by Dennis R. Upkins
You have an opinion. Stop the presses, everyone! Let’s end the discussion on racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, or any other conversation about anti-oppression. This trolling, white derailer, who couldn’t be bothered to read the original post, the comments, the corresponding links to other articles or posts, and who knows virtually nothing of the issues we’re discussing, has an opinion.
Of course they are white; only white people think their opinion has the same weight as the Constitution or the Bible. Of course they’re white; white people they think reality revolves around their opinion. As far as they’re concerned, their opinion is fact, religion, and law.
It is true; you do have the right to have an opinion. It’s also true that you are entitled to your opinion. However, not all opinions are equal. In fact, in many cases, your opinion simply doesn’t matter.
I’m always amazed that when discussing racism with other people of color online, a white derailer will show up, uninvited and unwanted, admitting they are unfamiliar with the topic or issue at hand. Being uninformed or uneducated on a subject is certainly no sin, but white privilege confuses white people by teaching them that they can be experts on any given topic, regardless of whether they are informed or not.
The discussion is over because, that’s right, they have an opinion.
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Just as so many of them are of the opinion that racism is a myth and its existence is contingent on people of color changing their opinion about their experiences and histories. Just as they are of the opinion that their opinion (uninformed as it is) is magically on par with that of an actual expert opinion. Yes, even though I’ve worked in social justice/equal rights for well over a decade and have written two books, countless essays and op-eds with more than a few going viral; even though I have traveled the country speaking on diversity and social justice, some random white person believes their opinion magically carries the same weight as mine – because, you know, they’re white and they have an opinion.
Let me explain why this logic doesn’t work in this little place I call reality.
While there are a myriad of topics I discuss on my blog, there are even more topics that I don’t address because of a few reasons: namely, I’m unfamiliar with the subjects and others have discussed them far more thoroughly than I ever could.
When I attend conferences and conventions, there are times when I’m sitting in the audience taking notes and listening to the speakers. On other occasions, I’m sitting in the front speaking while the audience is paying attention and taking notes. These are the instances when I’ve been deemed an expert in the subject I’m discussing and I have the education, experience, and skill-set to support my positions.
When I’m invited to do guest blog posts and op-ed pieces for various websites, it’s because my expertise and my opinion carries weight. Primary reason: My opinion is an informed one.
You still look lost. Let me guess, you’re having a hard time processing that your opinion isn’t as vital to the continuation of human existence as say, sunlight or oxygen? Fine, let’s do an experiment. Go log on to a forum where PoCs are discussing racism and white privilege. Now for this experiment to work, under no circumstances are you allowed to comment. You’re only here to read and observe (or lurk, as the kids on the interwebz say). After you’ve read for an hour, log off the forum, wait exactly 24-hours before logging back on. Upon logging back on the next day, take a moment to observe how the planet did not implode because you didn’t comment and/or derail the discussion with your “opinion.”
Isn’t science magical?
You certainly have the right to be of the opinion that white privilege doesn’t exist and we all reside in a post racial society. You also have the right to be of the opinion that gravity is optional and you can fly. Just as your grown ass would look real foolish jumping off the roof of your house with a red blanket tied around your neck like a cape, trolling PoC spaces and pretending that racism/white privilege are non-existent will wield a similarly unpleasant outcome.
To quote my boy Sparkindarkness, opinions are not inviolate and if you try to justify racism, homophobia, misogyny, transphobia, or any other form of bigotry to someone like me; do understand I’m going to share my honest, educated, and very well-informed opinion with you and when I’m done, you’re going to feel like you just jumped off the roof with that blanket tied around your neck.
Because that’s the other thing about opinions: they work both ways.
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Dennis R. Upkins was born in Nashville, TN. A speculative fiction author, his writing credits include Stranger Than Fiction, Hollowstone, and his upcoming title West of Sunset. Upkins regularly critiques and analyzes the representation and portrayal of minorities in media and has been a regular contributor to Ars Marginal, Prism Comics, and Nashville Geek Life. You can follow him dennisupkins.com.