You Can’t Have Your Privilege and Equal Rights, Too

Chinh le Duc, unsplash.com

My parents and grandparents used to wield an old maxim when I was a kid: you can’t have your cake and eat it, too. I vaguely understood its meaning as: you can’t everything you want. If I had a cake—a slice, a cupcake, or an entire cake—of course I’d eat it, and that would be the end of that. What needed to be discussed? Ah, the sweetness of youth.

I was in my mid-twenties when a friend derided “queens” for effeminate mannerism while proclaiming the validity of “gay rights.” I looked at him askance and the words fell out of my mouth like hot grits before I knew what even happened, “George! What are you talking about? You can’t have your cake and eat it, too!” In that split second, I connected the dots and the full meaning of my parents’ aphorism blossomed into my consciousness—

You can not “have” a cake (slice or whole), have it remain as such, while you consume it.

Better yet.

You can’t lay claim to any belief if your actions run counter to or undermine said belief.

The principle is quite simple: we can not have two outcomes simultaneously that are by their nature opposed to one another. Mind you, I don’t see the world as black and white. There’s a whole lot of gray out there that most definitely exists; but lately I’ve seen people turn this maxim on its head … either out of sheer ignorance or abject willfulness.

You’re Kidding Me, Right?

There are a lot of well-meaning people who will swear to you that they don’t have a [insert your favorite social phobia in adjectival form, i.e. misogynistic] bone in their body. While that statement may be 100% true, it is also 100% irrelevant. The truth is that prejudice (opinions not rooted in fact or experience) and bias (the way those unfounded beliefs are enacted against others) do not reside in one’s bones. Racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamaphobic, xenophobic, and a host of other fears inhabit the mind.

There are truly wonderful people in the world, some I’ve met on church pews, in bars, and had meals with who claim to be all about peace, justice, love, and we the people, and see nothing wrong with monuments to the proponents of slavery.

There are flocks of men who would get into a barroom brawl if someone mentioned how they wanted to grab their wife/daughter/mother “by the pussy,” (no need for me to apologize for the graphic nature of the statement, at this point any veneer of shock you may have has completely worn away), but still don’t want equal pay for women.

The numbers of our citizenry who didn’t go to the polls to vote and drape themselves in the stars and stripes? Please. You have taken no active part in democracy. Remove that cloak of patriotism before you burst into flames.

And don’t you dare even think about considering yourself post-racial, if you’re blithely reaping the benefits from a system based on the color of your skin and make no attempt to level the playing field … even for your token black or brown friend.

You can not have it both ways. (See your nearest dictionary for the definition of cognitive dissonance.)

Et Tu, Mainstream Media?

For all intents and purposes, the mainstream media coupled with social media (I’m looking at you Twitter) can be a useful tool. In regards to keeping the country apprised of the latest goings-on, you can’t beat the ABC, CBS, NBC, cable news networks — in conjunction with social media — for immediacy. Thanks to our smart phones, anyone can be Lois Lane or Jimmy Olson, maybe even the next Pulitzer prize winning photojournalist.

But just like the nearest hammer and nail, the media (social and mainstream) are neither inherently good nor bad. Any sense of effectiveness or morality, comes from how they are used and who is using them.

The mainstream media does this one thing that drives me crazy. And if you’ve watched political punditry at all in the last ten years, you’ve seen it, too. They have a penchant for trotting out knowledgeable guests and pitting them against a personified combustible bundle of fury and bluster who can’t give sound reasons for their position. The image of an out of control firehose comes to mind, soaking everything in its path, except the fire.

Loud and indignant speech does not override facts, science, or truth.

MSM, you’re not giving us facts, balanced dialogue, or point versus counterpoint debates. You’re giving us talking heads with oversized foaming mutant mouths. I mean, really? We know what you’re doing: you’re serving up junk news that neither informs nor enlightens, but instead incites and isolates. You know we can see you, right?

Context Is King, Unfortunately the King Is Dead

In order to better understand and more accurately assess a situation, it’s best to examine the circumstances in which an event occurs. Take the violence that broke out in Charlottesville a few weeks ago when “some very fine people” demonstrated against the removal of a statue from a public park and were met by some other “very fine people.” (That’s a very simplistic interpretation.) Someone I know actually said—

“I’m curious what will happen to this nation if they decided to take a statue of Martin Luther King down? What kind of trouble would that cause?”

Don’t laugh, that’s a direct quote from the forty-fifth president of the United States. He went on to compare Robert E. Lee to George Washington. No, really.

If you take statues of Robert E. Lee, Martin Luther King, Jr., and George Washington out of the context of history, far from the wealth of knowledge we have about each of them and their impact on society, and placed them in a vacuum of ignorance … well, yes, of course, those statues are all interchangeable blobs of metal or stone fashioned into the likenesses of people.

But that is not the world in which we live.

Let’s take a brief look at why municipalities decided to remove Confederate memorials in the first place.

Charleston, South Carolina

June 17, 2015, a twenty-one year old self-professed white supremacist entered a Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and killed nine people. In journals and social media posts, the killer is seen with symbols of white supremacy and the Confederate battle flag in an attempt to start a race war.

As a result, cities across the country began removing Confederate monuments, the majority of which were erected during the Jim Crow Era and Civil Right Movements as a means of keeping black Americans “in their place.”

To those who think that removing Confederate memorials is erasing history, remember, it’s imperative to look at these memorials in the context of—

  • these people’s lives
  • what they stood for
  • what did they accomplish
  • what was the net affect upon the people and times in which they lived
  • what’s the impact of their efforts on the world in which we live today. (If you’re thinking Robert E. Lee and others were protecting states’ rights, a way of life, and everything but slavery, check this out and read what the seceding states wrote about their cause, in their own words.)

The purpose in removing these memorials is much the same reason Nazi monuments have been all but erased and outlawed in Germany; because of upheaval and carnage it wrought upon a nation and people of a certain ethnicity.

Fast forward to—

Charlottesville, Virginia

On Saturday, August 12, 2017, just before noon violence broke out between white nationalists who protested the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park and counter-protesters. Virginia’s governor, Terry McAuliffe, declared a “state of emergency.” Two hours later, a Dodge Challenger driven by one of the protesters rammed into the back of two cars which ultimately killed a woman.

While everything in life isn’t black and white, a few things are obviously black and white. Nazis, white supremacists — bad. This country went to war against the Nazi regime. Nazi symbols of all kinds are banned in Germany. Those who stand for Civil Rights and oppose Nazis and their tiki torch bearing sympathizers — good.

This ain’t rocket science, people. That any of this has to be explained to any American citizen in their right mind is proof that they are choosing to live in ignorance and willingly walk down the road of hatred and oppression. Full stop.

Let’s be clear here, with the right to exercise First Amendment rights goes great responsibility. Sure, you can yell “fire” in a crowded movie theater. That’s your right, but there are consequences to that action. Nazis and white nationalists have seen in both Charlottesville and Boston, messages of hate will not be tolerated in these United States.

The Wrap-up

I’m saying three things here. 1) You can’t claim to be one thing if your actions undermine those beliefs. No one is fooled by the sophistry. 2) Loud, indignant, and aggressive talk does not negate facts. It only serves to drive people further apart. 3) Lines drawn in the sand based on willful ignorance will eventually be washed away in the tide of time.

Engage one another openly, honestly, with respect and care. Listening with the intent to understand is not surrender.

Love one another.

2 thoughts on “You Can’t Have Your Privilege and Equal Rights, Too”

  1. Colette Clarke Torres says:


    Thank you!

    1. Clay Rivers says:


      Clay Rivers, Author and Art Director Blog | Twitter | Facebook

      Sent from my iPhone. Please excuse message brevity and any typos.

Comments are closed.