After the women’s march, I was pretty bummed out to see the movement splinter. There had to be multiple marches. People had to choose sides. This is what movements do. But for me, it hits me right where my parents’ divorce did: can’t you guys get along?
So pretty quickly after I was at protests, I was fretting about splintering. These people aren’t right enough. Those people aren’t authentic. That group is too extreme. That group is not extreme enough.
This person said this, and then didn’t say they were sorry soon enough, or the right way. That person didn’t speak up at the right time. That person didn’t understand soon enough, or that person attacked others who were just beginning to understand. Thus, we can sort this person into racist, anti-racist, ally, monster, protester, rioter, devil, angel.
As I’ve argued many times, labeling people as racist or not racist I find useless and destructive. Talking about patterns and thoughts and systems that are racist, that we can all do. It’s both more honest and more effective.
Evaluating other people’s goodness or rightness or wrongness is also destructive. While you are sorting out who is who, I would much rather be making phone calls or hauling water bottles or holding someone’s hand.
I understand needing to clarify your positions, and to build groups where people feel secure in knowing what the agenda, and the approach, will be. And I know we have to do some sorting, particularly in making political decisions.
But I am by nature a builder of connections and understandings. That was another outcome of my parents’ divorce. I’m always trying to figure out how to get people to understand each other. And I like big tent groups: Democrats, socialists, people who work for gun control, or for health care reform.
I feel a bit better thinking about how this is my nature, and my role as an educator and a writer. I don’t need to fret so much about how people divide themselves up. That is another part of human organization that just happens.