tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
[personal profile] tim
[CW: homophobic slurs]

A friend forwarded this statement From Julie Norem, a professor at Wellesley College (my undergraduate alma mater):

There is now a lot of discussion of those in a "liberal bubble" having ignored the alienation and desperation of many Trump voters, and some claim that the widespread fear and analogies to Kristallnacht are overblown. I would have more sympathy for the first point and would be more reassured by the second if some white guys in a truck hadn't driven around campus yesterday, yelling about Trump's win and Hillary's defeat, screaming about "Wellesley dykes," and spitting at African-American students.

She adds that the two men were students at Babson College, a business school near Wellesley. These men, who will soon graduate with prestigious business degrees, are not being left out of the new economic order.
Edited to add: The names of the two men are Parker Rand-Ricciardi and Edward Tomasso.

Where I work, we have a tradition of posting memes on our intranet. I posted this today:

A cartoon sad-eyed cat with the caption, 'I tried reaching out to the other side, and all they did was call me a faggot'


in response to something an executive was telling us about the right way to respond to those who supported a fascist president-elect.

I learned as a child not to empathize with people who had no empathy for me. I learned that it was dangerous to do that. Reserving my empathy for those who were able to reciprocate was one way in which I survived; in which I kept myself as an individual rather than being absorbed into the organism of my mother's narcissism. (I wrote about that yesterday.)

Now as an adult, I'm being told to "reach across the aisle", to listen, to understand.

I'm being told to get out of my "filter bubble" and my "echo chamber", which is to say, to spend less time in the few spaces where I'm relatively confident I won't be called a faggot by people who think I'm cis or a dyke by people who think I'm trans.

I am being told to empathize with people who have no empathy with me. That thing I learned I had to not do in order to stay alive? I'm being told I'm a bad person if I don't do that.

On top of what blood I've already spilled, y'all want my emotional labor, too. Because empathy is emotional labor -- when entered into voluntarily, that's no bad thing. But the kind of empathy being demanded here is coerced emotional labor.

And I'm wondering if people who voted for Donald really want empathy from me, even if they say they do.

To empathize with somebody, you have to be in relationship with them, even for a moment. You have to recognize their humanity and they have to recognize yours. A relationship where that recognition only goes one way is a relationship between a child and their abusive parent, or the moral equivalent thereof.

(I do think it's possible to genuinely empathize with people who have no empathy for you. Some people do that. There seems to be a historical precedent of nailing them to a cross.)

So if you, Trump voter, want my empathy, you're going to need to see what my grief looks like, because you're going to have to see me if I'm going to have to see you.

What is it like to watch people grieve en masse because of something you did? I don't know. If I'm to try to empathize with you, I would have to know how you would answer that question.

I don't think you would answer. I think you would talk about how uncomfortable my grief makes you, and how it's cruel for me to make you suffer in that way. Maybe that is the answer.

We've been told "You need to have conversations with people different from you." If I'm going to have those conversation, I need an answer to this question. What is it like to watch people grieve en masse because of something you did?

Do you really want to see what my grief looks like? If you tell me that I'm not really grieving, it means you don't. If you tell me that it's not fair for me to hold you accountable for voting for a xenophobic rapist when you aren't personally a xenophobic rapist, then that means you don't. If you say that you personally did not drive through the Wellesley College campus and spit on Black students, refusing to acknowledge the part you played in making those Babson College students think it was okay to do that, then that means you prioritize not seeing my grief. If you deny that my feelings exist and derail the discussion to be about your feelings instead, then it means you don't want to see what my grief looks like.

You say you want me to reach out to you. You say it, and yet, you hide from me -- if you talk to me at all, you hide from me under narcissistic defenses like "You don't really feel the way you say you do", "It hurts me when you say you feel the way you do", or "Sure, I lay down with dogs, but I have no idea where these fleas came from."

You hide from me because you're scared to look at the damage you've done to me, to us.

When I posted that meme, the only response I got from someone on the "other side" I was supposed to reach out to said:

"And yet, you call people racist and sexist."

Paraphrasing: "you deserve to be called a faggot, because that is the punishment justly meted out to people who name racist and sexist behavior, people who question white and male cognitive authority."

Kiese Laymon wrote, about being called a racial slur:
I think and feel a lot but mostly I feel that I can't do anything to make the boys feel like they've made us feel right there... ("How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America: A Remembrance")

You can't empathize with me because there is nothing I could call you -- not "racist", not "sexist" -- that would ever make you feel like I feel when you tacitly excuse anti-queer hate speech.

You can't empathize with me, and you don't want me to empathize with you. You don't want to see what my grief looks like.
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Tim Chevalier

August 2017

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