There is a beauty in middle age. “Beauty”? No, beauty is the wrong word. There is a wisdom in middle age…no, “wisdom" is not right.
Middle age, viewing backwards and forwards…A memory of what youth felt like…or didn’t feel like…in the bones, joints, sinews…an unawareness of the pain that takes up residence in those places, creeping in slowly at the onset of middle age.
And an ability to empathize the imagined future of the inevitable, the margins, the invisibility that comes with age.
Not everywhere. But here, here, this is true.
The old are gradually silenced. Left behind, or locked out of the login that seems the key to the new social structure, network…community? Once experts in culture, our old are overridden by the experts found in a quick search, chosen by an algorithm that serves up information based on the location of the computer, whether it is a mac or PC, whether I am black, white, first people, eastern, western, republican, democrat or something altogether different…as there is space for everyone here. Enough to be divided into streams or boxes. Or streaming boxes.
A box for liberal women under 35. Or queer black men. Or those who love weiner dogs. Or those who hate liberal women under 35, queer black men, and weiner dogs.
A streaming, steaming box for everyone.
The algorithm decides; remembering my last purchases, if I have traveled internationally or domestically, it can tell if I have experienced anything outside the postage stamp shaped box of my town. It helpfully presents all the things. All the things it knows I crave…long to have, buy, own.
Who creates the algorithm though? This neutral, seeing, being. This magnanimous platform that cares only for fulfilling my needs, wants, desires.
Is it some council of elders somewhere real? Wisdom, beauty, transmitted through the screen though old fingertips that have lived so long they know how to guide the future of this network? Are these wise beings somehow guiding, prompting, the next keys I strike to find the answer that I need, or the directions, or podcast, or netflix series, or showing me how to nurse a child, bake bread, create an online event?
“Transgender. Not transsexual. The term is transgender.”
They gave this correction with no kindness. My google search tells me the oppressed are under no obligation to be kind to, or teach, the white oppressors. It is right to call out the old for micro-agressions, call them out loud, be fierce. Fight the power.
No longer will we be erased. Your language is not ours and all your words are wrong.
My computer wants to auto-correct the word micro-aggression. But it doesn’t this time? It doesn’t eleven words ago…but it did one paragraph ago?
What do you do when all your words are wrong? When all the words you used before don’t work anymore and are a constant source of embarrassment and shame?
Have you ever watched a small child being pulled to the front of the class…to be made an example of to the rest of the children (who were never in danger of making the same transgression the unlucky one was caught doing)…to be ridiculed in the front of the room?
Have you ever seen that child soaked in embarrassment, atone for their sins, and love the teacher who made them less than, less than, less? I haven’t.
Shame and blame are not effective teaching tools. But those people are too backwards, the wrong color, too old to be taught. The young have no time for that. The screen is swift and mighty and it will support the words used or unused and verify that all their words are wrong.
Intention is a thing of the past. Nobody cares about what you meant.
I remember how the old were foolish, backwards, embarrassing, blindly dangerous. I remember these old fools who crowded my youth. I remember that. How sad it was that they were so indoctrinated by outdated tradition and infected by the government. I remember my duty to correct the poor souls, to bring them up to speed. I remember it didn’t matter so much either if they got left behind. The world was not for them anymore.
I watched the color drain from her face as they corrected the wrong word. She apologized profusely.
Any google search can tell you that this is an incorrect response for using the wrong term, or pronoun, or….Any blogger can tell you that apologizing too much creates an uncomfortable environment for the oppressed, and shifts the focus to the ‘poor’ person who made the mistake. Don’t make it about you. Don’t feel bad. Don’t steal any spotlight from where it should be shining…It needs to shine somewhere else, illuminating injustice.
Dear White People:
It is uncomfortable being judged, piled all together because of the color of our skin. Yeah. That sucks. But good for us, I suppose, to taste our own medicine? It doesn’t matter if you didn’t think racist, sexist, thoughts (you do by the way). You mustn’t be too sorry about it though. Just take up less space and listen more to those who were silenced. It doesn’t matter if you think you had no role in silencing another (you did by the way). This resistance to thinking you are culpable is your own privilege rearing its ugly head. If you don’t own that you are in the category “Dear White People” you are in denial. If you argue, defend or explain your thoughts, you have confirmed the worst —you benefit from the hegemony and so want to see it continue strong, and unchallenged. If you cannot see this, you are part of the problem.
White feminists are the worst. I mean, nobody likes white feminists. They’re a breed all unto themselves. Self-righteous and selfish. All of them, always, since the beginning of the suffrage movement. Who needs them?
And the second wave white feminists? Who think they created change way back when…who broke through glass ceilings or, at the very least, banged their heads on it over and over again. They are enemy number one. Because they create more damage by ignorantly opening their mouths as if they know any of the right words (they don’t by the way).
She went home and thought about that slip all night. It’s been a long time since I’ve been ashamed deeply and publicly but I remember how long the feeling hangs tight. It reminds you all the time of what people must think of you. It chastises you often, quietly or loudly, from the voice right behind your ears that you should not have been so stupid. Does it matter yet, to you, dear reader what my gender, sexual orientation, politics, race are…Does it matter to you yet?
Characterize the author now. Take a moment. Flesh them out.
My individual feelings are not important. I don’t get to feel bad for anyone else. That is privilege. The privilege to somehow feel better than someone else. Do not feel. Do not not feel. That is ignoring the problem since I benefit from structural inequality.
Never mind that the path to investing in someone else is through empathy. Empathy in the imagining of filling the shoes of the other.
Do not call that woman beautiful. That is sexualizing and fetishizing her because of her gender and race. Do not think she looks amazing.
Do not not call that woman beautiful. Erasing her once again from history, and toy aisles. Your silence adds to her self-abasement. The shame your ancestors ingrained in this present body. Do not recognize the body. Gender is a social construct. By perpetuating its terminology you give in to being controlled by the stereotypes of your gender.
Do not not recognize the body. Your ableism can no longer be overlooked in its insidious reinforcement of the powers that be.
Be quiet and small. You can not “be whatever you want to be.” That was a middle class myth built on the backs of others. Sit. Down.