Today was a glorious late-summer day here on the Shoreline, as we call it. The high was in the mid-seventies, the humidity was low, and the wisps of clouds looked like they were painted in just to add a little texture to the sheltering sky above them. I sat at the table on our patio and drank my coffee, since my Saturday morning offered me room to do so. I sat in the shade while Lizzy!, our youngest Schnauzer, sunned on the top step.
After a while, I picked up my phone to read the paper and then moved on to see what news my friends were sharing. One posted a link to an article about the Trump administration filing a brief to force the Supreme Court to rule on whether sexual orientation was covered by laws that banned employment discrimination on the basis of sex. The article noted,
Remarkably, the department argued in its memorandum that the reason anti-gay discrimination is not unlawful under the ban on sex-based discrimination is because, in cases of adverse treatment by an employer, both gay men and gay women would be addressed equally poorly.
My friend, who is gay, wrote in their post,
Early on in his administration I expressed dismay and disappointment with people who I love and care about that voted for Trump. I expressed worry that he would be working to strip me and people like me of our rights in this country. My loved ones said that wouldn’t happen, that people in the US wouldn’t let it happen. Well, here we go.
Tonight, after Ginger and I walked home from the Guilford Italian Festival at St. George’s Catholic Church, another reminder of the wonderful little town we live in, I saw a post from a friend who lives in Durham, North Carolina with these pictures—taken today in Hillsborough NC
—and only these words: “This is fifteen miles from my house.”
My friend is Turkish. They are also American.
Hillsborough is between Durham and Greensboro where last month Trump held a rally and bashed Rep. Ilhan Omar, among others. The crowd responded by chanting words he had tweeted about her—“Send her back”—and he did nothing to stop them.
After I wrote my post last night, Ginger and I watched a special Oprah did on When They See Us. First, she interviewed the cast, along with Ava Duvernay, the writer and director. Then she talked to the five men, whom she called the Exonerated Five. One of the question she asked was if the held the DA responsible for what happened to them. One of the men said he did because there were several points in the investigation—the lack of DNA evidence, the lack of any kind of physical evidence, the fact that they had nothing that put the boys in that part of Central Park—she could have said, “The evidence is not here; we need to find another way.” But she didn’t.
Colleges and universities are beginning their fall semesters. At Baylor University, my alma mater, this year begins, as have many others, without the school being willing to recognize an LGBTQ student group on campus, which is to say, the university knows they are there, they just won’t say they are legitimately part of the university community. The regents have written things in that sort of love-the-sinner-hate-the-sin kind of language that lets them feel like they are welcoming, but gives them cover for their discrimination. Yes, I know they say they are being true to their faith. But go back to the first of this post and read what the Department of Justice is trying to do to LGBTQ folks on a national level. What Baylor is doing gives them cover, too.
But this is not just Baylor’s problem. It’s mine, too. It’s ours.
I deeply wish my conservative Christian friends would speak up against the damage being done, but it appears they are not going to do that. I wish our elected officials were less beholden to power and money and would act courageously, but those that will are far and few between. I can’t control what they do. I can control what I do.
It feels alarmist to write that we need to prepare to resist until I realize (again) my position of privilege. I have never had to worry that I was going to be left out or hurt because I am white, male, Christian, straight, or cisgender. I have never had to worry that I would be disenfranchised or deported or assumed to be a criminal because of my skin color. I have never lost a job because of my orientation. When I listen to those who live with the reality of all of those things, I can see that the alarms have been going off for a long time. I am just now hearing them.
The Supreme Court may give Trump the authority he seeks to openly discriminate. Trump’s rhetoric continues to give white nationalists permission, even validation, to take to the streets with public hate. We need to speak up and protest. And we need to vote, though what is going on now will not be fixed by the 2020 election. We have to get ready to take care of those who are targeted as “enemies” for nothing more than not being white. We need to learn from those who ran the Underground Railroad, from Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, from Dorothy Day and James Baldwin and Woody Guthrie, from Jimmy Santiago Baca and Naomi Shihab Nye, from those scattered across Europe in various forms of the Resistance, and from anyone we can think of that can teach us how to resist. How to stand up for one another.
I find hope that a lot of folks are way ahead of me. A host of Baylor alumni, both gay and straight, have been tenacious in putting pressure on the school to do more than posture compassion. People across the country are helping undocumented folks find their way. Groups like the Equal Justice Initiative, Facing History and Ourselves, and the Southern Poverty Law Center, alongside of things like the 1619 Project, are helping to change the narrative we tell ourselves about who we are and how we became who we are.
I don’t want people I love to go to sleep afraid of what might happen to them because they are who they are, and yet that is happening on this lovely summer evening.
I choose to take that personally.