I was in the middle of a discussion with someone who was expressing really bigoted beliefs when they typed these magic words:
“I’m on your side.”
This is not the first time that someone has insisted that they’re on my side when they’re very clearly not.
That there are opposing sides regarding the non-radical suggestion that all people deserve equal rights, respect, and dignity is so mindboggling that it’s almost impossible for me to address, but I will attempt to explain what my “side” stands for.
Determining whether a person deserves equal rights, respect and dignity cannot be done on the basis of some arbitrary measure of value. A person is deserves equality on the basis that they are a person.
Importantly, all people are people. Disabled people are people. Autistic people are people. Queer people are people. People of Colour are people.
Sometimes, people fit into more than one category which is why it is essential for those in disability rights movements to continually work towards overcoming internalised bigoted beliefs about any group, because when you don’t believe that one group deserves equality, it’s very possible that some of the people who you are fighting for are being oppressed by you at the same time.
So, all people deserve equality and any fight for equality has to be free of bigotry towards all other groups. Intersectionality is a thing, and if your activism isn’t intersectional, then you aren’t an activist. You are part of the problem when because you will be contributing to the oppression that many people within the same group you’re claiming to side with experience.
Someone once told me that being mindful of intersectionality requires spoons that they don’t always have. That is such a privileged statement. Think of the person who is oppressed on multiple axes: Do they get the option to say that they don’t have sufficient spoons on any given day?
This is not to say that those of us who hold privilege won’t make mistakes. We will. We will make mistakes because it is impossible for us to be truly aware of the privilege we hold, but we can use our mistakes to learn and not repeat the same mistakes.
Being committed to being a decent human means being committed to continuously work towards that. It’s not a status that you achieve; it’s something that requires continuous listening, continuous learning, and continuous checking of your own privilege. Notice that I didn’t say it involves continuously providing your own bigoted opinions – because it doesn’t.
Don’t say “I’m on your side” when you’re being a bigot. I’m not going to believe you. Don’t tell me that you’re on my side; show me.