Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Protesting Privilege

[Trigger Warning: Dehumanization of LGBT people]

From anti-racist writer Tim Wise:

"Protest is only seen as fundamentally American when those who have long had the luxury of seeing themselves as prototypically American engage in it. When the dangerous and dark 'other' does so, however, it isn’t viewed as normal or natural, let alone patriotic. Which is why Rush Limbaugh could say, this past week, that the Tea Parties are the first time since the Civil War that ordinary, common Americans stood up for their rights: a statement that erases the normalcy and 'American-ness' of blacks in the civil rights struggle, not to mention women in the fight for suffrage and equality, working people in the fight for better working conditions, and LGBT folks as they struggle to be treated as full and equal human beings."

Wise aptly concludes that the ability of Tea Partiers to protest while spewing violent rhetoric and simultaneously be viewed as "patriotic" is a demonstration of white privilege.

It is also Average Joe privilege, which is the entitlement that society gives white, heterosexual, "average," usually male Americans to express anger. This entitlement is rarely extended to other groups. The anger of the Other, whether righteous or not, is not framed as patriotic, but as a dangerous threat to all of society. It is not seen as a natural reaction to political unfairness, but as proof of deviance.

I am reminded of the post-Proposition 8 atmosphere in California, wherein groups of LGBT people and allies took to the streets after the disappointing vote that stripped same-sex couples of the right to legally marry. Anti-gay organizations, individuals, and bloggers painstakingly documented every real and imagined act of wrongdoing during these protests and perpetuated the message that these protests only proved that the homosexuals are an Angry Fascist Mob and, thus, undeserving of equality anyway.


After Prop 8 passed, one anti-gay blogger belonging to an allegedly "grassroots" anti-gay blogging group cherry-picked photos of angry-looking LGBT protestors and suggested that LGBT people are hateful bullies and sore losers, in contrast to "marriage defenders" who are, of course, loving and peaceful. Another blogger, who is part of the same anti-gay "grassroots" group took things to a more extreme level, suggesting that LGBT advocates are actually sub-human zombies who are much different than Normal People and in fact are out to kill families and children, as she posted the following photo within an article about the "homosexual agenda":


The text accompanying this photo is: "I think we all know who the zombie is.... GLBT agenda advocates and the government who lets them have their way..." [elipses in original].

It's interesting that this blogger uses "we," isn't it? "We all" certainly do not "know who the zombie is." Yet this blogger, so insular and confident in her beliefs, assumes that everyone believes likewise.

In contrast, when documenting a conservative anti-Obama Tea Party rally one of these very same anti-gay bloggers posted pictures of protesting families and children and called them "Good, clean, regular everyday folk."

Good, clean, regular everyday folk.

When Normal People protest, it's precious all-American fun for the whole family. When anyone who does not have the privilege of being constructed as Normal does it, we're sub-human monsters. That, my friends, is privilege. It is the privilege of being able to construct an entire group of human beings as sub-human monsters as though the beliefs of said monsters about that categorization do not at all matter.

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