Namely, the whole “Call Me Al” situation.
I’m not sure Al is what anyone really wants. Specifically the “Al” located in equality and separating it from equity.
What? You thought I wouldn’t bend over backward for a cryptic blog title?
All summer long, I’ve heard cries for equality from marginalized communities. Not just in Portland, certainly, but from all across the country. Don’t get me wrong, this is perhaps not a rallying cry that originated in Portland – but we certainly picked that baton up and ran with it.
Our unofficial forecast doesn’t get to be “Cloudy, with a chance of protests” for nothing. Although, to be fair, as the kinkiest city in America…one might wonder if we mistook that baton for an adult toy. But that’s a rabbit hole for another time.
No, the Al/equality issues I’ve been observing this year have their origins in Minneapolis. The protests against Police Brutality and the calls for an end to Systemic Racism in America after George Floyd’s murder this past May started a nationwide movement that – thanks in no small part to our country and economy being shut down since March – have sustained like never before.
It’s an idea whose time has come…or rather, that should have come back in 1865.
Not to be left out, while we joined in those protests, there was another battle or two surging here in Portland. Remember, “Cloudy, with a chance of protests“, that’s plural. So we’re helping with carrying the banner for the Black and BIPOC communities. But simultaneously, there is a movement that I’m considering two separate battles, despite a significant population overlap.
First, Trans Rights.
This folds into the outcry from the Black/BIPOC communities, to be sure. The cause of this issue points back specifically to trans-women being murdered across the country. The astonishing majority of these murder victims are people of color. Icing that crap cake is the shit frosting that while no one is asserting that these women were murdered by police, they are not crimes that are given seeming equal gravity and diligence by police.
On the heels of that shituation is a phenomen that I think is definitely more important locally: Sex Workers Rights.
What can I say? We love our strip clubs here. I’d say grabbing a drink at a strip club – regardless of your gender – is as much a part of our town’s fabric as Food Carts. If there’s not a naked dancer basically within an arms reach, what’s the point?
But our local Sex Workers have been seeking legitimate standing as part of our work force for quite some time. The COVID-forced shutdowns of the clubs only exacerbated their frustrations.
The basic root or mascot of all these movements? In a word (or three)?
On second thought, maybe if Paul Simon was referring to an Al of either the Sharpton, Green or Jolson variety, he may not mind sticking to his guns on his “Call Me Al” take. But, if his Als were of the Bundy, Gore or Chipmunk varietals then, yeah…maybe it’s time to set those aside.
But I digress.
The irony of this targeting by these minority communities is that I don’t think any of those individuals would want to swap lives/situations with your run of the mill white, cis-males.
Which is why I try to focus on using words like equity or parity versus equality.
Take Gay Marriage as an example. It was called the fight for Marriage Equality, but what’s the first thing we do once we have it?
Pick a blog post or three from my archives at random and read them. I’ll bet at least one mentions some form of my observations of relationships in the gay community.
Basically, once The Gays had Marriage Equality, they changed it to suit themselves versus conforming strictly to established institutional norms.
We didn’t want Marriage Equality, so much as we wanted Equity. We wanted the same right to marry as heterosexual couples, but we didn’t want what their marriage had morphed into over time and religion.
Do you get the difference I’m trying to highlight? Cuz, it’s a fine point, and it’s late…and I had my syzzurp…so maybe I’m not doing the best job of articulating it.
I had to take a sleep break last night. Didn’t want to be blogging under the influence. (He says, sipping his beer)
Ok, so let me try another take on the point I was trying to make last night re: equality vs equity.
Let’s just say for the sake of argument that reparations for slavery were granted. Set aside any thoughts you have on awarding damages centuries after the crime…it’s just an example.
Now, let’s say that some lawmaker rips off my blog and decides that those reparations will be awarded in the form of a poorly named cracker box style suburban home with a nice little white picket fence and a new American made minivan in the driveway.
Sure, you might have some takers. Folks that realize something is more than nothing.
I’d wager a large percentage of settlees would look at that settlement wondering what their net would be from selling those items…because culturally what the Black community values isn’t necessarily a direct translation to what white people would consider “The American Dream”. Actually, add “American Dream” to the list of systemic racism than needs dismantling.
Seriously…all you people that assert you can’t be a racist because you have a Black friend, ask your Black friend. Actually, ask them what Black people stereotypically think about white people.
One of two things will happen:
First, you’ll find out that they aren’t your friend, they are just friendly toward you because they are nice, possibly slightly scared of you. But, maybe they don’t actually trust you. You’ll know if this is the case because they won’t tell you anything. They’ll look at you like this
And then you know you’ll be needing to go back to the drawing board and read the things you’ve just been reposting to social media as an ally and take it in, do the work, build their trust.
The other thing that might happen is that they will absolutely unload on you with a machine gun of hilarious stereotypes that will make you second guess the validity of the statement
Stereotypes exist for a reason
Because…when you hear white peoples stereotypes, you’ll realize how bizarrely inaccurate racial stereotypes are. It’s way more than Karen asking to speak to the manager.
I had a Black co-worker back in the mid-80s. She did something embarrassing one day at work and absolutely fell out laughing. When she caught a breath, the first words out of her mouth were, “If I was white, I’d be red”, meaning she’d be blushing.
That’s when I started laughing, because: hilarious. Sheila – my friend – on the other hand, heard herself and stopped cold.
No more laughing.
Whites visible all around her eyeballs.
“What?”, I asked.
“You weren’t supposed to know that…”
“Because it’s a secret that Black peoples don’t ‘blush’? I wish I had your cover…I’d be way cooler.”
Then she laughed again, shaking her head as if to suggest that I could not, indeed, be
cooler cool under any circumstances.
Ok, ok…I know a lot of you nonracists might not have Black friends to validate your status as an ally. But maybe ask your Asian friend what white people smell like. If they don’t say “Butter”, then go back and reread all the crap you’ve been blindly reposting to social media and work on building your ally trust.
Because white peoples are hilariously boring, and notoriously ill-humored about it. And, yeah…kind of have a butter-y odor we are nose blind to.
Shit, some of the hilarious things my Black friends have told me about white stereotypes…the funniest thing about them is my reflexive denial and eventual admission that they were more accurate than I’d like to believe.
We don’t have flavorful foods. We’ve ripped off plenty of cuisine from other cultures and then diluted their flavor profiles with cheese. Don’t even get me started on how we confuse heat for flavor.
We don’t make a big deal during sex, which is particularly strange since we make such a big deal about sex.
We actually can’t jump. Who saw that coming?
I’ve learned that nothing beats admission to the ally club faster than being able to recognize ones own cultural foibles. As is the usual in my life, I process through laughter.
Laughter doesn’t give me a clean slate of credibility when it comes to ally-ship. But it builds a lot of bridges. If people understand that I’m not so bad, then they’ll forgive me the trespasses of not being a perfect ally. It’s an unfortunate truism that people who fancy themselves the best allies are probably doing more harm than good by wearing the badge proudly amongst their friends and actually setting a poor example.
Me? I view ally-ship through the same neurotic filter as everything else in my life, so when people criticize me, my default response is definitely not surprise.
I feel like – despite my weed cocktail induced restful night – I’ve drifted away from my point.
Well, let me try and
salvage wrap this up with this thought:
Equity is I think the pragmatic and clear way of approaching these equality calls we encounter.
People asking for equality don’t necessarily want what “we” have. I think it’s more powerful when we encounter these calls for equality to examine the things we take for granted that are at the core of that ask for equality. Then realize that they want the equity to live their lives as blithely as we do.
Case. In. Point.
I didn’t get pulled over last weekend.
I was out doing my Lyft schtick. As is always the case, I got a call for a ride while my car was in motion. I was driving down a four lane road, two lanes each direction, when the call came in. I looked down, hit accept, looked back up and I was in a turn lane that I didn’t want to be in.
Checking my rear and side view mirrors – and looking over my shoulder! – before zippering in between the two cars I remembered being in my immediate area.
But I didn’t signal…
To get to my passenger, I needed to reverse course and head back the way that I had come from. Of course…so I took a right and a left and then another left and then another left to get headed back in the correct direction.
The car I’d zippered in in front if followed me the entire way.
Well, it’s either a cop or I’m going to get murdered for cutting someone off.
It was a cop.
Now, here’s the thing: an hour earlier, I’d been driving downtown in one of our many three-lane and much maligned one-way streets when suddenly, a (sorry) rice rocket changed lanes from my right hand lane to the far left lane and then slammed on his (gender profiling) brakes at the stoplight.
Right in front of a cop.
Me, sitting at the light, caught the bored cop in the passenger seat’s eye and pointed out the car sitting directly in front of them, suggesting maybe the cops should do something about their flagrant moving violation.
Not even a glimmer of an acknowledgment that they too had witnessed the wreck-less-mess of the situation.
Well, there’s my tax dollars at work.
So, jump cut to an hour or so later when these headlights are following me around a residential block and I’m actually erring on the side of being murdered rather than being followed by a cop.
Here’s the thing you need to understand about me. I really do try to live according to the motto “Do the right thing, even when no one is watching”. So not signaling my earlier zippered lane change had me feeling neurotic anyway for failing to meet that standard. But that same neurosis jumped over the likelihood of being followed by a cop right to being followed by a murderer.
I debated pulling over and parking until the car passed, but opted for pulling into the right lane, forcing them alongside me at the next light.
Sure enough, cop.
I just can’t catch a break. A small-dicked, gun toting hothead that was angry over my earlier lane change would have really done wonders for my retirement planning.
I smize (smile with my eyes) knowingly over my mask at him and he nods at me from behind his own mask, making what I thought was a vague hand gesture. I drop my mask to one ear and give him a palms up. He does the same, repeating his confusing hand gesture.
I roll down my window and he does the same. I resist saying “Occifer” by way of greeting-slash-demanding-an-explanation, because I have a bare minimum of maturity.
He asks if I’m doing ok and I assure him I’m fine, just got lost in the traffic pattern change. Of course, he has to be one of those cute bastard cops instead of one of those stereotypical fat, doughnut aficionado bastard cops.
This is still my life we’re talking about, after all.
“You gonna be able to get home ok?” I know he’s inferring I’m driving drunk versus offering to accompany me home. I take my Lyft light off the dash and flash it at him replying that I’m trying to make sure everyone else gets home ok. Then we both head off once the light changes.
Nothing I appreciate more than consistency. Sadly, this is not an example of that. I mean, seriously, in the course of an hour I go from watching someone careen across three lanes of light traffic in 100 feet, slamming on their brakes in the process and cutting off a cop; to white cis-male me, changing lanes without signaling and barely avoiding a traffic stop in the process.
The original cops were partnered up and looking bored, but continued straight ahead after the other driver turned in front of them. I get followed for five blocks before manipulating my more curious but still apathetic cop into a confrontation.
But the biggest “ugh” isn’t the inconsistent inquisitiveness or traffic violation follow through. No, it’s the certainty that I was absolutely profiled by my cop and that affected how I wasn’t pulled over.
Those original cops were just apathetic. Either not even aware enough to have witnessed the violation or just didn’t care enough to be bothered by it.
To be honest, they bothered me more than the (perhaps only situationally) short-willied driver they ended up narrowly avoiding rear-ending.
But I don’t for a second doubt that if I’d been cruising in a hooptie instead of in Angela, I would have been pulled over and most likely hauled in for my moving violation – at best.
So, while I firmly resent the pigmentally-challenged Al group that I fall into, I don’t for a second take it for granted. As a matter of fact, I resent the cop who let me off with a “warning” almost as much as I do the apathetic cops who are just cruising their way to a fat PERS retirement payout for 25 years of doing a shitty job.
Neither is doing society any favors. Because I know that if these cops had been in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on May 25th, 2020…their behaviors would have been as derelict in their duty as those cops standing by watching George Floyd die instead of tasering Derek Chauvin’s cracker ass.
This little slice of life bullshit cop behavior that I witnessed over the course of barely an hour perfectly highlights the injustice Blacks and other minorities experience at the hands of the cops. I don’t deny that lane changing without signaling is not our society’s most pressing issue…but in this instance, it’s an example of greater issues. Knowing Black peoples have died at the hands of the police for far lesser infractions makes me mad. Not because I want a ticket, for sure. But I’d like to live in a society where everyone received the same grace as I do. Or the same latitude those punk kids cruising in the rice rocket daddy bought them – undoubtedly for some inane high school sports accomplishment – received.
Until that happens consistently versus haphazardly and likely as a product of not profiling…I’m not gonna be happy being any version of an Al.
Because, while I am bothered by the professional inconsistencies I see and experience from cops, I know it’s nothing compared to the potentially life ending things experienced at the hands of cops by BIPOC folk.
And that really bothers me because it’s just wrong. That should bother everyone. Despite what my mother tells me, I’m not special. If I can see this inequity, then anyone and everyone should be able to.
It’s enough to make me wonder if people would rather just not see it…