I hear a lot of people talking about change. About how white people need to acknowledge their privilege. How straight people need to acknowledge their presumption/prejudice. How males need to be conscious of their dominance. These are all insightful and true. We do live in a patriarchal eurocentric society. The monoculture of which we all partake conditions us to perceive non-heterosexual orientation as un-normal, an aberration, or at best, a quirky character on a hit sitcom. This same monoculture teaches us that black people and white people are “different”. So much so that it is a comic device to show a white person rapping or a black person being a nerd.
We should all be conscious of our identity and how this informs our perception. We should not jump to any conclusions when we deal with each other. Do not assume a white person has an issue with you because of the melanin in your skin. Do not assume a black person has an issue with your whiteness either.
Over all these are issue that we need to work on as individuals. You cannot beat the racism out of the racist. They need to be educated and above all be open to be educated. Of course the same goes for homophobia and misogyny. Badgering someone into not saying “bitch” or “fag” will not change their underlying beliefs about sexual preference or gender. There is no set of procedures that can defeat prejudice. Though many have tried.
For example, auditions for the SF Symphony are held in Davies symphony hall. They construct a tunnel out of black cloth running from stage left to center stage. In the middle of the stage is an 8 foot by 8 foot square of 7 foot high black curtains. The floor is covered with sound deadening matts. This is to ensure that the judges can not see the race, age or gender of the candidates. They also can not hear their footfalls to judge their gender or size by the kind of sound they make. All to ensure they are only judged on the music they perform.
Of course we do not have such resources. Instead we need to do this ourselves in an internal fashion. Don’t assume someone says anything because of who you perceive them to be. Just evaluate their statements on their own merits. Not as a black mans words or a white womans words, just as an Oaklanders words.
By an accident of history, in English, words do not have gender the way they do in German or French or Spanish or other European languages. This is not a bad thing. Neither do words have race or sexual orientation. Judge people by their words and actions not your prejudice.
Finally if you are in this to free black people from their oppression, or to free women from their oppression, or queer people from their oppression, you will lose. You will run out of steam. You will only have so much energy to devote to selfless activism before you hit bottom. And at the end of the day there will still be queers, women and black people who are oppressed, coerced and imprisoned both literally and metaphorically. In the long run they will not be free until they make themselves free. And they are not asking for the straight white men and women of the world to rescue them.
If however you are in this to free yourself from oppression you will never run out of steam. That is selfishness in the best possible way. As soon as you are ready to be free, you are. You do not need acknowledgment of an outside authority to free yourself.