Don’t Tell Me to Calm Down

July 31, 2017 Kristance Harlow

I live abroad, but I’m very politically involved and vocal. I’ve gone through the ringer with Trump supporters who tell me that it doesn’t affect me and that I shouldn’t be so opinionated. I voted, I am an American. Whether I live there right now or not doesn’t mean I care any less about what happens there. I am not afraid to talk back and get in arguments and debates. I’ve had to learn how to pick my battles in life because my natural urge to stand up to injustice is so wildly intense. I’m white and that gives me a protective privilege from repercussions that others often face.

Caring about the civil rights of others is the right and only decent thing to do, even when the stripping of those rights doesn’t affect you. Especially when it doesn’t affect you, because clearly you are protected by privileges that prevent you from losing those same rights. It is cruel to ask the most vulnerable and oppressed communities to do all the work to gain or maintain basic human rights that the rest of us take for granted.

And yet again, as always in America’s dark history, it is the oppressed and the minorities who are expected to make nice. I can hear nothing but silence from the hordes of people who are outraged when blamed for giving legitimacy to this violence. Why do you not stand up for kindness and human decency?

I have always spoken out about these issues, I’m not stopping now. I’ve written about how racism is a systemic problem we all contribute to and that I benefit from. Long before Trump I’ve said things like this and long after him I will continue to, because I believe change is possible but I also believe it won’t happen if we are complicit. We all work towards peace and justice in the ways that feel right to us, and there are many manifestations of that. Mine is to take a critical lens and confront what I see as problematic and damaging. That’s what I’ve always done and will continue to do in the ways that I am capable of.

It isn’t just insulated white working class who spout ignorance, people who have seen the world and have degrees and studied cultures do it, too. I used to be friends with this guy who I went to school with, we both had similar academic interests. He was always kind of a douche, but he had a tiny measure of humility that made him bearable. He has multiple degrees in social science and he voted for Trump (shocker). When he comments about politics, usually it is just to say that racism isn’t the issue, sometimes going as far as to say that racism is never an issue. If anything, this guy has been further empowered to spread his douchebaggery because of his education, because now he thinks he is a hotshot genius.

Immediately after the election, I was overcome with pure fury. I have been angry many times, but nothing compared to the anger of that week. There were no other feelings, only fiery wrath. yet again confronted with the reality that people I grew up with would choose to elect a person like that, and others wanted to make nice, but I couldn’t do that. I lost around 20 Facebook friends in 2 days. As time went on in the past months I have also had to cut ties with people I considered actual friends and family. If I have to decide between losing people from my life and being authentically me, that is no choice at all, I can only be me. They unfriended me because I would not stop confronting the problems I could see. This is pretty inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, but I am sharing it because it illustrates an important point: white people do not want to, will not, cannot confront the racism inherit in our existence. If you are an anti-racism advocate and you are white, you will fuck it up sometimes. Yes, that means me too.

I will be continuing to fight for what I believe is just and right and kind after today. I will do the work I am capable of doing in the ways that feel right for me through writing and sharing stories, through breaking down stigmas and challenging deep seated beliefs, through uncomfortable conversations and embarrassing gaffes. I will be making people uncomfortable, as I always have. I’m 30-god-damn-years-old, so by now I hope all those people who have known me since I was a loudmouth child realize this isn’t a phase I was ever going to grow out of.

Stop posting tone policing shit that we just need to “accept it” and “move on” because it isn’t your job to calm me down and if you don’t want to be mowed down, then don’t step in front of the bulldozer.

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