Essay, Writing

Ethics, Not Allies

I do and say what I believe is right. Rightists think that there’s some Leftist party line, where all Leftists think alike. Really, we don’t. We fight amongst ourselves enough to often undermine our causes. But we do it for the greater good.

I’m a white, working-poor (poor summary of a really complicated history and situation, but it’s the best I can do), over-educated, trans experienced, butch, queer person. I’ve been physically attacked (multiple times) for having tits, as a teen, and physically attacked (multiple times) for being a ‘faggot’, as an adult. I’ve struggled with poverty, on and off, for most of my life.

I believe some things: White people have privilege, and this country has built its wealth on the backs of Black slaves. Women struggle to be seen as people, as opposed to sex objects, or house-cleaners, or breeders. Poor people are not stupid, or lazy, but they are seen that way. Queer (including trans) people are violently targeted and are entitled to safety and (although I don’t personally love it) normalization if they want it. These are things that I believe.

I try to work against these inequalities. Sometimes I do good, and other times, perhaps not, but my goal is always to create better equity and justice. Sometimes, I do what I think is right, and other people don’t like it. For instance, a few months ago, on a thread about racism, I refused to choose whether or not the American slave trade or the Holocaust was worse, and several people, including a Black woman, said that I am a racist for refusing to make that choice.

I thought carefully about that discussion. I decided that, to my mind, it was right to not choose between atrocities. I will call out a Jewish person who says something racist, and I will call out a Black person who says something anti-Semitic. I’m not some perfect justice person. But I believe in social justice. I believe in always standing up for the underdog. And I believe that it doesn’t matter at all whether or not any of that is noticed.

I see post after post, on various forums, telling people (the people vary, sometimes it’s women, sometimes it’s PoC, sometimes it’s trans folks, etc.) that if they won’t be nicer, more appreciative, then they’ll lose allies. The people who say these things aren’t allies.

Those people are junkies. They get high on people (usually cishet, white women) commending them for believing that other people might possibly have honest experiences of marginalization. Every time they’re called out for not genuinely caring about social justice, they feel excluded, attacked, and silenced. In other words, they get the tiniest inkling of what it’s like to be anything but a cishet, white man. And it makes them so fucking angry. Those people have no ethics whatsoever, and they give zero fucks about social justice.

I say “these people” for a reason. The vast majority of “these people,” who complain about marginalized people being angry are cishet, white men. But I also know some amazing cishet, white men who fight for what they believe, without regard for who gives them recognition. There is a really easy way to identify those guys: they never whine about being excluded by feminism, or PoC, or queers, or PC culture. Their complaints are about how their daughters are watching too many movies where the boy saves the girl. They worry about how to make sure that women can say no to them. They’re thinking about how their lives are intersectional and shaped by unearned advantages. That really concerns those guys. They’re not trying to get recognition from anyone, because they live by their ethics. They’re very busy trying to make a better world.

We should all do what we think is right, to try to make a better world. Whether or not you can see it, I do listen to people’s criticisms of my actions, but I act on my ethics. I hate the identity of ‘ally’. It centers the individual’s identity when I believe that the ethic should be the center. When someone who identifies, for instance, as a queer ally, is told by a queer person that their action is not helpful, they hear: “You’re a bad ally! You’re identity is shit!” That simply does not work. It’s not about the allies, and when they make it about them, and how they feel, they’re part of the problem. Do what you think is ethical, and get over your identity. Get over your defensiveness. Decide what you believe, and stand by it, regardless of how many cookies you receive, or don’t receive. It’s not about being liked. It’s about ethics.

I am no ally to anyone. I believe quite strongly in certain ethics, what I consider social justice ethics. Sometimes, I may be told that I’m not helping, that I’m not being an ally. Since I don’t see myself as an ally, that’s no personal threat, and I don’t have to feel defensive about it. I can look at what I did, or do, and compare it to my ethic. I can incorporate the criticism into the ethic, but that’s no threat to my identity. Whatever I ultimately decide, that makes the critique easier to hear.

People should do what they think is right. I believe in social justice. I listen to feedback, but at the end of the day, I don’t do anything for positive recognition. I do it because I believe in it. And I do what I believe is right, regardless whether or not other people like it. If you need positive feedback in order to act for social justice, then either you have no ethics whatsoever, and are simply seeking narcissistic aggrandizement, or you’re an asshole.

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