Tuesday, June 24, 2008

...and justice for all

What if there was a movement dedicated to achieving equality for ALL people, regardless of race, gender, sexuality, class, geography or ability? A movement that gave equal value to the needs to all humans? No, I'm not one of those naive "I wish we didn't have to talk about 'isms' cause everyone is the same and can't we all just get along because we're all human and I don't see color..." types. I understand that as much as we are all human--the same under the skin--the world sees us differently, based on many of the factors above. We each have our own unique crosses to bear. But it seems to me that there is one basic principle behind most progressive movements:
Every being has value and deserves equal access to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
That's it, isn't it? That's the important bit. But it gets all muddled--partly because we are all focused on what lurker Satsuma calls "our primary injury," the societal offense that effects us most, and partly because fighting for someone else requires that we bother to try to understand someone else's life experience--and that's so messy, complicated and time-consuming.
So I, a middle-class, educated black woman, am attuned to slights against my race and gender (I'm trying to convince Satsuma that there can be more than one "primary" injury.), but clueless about how our society is biased against fathers. I was surprised at how vehement many black men were in their displeasure about Barack Obama's Father's Day speech. Many white feminists decry the sexism in the 2008 presidential campaign, without ever noticing the racism (or at least not finding it very important). They don't understand why feminists of color are so offended by the declaration (by women of the majority race) that the challenge of gender trumps the challenge of race. Feminists of all colors, while vigilant against the sexism thrown at Hillary Clinton or Michelle Obama, let gender-based slights against Cindy McCain pass by, because she's not one of us. And while discussions of race center around black and white, with maybe Latinos thrown in if they are lucky, Asians and Native Americans are forgotten. Many who are concerned about poor, urban blacks, forget about poor, rural whites. And the list goes on.
I have been startled over the last few months at the prevalence of progressive myopia--the ability of progressives, who proclaim to exist under a big tent, to be so obsessively dedicated to their primary causes that little else matters. We too often forget that:
Every being has value and deserves equal access to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
That is the important bit. Our efforts become about winning for our side...for the people who look and live like us. Ironically, that's the charge we often level at the conservatives.
The shitty thing is that the people who benefit from maintaining a status quo with themselves on top aren't so myopic. Somehow "The Man" is able to keep his foot on the necks of people of color, poor folks, white women, immigrants, the under-educated, the differently abled, transgendered men, military veterans, the sick and on and on.
So, sometimes I fantasize about all marginalized people coming together under one umbrella--the black, suburban mom joining hands with the under-employed Appalachian man joining hands with the Puerto Rican lesbian from Alabama--demanding their due, each recognizing the challenges of the other and the ways that even marginalized people can benefit from "isms" that aren't their own. I dream that progressive activists finally agree that:
Every being has value and deserves equal access to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
I know...I know...But I can fantasize can't I?


N said...

I very much like your fantasy.

Jill said...

Tami - if it's a fantasy, hope it makes you feel okay if I share it.

And it's what I think about every minute lately re: Zimbabwe. I am beside myself about what is happening there and am aching to know: What do we DO? What can we DO? How can it be? What don't I know?

Anyway - I think it's an awesome fantasy.

MacDaddy said...

I love these principles. But I'm fantasizing about us Americans getting involved in huge numbers to push politicians to pass policies and implement changes we want, and not "hope" that politicians will "do the right thing." I'm fantasizing about us organizing to make them do the right thing.

blackwomenblowthetrumpet.blogspot.com said...


When Dr. Martin L. King conveyed his vision, it seemed like a fantasy but now we are about to see the first black president of the greatest superpower in the world....

No... you aren't fantasizing... just believing.

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!

Stentor said...

I like the bolded principle, but I note that "every being" is a somewhat different (and broader) term than "all people" or "all humans." I prefer the "being" formulation because I think progressives should care about beings that are capable of enjoying life, liberty, and happiness but aren't human.


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