The biggest problem the left has is actually simple to fix.
White liberals, especially men, need to learn to sit the hell down and shut the hell up once in a while.
There seems to exist a belief that being a “progressive” means talking about everything and having a “conversation” about every issue. That’s a nice idea, but it depends on the context and the issue. Being progressive and having a college degree does not mean you are an expert on every issue. I know that concept shocks many white liberals, especially the Bernie Stans, but you can’t possibly know much about much of everything if you are always talking.
The most important part of a conversation is the listening part. Try it sometime.
See, here’s the problem, in a nutshell.
I am a white liberal, which means I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be black. I can’t even begin to imagine having police following me suspiciously based on the color of my skin. The only time I have ever been followed by police for being in the “wrong neighborhood,” they offered to escort me to a “safe white neighborhood.” Therefore, for me to chime in on what “black lives matter” means is borderline insulting to actual black people and what they experience. I can’t imagine it, so I obviously can’t speak authoritatively on it. By the way, I also can’t speak authoritatively on what it’s like to have to apply for twice as many jobs to get one and be turned down for credit three or four times as often as I have been. I do benefit from white male privilege and so does every white male in this country. Including the liberals. Sorry, but it’s true.
I am a white male liberal, which means I cannot even imagine what the women who have been victimized by men with power, such as Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose and yes, Al Franken, are thinking and feeling. I have had my ass grabbed by women, but they were not people I worked with and they held no power over me. And being grabbed by a woman does not have the same effect as vice-versa. See? that’s something we all learn when we sit down, shut up and LISTEN to what women have to say. In our patriarchal society, the mansplaining has to stop. Yes, there are differences between what happened to the little girls Roy Moore was molesting a few decades ago and what happened to Al Franken’s victim a decade ago, but that doesn’t mean the effect on either woman involved can be explained away, especially by us. Instead of slut-shaming Leanne Tweeden and trying to “prove” she wasn’t “really” offended because she did a few offensive things herself, we should be listening to what she is trying to tell us. You can’t “prove” it didn’t happen unless you have DNA. and trying to “prove” she’s “lying” is the number one reason rapes and sexual assaults are rarely reported, even now. They have been assaulted once, and here you are, assaulting them again. We as a culture have to stop being defensive and we have to start thinking differently about how men treat women in this country and this society, but we can’t do that if we never shut the hell up and listen to find out what women think about things.
The same concept applies to how white liberals talk, talk, talk about poor people. White liberals with means do NOT understand what it’s like to live poor and they do NOT understand why the arbitrary $15 per hour minimum wage isn’t a panacea. And yet, how many times a week do we hear phrases like “voting against their interests”? You know, because everyone living and voting Republican in a red state is purposely voting to keep themselves broke. And for the Bernie Stans out there, the poor don’t care about “single payer,” they just want to know they can get healthcare when they need it. Or, maybe they just hate liberals; maybe their “interest” is in getting Democrats out of government. We don’t know and we don’t understand, so why do so many white liberals assume they know they’re “voting against their own interests”?
This concept is dead simple. That is why it’s puzzling that so many unicorn progressives and professional lefties don’t seem to get it. For whatever reason, they feel like they have to talk about everything, including things about which they are clearly ignorant. If you can’t figure out which of the two major parties is the best one to vote for in any election, why should we trust you about why women who dare call out a progressive icon for their sexual attacks are shameful because they grab asses and act sophomoric themselves? Women who are treated like second-class citizens and who face retribution for being victimized by men attacking them sexually and then daring them to tell anyone about it deserve empathy. And believe it or not, Al Franken is a grown man and can deal with this himself.
To be progressive, we are supposed to do whatever we can to help the poor and downtrodden in our society. Empathy is required, but that means acknowledging that we don’t know everything and knowing that we don’t have the ability to speak authoritatively on everything by virtue of calling ourselves “progressive.” If you follow me on social media, you know that I support everyone who’s having a difficult time, but I also don’t speak authoritatively on things I don’t understand. There are some things we white male liberals will never fully understand, so the best we can do is offer support. But we can’t do that if we’re always talking and never listening.
The problem with so many white progressives is that they just have no capacity for listening and learning. It’s time to stop CALLING yourselves “progressive” and start actually BEING progressive. Is that really too much to ask? Sit down, shut up and listen. You might sound less ignorant.
Also published on Medium.