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Kelly Cheek
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On Being Nice

I've heard people argue that marginalized groups (non-male, non-white, non-straight, non-American, etc.) should work harder to not alienate their allies. We’re doing what we can to help them. They should be nice to us.

The fact is we should ALL be nice to each other. But it's also a basic fact of life that a lot of people aren't. Life isn't easy. We all have shit to deal with, and sometimes that shit makes us react harshly.

Somebody cut in front of you at the grocery store? They cussed you out when you drew it to their attention? So not only did it take longer for you to get through the line, you also had the memory of their meanness to contend with? Wow, that really sucks.

Know what else sucks? Being treated like that every damn day of your life. Black people in America have been treated like second-class citizens (or worse) for hundreds of years. American conservatives as recently as a few years ago tried to argue that “racism is dead.” It’s pretty obvious they had their heads up their collective asses. If I was black and I’d been treated harshly every day of my life, I think I’d be a little pissed at white people, too.

Women who work hard and do a good job should, apparently, be happy with roughly 30% less pay than men doing comparable jobs. They’ve come a long way, baby. They used to not be taken seriously at all in the male-dominated business arena. What they’re getting now is a huge step up.

Actually, what they’re getting now is a slap in the face. Because not only do they have to do at least as good a job on the job as men, they are expected to do it with a smile, while enduring the sexual advances of the men, while being pretty and feminine, while not being powerful or outspoken lest they get labeled a bitch. And if they happen to be married, when they go home, they better have a hot, home-cooked meal on the table. If I was a woman and had to deal with all of that, I’d be pissed at men, too.

So you’re upset when somebody in a specific pigeon-holed group comes across as angry at you? They sound harsh? They don’t sound as if they appreciate the positive things you say about their particular faction? You feel like you don’t even want to support this group anymore?

Cut ’em some slack! They’re enduring a lot. It’s good that you think they’re being treated unfairly. It’s great that you want to help them. But you shouldn’t support a group of people just because they’re nice to you. You should support them because they (and you) are people. You should support them because they deserve the same rights and freedoms that you enjoy. Your support of people, regardless of how some like to categorize them, shouldn’t be conditional based on how nice they are to you.

Keep doing what you can to support them. Let their harsh words roll off your back. In time, they’ll come to see you as an ally.