Over the past year of so, Americans have normalized hate, bigotry, and lies. We’ve smiled awkwardly when our racist uncle spewed venom at the Fourth of July picnic. We’ve “listened with love” to relatives who say shit like homosexuality is antithetical to “an objective moral standard.” We’ve changed topics to avoid ruining Billy’s birthday party when our friend-in-law insisted Hillary was going to throw everyone in FEMA camps.
That needs to stop today. Now. My action for today (and for every Friday for the rest of my life) is to start to reset the boundaries of normalcy.
So, today, I will read the Southern Poverty Law Center’s scripts for how to deal with everyday bigotry and I will practice saying these things. Literally, I will do little practice skits with my husband and in the mirror. Because saying these things is hard, people. It’s very very hard. But it’s the most important work I can do.
It’s nice to imagine that I will be proactive if I see street harassment but… how will I do that? Because I am white, I will read experts of color on what they think I should do, and then I will mentally play out how things will happen. This nice person has a great cartoon on what to do and I will think that through. In addition, I will practice “passive atmosphere changing” like this nice lady.
Also, I will read Captain Awkward’s amazing and compassionate advice on how to set boundaries. I will understand that I will fail sometimes. I will get comfortable with the idea that I will uncomfortable.
Women in America are socialized not to have boundaries, so I will remind myself that reasonable boundaries are healthy. I will remind myself that “Don’t say racist things in front of me,” is a reasonable boundary. And that anyone who argues with my boundaries is acting in an abusive manner. With gritted teeth and stubborn determination, I will remind myself that I don’t have to change anyone’s mind. Just let them know what is acceptable around me and what is not.
Despite all that, I will also spend some time this weekend getting OK with the idea that some of my personal relationships are going to blow up over this. But this is more important than keeping the peace. This is more important than almost anything else.
Because people are already dying because we don’t do this.