In the last few months, in the torrent of emotions being experience in regards to the events of the US election and it’s follow up, one of the most frequently encountered is disbelief. In the face of all the denial of the primaries and later the election proper, everyone is trying to process how this could possibly have happened.
Laments are taking place on twitter, on Facebook, and other social media. People are trying to parse how deal breakers have suddenly stopped being deal breakers. How certain words, behaviours, and symbols have suddenly become commonplace when we remember when they were once considered vile and worthy of disgust.
On the one hand, I understand the shock, the disbelief. It’s one thing to know that things are not as great as they seem, to know how much bigotry is insinuated into the society we live in, grow up in, gain our morals in, but it is another to face the glowing orange symbol of it. On the other hand, however, there is a part of me that wants to yell at all the people crowing their disbelief: “We tried to warn you! We fucking told you this would happen and you mocked us and called us children.”
It’s not about saying I told you so. It’s not about being petty and getting to feel vindicated. It’s about facing exactly how we ended up in this situation. How we went from an at least superficial acceptance that racism is wrong and Nazis are bad – to members of the KKK and Neo-Nazis feeling confident enough to wear their insignia in public, to loudly proclaim their allegiances, and to hold public rallies. We’ve seen a rise in hate crimes, a rise in vandalism and violence targeting minorities.
There are many of us who have been warning of the rise of right wing extremism and fundamentalism for years. Many, who have seen a marked increase in the presence of white supremacists. We knew it was coming because we were already feeling its effects. We warned you, but you chose to ignore us and mock us.
When we pointed out how many websites were being overtaken with people making racist comments, by people identifying themselves with Nazis, by people glorifying in the thoughts of violence against people of colour, women, and assorted other minorities, we were told that it was just the foolish playing around of young people. That people who could remain anonymous were just blowing off some steam.
When we received death threats, threats of rape, harassment, when our black siblings were called racial slurs in addition to all that, we were told to ignore it. That it was just the internet. That it wasn’t real life. When some of us suffered real mental health consequences as a result of the abuse heaped on us, we were called weak.
When people of colour were (are) dying in the streets, gunned down by racist cops, by people claiming fear; when their bodies were found swinging from the same trees that held their ancestors as well as in jail cells; when many of them were sterilized in prison; when they cried out for people to notice the poorly disguised genocide taking place – people argued that all lives matter. You made excuses for the deaths – crime, fear, disrespect, not following orders – excuses that didn’t even make sense in light of many of the situations. Excuses that didn’t stand up to the evidence of our own eyes.
When we tried to warn of the increasing presence of hate groups in the public eye – groups devoted specifically to the hatred of one minority or another – groups which preached destruction and violence against those who were different from them, against the other, we were told we were overreacting. That everyone had a right to free speech. When we tried to keep ourselves safe, when we tried to create spaces that would exist away from that abuse, where we could relax or discuss issues without being shouted over and harassed, we were told that we were living in an echo chamber. When we tried to prevent groups spreading ideologies of hate from being given a platform and recognition at conferences, at major institutions, and at universities, we were told that we were trying to censor free speech. That we were really the ones who were prejudiced. That these groups were not as bad as we were making them out to be.
When we tried to call out this behavior we were laughed at. We were told that the world is getting better. That equality already existed and everything else was asking for special treatment. When we tried to point out the many ways in which bigotry was perpetuated in a myriad of ways that were often invisible and unconscious by the people participating in them, we were told that we were fishing. That we were professional victims that were just looking for reasons to be upset. Finally, we were told that we had been given our rights out of generosity and that we needed to stop demanding them – the cost of lives it took to fight and win those rights completely ignored in those moments.
When Chitler was running for election, we were told that he could never win. That we were just fearmongering and that our warnings that bigotry existed much deeper in our society that they were willing to admit were just matters of identity politics.
Many of the same people bemoaning now their disbelief over the fact that fascism was allowed to come to power in the US,-that someone with such disdain for the constitution, and such lack of experience in politics and leadership was elected into the highest position in America. Was given access to classified information including nuclear access codes, and was given permission to represent the US on a Global scale. – Many of these people are the very same who fought us when we asked that the growing problem be recognized. Those who put us down. Called us special snowflakes and told us to get over ourselves. Many of these people are the very same who wrote, and continue to write articles about spoiled millennials and a generation of bleeding hearts.
People share the picture of Chitler mocking Serge Kovaleski with the caption of not understanding why that hadn’t been the end of it. Meanwhile disabled people are sitting here thunderstruck, because we’ve been trying for years to point out how little we are valued in society. How commonly we are mocked and how much our existence is used to mock others.
People act surprised at the fact that white women voted for the Orange Menace in light of his overwhelming misogyny, and yet for years we have been warned of the dangers of white feminism, which frequently prioritizes race over gender, even to their own detriment. We white women need to admit to our complacency in white supremacy in the same way that we expect men to admit theirs in patriarchy.
People act surprised at the actions that Chitler has taken, and while I can understand the cynical shock over a politician actually keeping the promises they made when they ran, the simple fact of the matter is that he said exactly what he was going to do when he got into office. He spelled out his plan in a way that was difficult to deny, and rather than fear the veracity of his bigotry, you told us to give him a chance. When his actions during the transition further gave proof to the extent of his determination to act on his hate, you told us to accept it and learn to compromise.
We warned you but you were too busy fighting us to listen. Too busy convinced of your own inability to be a participant in oppression to take a moment and consider the possibility. Instead, you defended the right of people to share violent ideologies openly without challenge. You skewed the meaning of Free Speech to mean that threats of physical harms were tolerable in a free society. And your actions empowered the bigots. It made them feel safe because they knew that you would defend their right to say it over the rights of their victims to defend themselves.
And we see the same thing happening again. We see it when people complain about property damage when people are busy trying to defend their right to exist. When the property damage, no matter how minor, is seen as being more important than lives. More important than human rights.
We see it when people see violent resistance and equate it with being the same thing as violent oppression. When acts of self-defense are treated as being just as bad, just as immoral as acts of aggression. When identifying with murders and advocating for genocide is seen as just rhetoric, you are minimizing in the same way that you did before.
You can’t ignore the truth anymore. We can’t ignore the truth anymore. It’s not enough to talk about going high, when their going low means that people are dying. Going high has to stop meaning turn and look away if it doesn’t affect you personally. It is not enough to just say you love everyone, it’s not enough to pretend that bigotry is just an anomaly.
It’s important, as well, that as we fight an enemy – be it a physical one or an ideological one – not to be so focused on eliminating one threat that we enable another one. We cannot fall into the trap of fighting sexism by engaging in transantagonism and transmisogyny. We cannot fall into the trap of fighting fascism by employing ableism. Like how fighting the threat of terrorism led to the rise of fascism in the US, using one form of oppression to fight another just locks us into a revolving spiral. The many forms of oppression, on the basis of gender (including identity), orientation, race, ability, class, are all interconnected and self-sustaining. They feed off one another, and reinforcing one – even in order to fight another one – ultimately feeds back into the same pond of hate.
In order for a society to be truly free, those who are seen as the least of us must be empowered the most. Why does this matter?
Because we are still warning you. And we are scared of what’s coming.