by J. Sam Williams
I was 17. The year was 2009. It was mid June. I lived in New Hampshire and the day was gorgeous, sunny, clear skies and right before the mosquitoes really took over. I was attending a big graduation bash, where most of my closest friends were moving onto college. I was inside a modern colonial home sitting on a leather chair and chatting with two friends. One, who was a young woman, sat on the couch beside me—the other friend was a young man, sitting on the armrest of the leather chair, and homosexual. We’ll call the young woman Kay and the young man Stan.
Stan had founded the Gay-Straight Alliance at our high school, and had recently—upon his graduation—made me co-president along with another young lady. Stan, Kay and I were discussing equality at the time.
I remember the conversation went something like this:
“Why is it that we talk about “gay” rights and talk about mostly gay men, rather than focusing on lesbian women as well?”
I succumbed to a weakness I still deal with today—I got so excited that I had something to add to the conversation I forgot my manners and blurted out my answer.
I think it went something like this, “Well the media, and Americans in general, focus on men and men’s rights more than women’s.”
It was a 17-year-old’s answer—a 17-year-old who had exceptionally limited knowledge of sociology, social justice—or any of the terminology to go with it.
I remember Kay looked at me and nodded and then looked to Stan for him to answer—and I felt like there was something wrong with my answer, as if I’d said something stupid, or if I’d said the wrong thing. But the way Kay looked at me I knew she didn’t quite believe my answer.
When she looked to Stan he gave her an answer and immediately affirmed what I said. His answer went something like, “Sam makes a good point, we’re living in a patriarchal society and as such the patriarchy puts emphasis on men, so when it comes to equal rights we often talk about gay rights instead.”
Kay asked a couple other questions and I remained vocal—sometimes answering first sometimes not and it was a good conversation. But the dismissive attitude towards my first comment perplexed me. Why had Kay not listened to me? Why had she only believed me after Stan had affirmed my answer?
I didn’t realize the answer until years later. I am a heterosexual man—and Stan is homosexual man. Not only was he more of an expert on the patriarchy and how it affected the conversation about LGBT rights, but he is also a far more credible voice because he is gay.
It seems ridiculous to me now that I didn’t understand that. Someone who experiences the trials and tribulations of prejudice are the only real experts and can be the only leading voice for their rights. I am a white, heterosexual, Christian, cis male. In the western world I have no prejudices that affect me on a large scale (except that I am not a medicinal user—not an easy thing to be in today’s world).
What I’m trying to say is that ultimately my voice remains secondary when it comes to social justice issues, whether it is issues of “race,” “gender,” LGBT rights, speciesism etc. No matter how much I educate myself on police vs. unarmed African Americans statistics, or the pay disparity between men and women, or the North Carolina bathroom laws, my voice will never be as credible or as informed as someone who actually lives through prejudice everyday.
At first this was a sobering thought and one that saddened me. I want to lead the charge against racism, against sexism, against prejudice. I can’t—not by being a leading voice—but I can in a different way.
I once was in a class when we started to discuss the Black Lives Matter movement and one black woman said, “I don’t think white people should have a leading voice on this issue.” I looked around at a lot of white people who obviously disagreed with this statement. I raised my hand immediately and said, “I agree”—which surprised most in the room. I said, “I think my place, as a white man, is as a supporter—as someone who helps to uplift the message of fairness, of truth and of love.” That’s exactly how I feel today. Unless I actually face the prejudice I am fighting then my job is uplift the voices who aren’t being heard. It just so happens I’m white, and that means I have a privilege of being heard and listened to without much backlash.
Let me be clear, I don’t think white people should just shut up and do nothing—or that they can’t help in leading the charge. White people can do a lot for those of a different phenotype—men can do a lot for women—binary for non-binary—humans for non-humans. During the Susan B. Anthony days of feminism in the U.S. men helped the women, but the women had to be the leading voices, because they were the ones being oppressed. Men helped—and men helping today is important for current day feminism (hence Ms. Watson’s He for She movement) because men still control a lot of this world and it will take either a full out revolution, or a change of heart in men to change the world to be more equal.
I’m ranting—like I do a lot of the time—but what I’m trying to say is, I feel my place is to help those voices who aren’t being heard and since I’m a member of the privileged (in more ways than one) I have the capability to help bridge the gap between those privileged and those not as privileged. I cannot be a leader, but I can be a supporter.
This is the major reason why I’ve created immix—a place where I can help other writers put out messages that perhaps other places won’t take because of a slew of reasons (experience, content, etc.). Immix is a place I hope to bring interesting and important writing—a place where groupthink doesn’t take over—and a place where we help the world become a better place even in the most minute detail. I’m a firm believer that what blesses one blesses all and hope to put out content that only blesses—even if the message is tough to hear. At immix we welcome disagreements, an openness, and a sense of humor. Our email inbox is always open and I hope to hear from any of you—whether you agree with an opinion or not.
There aren’t a lot of places on the web right now that accept social justice essays or art pieces, so I wanted to give people a centralized location to do that. I also know a lot of talented writers who I wanted to give a platform to. You’ll see satire, personal essays, and even some news stories from them.
I hope with immix in the future we’ll diversify a little more (we’re pretty whitewashed at the mo—though we’re a majority of women at the sight) and eventually make some money so we can pay our writers (but there’s a whole slew of legal things I’d have to work through and not to mention we’d need to get some internet traction first—so you know, baby steps).
I’m really excited to bring you all immix, and I’m looking forward to reading those emails, and getting your submission. Remember, however small, young/old, whatever you are—we want to hear from you. I want to hear from you.
So in the words of Jacque Clouseau “Here’s looking at you kid” (if you don’t get the reference go watch all the Peter Sellers Pink Panther movies).
Your friendly neighborhood Spider—well no, just me:
J. Sam Williams is a fiction writer, a journalist, and the Editor in Chief of immix. Raised in Bow, NH, he now lives in Monterey, CA with his wife and two loving cats. Williams attends Antioch University of Los Angeles where he is working towards his MFA in Creative Writing, and is an assistant editor and social media editor at Lunch Ticket (Lunchticket.org). Feel free to contact him through immix at firstname.lastname@example.org
Also while we're down here lets put the faces to the names.