Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., was recently criticized for questioning some in the U.S. government’s unwavering support of Israel, being called anti-Semitic. When coming to the defense of Omar, our own state Rep. Ruth Buffalo, D-Fargo, has been called to question by the usual ultra-right talk show and blogger, et al.
Here’s the dilemma us privileged white people cannot fathom: Which side do we take when a representative of our own indigenous people, a survivor of the worst nation-led genocide, is siding with a black, former refugee, marginalized Muslim; and when they in turn are accused of turning their backs on survivors of another horrible genocide, the Holocaust. What’s a poor little old white boy like me supposed to do?
First of all, I can celebrate. We can celebrate the increased participation of historically underrepresented populations and the successful election of many of these individuals. Oh, sure, to us whities, life sure seemed simpler back then. We didn’t have to deal with any of these complexities. We didn’t have to deal with all these complex voices – women, African Americans, Native Americans, refugees, Jewish people. We could just speak on behalf of all of them since they did not have a voice of their own. We could just, in our white, privileged, male bastions of power bestow upon them what we thought they thought, or needed, or didn’t need. If we thought about them at all.
But times are changing. All over this country a record number of women, women of color, women of diverse religions are claiming their own voice. And they are using it.
Pretty unsettling, isn’t it, Chris Berg, Rob Port, et al? Suddenly we have to listen to these voices of experience. So what do we do? We attack them. We try to pit one against each other. Suddenly we are the ones who get to cast aspersions as to another’s behavior.
Well, as one privileged, white male to another, I have one word of advice: stand down…and listen. We have no standing in this debate. We have no standing to cast accusations upon those whose life experiences reflect the many historical injustices perpetrated by us. Injustices that tragically are ongoing.
Speak away, Rep. Omar; speak your own truth to power, Rep. Ruth Buffalo. And to the likes of Chris Berg and Rob Port: Back off. You have no standing here.