A friend of mine, I think with perfectly good intentions, has a difficult time understanding anything I post toward social justice. He’s so distracted by all the various forms of injustice, that he always derails conversations about one type, by mentioning another. So I’ll say “this is wrong” and he’ll say “what about this?” The my friends say “thing #1 is wrong” and he’ll say “well don’t forget this over here.”
Its frustrating, because in theory we are united against something, but he’s constantly drawing the conversation away from any action. I trust his intentions because I know him, but what about others who act this way? I know there are some people out there trying even harder not to understand. Can we really overcome them while struggling to convince would-be allies?
Really, if a person just wants to argue over the semantics of the term “white privilege” is that person a would-be ally? Yes – anyone is a potential ally. But at what point can we distinguish between those who “don’t get it” and those who “don’t want to get it?” My friend in this situation is a white guy who grew up in a place where he was the minority. However, I met him at West Point, where he wasn’t. I assume he went on to the military, where he isn’t. He still doesn’t get it in the way I do, because he experienced the marginalization only as a kid. He knows how bad it felt, but does he want to do anything about it?
An injustice to any is an injustice to all. If we could deal with the problem in the larger society, then people following behind him would not have to experience it. Would majority-black communities be hostile towards outsiders, if majority-white communities weren’t hostile towards them? Would we be suspicious of corporations, if we didn’t seem them so obviously exploiting our economic system? Should we stop trying to do something about the injustices just because other entities commit them?
That’s the problem. In a world where a major coalition is needed, will enough unite to actually form it? There just seems to be a wave of denial that we can’t overcome.