Dear liberal friend,
It scares me to write this: I feel policed by you, even though I’m liberal.
I hold many of the same views that you claim to hold, yet if I fail to fall in line with each and every one of your acceptable ideals, I am likely to be berated. The only reason I am capable of writing this is because I have spoken with liberal friends who agree that they feel they have to tread lightly. What if I told you I don’t support lax laws around abortion? It doesn’t matter if I believe this or not. My point is this—it would not be OK for me to say out loud. Imagine the names I would be called.
Unfortunately, as Reihan Salam recently wrote in The Atlantic, the socially liberal views we subscribe to are formed by affluent, college-educated people, and “these views are actually rather censorious,” or severely critical of others. He calls it “competitive wokeness.” I come from a working class background, and the things I have heard from fellow liberals about or against people like my family would shock you. At least, I hope it would shock you.
“All people with southern accents are ignorant.”
“I’m going to attend a Trump rally and start throwing sucker punches.”
“I have no interest in visiting the South. My values don’t align.”
This last one I heard on a podcast, said by someone who lives in a camper van in California—he declared an entire region of the country as unworthy of a visit. That is absurd, and not only because he’s including New Orleans in there. Like I said, I hope these things shock you. But I’m not convinced they will.
After the white nationalist rally in August 2017 in Charlottesville turned violent, you let loose your Facebook cry against the racists involved, yet you missed one glaringly obvious fact—how little you do in your day-to-day to fight your own internal racism and classism. Do you cross the street when you see a black person coming? Do you treat your bus driver with respect or do you ignore him? Do you thank the cleaning staff in your building for their contributions to your work environment? Do you take the time to listen to people of color in your life?
Maybe you already are “woke” about all these things, and more. But maybe not. Maybe you have found it easier to point fingers at those you classify as “other.” You may consider yourself impervious to issues like racism, classism, and sexism because of your voting record. I am here to tell you that is an absolute farce.
I am imperfect, and only recently—in the last few years—have I started taking a hard look at my own internal prejudices. But because of this work, my eyes are opened to the number of people who continue to refuse to look inward. Who believe pointing away from themselves is enough. You may be one of them.
I am a proud member of the “exhausted majority,” meaning I’m tired of the polarized rhetoric, I’m relatively flexible in my political beliefs, and I don’t feel like I have a voice in the larger picture. And it feels wrong for me to say these things to you.
If I’m afraid to speak out about the things I believe, isn’t there something wrong here?
Until next time,