This week has driven me to distraction. As the right continues to murder Trayvon’s memory, pass laws that are constitutionally questionable, and make fun of President Obama’s impromptu talk on race in America, my sensibilities are electrified by disbelief and outrage. I’ve put together a list of things we can do to become a rational, compassionate nation that supports the equality of all its citizens.
1. Stop. Stop hating. Stop blaming. Stop thinking some people, like you, are better than others.
2. Learn empathy. Everyone will face adversity at some point in one’s life. Money will not save you. Smugness and superiority will not save you. God will not save you. So you’d better learn to feel compassion for the person who is down and out, because you might be next.
3. If you are white and you think racism goes both ways, the most important role you can play in the conversation about race is that of listener. You’ve already given your opinion one time too many, and it was off base, offensive, ignorant, untruthful, and dangerous.
4. If you think you know what it is like to be black in America, and you are not a person of color, stop right now. You have no idea what it is like to be black in America. I have spent almost forty years of my life with a black man, and my children are interracial, yet I do not know exactly what it is to be black. I will never know, because I will never be black. Period.
5. If you are a minority, any minority (black, Hispanic, female, LGBT), even though it may feel scary and difficult, speak up when someone is being offensive. Let people know, as kindly as you can, that what they said is damaging to you, to them, and to society. If you don’t tell them, they’ll only keep on doing what they are doing and tell the next person that their [black, Hispanic, female, LGBT] friend doesn’t feel that way, so s/he must be wrong. Be the first to let them know their thinking is wonky, and then offer to help them understand. And if they don’t want to speak to you after that, that’s their loss.
6. Report abuse, harassment, discrimination, and favoritism to your employer, the business you are paying for goods and services, at school, at church, or anywhere else it happens, else how will it ever stop? This is for every person, even if you were not the receiver of the action. Peer pressure can positively affect people, too.
7. If you do not consider yourself a racist, stop voting Republican. The party has been recruiting racists since Nixon, and they are more and more blatant in their appeals to hatred and paranoia to keep the country divided and advance their agenda that benefits the wealthy and creates a plutocracy.
8. If you do not consider yourself a misogynist, see number 7.
9. If you think LGBT citizens should be treated equally under the law, see number 7.
10. In fact, if you believe all people should be equal under the law, see number 7.
11. If you are a fiscal conservative, stop lying to yourself. History shows that the Republicans tend to grow government and increase the deficit. See number 7.
12. If you are truly a Christian, stop supporting laws and policies that hurt the poor and the underserved. See number 7.
13. If you are pro-life help the children who are already here and give women equal access to quality reproductive health. See number 7.
14. If you know for sure that corporations are not people, see number 7.
15. If you are female or identify as an ethnic minority in our country, see number 7. They only want your vote, but they will not represent you.
16. If you believe socialism is scary and dangerous, you need to think again. The roads you drive your vehicle on, the sewer system your home is connected to, the police department, the fire department, the military, social security, the Center for Disease Control, the Food and Drug Administration, Medicare, Medicaid, and unemployment benefits are all socialist programs. You benefit from those programs, as should all citizens.
17. If you believe the Affordable Health Care Act is a socialist program designed to assist people who don’t deserve assistance, see number 16 and number 2. Also know that it is good for society overall that people receive proper health care, because it will prevent the epidemic spread of diseases such as TB and people will be healthier overall and not be a burden to others.
18. Vote. Vote in every election, including local elections. People died fighting for the inalienable right to vote, so the very least you can do is read up on the issues and the candidates and get your ass to the polls. If you vote, you have a right to complain and ask for representation. If you don’t, shut up, because you are part of the problem.
19. Help someone else to vote. Drive people who don’t have transportation to the poll. Hold their place in line if they are too old or too tired or too infirm to stand there and they need to sit down.
20. Do not be a one-issue voter. Nothing is more dangerous or insidious, because if you only vote on one issue you are ignoring all the other issues and voting in candidates who may have terrible agendas and they are relying on you to be ignorant and fervid for your single issue.
21. If you hear anyone speak disparagingly about another, whether it is about our President, or the black child walking home from school, or the Mexican family waiting in line at the grocery store, or the little girl who is overweight, or the gay or interracial couple who want to enjoy an evening out, tell them you do not agree with them and ask them why they are so mean spirited. Then wait for them to answer.
22. If you think murder is wrong, stop supporting Stand Your Ground laws, and let people all around you, including your gun monger friends, know that Stand Your Ground is simply a legal get-around to commit murder and you are going to expend your energy getting the laws repealed and fighting for more stringent gun control laws. Then run before they shoot you.
23. If you believe your child deserves to be safe at school, at home, and in your neighborhood, then support the same for children who may live in neighborhoods and go to schools that are different from yours. Every child deserves that right. Find a way to personally support that belief.
24. Do not paint a group of people with a broad brush based on one attribute, like skin color or socio-economic status. Every person is an individual, and if you want to be treated as an individual, you ought to treat others the same way. All white people are not the same, and that is true of everyone of every ethnicity, race, gender, and socio-economic class.
25. Understand that this is America, and that all Americans have the right to be where they are: walking down the street, standing on the walkway of a community, buying Skittles at the convenience store, and going home to watch the second half of the game. Stop thinking some people are more deserving of our freedoms than others. We should all enjoy the freedoms we share as Americans, and you should fight hard for that concept or one day you may find yourself on the wrong side of freedom.
26. If you are a man, treat women as your equals, not as a sex objects, property, or a baby vessels. Stop supporting legislation that controls women’s reproductive rights. Fight for equal work for equal pay. Don’t support the sex industry because it exploits young women.
27. If you are here in America because your family migrated here sometime in the last 600 years, support immigration reform. If you don’t support it, you are a hypocrite, and perhaps you should follow your own advice and go back to your country of origin if it will take you.
28. Do not spend one dime to support the economy of red states that pass laws that are constitutionally questionable, let businesses buy their politicians and political leaders, treat some of their citizens as less than equal, and allow their citizens to be irresponsible gun owners. Your children will grow up just fine if you don’t take them to Disney World.
29. Teach your children to care for others and to have empathy and compassion for people who may be different from them. Empathy is our greatest equalizer because it opens the mind and squashes irrational judgments.
30. If you identify as a white American, teach your children about race and ethnicity. Talk to them about white privilege and tell them that it is unfair and that everyone should be treated equally in every circumstance. Teach them to challenge privilege when they benefit because of it. The world will be a better place.
31. Stop watching Fox News. They are not a news station; they are an entertainment station paid by the likes of ALEC and the Koch brothers to spread the lies and the agenda of the extreme right. Not one word uttered on that station is truthful or newsworthy, so protect your brain cells.
32. Stop thinking that you are more American than the rest of us. We are a country that willingly took in people other countries didn’t care about. Let’s celebrate our diversity and understand that America has many different faces and perspectives that make us a great country.