In all truth, it is often the people to whom I feel most closely allied that I fear the most. Some of the harshest judgments, even insults, I’ve absorbed over the past few years have come from progressive women artists of color, some of whom I imagined to be family, people who understood so much of where I come from and who I am, that an attack of any kind felt inconceivable. Yet these have most often been the people who I’ve found attacking me, giving me ultimatums, or, in one especially laughable case, completely ignoring me, even refusing to make eye contact with me, although we have careers, peers, mentors in common. Sometimes these women give me a sliver of a chance to defend myself against whichever action of mine they’ve deemed incorrect, or a betrayal; sometimes I never get an explanation of any kind, and I’m left to my own paranoid speculations.
Hell, I’m the queen of imperfections. I readily admit I make a staggering number of mistakes, in my actions, in my conversation, in the posts I dash off a little too quickly. I am the first to own the fact that I’ve been cold and cruel and judgmental, callous and careless at times. I know this. This is one of the reasons I stopped drinking all the time. It’s one of the reasons I write: even when I was a little girl, I said the wrong thing a lot, a whole lot. I don’t consider myself to be a “quick” thinker. I’m shitty with quips. I’m ponderous.
When I get it “wrong,” when I offend someone, or come at a question from a simplistic angle, I want to know. I want to apologize in full, and right the wrong. But what happens when the questioner doesn’t come from a place of love? When no quarter is given, no benefit of the doubt?
I think there’s something very wrong with this dynamic. Namely: I think a lot of sensitive, leftist folks right now are feeling stress and pressure all the time these days, more often than ever before, even. Just the shadow, the looming silhouette of a white supremacist misogynist, can taint every breath of every day. A lot of us are hurting badly, and so continuously that we barely notice it’s there. That’s real, it’s poison, and it’s hard to keep it together.
What we need to be wary of is coming after each other, because we are not each other’s enemies. It can be easiest to vent and spill your rage and despair on the people you love and trust the most, but for fuck’s sake. I’m hurting too. Talk to me about this stuff. Cry on my shoulder. Let’s go to a show and mosh together. But don’t, don’t, don’t abuse me. You don’t get to do that, sisters, friends, colleagues. We don’t get to do that to each other.
The challenge is this. Treat your allies with care and gentleness, even when you’re aching for the same. Especially when you’re aching for the same. These are times when we need to be nurturing each other, keeping one another alive and healthy, not tearing each other down. If this message applies to you, please STOP. Take that vitriol and build something that hits someone who has genuinely earned it.