Some Riffs on Assumed Identity
Riff 1: I hear a racist joke occasionally when someone is among us white folk and thinks it’s safe. It’s not. Looking them straight in the eye, I say, with utmost seriousness, “As a black man, I’m deeply offended by what you just said.” Anything to help them learn this is not a ‘safe space’ to be racist.
Riff 2: Make an offensive comment about someone and I will object. Say “What’s the matter, can’t you take a joke?” I reply, “The notion that anyone is obligated to ‘take’ anything dished out by an idiot is astounding.”
With some extraordinarily clueless people, it’s necessary to be overly assertive like that. Don’t let them make the argument about you. Keep the focus on the fact that their comment was out of bounds.
Riff 3: Now, about this internet business. Sexual minorities are, well, minorities. We need more voices—gay, straight, in between, and undecided—advocating for equal rights. I’ve found that if you speak up for sexual minorities, some people think you must be gay. I’m not going to waste my time disabusing them of that notion.
What is it that gays do that they are so proud of?
Riff 4: In the early days of the gay pride movement, I’d hear some idiot snicker, “What is it that gays do that they are so proud of?” They hoped to turn people’s minds to sexual behavior some may find distasteful. My response? “They are proud of surviving and thriving, being able to persist in the effort to be with the ones they love despite the vile hatred and scorn of people like you.” If they hear that voice as coming from a gay person, so be it.
Riff 5: I’m not about to admit to committing a Federal crime, but somehow this single white guy I know turned into a Hispanic same-sex married lesbian on the last census. How did that happen? It was a Kafkaesque Metamorphosis Census Jamming moment I suppose.
Riff 6: Drop the heterosexual privilege you might enjoy, even on the internet. Allow others to see you as a member of a minority group. It can heighten your awareness of the challenges faced by anyone supposedly “not like us”.