A few days ago, I had an interesting experience.  I met up briefly with a friend that I spent every day with in college, but only see every 2 years or so now.  Let’s call her Martha.  And – Martha did not like my jump to the dark side.  Oh no, not at all.

You know.  That dark side where you don’t laugh at rape jokes.  Where you are disgusted by being harassed at bars, instead of “having fun” with it.  Where I, as a white person, try my damndest to not be complicit in the racism of other white people, which more often or not involves becoming the aguafiesta.

In school, our favorite bonding pastime was “people watching,” aka Body Police.  We’d sit outside, or walk outside, and make casual (and high-larious) remarks about the slovenly state of so-and-so, look at that dude’s sideways hat what a douche, and various riffs on the ever popular, “she shouldn’t be wearing that.”  See, the thing is, she’s very thin, and I’m fat.  Actually, I was fatter then than I am now.  And I had Issues with that, materialized in the form of social isolation, constant hand-wringing about others’ imagined perceptions of me, and a vacuum where my self-esteem should have been.

Flash forward 4 years in the future.  I spent 3 of them living far away in hip hip Seattle becoming all cosmopolitan and confident and independent and such.  Last summer I downed the red pill and had my feminist awakening (thank you blogosphere btw), and she hasn’t seen me since then.  Our mutual friend, herself quite an activist, visited Martha a few months ago, and did a little bit of that awkwardness-inducing stoic silence stuff.  Since our mutual friend was my roommate for a time, Martha decided to plumb the depths and see how much I’d been “indoctrinated.”

I don’t think it worked out quite as she’d hoped.

And I was disappointed too; I didn’t expect to play race bingo with one of my best friends.*

I know this is just the beginning, the first of many: as I start to see people I used to be close to, I’ll start realizing just how fucked up some of the things they say are.  I used to say those things, too.**  When I see them again, no matter which action I choose, I will be different.  I won’t be fun anymore.  Even if I turn a blind eye to offensive shit and change the subject, they’ll still notice I’m not participating, and their perception of me will change.

Which is good, if it makes them think.  Here marks the beginning of my journey to Keep Friends and Influence Them To Start Thinking About Their Privilege Without Driving Them Away Totally.

Which would’ve totally been a way better book.

*This round’s winners: “Well, it depends on the context.”  “Won’t people just find a reason to hate each other anyway?”  “Well, my 2 black friends don’t talk about race so it must not be an issue anymore.”   “Well, where I live, I’m the minority, so I understand what it feels like.”

**And I’m sure I will again, since privilege rears its ugly head even when you’re conscious of it.  That’s how it works.


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