I had a completely acceptable post topic almost prepared for this month. I’d even done some research on the subject – shocking, right? But every time I sat down to write something about it… nothing happened. Trying to get anything actually put together was like trying to force the wrong puzzle pieces together. It wasn’t working and just left my fingers sore.
And then I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to write about the other topic until I wrote about the one that’s actually taking up space in my head right now.
I can’t talk about anything right now aside from the dumpster fire south of the border.
Look, I get it, people don’t want to get political and they sure as shit don’t give a damn about my thoughts about the current political climate… but the thing is… people should. We all should have an good idea of what is happening, we should have strong opinions about those things and we should be making them known.
Because, as we’ve learned throughout history, remaining silent is one of the worst decisions anyone can make.
There’s some really horrible stuff happening in America – I was sitting with my father and my grandparents watching CNN as men holding torches marched around the UV campus shouting racial epithets and calling for violence against everyone who wasn’t part of their idea of the superior race.
I was in complete shock, texting with a friend who also couldn’t believe what was happening. These people were marching as proud members of the KKK and white nationalist groups. And they weren’t even wearing HOODS!?! At one point I looked at the members of my family around me and wondered why the hell they didn’t look as starkly outraged and as terrified as I felt.
And that’s because this wasn’t a surprise to them.
It didn’t shock them to see people walking around with signs that had hateful words toward black people on them, or to hear the people chanting for African Americans to “go back where they came from’. They were sorry to see people getting hurt and they were upset about the young woman who lost her life while fighting for her beliefs in human equality – but they weren’t surprised that it happened. Because this isn’t new. They’ve been seeing this first hand their entire lives.
The difference is that now it’s being broadcast EVERYWHERE. Now that it’s in everyone’s face, it’s becoming impossible for people to ignore anymore.
There is a new challenge being issued now that the battle lines have been drawn. And that is exactly what has come down in the past week. There’s no grey area anymore.
The President of the United States of America declared there were good people marching with the white supremacists at Charlottesville and there were equally bad people marching against them. Bad people “on both sides’.
It doesn’t get any more blatant than he has officially made it.
What astounds me is the number of people who continue to support this agenda – I know a few personally and it’s slowly eating at my soul the longer we avoid the discussion that needs to be had. I need to know WHY they still can’t see what’s wrong with what is being said and done.
It makes me wonder what those people would do if someone said or did something to me while they were standing there.
And that made me stop.
Because how many times has something happened and I didn’t say or do anything about it?
It made me think about the times my mom mentioned as I grew up, when something happened with her and Dad and it was simply accepted.
Like the time they went to a new club in Colorado and couldn’t get in together. Or the time the manager of the apartment building she lived in told her that the swimming pool was off limits to them because Dad was “wearing it out” when he visited from the states while they were dating.
It made me think about the kid at my fifth birthday party who was surprised by the fact that my father was black and I had never mentioned it to her. This was always recounted by my aunt as a funny story because my cousin had overheard the conversation and was angry at her on the way home because she’d never told HIM that Uncle Flynn was black. And of course it was funny because poor Sean had no idea what the hell being black was but it sounded serious according to my friend at the party. Looking back it makes me wonder about the family that friend came from – my cousins and I were five and had never identified each other as being ‘different’ because of our skin color. Obviously that wasn’t the case at that kid’s house. It certainly never occurred to us to say anything about it.
It made me think about how often after that I used to ask my mom if I was adopted. My parents were separated and Dad lived across the border so not a lot of people were familiar with him (which was odd because he was in town all the time to visit and attend family and important school events) which was probably why people felt comfortable telling me that I didn’t actually belong to my mother. People who knew nothing about my parents or our family took it upon themselves to inform me that my mom was lying to me and that I was actually adopted. Grown adults, not just children. I heard it more than once. I didn’t look like anyone else so I obviously didn’t belong. I used to beg my mother to tell me over and over the story of the night I was born. She thought I just loved hearing about it and how everyone was involved and was ready to welcome me into the world when in reality I was hanging on every single word just waiting for her to make a mistake or get her facts confused. In my young mind that was obviously a sign of duplicity. Of course I believed complete strangers over my family, never did I imagine going to them and telling them to stick their bullshit theories up their collective asses.
(Probably because I was little and my vocabulary didn’t include graphic expletives until grade eleven or so, but still…)
I thought about the number of jokes I’d heard with ‘nigger’ as a punchline and how I’d roll my eyes and shake my head but really say nothing. The few times I DID express how much I hated that word, I became the problem because I ‘couldn’t take a joke,’ or had it explained to me how I shouldn’t be offended by a word, or they had other black friends that didn’t have a problem with it, or they were just repeating a popular joke from a famous comedian so it was really okay and I was just too sensitive. It became easier for me to stay silent because no one else was on my side or was willing to back me up and I sure as hell didn’t want to be the one starting a fight just because MY feelings were hurt. It was easier to let it go and let people say what they wanted, lest I end up with no friends simply because it was important for THEM to be able to say words that I found offensive. It has always been easier to say nothing when I hear friends of mine make jokes about the only Mexicans they know are landscapers, or to make comments about Jews or Asians – all in the name of humour of course.
Stay quiet. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t lose your friends. Don’t alienate people who say they care about you. Don’t make noise, because you’ll be standing alone.
And really, that’s a big sticking point for me. When I knew it was glaringly obvious that SOMETHING needed to be said, no one was saying anything. At all.
Like the time Dad and I were visiting my aunt and uncle (Mom’s side) and we were watching hockey with my cousin and a very good friend of ours. And the Canucks were having some trouble on the ice and Donald Brashear was in focus. My Uncle had some things to say about Brashear’s play during the game, innocent stuff, but our friend decided to chime in with his thoughts on the player. “Fucking ‘coon,” he said. The room went dead silent and I knew, I knew damned well that he’d said something that should have been addressed immediately. I also knew damned well that it was a horrible slip of the tongue because he had NEVER shown any kind of negative behaviour toward other races as long as I’d known him. Even later, when he and I chatted, he was almost as shocked as I had been. He’d never said anything like that before and I knew he didn’t harbour negative thoughts towards black people. He was honestly devastated that he’d said it. But the more I thought about it, the more I was upset that no one else said anything. Why didn’t my uncle say, “Hey, that’s not acceptable, not in my house and certainly not around my family.” Because we were his family. Why didn’t we count enough for him to say something to make sure his guests understood that shit would not stand in his home?
We all ignored it. And that made it okay.
My department at work was planning to dress up for Halloween as a theme. I suggested a deck of cards (we worked at a casino and, okay, I already had a costume from a previous Halloween – sue me. It was still a great idea) It came down to figuring out who would be what card and one of my co-workers said that I’d have no problem going as a spade. I didn’t really know what to say at first and looked to my manager who looked uncomfortably surprised as she looked back at me. The two of us kind of laughed it off, our coworker was old school and, well, old and if was pretty damned obvious that if I said anything it would cause more trouble for me than it would for her. But why the hell didn’t my manager say something? Knowing that it was wrong and it was straight out of the ‘shitty things to say so you don’t say them ever’ employee handbook, my manager should have been the one to speak up regardless of my reaction.
But I know why she didn’t. It’s the same reason we all just rolled our eyes when one of the security guards referred to black people as ‘colored’ or when he called Will Smith ‘that chocolate boy’. No one wants to make a scene or be accused of being too sensitive or make it a racial issue.
The thing is, all of those things ARE racial issues. And to ignore them is to do a great disservice to ALL races, here’s why;
When you SAY nothing, when you DO nothing, when you just let things go… you’re part of the problem. You’re giving people around you permission to be offensive in your presence because it’s convenient for you. But it’s going to be so much more uncomfortable when you find yourself surrounded by people who believe that you think they same way they do. And if that’s NOT the truth then you’d better speak up.
I can’t afford not to say anything anymore. I’ve already stayed silent too long. And if I have friends reading this who find themselves offended by what I’m saying then I’d appreciate it if you talked to me. Not because I want to apologize but because I honestly and truly need to know why you still don’t get it.
And because I probably need to return shit I’ve borrowed or I need to collect some from you since this probably isn’t going to end with friendship bracelets. Though I truly hope otherwise.
There’s too much crazy going on everywhere, things are scary, I think we’d be safer if we stuck together, Peeps. But we can only do that if we’re all on the same page.
We can make the end of this chapter so much better than the way it started and then maybe there can be real hope for whatever comes next.
Just don’t let everything happen around you. Get involved. Make a statement. Be the person you think you are and DO something. Let people know what you believe in.
I believe in all of you. I believe in all of us.
Enough is enough.
“Father, father… we don’t need to escalate.
You see, war is not the answer – for only love can conquer hate…” – Marvin Gaye