As promised, my response to Liz Thompson’s post in “Pantsuit Nation”
Whew! What a terrifying experience! And one that, I fear, is becoming more frequent every day our current administration does its best to bring us all down into the pigsty with them. My heart hurts for you, and I, too apologize for what happened to you. Not for the as—-e spewing such hatred into your ear, because I would NEVER excuse or associate myself with such hideous behavior. My apology is for those of us who are witnesses to such provocation and are frozen and unable to act. No, I live in safe, quiet Akron Ohio, and was not on the subway with you that day. I have been practicing–and would hope that I could muster up the courage to speak up and stand up to such bullying, but, who knows–I’m a 60 year old white woman with 7 pieces of metal in my neck holding my head on and a voice that comes out sounding like Minnie Mouse when I’m nervous, so, I’m not always the most intimidating or convincing advocate. I do it–but I’m ever quite sure it helps!
What I’ve discovered over my many years as an advocate, however, is a very startling & frustrating truth about situations like those you found yourself drawn into and a million others that are the product of bigotry & hate, is that those of us who do not wear brown or black skin have abdicated our responsibility to protect & support our diverse brothers & sisters across the board. I admit, because I was alive & active as a young girl in the civil rights era, and had and have cultivated relationships with (women, mostly) of color, I fell into that hazy, naive mindset that “things” had actually changed–that racism in all of its ugly permutations had been, if not eliminated, at least “shrunken so small it could be drowned in a bathtub”. (THIS is what needs drowning, Mr. Norquist)
My god, what an eye-opening I’ve had since my first days working to get that young senator from Illinois the Democratic nomination for President, and straight on until now, when I read more & more stories like yours! What I’ve come to realize about our racist culture is that even those of us who embrace our friends of color or orientation or ability is that those of us with “privilege”, those never in danger of having our sons arrested or shot for standing with poor posture or who will never be subjected to the terrorism you experienced that day, we cannot continue to operate on the notion that acts of such violence or hate are NOT aberrations, that racism is a “black persons’ problem”, or that things have actually CHANGED for the better. Because, while there have been some advancements in race relations over the decades, at the most fundamental level, not much has changed; mostly, it just got buried. Fortunately, perhaps, it wasn’t so apparent because there still was an ever-fraying thread of decency that made an embarrassment of those harboring racist attitudes,(or who lied, or who admitted that they were out to make as much money as they could, or who got humiliated when they were caught doing something heinous). Obviously, that thread has broken, and decency is a word now used as a club by privileged folks to create fear of those who are not white, wealthy, “religious”, straight, or male and to keep those folks in line.
As Caucasian women, it is now more important than ever to support our friends and neighbors of color. Putting an end to bullying in schools has become an important part of the curriculum in schools these days, but our resolve to stop bullying of ANY kind does not end at graduation. And now more than ever since the 1960’s, it is incumbent upon white, straight, middle class women to become a part of a global support system every bit as energized or prioritized as that of the elementary or middle-school PTA bully programs in our communities. Because, as shocking as it is for some folks to hear, RACISM IS NOT A BLACK PEOPLE PROBLEM. It’s a problem for ALL people. And if we want to make it out of this administration alive, we need to realize that and speak up about it at every turn.
(Sorry, Liz Thompson, I got a little soap boxy for such a late hour, but I wanted to respond to your eloquent and disturbing post. This is an issue that has driven me for 50 years or so, and your story reminded me once again of how important it is to recognize the problem, OWN the problem, and work to ease/help/resolve the problem) I hope you never experience such a horror again, but since that may be a silly pipe dream, I hope that if it ever should happen again, you will be surrounded by people of every color, gender, size, age, etc. supporting you and shutting down the vile creature who dares speak to any human being like that!
Keep talking, keep writing. Your words are powerful and important. And thanks.