Sun Jul 22nd, 2007 at 03:46:25 PM EST
I'll come out and say it : I have a friend who is racist. Not in the nazi or even BNP voting way, but someone who is willing to be unashamedly rude about non-white people, especially when he's had a drink. Yes, of course he knows I disapprove and have complained about his behaviour repeatedly. I can't change his attitudes, but I wish he wouldn't flaunt them in front of me. Unfortunately I suspect he gets a little smidgeon of pleasure out of tweaking my tail, indeed he has even been openly abusive (from a group) about a lone black person in order to make me complicit in his racism.
So why do I put up with him ? Well, he's a friend and we enjoy each other's company. As you well know, I'm not the easiest companion and so, with friends a bit thin on the ground, I tend to be very tolerant of those who tolerate me. And, of course, I am not on the receiving end of his prejudice and so I can, to a greater extent, ignore it. It's one of the grubby compromises morality makes with reality.
However, I can imagine that I would probably have my nose rubbed in it more if I had a coloured friend who was aware of my friend's prejudices. For them, I doubt it would be so ignorable and it would make them question my stance. An accusation of hypocrisy would be hard to pass off.
I mention this in order to say that I understand the difficulty in which I place another friend. Among my many crimes I have attempted to learn bellydancing in the UK whilst still male. Around the world there are many male bellydancers, even if they remain a tiny fraction of the total population of dancers; but in the UK there are not so many. In fact when I started in 2001 I was the only one. And the reason was not disinterest from men, it was because the British bellydance community had (and still have) a cultural distaste for allowing males into classes.
Even after I found a teacher who was willing to accept me, I faced many obstacles and some pretty spiteful behaviour. So, on behalf of my (at that time) fellow males I tried to persuade teachers that denying males access was sexist and well..wrong. I didn't want any man to have to go through what I did, I wanted them to have similar opportunity to learn that any woman has.
And that's where the problems begin. Y'see, it's inevitable if you hang around long enough with people who share an interest that you're going to make friends with people. But sometimes in this situation you're going to be disappointed to discover that, whilst they may accept you're okay as an individual, they still don't want you in their classrooms. Even if they're old-time feminists proud of having fought the good fight for female access to male-only spaces during the 1970s; now we find they are equally determined to resist men in women's spaces (even if it's only a dance class run in a building with equal opportunity policies). And that when you point out that they are hypocrites, they can get abusive.
Very abusive. Viciously transphobic and (implicitly) misandric abuse that becomes the final straw that breaks my love for the dance and left me unable to attend classes. I could no longer stand being in a room full of dancers. Because I can't stop looking around and wondering who hated me for being born the wrong gender and wanting to dance, for spoiling the atmosphere.
So I understand the problem I set for a friend who has tried to remain friends with both of us, even tho' I just can't help myself reminding her of why I can't stand her other friend. She doesn't experience the prejudice against me, anymore than I experience my first friend's prejudice against non-whites. So she can't understand how hurt I am by it.
I can't help but feel I am being, if not hypocritical, then cowardly in remaining friendly toward a racist. But life can't be lived dancing on a pinhead of moral-certainties, we're all flawed beings and I'm certainly more flawed than many so I'm not going to be pointing any fingers.
So, all we flawed human beings arrange compromises and fudges to enable us to get by but, all the same, we hurt people by such behaviour who don't deserve it, even we don't want them to be hurt.
Jeez, sometime life sucks.