Friday, November 18, 2016

I Am Tired of Talking about Race and Gender, Too

Whenever life got difficult for me as a child, and that was fairly often growing up with an alcoholic mother, I gave myself a pep talk. I do it in adulthood, too, when life seems overwhelming or seems to go against my grain. I remind myself that everything is temporary, and if it is temporary, I can get to the other side of it and come out fine.  It is usually a big enough push to motivate me through the worst life throws at me.
But on November 8, 2016, I started sinking fast. I fell down the rabbit hole, hard. Each announcement on election night pushed me farther down the hole. I could not believe what I was seeing. I started swearing at the TV and slapping the chair. Ronald was mostly silent.  At one point, he said, “It’s over.”
“No,” I said. “They haven’t called Florida yet. Surely she will take Pennsylvania.” But soon I, too, realized it was over, despondency oozing over me.
Although Secretary Clinton won the popular vote by over 1.5 million votes, she lost the Electoral College vote.  The last time that happened was in 2000, and, admittedly, some odd things occurred during the Bush/Gore election, including those mysterious hanging chads.
Over the next couple of weeks, I commiserated with other progressives, argued with those who take a more conventional and close-minded approach to life, shed a lot of tears, and expressed a lot of anger when talking to my immediate family.
I could point fingers: it is the fault of the third party voters and/or the fault of the 50% of the voting age populace who chose not to vote.  All in all, Trump won on less than 25% of all possible votes. But now that I find us here, how is blaming others any good? It won’t change the outcome.
As I watch the parade of possible appointments including Steve Bannon and Jeff Sessions, both men who have demonstrated racial hatred and other extreme conservative views, I feel like I am being suffocated in the rabbit hole.  Then there are all the racially motivated attacks, graffiti, tweets, bullying, and other acts of white supremacy.
The rabbit hole exit is disappearing from sight.
I’ve talked and written about racism for over forty years now, but more so in the last eight years. We were on a steady downhill slide to the rabbit hole ever since President Obama was elected and the far right decided, when they could not find any real scandals to bring Obama down, to systematically attack his validity, credibility, and character. The birther conspiracy, supported and carried on by Trump, caused all kinds of racist responses.
But Americans got tired of being accused of being racist and they responded… with more racism. Nothing better than accusing the victims of being responsible for the hatred and oppression heaped on them. Then America voted in Trump, the candidate openly endorsed by the KKK. And almost all of the Trump supporters expressed anger at being called racists. However, they are not disavowing all the hate crimes popping up around the country, over 400 reported so far, and a good number of the people perpetrating these crimes are avowed Trump supporters.
People are saying they are tired of hearing about racism. Quite a few contend racism didn’t exist until President Obama started talking about it. They have short memories and a poor understanding of our history. 
Every time we made racial strides in our history, there has been an equal or stronger backlash.  President Obama’s election eight years ago, and his list of accomplishments, caused the rise of the Tea Party and the rise of Trump. Hatred is strong, even when it is only inside the hearts of a minority. Silence by others makes it even stronger. Silence is complicity.
In the past black towns, successful with black-American-owned businesses and commerce, and segregated from white towns, were burned to the ground and black Americans were lynched. So much for “separate but equal.”
After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 (75 years ago next month), Japanese Americans were rounded up and placed in internment camps. They lost their freedom and everything else, because Americans believed their loyalty would lie with Japan, even when they had been Americans for generations. America offered restitution to the survivors of internment in 1988 under the Civil Liberties Act.
Black American descendants of slavery and Jim Crow have yet to receive restitution.
Today I argue discrimination and hate crimes are equal to those perpetrated in our history. But an awful lot of white Americans disagree.
I can tell them that I am tired of talking about racism, too, and misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, and religious intolerance.  But I have to talk about it because they are not going away, and at this time in our history, with the election of a racist, misogynist, religious intolerant president, it will only get worse. I am also tired of people supporting systemic racism and the other isms, but pretending denial, like when they voted for Trump.
We are losing our freedoms including freedom of the press, freedom to protest, and the freedom to be fully participating American citizens. This should scare the shit out of people, but many are celebrating how this will hurt the people they hate (they are confident they themselves are excluded from this loss of freedoms) and a bunch more are silently compliant.
Some of my extended family members are worried that my speaking out will result in imprisonment. I jokingly told my mother-in-law to visit me in prison and bring cookies (I have been bringing her home-baked cookies when we visit her up North), after I am arrested for political activism that includes this blog, my FB posts, and writing to my Congressmen.
But maybe prison for political activists is not such a distant reality, and maybe we are close to another McCarthy era when people’s lives were ruined and some lost their lives because the government didn’t like their politics. Senator Doug Ericksen, a Republican state senator in Washington, is trying to pass a bill that makes certain kinds of protests a felony (right now one can be arrested for blocking traffic or causing property damage, but both are misdemeanors) and supporting protests will be a felony, too, if the law gets through. Such a law would not only result in a possible prison sentence or probation, it could revoke the individual's right to vote. Think about that and the number of protesters who came out for Black Lives Matter and against a Trump presidency.
A professor at Rutgers University, Kevin Allred, who is white, was picked up by police at his Brooklyn home for tweeting, "Will the 2nd amendment be as cool when I buy a gun and start shooting at random white people or no...?" They delivered him to a psychiatric hospital. Although extreme racial bias is still not considered a mental illness, apparently political activism is. My extended family members may not be overreacting in their worry over my safety.
So here I am, a couple of email exchanges with Senator Thom Tillis on record, other emails penned to Senator Richard Burr, Representative Virginia Foxx, and Speaker Paul Ryan; a growing number of outraged and angry FaceBook posts logged; and now this post. Yet I am still reeling.
What if Trump’s cabinet were filled with racists, misogynists, homophobes, the religious intolerant, and xenophobes? Will Trump’s rant to “make America great again” or as many of us say, “white again,” become reality? Will we be living in a country where political activists are jailed, people of color and women are second class citizens, separate and unequal, dreamers will be deported to a country they never stepped foot in, LGBTQ individuals will be subjected to conversion therapy, women will have to ask their male partners permission to take birth control and perhaps will go to jail if they get an abortion, Muslims will have to register as such with the government for possible deportation or internment, all of us will be forced to worship under fundamentalist dogma, and citizens will be encouraged to demonstrate their hatred toward any group that is not compliant or white and heterosexual?
My panic just soared past the moon. Time for a pep talk, but I gave it already on FaceBook yesterday. Here it is:
This country needed HRC. The majority of voters realized that, even those who didn't think she was perfect. We lost, more than just the election, as we are seeing in these days of transition of power. But we cannot give up, not for one moment, because of all the people who came before us and refused to lie down and take oppression and violence and segregation and economic hardship and second-class citizenship. In their honor and for the future generations, we have to keep going forward while the white nationalists, white supremacists, misogynists, homophobes, reality TV stars, and powerbrokers try to force a vision of America on us that we know is shameful, hurtful, ignorant, and finished the moment we stand against it. Stronger together.

Yes, I will get through this, and you will, too, but it will take hard work, the ability to speak up loudly and often, and perseverance in the face of unprecedented obstruction. There is a way to climb out of this rabbit hole, and that is to keep talking about race and gender, no matter how tiring it gets, until we no longer have to. We got this.

Additional thoughts:
I just realized I am in mourning. Watching the Medals of Freedom ceremony gave me that understanding. The last eight years haven't been easy, but they were a promise. President Obama was a promise of a different America, led by a man who embodies grace, perseverance, intelligence, humor, and a view of what a truly egalitarian America would look like, an America in which my family is just another American family. I would have still missed President Obama terribly if Secretary Clinton had won the election, but I would have looked forward to her chance to lead us toward a truly progressive America, taking up the gauntlet we handed to President Obama in 2008. Instead we elected a horrid, self-centered, self-aggrandized, entitled reality star who doesn't respect women, minorities, people with disabilities, the free press, and anyone else who doesn't adore him. He is a monster who is fully taking advantage of hatred to promote nothing but himself. If he had a shred of ethical and compassionate thought, he would stand before America in a press conference devoted to just this topic, and tell America that white supremacy and white nationalism are treason and abhorrent. A statement during an interview is hardly taking a stand. I am in mourning for more than the term of Obama's presidency. I am in mourning for the loss of our country to haters and supremacists who are no better than Dylan Roof and the Confederate flag/Southern heritage bunch. When you have to debase others to feel better, you are lacking in character and quality, and you have no right to drag the rest of us down with you.