I thought about coming up here and saying “hello” just to see what you all would do, but when push came to shove, I just didn’t have the guts.
My name is Krystle Disney. You can call me “other Krystle,” or “newbie Krystle,” if you like. I do answer to both. I’m a newish member here at the Ethical Society, and here’s a brief introduction to me: I’m a liberal, agnostic, lifelong feminist. I support Black Lives Matter, science, vaccines, the fight against global warming, LGBTQIA rights, a woman’s right to bodily autonomy as well as the right to equal opportunities for advancement, globalism over patriotism, immigrant and refugee rights, the MeToo movement <me too>, removal of confederate monuments, the right to kneel during the anthem, and, in case it’s not apparent, equality and knowledge in general. The rampant socioeconomic, racial, and gender inequality in our society and in our country as a larger whole disturbs me every day. I’m also an introvert with massive amounts of unrelenting existential anxiety and am absolutely no fun at parties. It’s nice to meet you all.
I grew up in rural, deep woods Arkansas, where extreme bigotry in plain sight was not just a cultural norm but an expectation, and was also somehow always wrapped up in religion, patriotism, guns,and blond, blue-eyed Jesus. I grew up there, but my mind went firmly in the opposite direction. It felt wrong. They felt wrong.
I should mention that I am also a double black belt SJW, which, if that term is new to you, means Social Justice Warrior. It’s supposed to be disparaging, or a reference to someone who infringes on the rights of free speech typically in defense of the marginalized or underprivileged. We are also sometimes called the PC Police. A real keyboard warrior, if you will, which is relevant to our topic today: What is a social justice warrior, and should we be one?
I’d like to use the rest of my time to describe an ethical conundrum that I find myself mulling daily that is directly related to being a Social Justice Warrior.
As someone who is 100% committed to equality, I find myself angry about the way things are going and have gone in our country, and I unfailingly argue or debate these points directly and persistently with those who hold opposing views- that so-and-so should not be equal, that they are less than for whatever reason. And in the many cases where these bigoted viewpoints are used in the name of religion, there is never a time when I won’t speak up.
So, here is my conundrum: As a Humanist, I am obligated to see the good and the decency in every human being, and to treat every person with respect.
At the same time, as a Humanist and a person led by a specific set of ethical beliefs, I am obligated to defend the rights of the underserved and the marginalized – those whose voices have been silenced or shut down. And I have found, in my 38 short and long years of being alive, that being polite and asking nicely does not evoke change. I also feel that being kind to say, someone with bigoted views implicitly condones their bigotry, and I refuse to condone it, explicitly or implicitly. Being overly permissive feels wrong. Failing to speak up feels wrong.
I was relieved to find that there is actually a name for this little pickle – it’s called the Paradox of Tolerance, and was coined by philosopher Karl Popper in 1945. To vastly condense his thoughts on the matter, he came to the conclusion that “In order to maintain a tolerant society, the society must be intolerant of tolerance.” Of course, his opinion is not the be-all and end-all on the matter. Others have critiqued his findings, and not everyone agrees – hence, the pickle!
So what plagues me, and what I think about as I’m driving my two children around, as I lay in bed at night waiting for sleep, and any time I see posts on my Facebook feed is, how can I change the bigoted viewpoints of others? Is it even possible? Do I not have an ethical duty to try? Isn’t silence complicity? I have been feeling the divisiveness in this country, and I admit that in my small corner of the world, I have contributed to it. I know, cognitively, that I must find a way to respect the worth of every human being, even those who would think, say, or do unspeakable things upon meeting my half-black teenage daughter. She will soon grow up, leaving the umbrella of my white privilege and enter society alone as a woman of color. I know what that means for her. I know what it means for her job applications. I know what it means for her pay rate. I know what it means for her opportunities for advancement. I know what it could mean should she ever have a run-in with law enforcement or the legal system. I know that I need to find that kindness for all, but lately I feel incapable of it. And I’ve been doing some hard self-examination to see – am I really incapable of it, or do I just not want to try because it is so hard? What does that mean, and how do I fix it?
And so I continue to wonder – what is the best method to openly disagree with bigoted views? I have personally lost most of my family tree to Trump and/or bigotry. I have about one good, solid branch remaining. When I leave this place, whatever this odd and sometimes wonderful existence is, I want everyone to know what I stood for and why. And if, in my angriest keyboard warrior social justice moments, if I made even one racist person double check his or her Fox News or Breitbart source to check its validity, then I suppose that’s one small step for man and womankind. And for me, I will keep this dilemma in the front of my mind, where it has stayed for quite some time, with a hopeful expectation that some day I will find an acceptable resolution. I believe I have much more evolving to do on this issue, but wanted to share where I am today. Thank you, and please vote on November 6th!
NOTE: The ideas and opinions in this post do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.