When a man who can’t pronounce “anonymous” claims the speech of one of our greatest orators put him to sleep, we have to wonder about his grasp of words. If Trump is the best that many Americans think our country has to offer, what criteria are they basing it on?
Is it the unethical and opportunistic way he runs his businesses and the government? The way he disrespects and objectifies women? Or maybe it is his inability to understand the responsibilities of the office of president. Or it is his penchant for defying the rule of law. Perhaps it is his insensitivity to people with disabilities or maybe the way he attacks people of color with statements pertaining to their IQs and threats of deporting or imprisoning them. Maybe it is the way he has cuddled up to violent dictators, while disavowing liberals of any ilk here in America. Or is it because he treats immigrants as criminals, rapists, and animals by denying them refuge and snatching away their children? Or is it God ordained that we suffer this fool as some fundamentalists, who believe in the divine bestowal of white supremacy, suggest? Or is it because he claimed there were many fine Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville in 2017? Or, most importantly, was he the whitest white man in the bunch?
If white supremacists think he is representative of supremacy, they are neither supreme nor intelligent. If the only way they can show supremacy is through bullying, taking away freedoms, carrying a gun, policing public spaces, and threatening the safety and wellbeing of others, we have to ask them, “What are you afraid of?”
America, we all have a right to be who we are, whether that means being a Christian fundamentalist, an LGBTQ individual, a black American, a white American, a native American, Hispanic, Asian, Muslim, atheist, able-bodied, or an individual with disabilities, a man, a woman, a gender-free individual. And, guess what? We can co-exist.
That doesn’t mean a great, big love fest. It means understanding basic freedoms and supporting those freedoms for all Americans. All Americans have a right to worship or not worship as they choose. They have a right to vote. They have a right to be represented by their elected officials. They have a right to be in public spaces. They have a right to feel safe in those spaces. They have a right to make choices about their bodies and healthcare. They have a right to healthcare.
The way to do that is through respect. Not the kind of respect you earn. That takes knowing someone, and we don’t have to know every person in America to respect all Americans. I’m talking about the kind of respect that acknowledges every person has a right to be in public spaces and to work a living wage job and to live in a decent and safe neighborhood and attend decent schools that are safe zones from violence and that have the same resources as every other school and to have access to affordable healthcare. We’ve lost that respect. Maybe we never had it. I am leaning toward the latter.
I’m not going to tell some white guy he can’t think he is superior to me, as a white woman, and to people of color. If that’s his personal narrative, so be it. I have my personal narrative, too. But if he is out there trying to oppress women and people of color by controlling or denying social and economic opportunities and advances, so he can gain some kind of advantage and privilege, I am going to speak up. The collective needs to speak up. We need to support equality.
White people, I am mostly speaking to you, whether you are conservative or liberal, because our society and governance is based on a system that gives us a leg up just for being white while it disadvantages everyone who isn’t. We have to disavow that system. And we have to stop feeling hurt when the topic is brought up. Nothing will ever change if we can’t talk about racism and white privilege as concepts that operate congruently.
None of us is morally superior, intellectually superior, or physically superior because of our gender or race.
Who can deny that Serena Williams is the greatest athlete in the past twenty years? Just fifty years ago, we’d never have expected a woman, and a black woman at that, to be the greatest athlete. That's because women weren't expected to excel in sports. Furthermore, she just had a baby. She almost died during delivery. She survived and became a wonderful mother, and, no, she didn’t make a comeback to the tennis world, she took up where she left off.
I have to divert a bit from my main message in this post, although it is certainly related to the topic of race and gender. We just finished watching the 2018 US Open Women’s Finals. Serena's greatness as an athlete in no way guaranteed a win in this grand slam tournament or in any other tournament or grand slam championship. She didn’t win this time. Naomi Osaka, who just broke the top ten in rank at age 20, played powerfully and strategically against Serena and deserved the win. But I do have some questions about the severe treatment imposed by the chair umpire. I can’t help but think he has different expectations for women than for men players, and Serena expressed the same concern. And what he did was impact the match at a critical time. His interference ruined the match for both players who should have felt the match was about the competition between their abilities, not the man in the chair who felt offended because a woman expressed her emotions and then called him on his call – I’ve watched many men over the years swear, break rackets and do other things that could be construed as abuse, and they weren’t penalized by a point and then the loss of a game. It left both women crying at the end, and I cried with them. I cried because Serena still had a chance to turn the tables had he not taken a game from her, and I cried for Naomi who should have been celebrating what great tennis she played instead of feeling she won on an umpire’s call. That’s what happens when genders are measured against different standards, including another female who was penalized during the US Open for changing her shirt on court (she had it on backwards and removed it to turn it the right way around.). Come on, how unfair is that?
The moral is we have to stop elevating people and awarding them privilege based on gender and race. Any of us has the potential for greatness, and it has nothing to do with gender or race.
Getting back to the topic of governance, there are many white males who are more than capable of being the president of our country and the leader of the free world. Trump isn’t one of them. He never was. He never should have had a shot, because he isn't qualified. But here he is, and he has put our democracy and our national security at risk, all in the name of making America white again. But it never was all white, not from the beginning and not now. That is the important point our elected officials must make again and again to quell this awful tide of supremacy and hatred.
We also cannot forget that there are many women and people of color who are also more than capable of being the president and leader of the free world. Hillary Clinton was one of them – the most qualified candidate in modern times. She was more qualified than Bill Clinton and Barack Obama – both great leaders of our country. And I can list many, many others including Kamala Harris, Corey Booker, and Elizabeth Warren. They should be judged by their qualifications and not their race or gender.
So when people talk about who is qualified and who isn’t, it is imperative that we leave race and gender out of the conversation. The past eleven years have proven conclusively why that is.
When one former president is elegant, intelligent, humorous, unifying, and passionate and the present president is unintelligible, blustery, self-centered, divisive, thwarted by his own administration, and an inciter of violence, the only lesson learned is that race and gender have nothing to do with how they acted in the office of president. It is the individual. One was qualified and saved our country from a depression; the other was unqualified and has brought our country to the brink of destruction.
Americans, we can be better. We can coexist. We need all of us to do it. First we have to stop thinking some Americans are more equal and more deserving than others due to their race and gender. We have to believe our greatest ideal: We are all created equal.
It has to start in November. Get out and vote. Vote like our life and democracy depend on it, because they do. Don’t vote based on race or gender or religion or class. Vote based on qualifications and who can rise to the challenge of best representing ALL of us and who knows how to guide and explain why it is the best route to do so. Yes, we are diverse, and that means we have a hard time understanding one another at times, sometimes because we don’t have the right words, but more often because we’ve stopped listening. Our diversity means we have a better chance at the kind of progress and change that can lift all Americans, regardless of race and gender. We can fix this mess. Vote.