Let’s stop helping maintain the status quo

President* Trump,

I don’t think it’s that I’m especially sensitized to it, though I can’t completely rule out the possibility, but I think I’ve been hearing even more of the following lately:

“Hey guys, let’s go ahead and get started.”
“Thanks guys, this is great.”
“What do you guys think?”
“Hi guys, how’s it going?”

It’s like fingernails on chalkboards every damn time.

I’m hearing it primarily from other women to groups that are largely comprised of women. I’m hearing it in lots of different types of gathering, but lately it’s coming up most frequently when the topics of discussion are racial bias and systemic racism where (mostly) white people are starting to grapple with the realities of these things and their roles in sustaining them. I’m hearing it being used as the go-to way of referring to others even by women who consider themselves strong feminists.

It’s as though a lot of white people can only deal with one form of oppression at a time and as the expenditure of mental and emotional energy to understanding racism goes up, I’m seeing a concordant backslide on sexism and misogyny. Actually, though, I’m still seeing lots of effort being made by straight people, including those who are white, to be LGBTQ-conscious, so it’s not all other forms of oppression that are being ignored. Hmm.

Quick surveys of both the HP and WP digital “front pages” (the main headlines and one scroll down) revealed the following pictorial counts:

HP: twelve images in total; nine involving only men (usually multiple men), one involving a statue of 3 men, one involving 3 men and 1 woman in the background, and one showing a sketch of a fictional woman.

WP: twelve images in total; seven involving only boys or men, one of Betsy DeVos, one of a woman and her grandson, one of a woman being arrested by 3 men, one of a rocket taking off, and one of a looting/fire scene.

For the record, only two of the 24 images include African Americans (1 boy and 1 man) while one image includes four people from India and one image includes President Xi.

So as freaked out as you and yours are about white men being knocked off their pedestals, it sure looks like you’ve still got a firm hold on at least the visual narrative. And if my ear is picking up something real in perceiving an uptick in the “you guys” language, white women are helping you right along.

My point in bringing this up is not at all to complain about the current focus on systemic racism – it’s absolutely critical that Americans deal with our whole history, how it got us where we are, and what we need to do as far as a truth and reconciliation process (including reparations) around race. Doing this work is non-negotiable. But the longevity and integrity of this work will be undermined if we don’t also deal with sexism, along with ageism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, bias against other groups of people of color and immigrants, and the larger culture’s deeply problematic relationships with Native Americans.

Not only is each cause weaker when it is the sole focus, but in addressing each separately or tagging in bits of other causes only when it’s easy to do so, we risk continuing to fall prey to the highly effective divide and conquer strategy you all have used to your benefit for hundreds of years. Essentially, we have to stop addressing the oppressive system piecemeal.

We have to stop helping you keep us down.

May we all be safe to be seen and included in the revolution.
May we be willing to check our exclusionary, invalidating go-to language.
May we have the strength and courage to mess up and fess up publicly.
May we accept that we all have to be counted for real change to happen.

Tracy Simpson

2 thoughts on “Let’s stop helping maintain the status quo

  1. Your writing is always thought-provoking and insightful. And on some tough days, the perfect balm. Thank you for your kindness and persistence in writing these every single day.


    • Thank you Lisa — it’s so good to hear that these odd letters are still feeling useful. Writing them sure helps me hang in with all that’s going on and it’s nice that they resonate with you from time to time. Be well. Much love, Tracy


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