Painful Realities and Comforting Lies

Earlier I made a post about Supergirl 6×12 and how Diverse and Marginalized voices are needed because they often speak to each other across lines of marginalization.  The post came almost entirely out of my reaction to the episode, but I feel like I can’t address my own reaction without addressing other people’s reaction, and folks, I’ve got to tell you, the White People (TM) are at it again.

Honestly, the reaction to the episode which is centered on things like white privilege, systemic racism, racial trauma and how allies fail marginalized people has been a lot better than I expected.  By and large people from marginalized communities have nothing but praise for the episode.  Even a lot of white people who don’t come from marginalized groups are praising the episode.

Then, there’s the White People (TM), by which I mean people who get upset or angry any time there’s any sort of discussion or white privilege or systemic racism.  And with this episode, they are in rare form.  The nearest analogy I can give to what was going on in the episode without explaining the entire season’s backstory is if the white characters were trying to run around and catch an arsonist, while Kelly, a black woman, was trying to get them to help rescue people who were trapped in the still burning building the arsonist set on fire.  The White People (TM) are screaming because the show’s white heroes spent a huge part of the episode not listening too and largely ignoring the concerns of the black woman at the center of the episode.

Now, I am not going to lie.  The episode was uncomfortable as hell to watch in places, because you want the heroes you love to get it right.  You want them to jump in and help the hurt and sick people.  You want them to be heroes, and in this episode, they’re not.  They’re too wrapped up in what they are doing to stop and take a minute to listen to what Kelly is trying to tell them, and when the moment in the episode comes where Kelly has finally had enough, where she snaps and rightfully demands to know where her friends, where the people she loves and counts on were when she needed them, it hurts like hell.  You feel guilty just watching the episode.

There is truth in the way the episode is written.  There is truth in the way it betrays marginalized people screaming for help while people with privilege prioritize everything else over the needs of those marginalized people.  Who tell the marginalized people to wait for “a more convenient season”, to borrow words from Dr. King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

The people who are screaming about the episode, saying it was ‘not enjoyable’, ‘unrealistic’, or ‘badly written’ are people who are faced with an uncomfortable truth.  That people of privilege often dismiss the concerns of marginalized people, that they often don’t listen to them or imagine some magical fix to the marginalized people’s problem once their own issues are resolved, when the painful reality is, the marginalized people need help now, because if they don’t get it, they might not be alive with the more convenient season arrives.

It’s a hard thing to face.  I know I’ve made those kind of mistakes in the past, which is part of what makes the episode difficult to watch in places.  But I think the people complaining, the people bashing the episode, are people who aren’t ready or willing to have that conversation with themselves.  They aren’t ready or willing to admit that privilege happens, and that people with privilege often ignore and abandon those without it.  They would rather have the comforting lie that everyone in distress always has their cries for help heard, and that the heroes always rush in to help.

But the comforting lie is not the truth.  It’s not the world we live in.  And until we are willing to deal with the painful reality of the world we do live it, nothing is going to get any better.