In the rare times I’m at social gatherings with a lot of straight people I often get an awkward sort of praise for the latest celebrity coming out story or the latest state passing of an equal marriage law. I’m never sure what it is they want me to say.
Call me jaded but all this new found “progressivism” is simply dominant culture patting itself on the back for how far they’ve come in their own acceptance of marginalized people. It’s about ignoring the past and labeling anyone who dares to bring up the facts of history as someone that’s just “negative” and making excuses for their shortcomings.
The truly disturbing part is how this color blind, gender blind, privilege blind way of thinking has seeped into activist movements that used to foster positive change. Access to the Internet should make ignorance that much harder to claim but somehow we’ve managed to keep ourselves isolated in self-serving tribes. Hierarchies within these groups are vehemently denied but so obviously exist. Feminists come to mind with able bodied, cis-gendered, white women that are so eager to get into comparing oppression and are dumbfounded when people of color and other marginalized groups accuse them of highjacking the movement.
To the dominant culture, the face of the queer rights movement looks a a lot like Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka, an attractive gay couple with a house on the hill and a baby on the way. Again, it’s the existance of a hierarchy that allows the elite gays that have the resources to fund lobbyist groups to make sure that their invitro-born babies will get to flip through their parents’ wedding photo album and see how well they’ve assimilated into their new societal stature.
I’m not arguing against equal marriage laws but it is distressing to me that this singular issue has consumed all others in our community. Sexual abuse, mental illness, substance abuse, homelessness, equal access to healthcare… Why are these things ignored when they disproportionally affect our community? Why are we so concerned with the dominant culture’s comfort level on these issues? We would rather stay in vitual bubbles while our so-called “voices” in power make decisions to benefit corporations and demonize those that aren’t able to speak out for themselves. The drug addicted street hustler with no other options is labeled as someone on the “fringes” and is swept under the rainbow rug. Poverty and mental illness does not sell burgers or vacation spots quite as well as weddings do.
But can you blame us for having this delusional albeit well-meaning way of thinking? Millenials grew up in a politically correct multicultural marketing firestorm. We were made to believe that the revolution was over and equality was a reality. TV made us think that every classroom in America had students of every race having adventures together, and let’s not forget the token wheelchair friend. We were taught that “we are all the same on the inside.”
At the core this is the truth but we do not exist in a vaccuum. The self-serving, preaching to the choir brand of internet hashtag activism does little to expand our understanding of our fellow humans if we do not accept our collective history, no matter how much more comfortable it might be to ignore it. We are able to customize all the information we see, the sheer amount of media we have to choose from makes it so easy to inflate our own struggles. The world is massive and although it can seem daunting to sort through all the information we have access to we have to realize what a great advantage this generation has.