I am the enemy.
I am identified as a white, cisgender, heterosexual, Christian male born in America. I am the enemy of the world. Literally the only thing that could possibly make me worse was if I were born into wealth. The fact that I was born poor is the only reasonable thing I have going for me.
Without knowing anything about me, personally, like what I think, feel, believe, say, write, practice, or do...I am already wrong. Hear me out, please.
I am not blind to the world around me. I see the struggles that are faced daily…minute to minute…by people of color, by the LGBT community, by people of other faiths, by women…all of them. Those struggles, the horror and reality of them are things I can see. I know about them and am aware of them. But I don’t live them. I can’t. I wasn’t born into them. Those are not mine to have. I do not want them, but I am not proud to say that I they aren’t mine, because I had no say in the matter.
I was born into a society that in many ways affords me the right to turn a blind eye, if I wanted to, to those struggles. I have the privilege of living my life without dealing with that burden. But you see, I have a conscience, and it is because of that conscience that I have to say something.
I’ve been told many times that I have no place in discussions on men’s violence against women, because I am a man…that I have no place in a discussion about racism because I am white…that I have no place in a discussion about homophobia or hate crime because I am heterosexual and cis…
I tried to fight that fight with people when I was younger and more ready to be combative, but ultimately I was only causing more pain and frustration for the very people who were already suffering, being marginalized, being attacked, denied, or outright assaulted and killed. I have no right to inflict more pain. It was that realization that convinced me that I should shut up. I should bow out of the discussion, because I was the enemy by birth.
I understand my thinking, at the time. I understand that I may likely hear the same thing, again. Again, and again, in fact. That doesn’t change the fact that my silence was a privilege. It doesn’t change the fact that for as much as the society I was born into, and the place I was born into at, made it necessary for me to speak.
Who am I? Am I important? No. I’m a guy. Just a guy. Poor. Average. I’m not a celebrity using a platform to speak out. I’m not high profile. I am no one special. The thing is, as I see it anyway, there are a lot more like me than there are of the high profile, celebrity, or “important” voices. The guys like me need to own who we are and where we are so that we can change it.
It is up to everyone, sure. It’s up to the people of color to speak out when a black man is killed in front of his partner and their child…but it is important that the majority stand with them, speaking the same truth to power. Saying that systemic racism is unacceptable. Even if, and especially if, those of color tell you that you have no place in that discussion. Taking yourself out of it is merely an exercise of the privilege provided by the very system that caused the symptom of the problem to be visible…in this scenario the murder of a father, lover, hero to children, and member of the community who is as deserving of all the same rights and privileges that I have.
As long as there are white faces on the television and in internet videos spewing racist hate I will feel it is a requirement of me to stand up in opposition.
As long as there are hate crimes on LGBT nightclubs, and Westboro Baptist Church protests, and rapists walking free even after being convicted, and I live in a world where I have the privilege of living my life without being affected by these things if I chose to, or living without the far of these evil acts…then I have to speak out. It breaks my heart that my children will grow up and have to be a part of this world. I can’t choose not to be affected even though, being the enemy, I could. I have a conscience, and I am too emotional, to let me be unaffected.
I’ve thought before “What good can I do?” Right? It’s a good question. Others I’ve talked to who were also, like me, the enemy by birth have felt the same way. But that’s not a question…not really. It’s a dodge. It’s the system we’ve grown up in talking. If straight, white, cisgender, men really are the majority…then they have the only real power to, all by themselves, refuse to accept the system the way it is…even if that system has benefitted them.
I’ve not acted out in a way that would support the system of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia…I’ve never been part of a hate group, or committed a hate crime… but I’ve not spoken out loudly in opposition at every chance I had. I’ve spoken out, here and there, sure. I’ve been an ally. I have friends of all skin colors, nationalities, faiths, and gender identities…but do I just want to be that? A passive silent straight white guy…benefiting from the system that holds my friends and people I care about down and oppresses them…only occasionally speaking out…and hating the way the world around me is? No.
I just did something I’ve never done before. I wrote a letter to a politician. It may make no difference, but I’m engaged, and I don’t intend to be passive any more. I’m going to voice my opinion. I will stand when I see things that are wrong. I will vote more often and be as involved in creating change as I can be. I will look for more to do. I will do all I can… This one lone… straight… white… cisgender… Christian… man.
I’ve been told many times that one person can do nothing to change the world. I’ve been mocked for thinking that my voice could matter. But the world is full of people. We all each have just one voice, but if we all speak out together, we are loud. If we all stand together and refuse to accept the evils of the world, refuse to accept the intolerance, the bigotry, the violence, the hate, the cruelty, the suffering of the innocent… those born into the world not white, not straight, not male… then the whole of the system can change. We are the system. It’s time to stop saying that one person can’t change it, and stand together and change it as one.
I am the enemy.
I want to be the enemy of the broken system I was born into, and not those who were born to be its victims.