Thursday, January 24, 2013

"Just letting it go", picking battles, and other overrated skills I don't have

Alright, context: I just got off a bus where a 19 year old douchecanoe called me a dyke (but he totally isn't homophobic! Just ask him!) after I mentioned that his constant, loud use of the r word is ableist. This is kind of a regular occurrence in my life, strangers hurling invective at me-often oppressive invective-because I call an ism an ism, even in front of 70 strangers on the bus.

And people always ask me, "why don't you just let it go sometimes?"

Why do you?

That whole "don't sweat the small stuff-and it's all small stuff" attitude? It's exactly the attitude that has prejudice all sorts of not-going-anywhere. Because we're supposed to "let it go" sometimes. But then if we let that "small stuff go, we have to let everything of equal or lesser magnitude slide, then "oh but what makes that any worse than this other thing?" and before you know it, we are not taking a stand on a single thing.

You don't wait to stop a fire until the whole forest is ablaze, right? You stamp out the sparks. Well, we have way more blaze than spark going on here where systemic devaluation of disabled people goes-so you bet your ass I am going to stamp on every spark that flares up in front of me. That one person might be a lost cause, but there were 70 other people on the bus who might think a bit, and even if not a single one thinks anything through, I'm totally ok with letting bigots and their ilk know that's exactly what they are.

As far as picking my battles goes, I have: All of them. Every one I win, the next person won't have to, won't have to rely on someone who "lets things go", or waits until Rome is burning to start looking for a bucket. I can't just pick a few rights that matter and some that are optional. It does not work that way. There are not acceptable levels of dehumanization, ways in which it's ok to treat us like second class not-citizens. No. I am having none of it. I will not play that game. All of them are important. None of it can wait for another day.

These supposed skills are really great for not making waves, for not rocking the boat-but activism is all about rocking the boat. We need a whole ocean to clean the layer of filthy ableism (and other oppressions) off our society. Change upsets people. People with power do not like losing it-even (especially?) unfair, unearned power. Civil rights struggles are all about making waves and rocking the boats. "Letting things go" is not how social change happens.

So no, I will not let things go. I cannot, I never have been able to, and I see no reason to figure it out now. And I choose all the battles. They all matter. If they don't, why is the other side fighting me so hard?


Brenda Rothman (Mama Be Good) said...

Human rights never progresses along on its own accord without someone who has the courage to speak up - every single time an injustice occurs. You keep fighting those battles, K.

Elizabeth J. (Ibby) Grace said...


Desiree* said...

"These supposed skills are really great for not making waves, for not rocking the boat-but activism is all about rocking the boat." ABSOLUTELY! Way to go for having the courage of polite confrontation even when those you confront are not very polite... hurtful words and stares are something that can be shrugged off when you are speaking for justice.

Chickenpig said...


Kerima said...

I love these visits to your virtual house. Agree that pick your battles doesn't really work when the war for social justice comes to you everyday. No one really has that choice. Those who say they do are kidding themselves. <3 the post

Unknown said...

No idea if you're familiar with Shakesville; you sound like you're All In, though. (Which is a good thing to be.)

Thanks for teaspooning.


Beth said...

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to injustice everywhere" - MLK

Forerunners always get attacked and rocking the boat is mandatory for change.

Anonymous said...

I'd love a sample script for addressing isms. I never quite know what to say.