I hear it a dozen times a day. "Don't worry!" say the kind and good people. "We'll stand with you when the registries/camps/oppression come!"
What a noble sentiment. It is supposed to reassure people like me -- a disabled brown guy. And yet. It doesn't. Why not?
Let's do some quick moral accounting, so we can see whether this grand declaration of solidarity carries any water.
Every single minority of any kind can tell you stories. Not just one, but many. Of being ridiculed, tormented, heckled, harassed, bullied, demeaned. From the very day that they entered the classroom, the playground, the boardroom, the office, the bus, the train, the cafe, the restaurant.
Every single person -- whether they are a woman, a person of color, a disabled person, gay, whatever -- can tell you about countless incidents of abuse, big and small. There is not a single minority in this country that hasn't experienced it.
Now. Where have you been, the good and kind majority, when all this was going on? There are three possibilities -- and only three. You turned a blind eye. You egged it on. Or you were part of it. The incidents happened, right? So by definition, you did nothing to stop them, prevent them, mitigate them, ameliorate them.
You didn't step in then. The millions of thens. And now you tell me that you will finally step in? Am I to believe this with a straight face?
My point is not to shame you or to blame you. It is for you to grow into a fuller, better person. How can you do that?
You've failed to stand with me, us, a million times before, every single day of your life. In grade school, high school, college, work, play, public life, at the bar, restaurant, cafe.
The sentiment that "I will stand with you!" is just that. A sentiment. It is not a reality. You haven't done it so far. So why would you start now? Your sentiment is fanaticism, escapism, a way to assuage your pride and ego, the preservation of your inner goodness. But how good have you really been? As I said, you've failed to stand with me, us, a million times before, every single day of your life. In grade school, high school, college, work, play, public life, at the bar, restaurant, cafe.
Just go ahead and really think about it. You turned a blind eye to that racist incident. You never stepped in to stop that bully. The pattern repeated. By definition. Quad erat demonstrandum. How else would we get here? To a place of institutionalized racism and fascism? All this wouldn't be happening today if you had stood with me, with us, then, in each of those moments, would it?
We got here precisely through the way of your negligence, and no other way. Through all these little dehumanizations. The grade school bully that cries "kike!" is not so different from a Trump. You stood by and watched then. Maybe you laughed. That is how we got here.
So how do we heal? We heal not by avoiding the truth, running away from the painful reality of our mistakes. But by facing them.
How else would we get here? To a place of institutionalized racism and fascism? All this wouldn't be happening today if you had stood with us.
What do I want? I want you to be a real person now. Not this easily broken shell spouting fantasies to defend yourself from admitting your own moral failures.
I want you to take some fucking responsibility. Some moral responsibility. You too are culpable, and crying "but I will stand with you" does not excuse your culpability. It only deepens it. For it tells me that you are not even aware of your own guilt, that you have no sense of shame, that you are still blind to the very abuse you have been a part and parcel of from the very day that, as children, we began to clumsily try to live together.
So I don't want your kind sentiments. I don't want to hear that you will stand with me when we both know you haven't so far. I want something truer and harder. The admission, the acknowledgement that you did not, could not, would not, when you should have.
I don't want to hear that you will stand with me when we both know you haven't so far.
That and only that is how you will grow as a person. Maybe then my children and your children will not abuse each other like we abused each other. And maybe then they won't grow into what we are now.
But you will not grow as a person by telling me you will stand with me when you have failed to do so every single day of my life so far. You are just patronizing me, and pandering to yourself, which is another kind of little dehumanization, isn't it?
You will grow as person when you come to face your moral shortcomings in this life. That is true for each and every human soul. For that is when and only when the human heart reclaims its moral agency, its humanity, its freedom, its worth. Not just in my eyes, but in your own.
And only then can you really hope to share anything with me, and me with you.