voices turn now, and it’s okay if they are not perfect. Stop trying to stop their rise by saying they are not perfect. Just give them a chance to lead first.

Because that’s never happened in our country before. And it’s fucking time. I’d say we can let everyone else who is not a cis-white-straight man fuck up for just as long as this American experiment based on slavery and genocide has been in place (241 years) until we need to start comparing them against white male leaders. Because the white male leaders have proved for 241 years that they are bound to continue a legacy of oppression and violence in our country, and frankly, I’m bored of them, they continually hurt people and I don’t trust them as a whole in leadership. Why keep trying to fix the old leadership, when we have many new people who have never gotten the chance to try?

Our History of White Supremacist Patriarchy

We need to stop policing marginalized voices and give them space to breathe along with the space to speak. They are not starting out on the same playing field as someone like Bernie Sanders- who passes in society as a privileged white male. They are starting from a different space in society, and with that different space they bring different knowledge that a white man can never know. A white man can learn about it and try to advocate for it, but a white man will never know it. And so, that’s why it matters who says it.

I have spoken to so many “progressive” white males, who when I try to explain that “who says it matters”, react defensively:

“Look at all the horrible woman leaders in history. Are you going to say that just because a woman is elected she will be a good leader?”

No, that’s not what I’m saying, and I am embarrassed for you for even trying to argue that. If you’re going to bring back all the “terrible women leaders” every time we talk about identity politics, our conversation can’t get much further. If you were actually logical about what you are saying, you would realize that I could use the same argument on you, and disqualify you and all other white males from office because they have LED OUR COUNTRY FOR THE ENTIRE WHITE SUPREMACIST PATRIARCHAL entirety of it, and fucked up the entire time with leadership. So, no. You can’t use that argument. And by even attempting to use that argument, I lose so much respect for your so called “logic” that you claim to stand by.

Speaking of logic, logic is what many of the white males I speak to use to justify their supremacy of opinion. But the silliest thing about logic is, if you think that your logic explains the universe, you are a very small minded person and not able to realize that the world is bigger than the way that “pure logic” works in your brain alone. Especially when you don’t have the experiences you are claiming to have authority on.

Lived Experience v. Logic

I’m not saying that every marginalized voice is “more right” than white men’s voices. I believe there can definitely be progressive white men who are trying to “get it.” I just don’t believe that they can ever fully “get it” as a member of the ruling class in society. To fully get it, you have to live the oppression- and then you have to logic through the way the world works to realize how all struggles are connected, and create a platform of intersectionality. I’m not saying that white male progressive candidates are not great to have, I’m just saying that marginalized voices as progressive candidates are better to raise up. And I’m not ashamed of that. Having the combination of lived experience and logical knowledge about the systems that intersect to create that reality is the strongest position to have, and frankly I think it’s an insecurity on white male’s part when they can’t get down with this.

Oh, man, white men. Sorry if I hurt your feelings. But it’s true. There is something that you cannot do best in the world. I’m sorry you’re used to excelling and speaking authoritatively on everything bro, but now is the time to sit back and learn how to give others the microphone while you support them. That’s the best way that your voice can be used right now. If that offends you, maybe you’re not as progressive as you thought you were.

I am not going to vote for every woman and person of color who runs for office, because identity politics is not about blindly following marginalized voices, it is about giving them a platform to start speaking to the masses. Giving someone the space to talk and following their ideas without criticism are two different things. We’re just talking about the space to talk right now. And if the people with lived experience of oppressed identities also have the best politics, they are just better candidates than those with only the “logic”. The people with oppressed identities have skin in the game, and they are invested in a way that allies and people who are supporting marginalized voices can never be.

Let’s Get Personal

As a white woman, I know that I will never “get it” as much as a woman of color gets it, or a trans person gets it. If I ever ran for office, and I was running on similar platforms as a more marginalized person, I hope I would have the chutzpah to support my opponent instead of continue running.

White woman have a history of oppressing the voices of women of color, and we have to do better about this. But I think that it might be easier for white women to understand the need to raise up voices more marginalized than their own than it is for a white man to realize this. I think this is because white women, even though they have the privilege of being white, also have the experience of having their voices marginalized by a society built for white men. And so, once they logic through the systems of the world, they can understand with their lived experience the need to raise up marginalized voices more than a white man can. Simply because a white man does not have this lived experience of oppression.

Sometimes I explain this to cis-white-straight men, and they tell me that they suffer oppression in their lives as well. They don’t provide what they are oppressed for, and I don’t ask because this can be a personal thing. But the fact that I don’t know what these men’s oppressions are is the difference. They can clearly see that I identify as a woman, and thus I get discriminated and treated differently because of this from people who barely know me. People who cat call me on the street, people who discredit my politics, and on the extreme side- people who think I belong at home in a kitchen. The difference is that I wear my oppression on my skin- as do all marginalized voices. They are not listened to because of the color of their skin, their sexual orientation or their gender orientation. They are judged not as worthy of taking seriously on first glance by much of our society, while these white men who claim to experience oppressed identities get to hide theirs behind their white male privilege, yet still claim the experience of oppression.

You’ve not experienced oppression until someone discredits your opinion for the way you look. And that hasn’t happened yet, so you need to sit back and let some others take the stage that you’re stealing time and space away from. Every minute that you center yourself and your problems as a white man, you’re taking away from the rest of the world.

Every minute that you center yourself and your problems as a white man, you’re taking away from the rest of the world.

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midwestern librarian, writer, activist. subscribe — http://eepurl.com/cZoiG9

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