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“Guardians” of the Public Morality

31 October, 2011

Let me be the first to say that I am anti-racism, anti-bullying, and anti-hate. I am transgendered. I know, first hand what discrimination is. I have been beaten. I have had my property vandalized. I was once shot at. I know discrimination. I know hate. I know what it is to be labeled a second class citizen.

Now, let me say something else. I am also against the “guardians” of public morality. You know the kind I am talking about. Those, who often but not always, have the power and privilege in society and feel guilty about it. Typically, the “guardians” feel their power and privilege places them in a unique position to comment on things and, because they are inured in their power and privilege, they just assume that their point of view is accurate and are quick to condemn those who do not “fall in line” with it. These “guardians” do more damage than the bigots. Bigots are typically easy to spot and one does not take their attitudes to heart. The “guardians” are harder to spot. They claim to be your ally but in their mad-dash to defend you (and often to assuage their own guilt) they promote a stereotypical view of who you are.

The world would be better off without these so-called-allies stepping in and turning minorities into cases and projects. The “poor and underprivileged are so powerless they cannot help themselves” attitude of social justice is a denial of the other. It denies them the right to stand up for themselves. It denies them the right to pick their own allies. It denies them the power and privilege of self-determination and becomes another way of keeping them down, maintaining the status quo, while looking like the “guardian” is offering a helping hand. “Let’s change things; without actually changing anything.”

This applies to a number of ad-campaigns as well. The idea that just an image is going to stop racism, genderism, ageism, and bigotry in general is a faulty one. Not even the cruelest of visual campaigns against a group of people can succeed in and of itself. There is a pre-existing mentality that fuels the campaign and gives it the strength it has to shape opinion. A number of the “anti” campaigns are the stuff of Halloween candy, a treat for the eye but no substance. The authors of such campaigns, however well-intentioned, forget that you cannot change an attitude just by appealing to the eye. If it is the pre-existing mentality that fuels bigoted visuals, the reverse must also rely on a pre-existing mentality. They need to appeal to those who are already of like mind in a simple way that is easily recognized as true and rely on them to get the message into society. Individuals change individuals. The NO H8 Campaign is a perfect example of an effectively run, long-term campaign. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the “I Am Not a Costume” campaign. It is offensive to me (and I am speaking only for myself and not representing the opinions of others) because it is flashy and gimmicky. The “coolness” of the campaign kills the message. People pay more attention to the slick images and graphic styling; they love the art, but they lose the message. This campaign is short-lived. It will be around during Halloween and will cease to garner any public notice afterward. It does not promote lasting change because it has no staying power and does not recruit like-minded people as advocates.

As a member of the minority, the second class, the discriminated against I have every right to choose who I make my allies. If you have a different opinion, that’s fine. But don’t try to make yourself my ally. I am strong enough to defend myself.

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