This message is for my friends*, those that know me, my children, who’s viewpoints may be different, and even to those who completely agree with me. Some of you may choose not to be after but that is not my choice, that is yours. I am still here but if as friends we cannot be open and honest, are we really friends then? Those that may not know me can listen in as well. This is important. Comments are moderated to allow for safe spaces so should you choose to send a foul one, only I will see it and I will respond accordingly. Respect is given when it is received. Which leads me exactly to my point.
Dear Friends (who are preaching peace and civility now)
I was going to write a post, short, sweet, and simple but with so many layers, this isn’t that simple, it cannot be short and I’m not Willy Wonka, I do not sugar coat. First of all, I want to say hello because I haven’t seen you in a while. I saw you yesterday and today with sweet messages of peace and how we are all one. I read your messages about how we must learn to accept our differences and accept defeat, out of respect for our fellow Americans. Hello. It is nice to hear from you after months, years, our entire friendship of silence. Yes my friends, the silent majority. You. My friends, the liberal allies. You, too. I’m not done. To the family members, you thought I wouldn’t address you huh? I see you. Hello.
Where were your talks of peace, of respect for our differences, respect of our fellow Americans, when people dragged us, insulted us, committed crimes against us, killed us, marginalized us, when we fought the schools that failed us, when your friends took up our social spaces to be vile and insult us when we didn’t agree, when they took up yours? Where was your voice then? Where were you when your family members referred to us as thugs (not me though because I’m not like “those”), when they questioned our loyalty as Americans, or when they dismissed our fears of racism despite our actual experience of it? Where was this positivity, this kumbaya mentality of love for your fellow man? Why were you lurking in the shadows? Why were you embarrassed to call me your friend? I believe in peace and kindness and civility. I’m just not picking and choosing when to voice my beliefs for my convenience.
In high school, in my business class, I was being an obnoxious teen, as teens can be. I’ve heard you talk about kids being kids, don’t you dare exempt me there too. I was a kid. Moving on. I had “friends” in that class. People that talked to me every day, said hi to me, hugged me, handed out affirmations of love daily. That day after I spoke, one kid told me to shut up. Innocent enough. Everyone stayed quiet. He was being an obnoxious teen, as teens can be. Then after he had the undivided attention of the whole class told me to go back “to the ghetto where you belong”. The class remained silent. My friends remained silent. Some apologies poured in quietly after, swore they thought that was disgusting but, they never addressed him. Their support lurked in the shadows. They allowed him to speak ill of me, of people like me. They continued their friendship with him, brushed off his behavior and with those actions, they allowed those thoughts and his actions toward the people they called friends, comfortable in the fact that they were not racist because they did not say it. But they didn’t oppose it when it mattered either. This was one of many, many times. By senior year, I limited my interactions to one or two friends. I quieted down, the joie de vivre that kids and teen possess, the one that had started to fade out years prior and instilled a fear in me that made me lose amazing opportunities in the areas of love, had finally gone dark. That is when a girl I knew since 7th grade turned around in our English class and said, “I like you so much better now. You aren’t such a bitch.” Those within earshot laughed it off or ignored it completely. What she meant was, I stopped defending the color of my skin, the curl of my hair, my identity. I stood there and accepted defeat. Now, I was tolerable, not loved, but tolerable. Now, you can be my friend. Let me add that while all four of my grandparents are American, these two individuals used as examples have one of more parent (or grandparent) at home that didn’t speak English. Ain’t that a something?
So you see friends, you do not view yourself as racist, xenophobic, or misogynistic. You view yourself as tolerant of other religions, of other views, of others. But you throw you support behind a man who incites these behaviors in many and then, you are silent when those in your spaces express those disgusting views. And even when you do not support it, you excuse it or justify it or those who have. Your silence speaks volumes to me and I hear you loud and clear. And I hear you today when you finally decide to tell me to quiet down, to not be angry, to accept defeat and to be kind after you lurked in the shadows when my life was dark. With your words, your lack of action, you’ve told me that my submissiveness makes me tolerable, not loved, tolerable. If you were not checking on my well-being, do NOT tell me what to do with my emotions. Respect is given when it is received.
So where do we go from here? You have asked me to be civil and I always will be, but you’ve also asked to choose peace and kindness and respect for our fellow Americans. I will. You have my word. Just as soon as you do.
And you can start here.