Most of my friends on Facebook are white, and that’s a problem. Before I came out, some friends and family might not have understood the bigotry and prejudice I faced, but now they post messages of love and support, and many of them changed their profile photographs to the little red equal sign in support of marriage equality. Gay people are no longer “them” but “us.” But I can’t come out as black, Latino, Asian or belonging to any other marginalized demographic in America, and therefore my Facebook feed is mostly silent when it comes to racial equality. There is still “them,” and there is still “us.”
I am a white, Christian, middle-class male in America, but I know what it is like to be part of a minority group. I know what it is like to fear discrimination when I interview for a job and worry about being asked about my marital status or personal life. I know what it is like to wonder if the neighbors will hate me before they get to know me. I know what it is like to walk down an unfamiliar city street with my husband and worry about being beaten. I know what it is like to be called the “F” word behind my back.
Most of my straight white friends have no idea.
When you don’t experience discrimination, it’s easy to forget that it exists. It’s easier to say that someone who can’t earn a decent wage or pull themselves out of poverty is lazy. It’s easier to say that the daily violence that saturates a community is brought about by their own hands. It’s easier to say that a white cop who kills a black boy did so in self-defense. It’s easier to say it’s them, not us.
When my friends make a remark about the president and his race, or when they stereotype a population, do they know I worry that they are making similar generalizations about me? Here is something I have learned while fighting for equality: It is not something that can be portioned out to one population and withheld from another. The definition of equality is that all populations and the individuals within them (not just a few) are equal. That does not exist in America today. If you are not equal, then neither am I.
So what do I do about my Facebook feed? Do I recruit more diverse friends? Do I shout at the top of my lungs? Do I alienate everyone?
Sadly, I don’t know what the answer is, but I know what it isn’t: silence. I pretended for a long time to be straight, as did so many others, because it was easier. It was “them,” not “us.” But now that I understand that I can’t be equal until everyone else is, it’s time that I came out again and again and again.
I am white. I am male. I am gay. I am black. I am female. I am transgender. I am bisexual. I am Asian. I am Latino. I am Muslim, Buddhist, atheist, Christian and Jewish. I am an immigrant. I am Mike Brown. I am all of these things and more until all of these things are us, not them.