I have never struggled with issues of sexuality. Or gender. I have never felt alienated because of my race. Growing up in a small, suburban town, I was surrounded by peers that looked, spoke, acted like me. I have never felt my choice of mate threatened, or been a target of violence because of the color of my skin. So, what did yesterday look like to me? Let's back up. What have the past few months looked like to me? And to me, I mean the SWHF: The Suburban, White, Heterosexual Female.
These tumultuous few months have torn at the national status quo: the legalization of gay marriage, the violence between blacks and whites. When I recall these events to my children, I can claim that I was there. But I feel like I am watching from the sidelines.
In any crisis of national or racial identity, there are players and there are observers. Yes, I support gay marriage. Yes, I am outraged by what is occurring between our police force and African American civilians. Yes, I wept over the photos of the victims in the Charleston shooting. I share the same Facebook posts as my peers: a colorful vignette of Justice Kennedy's majority opinion, Obama's rendition of Amazing Grace at Rev. Pinckney's funeral. But I don't feel as if I deserve to claim these crusades as my own. This morning, I woke up feeling the same. My life hadn't changed. I was not at the altar, wedding my long-beloved. I was not reeling from the aftermath of a funeral. The night before, I hadn't even walked the six blocks down from my apartment in West Hollywood, where a rally was being held at the most famous gay bar in the city with the second largest homosexual population in the country.
I can express outrage at what is occurring on the race front, as well. But what right do I have to take it up as my own source of frustration and anger? The New York Times can provide a much more polished, articulate opinion on the matter than I can with my re-posts and re-tweets, showing that I, too, am on the side of justice. Are these fits and starts simply farcical? Is it better for me to remain silent, understanding my lack of place in the discussion, or am I meant to join in the social media discourse, commenting on things that I have no true knowledge of or connection to? If I were a homosexual black urban woman, how would I feel about the SWHF shouldering the outrage as her own?
When I think back to the events that I might more easily align with, such as the Sandy Hook shooting, which occurred thirty minutes from my house, I still feel like a fraud: I don't remember what I was doing the day that the shooting occurred. Any parent, teacher, or resident of that town will never forget it. What about The Holocaust? I'm Jewish, my family is Jewish. We even lost relatives. But I kicked and complained my way through a Bat Mitzvah. No one was forcing me out of my religion: they were hoping that I embraced it.
So where do we lie? What is our responsibility when we find ourselves on the sidelines of great events? Is simply posting a status on Facebook enough to draw me into the collective discussion? And what do these posts, repeated like echoes by my peers, actually mean? Have we all claimed these issues as our own, or is there perhaps a social pressure to prove to the world that we are outwardly supportive (or at least aware of) the social and political events that are occurring around us? And the question may also be raised: when are the issues actually ours? Yesterday may have felt the same for a suburban black female, or perhaps an urban Asian male. Must we wait until an issue hits us directly on the head to react to it, or to feel as if we are worthy of identifying with it?
Perhaps the only true answer lies in formulating articulate, personal opinions drawn from our own experiences. To understand and empathize with events without feeling the need or pressure to claim them as our own. To understand that one day our own issues will arise, and to hope we will have the backing of a diverse, sympathetic population when they do so.