I carried a turtle across the street. I was driving near my current living situation, and in the middle of the street I saw a round shiny thing. I pulled over, quickly realizing that it was a turtle and that this was a very busy street. As I approached the turtle, it’s head and legs shook a bit and then disappeared into it’s shell. I picked it up by the sides of its shell and gently placed it on the side of the street it was headed to, near a small pond. After I put it down, I stared at it for a bit. It wouldn’t move. It kept its appendages hidden from me as though I meant it harm. For all intensive purposes I just saved this turtle’s life, and it was terrified of me.
But frankly it should’ve been. People that look just like me built the deathtrap of a road that turtle was trying to cross. People just like me purposely try to hit turtles crossing the road all the time. My father told me a story of when he was younger, seeing a similar situation of a man stopping on the side of the road the pick up a crossing turtle. But when he picked the turtle up, instead of helping them along to the other side, he turned the turtle upside down and slammed the turtle on the ground as hard as he could. People that look like me have done some pretty messed up things to turtles.
But that isn’t my fault. What is my fault, is if I see a turtle in the middle of the street and don’t help them. But I can’t get all bent out of shape if that turtle thinks I want to hurt them. They have plenty of reasons to. I also need to make sure that I am actually helping them, and not hindering them in any way. Perhaps I don’t pay attention to the direction they are headed? Or perhaps the place I lay them down is filled with toxic road runoff that will harm them? What I should’ve done was ask the turtle how I could help. And believe me, if you’ve never had a conversation with an non-human, it’s not their fault. It’s because YOU’RE NOT LISTENING. They have plenty to say. You’re just already convinced you know what they’re gonna say. I do this all the time with turtles. I already have my response before they even let me know what they want to talk about. But I have no idea what it’s like to be a turtle. And unless you are a turtle, and to be specific, this turtle, you have no idea either.
But what if this turtle is a snapper? And they snap at me? Well that means I wasn’t listening to them. I need to convince the turtle I mean them no harm before I “help” them. The burden of proof is on the one who is part of the group that made the roads, and the pollution, and the sexism, and the racism, and the transphobia, and the homophobia. Oh, and sorry Apple Pages and Microsoft Word, but putting a red dotted line under the word “transphobia” doesn’t make it not real.
If I want to get frustrated at anyone over the fact that this turtle is terrified of me, all I should do is look in the mirror. People that look just like me have made life hell for turtles for hundreds of years. And I want a pat on the back for taking this turtle across the road? I suppose I could be overcome with guilt and desperation at the thought that thousands of turtles will die because of people that look like me. But where would that lead me? It doesn’t seem to stop the turtles from living their lives. In fact they go on day by day living life as they want. They will understand the world in ways I can only dream of. They will live lives of meaning that I could never possibly contemplate. They will live on, despite the damage that people who look like me do to them. They will make it.
And what I can do is be an ally. And like all good allies I will ask them what they need me to do. Not what I WANT to do, but what they need me to do. I will be there. And though I get angry at the thought of a car hitting a turtle crossing the road, I won’t randomly attack cars. I won’t get all macho and rip my shirt off saying “HOW DARE YOU? I AM THE PROTECTOR OF THESE PRECIOUS TURTLES!!! FEEL MY WRATH!”
No. I will try to help turtles across the street. I will try to stop traffic and make sure the turtle gets to their pond safely. I will do my best to let the turtles know I am there to help, but that they are the ones running the show. That is what I’ll do.
But make no mistake: if the time comes, I will side with the turtles over those who look like me, any day of the week.
So cis-gender straight white dudes, our number is almost up. Do you wanna be Casey Jones? Or do you wanna be Krang? I can’t even say that with a straight face. Casey Jones kicks SO MUCH ASS!. There should be no debate.