I’ve never deluded myself into thinking that I have it anything other than great. I’m white. I’m educated. I live in a nation where I can have tough conversations without fear for my life. Generally. Well, it depends on the company I choose to keep. Florida. Texas. And where I choose to have those conversations.
And what saddens me most is that those with voices, those which have both the volume and reach to say what needs saying and can create an impact…aren’t saying anything.
In a Facebook discussion with one of my community members yesterday, I received this message:
Thanks for being brave with your opinion in light of how public a personality you are.
That’s the reason I have to be brave — because if I’m not, what example do I set?
What saddens me most is that, except for my very small corner of the digital world and perhaps a slightly larger corner in the physical one, I’m essentially nobody. I’m a 40-year-old woman in Denver, Colorado with a business to run and bills to pay.
But what I do have is an audience. And what I can no longer be is silent.
I find it impossible to sit here and live in a world where someone feels the need to thank me for speaking up. We’ve all been silent too long. Today’s post is a plea – from a very white woman who’s existed on multiple levels of the socioeconomic scale – to wake the fuck up.
Remember your privilege.
Having existed with less than $10 in the bank, I’ve made choices on which bills do and don’t get paid in a certain month. I’ve lived without health insurance. I may or may not have even taken a few trips around the house and down into the basement, maybe the garage, to look for things that could be sold on eBay or Craigslist. You know how that is—those times when every credit card is maxed out, a job may or may not be a reality, and the dog decided to eat a #$%^&*ing sock and needed $1,200 in surgery. All of this happens, of course, right before rent is due.
When did we become so privileged that we forgot that there are those who work to (barely) survive and rely on social services such as low-cost and free health clinics, food stamps, subsidized housing, and other social programs to make their worlds work and keep their bellies somewhat full from day to day?
And before you dare chime in that living like that is somehow their choice (because for most, it’s not), or how epically broken the social services programs in this country are (because they are), I’ll ask you to consider one thing:
When did we become so arrogant as to think that the way we’re privileged enough to live is better?
Is it better that we lose appreciation for what we have and have earned than remember what it was like to bust ass for every dollar at a wage, while abominable, but we’re oh-so-fucking glad to get the check every week?
I’ll be the first to say that I’m not signing up to shutter my small business and go live a life in a Texan border town where 90% of the population lives below the poverty line. I happily live a life filled with First World Problems.
I run out of coffee – I have to drive to Starbucks.
I’m a half hour late for my massage appointment – damn, I only get an hour-long session.
I have no reception on my iPhone and my Facebook status updates aren’t loading –HOW WILL I ENDURE THE 15-MINUTE WAIT FOR MY MASSAGE APPOINTMENT?
First. World. Problems. They’re not better. They’re different. And if I’m brutally honest, we’re each a little bit of an asshole for forgetting that our problems are, in the grand scheme of things, likely pretty infinitesimal.
The laws sweeping this nation affecting issues such as women’s rights, voting rights, and Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” aren’t written for those of us with privilege and our First World Problems.
They are systematically targeting those who do not enjoy our privilege. Those who don’t get to pick their primary care physician – they’re grateful for whoever happens to be volunteering at the clinic that day. Those who often do jobs that neither you nor I would ever deign to – as we dare to pass them by without a glance because they clean the resort rooms where our spent towels are strewn on the floor. Those who walk down a suburban street and are instantly targeted as ne’er-do-wells and hoodlums on account of the color of their skin.
These laws don’t protect people of privilege. They target those without it.
“If I had $100 to pay for birth control or pay the bill for lights, I’d pay the lights,” said Saldana, a Brownsville native and single mother. (Bloomberg)
And lately, well, lately we’ve started yelling. HALLELUJAH! Something has inspired us to speak out – but all I hear is yelling. I don’t see any action. And here we sit, people of privilege – yelling and doing nothing with the access we have and the financial clout we hold.
WHY yelling is useless without ACTION
Maybe you have that friend who has the same crisis, over and over, and you give them advice and they still go back and date that asshole because he says it’ll be different this time.
It never is. And it’s annoying. And you’re stuck hearing that same story at three weeks intervals because the same shit happens again and again.
This is what happens when we yell at our government instead of taking action to effect change.
On Facebook, I see people who agree with one another yelling at one another instead of wising the hell up and asking how – together – we can make a difference.
Stop moving your mouth. Start acting.
The first thing you can do is hold lawmakers accountable for the measures they pass. We just have to begin speaking their language. It’s one filled with dollar signs.
Here’s how to be fluent in two steps: skip it and fix the ignorance.
Just Skip It
Your purchasing power is one of the most powerful tools you hold in any business or legislative situation. Pissed at how corporations are buying favorable legislation? Become one of them.
You’re already not eating at Chick-fil-A because you don’t like their stance on gay marriage.
Why the FUCK would you consider going to Texas or Florida and spending your hard-earned cash if you’re upset about legislation in those states?
You can skip SXSW 2014. You can also skip those Disneyworld and Florida beach vacationss. There are plenty of other conferences where you can canoodle with friends — and vacation spots? Well, they abound as well.
Let’s have a look at the impact of decisions like those and the dent you and I can make together. You can speak a language that lawmakers understand. With your actions, not just with words.
The impact you can have by skipping SXSW 2014
When convention organizers weren’t fond of Arizona’s SB 1070, the one essentially allowing for racial profiling in the name of “immigration reform,” they voted with their wallets. The State of Arizona reports a 30% decrease in convention traffic since 2009 (SB 1070 was passed in 2010), amounting to a difference of $136,000,000 per year. The state is also just now beginning to see the true effects of convention organizers boycotting their state, as organizers (according to the article) tend to book locations three to five years in advance.
Here’s how YOU skipping SXSW 2014 in Austin, Texas can have the same impact on the Texas economy as immigration “reform” did for Arizona:
- SXSW reports $190,000,000 added to the Texas economy over the nine-day period for the 2012 event.
- Demographic breakdown: Attendees are 60% male and 40% female – 302,700 attendees reported for the 2012 event
By those figures (and might I say, damn), women alone represent a purchasing power of $76 million dollars for the Texas economy over a mere nine days.
You can do something about that.
Tell SXSW that you’re not going to drop the $2,000-$3,000 to come out this year. Why? Because Texas isn’t friendly to women. SXSW is one of the leaders in encouraging more women to “be at the table” in the tech community. So – why would they host an event in a state that doesn’t want women sitting down…pretty much anywhere? Head to their event in Las Vegas instead this August. Nevada has plenty of places for women to get the care they need without the draconian laws of Texas. And if it’s a concern, there are no public funds allocated for abortion except in cases of life endangerment, rape or incest.
Tell the Austin venue where you book your company’s party every year that you’re not booking this year because you can’t contribute to an economy that says the covering on a clinic’s floors and the number of parking spaces makes a clinic “safer.” It only makes it harder for clinics to comply with surgical center standards, effectively putting them out of business. Oh, and you should probably follow the money on how Rick Perry, the Governor or Texas, and his sister both stand to gain from this legislation mandating abortion clinics upgrade to ambulatory centers. Nothing shady there. Nope.
You could also hit up World Domination Summit in Portland, Oregon next year instead.
And as a woman raised in the State of Texas — I’m not turning my back on Texas. I don’t even live there anymore, but when you grow up in the South, a piece of your heart and soul are there forever. I want to see my adopted home state do better. And my choice is to hit the state where it hurts: my contribution to that $190M of which roughly $76M is coming from those with an XX chromosomal pattern. I’ll stand with Wendy Davis alongside countless others. And I’ll look forward to the day where I can tell my mother, who still resides in Houston, that I’m coming to visit again.
If you’re pissed about Stand Your Ground laws in Florida
Stop going to Disneyworld. Stop taking speaking engagements and attending conferences in the Florida (I just canceled one in November for the South Florida AMA). Stop booking your beach vacations in Miami. Trust me, there are plenty of other beaches out there, in cities that would love to have you and each with awesome deals on Groupon, Living Social, and other outfits like Expedia – who stepped up last year with a bold message about gay marriage, unafraid to join a divisive conversation in an election year.
Vote with your wallet. It works in more places than just the Chick-fil-A drive-thru.
The bigger issue – that of ignorance
In recent days, I have seen some incredibly intelligent people say some pretty stupid things.
First, we’re a nation based on the principle of innocence until proven guilty and must prove that guilt beyond any reasonable doubt. That means that a jury must return a verdict of “not guilty” unless those reasonable doubt standards are met. Don’t know what constitutes reasonable doubt? You’re in luck – here’s a primer. Remember that we know only what we know from our first-hand experiences and what the media chooses to tell us. In the case of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, there are only two people who know the whole truth. One, sadly, will never tell his story. Stop posting these blow-by-blow accounts of what you think happened that night. And stop the yelling for appeal — as you can’t appeal a not guilty verdict in a criminal case, for fuck’s sake. This blog made me laugh and cry at the same time, crafted by a criminal attorney in Florida following Saturday’s verdict.
Secondly, take a look at the schools your children attend alongside your own knowledge. Amidst conversations about teacher salaries (they always deserve more), school closures, STEM education, and encouraging more women to pursue tech-related courses of study – we seem to have forgotten to teach kids and ourselves how things work in the legislative, judicial, and executive branches of our nation’s government. If we’re going to be subject to a government here in the United States OF the people, BY the people, and FOR the people – we have to become students of those subjects. How many of you can score a passing grade on the U.S. Citizenship Quiz, with 96 questions taken from the actual citizenship test (I took it and scored an embarassing 8 out of 12 – yikes)? Find ways to ensure that you and your kids know the fundamentals of how laws are made. Schoolhouse Rock is a great start (though grossly oversimplified in a world of legislation riders and lobbyists). Talking with your kids about current events is even better.
Finally, we can fix ignorance, but it has to start with us. Yelling without action exacerbates what ails us and will never bring the solutions we crave. Posting a ranty Facebook status or blasting out a tweet isn’t acting. It starts powerful and occasionally productive conversations. Mostly, it’s feeding an argument soon to be lost in the digital ether. Talking is something. Doing is everything. Here are a few ways you can get involved and participate in the democratic process in the republic that is America (PS: America isn’t a democracy – it’s a republic):
- Contact your representative: Use this site to find your representative in the House of Representatives.
- Contact your senator: It’s beyond simple – this page lists every U.S. Senator and a link where you can contact each, immediately and online.
- Join a cause: News stories are ripe ground for finding organizations both backing and fighting issues. Get off your ass. Make a donation. Sign a petition. Attend a rally. Volunteer. You don’t have to march in order to support those who do. Introverts and extroverts each have their powerful contribution to causes.
So – what will you choose?
Change doesn’t come through silence. It comes through those who have the strength, commitment, and determination to say what needs saying and do what others will not. I speak up because, for me, it’s the right thing to do. I can no longer in good conscience say that the laws being passed in this country are for the benefit for and not to the detriment of my fellow Americans. And I have a voice. I have an audience. By doing something (instead of just talking), perhaps I can help effect change.
And it’s not about being a Democrat or a Republican. I’m an American. If we’re going to have a two-party system, I want parties and elections to offer real choices and not simply the lesser of evils. And I want the party that says they’re about less government to stop championing more and more laws that do nothing to improve the lives of their constituency. I want to look at the political parties and go, “Damn – that’s a great point” instead of seeing pundits from one side or the other push out incendiary remarks like this:
By the way — that link? Links to coat hangers. Stay classy. (Source: MSN Now)
You’ll find your threshold of action – but how many more Facebook statuses and tweets will you post and share until you’re willing to do something? I can’t deny that I am white, female, and privileged — and there are days I’m truly embarassed to be each of those things when I see how we treat one another in this country. But I also can’t deny that should I fail to use that to speak up and do something, I’m only part of the problem. File me away under A for apathy. I mean, hell — we’re a nation that gives more bandwith to a shitty sci-fi flick called “Sharknado” than our fellow man. You can filed that away under F for…well, you know.
So, maybe you’ll skip Texas and Florida this year and maybe you won’t. But after reading this, what I hope you realize is that you have the ability to:
- Use your purchasing power to create an impact.
- Hold our elected officials responsible — through multiple avenues — even those in states in which we do not live.
- Make a choice — which is something that women in Texas (North Carolina, North Dakota, and 12 other states) are watching fade away and that Trayvon Martin probably never had because of a law that says I can pick a fight with you. But if you fight back, I can kill you.