A male co-worker of mine called a breast-feeding co-worker a “heifer” today. To be fair, he maintains that he said “Bessie” instead; I don’t think that makes a difference. When I confronted him about it, I said that I didn’t think he actively meant for it to be sexist – but it came off that way, and wasn’t appropriate.
“Is she offended, or are you?” he asked.
“I am.”
“Then you need to grow a thicker skin,” he said.
One of my favorite blogs is Resist Racism. Not because it’s comfortable, or because I agree with them all the time – look in the archive, I don’t. But they do a wonderful job of forcing these issues out into the open. They will not let us be comfortable and complacent. No soma for them, thanks.
And none for me.
The posts “Racism101” and “We’ve Heard It Before” should be required reading. The principles – and unacceptable excuses for racist behavior – also apply to heterosexist and sexist behaviors as well. Some of the ones that are most relevant (IMHO) to my experiences today are:

  • Defensive responses to issues voiced by people of color are invocations of privilege.
  • A claim to anti-racism cannot be made based on any variation of the “black friend defense” (Mexican boyfriend, Asian wife, children of color, etc.).
  • Celebrations of “multiculturalism” do not address racism.
  • An experience you have as a white person that you think is similar to an experience related by a person of color is not a valid proof that racism doesn’t exist.

It’s a challenge reading that blog sometimes. It is distinctly uncomfortable to realize that I have said some of those excuses, or done some of the behaviors they are talking about. But those challenges, that questioning of our assumptions and our behavior, are the only ways we can truly begin to repair the damage society has done to our psyches.

And it’s the only hope we have of ever being able to repair the damage we caused in turn.