Every time an underrepresented group points out how we continue to be marginalized, the privileged response is always the same: “So sick of the whiny victim crap.” The number of times I’ve been told to shut up and stop whining overwhelms the number of times I’ve brought up an injustice. This is how the privileged tune us out. They don’t ever want to hear about the injustice. They hear only whining, as if we were asking for candy and not social equality. Where is their empathy? Where is their understanding? Is it so impossible to put themselves into the shoes of a person who is societally less fortunate than they are?
There was a Facebook discussion on the #WeNeedDiverseBooks Campaign where a woman spewed insane anger at how wrong it was for minorities to try and force diversity on white people. The conversation is now gone and I didn’t think to screencap it at the time. I was too angry. And yet she was so angry too. I imagine her as a cartoon character, her face red and the top of her head exploding with steam. She was furious that we dared to make diverse books an issue. I will try to paraphrase her words – “Why don’t they just leave us the f**k alone! We don’t care about their stupid diversity! There’s too much of this trash being forced down our throats! Shut up already! We’re sick to death of your whining—–” And on and on it went. This is not just one person. There have been too many variations of this to blame it on one person.
To these people, I say – We too are sick to death. Sick to death of racism. Sick to death of being underrepresented. Sick to death of negative stereotypes. Sick to death of racist jokes and then being told we’re too sensitive. Sick to death of cultural appropriation with no respect or understanding. Sick to death of being told we are whiners.
Do you know why We Need Diverse Books for children is so important? Because if the privileged folks had been exposed to diversity, perhaps they wouldn’t spew so much anger and hate right now. Because if they’d seen that minority kids could be heroes too, they might not be so angry at the idea of a black superhero. Because if they were exposed to more LGBTQIA role models, then maybe they wouldn’t hate gay marriage so much. We need diverse books not just for underrepresented kids, but for the privileged kids who have never been exposed to diversity.
One of the founding principles of the U.S. is Freedom of Speech. It’s the first thing people scream about when they feel like they are being censored, and yet it is the first right they would like to take away from us when they don’t like what they are hearing. “Shut up!” They scream. “Stop whining!”
But we ain’t shutting up. We can’t. There’s too much riding on this for us. That’s what these privileged folks fail to see. We can’t shut up because this is about our lives and the lives of our children. This is not our time to be quiet. This is our time to make as much noise as we can. So we can’t be ignored anymore.