The white supremacist publication Time announced today that white person Greta Thunberg has been named Person of the Year. While I suppose the magazine hopes that the pick will be celebrated based on Thunberg’s climate activism, I personally will not be throwing any confetti.
I find it frankly shocking that in the year 2019, a year when Trump-inspired hate crimes against minority communities have reached record highs, according to a meme I saw on Facebook, Time would elect to shine its spotlight on a privileged, white, cisgendered westerner. What message are they trying to send? That only the white and the wealthy care about the planet? That heroism and generosity are virtues exclusive to the progeny of colonialist powers? That traditionally gendered whites are better than everyone else? I see no other way to interpret this choice.
There are, as we speak, literally millions of Vietnamese pansexuals and gender fluid Ethiopians working to save the planet. At this very moment there are intersex aborigines and two-spirit South Koreans and polysexual Polynesians fighting against the scourge of plastic straws and electricity. When Chris Pratt was righteously shamed for drinking out of a single-use water bottle, do you think it was only cisgendered whites calling him out? Far from it. I happen to personally know a lesbian asexual transethnic Eskimo who tweeted about the subject no less than 40 times. Why couldn’t she be given the award?
I’m not taking anything away from Greta Thunberg, but Time has a responsibility to lift up and elevate marginalized voices. Instead they chose to reinforce white heteronormativity and archaic gender paradigms while erasing the existence of POC, LGBTTQQIAAP, FTM, and MTF people, and contributing to the otherization of the very groups that the media is specially tasked with acknowledging.
At least when soccer star and underpaid civil rights activist Megan Rapinoe recently won Sportsperson of the Year from Sports Illustrated, she had the decency to lecture the people who gave her the award for failing to demonstrate a sufficient commitment to diversity. I can’t help but notice that Thunberg, one of the great lecturers of our age, declined to give a similar lecture to Time. We see again the internalization of bigoted social constructs that causes even progressive whites to believe that they deserve their privilege.
Let me stipulate that I cannot and do not expect all white people to be as enlightened as me. After all, I have taken classes in Queer Ecology, so I am bound to have greater sensitivity to the gendered and racialized dynamics inherent to the struggle for environmental justice. But I am not asking that the people at Time, or even Thunberg herself, demonstrate my level of compassion, insight, and humility. Surely that will be too high a bar for almost any cis white person to hurdle. I am asking only for the bare minimum. Time had literally billions of more progressive options for Person of the Year. But they threw all of those people to the side, saying, “You are not important enough. You do not count. You aren’t human.” There is no excuse.
So, to anyone celebrating today’s announcement, I say, in the words of Greta Thunberg herself, how dare you? How dare you?!