THE BLOG

Are Liberals Alienating Their Allies?

When someone unintentionally steps out of line, as hard as it may be, step up and educate, but do not throw them under the bus.

29/11/2016 05:55 SAST | Updated 29/11/2016 05:55 SAST
Andrew Kelly/Reuters
Author J.K. Rowling attends the premiere of "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" in Manhattan, New York, U.S., November 10, 2016.

When Donald Trump got elected as US president, everyone questioned how this happened. I am sure that even those supporting Trump must have been slightly surprised by his victory.

How did racism, homophobia, xenophobia, sexism and fascism become the cool kids again? We thought they were banned from the playground together with racist hair policies and gender norms.

Could it perhaps be possible that we threw our friends out with them?

These bullies attended school with me as well. Homophobe was always sitting in the back of the class so that he could call me moffie behind my back, while still copying from my test. Racist was always blocking the way to the bathroom where he could call me an even worse derogatory term that is supposed to insult someone who sleeps with black women.

That's the thing about the band of bigots: they seldom use logic.

With my white male privilege neatly intact, I am not going to pretend that I have the slightest idea what discrimination is like for people of colour. I do, however, understand what it is like to be an ally. Having black friends in school was not a political statement. Wearing cornrows to my matric farewell was. Looking back at those pictures, I am grateful I finished school just in time to miss the social media era. My choice of attire would definitely have gotten me into cultural appropriation detention.

Here comes the one word us liberals are so scared of using: intent.

While a younger me was obviously misinformed, it was not my intent to offend. It was simply my way of giving the finger to a society that constantly told me and my friends to sit in the front of the bus.

J.K. Rowling recently also found herself on the wrong side of the PC prefects when it was announced that alleged women abuser, Johnny Depp, would be starring in the upcoming film, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. J.K Rowling is the woman who dropped from the world's richest list due to giving away "too much" of her fortune to charities. This is the woman who consistently takes down internet trolls and stands up for liberal values and equality. This is the woman behind Hermione Granger, for heaven's sake! Does this mean that women abusers should be cast in blockbuster movies? Hell, no! Does this mean we should tell one of our biggest allies that she is no longer welcome on the field trip? I don't think so.

When someone is overstepping the line and treading into bigotry territory, we have a responsibility to raise the alarm. However, I don't believe that we can do this by alienating our allies.

In June this year the US clothing chain American Apparel received a massive backlash when they produced a tote bag for pride month, listing words like "Gay" and "Lesbian" in the colours of the rainbow flag. People lost their minds when they found out the "A" in LGBTQIAP was being used for "ally", instead of "asexual" or "agender".

An even more touchy subject, which I am not equipped to speak about, is the ever-growing move to exclude white people from discussions about racism.

Another word we are tired of hearing: educate.

As long as there is injustice and prejudice in this world, we should never keep quiet. We should always raise our hands and speak up, even when the self-appointed headmasters of the world tell us to stay in the corner. When someone is overstepping the line and treading into bigotry territory, we have a responsibility to raise the alarm. However, I don't believe that we can do this by alienating our allies.

Our work to educate is not done. Yelling "fire" is great, but helping to hold the hose to put the fire out is heroic. Victims of discrimination are tired of hearing that we should educate people about race, sexuality, gender identification, disability, or anything else that feels like common sense. Sadly, we still have a lot of educating, explaining and informing to do.

It is not my job to tell black people what they should or shouldn't feel about racism. Still, it is my job to point it out to my white friends, family and acquaintances when they are acting racist. In the same way, I do not expect my best straight friend to understand what it is like to be gay, but I do expect my friend to stand up for people like me when we are not around to defend ourselves. That makes my friend an ally of the LGBTI community. And that is not always an easy title to wear.

No, we do not have to hand out participation awards and medals for people who are simply being good human beings. We should all be accepting and loving people, with or without reward. But I do believe you should celebrate the allies who are willing to face the wrath, rejection and judgment from their own communities, simply because they refuse to keep quiet when they see their friends being bullied.

Let's face it, liberal values have lost some footing in 2016. This is just a suggestion, but maybe we should make the circle bigger to let our allies in. And when someone unintentionally steps out of line, as hard as it may be, step up and educate, but do not throw them under the bus. Let's stop alienating people - that's what the band of bigots does.