By Lisa Keating
To the people lamenting about leaving Facebook since the election, I want you to know that things are NOT normal. The reason you are uncomfortable with your newsfeed is because things are not normal. Many of us feel it in our souls. Which is why we are so distraught, frighten and lost.
Admittedly, I have caught myself deciding not to share certain articles. Why? Because I was uncomfortable. And was becoming concerned with the people I’m connected with being inundated, overwhelmed or, worse, stop listening. Guess what? THAT is a luxury.
I get to choose not to share the video of 5 police officers taking turns beating a man with Billy clubs on the ground then get out of the way for the police dog to attack him repeatedly while ON THE GROUND. Oh, and the extra gut wrenching part of watching one of the officers pin an ankle to the ground with his foot WHILE the dog attacked him.
I get to choose whether or not to share the photographs of a black high school student tortured by a peer with a HOT GLUE GUN.
Or the swastika carved into a wall in a bar I visited less than three weeks ago. How about the Southern Poverty Law Center reporting 400 hundred hate based incidents SINCE November 8th from. Let’s do the math, shall we?
On average that’s 50 per day in SEVEN days. If that doesn’t cause you alarm, you are not my target audience. Feel free to move along.
Here’s how normalization starts to happen. I, a committed advocate for social justice, censor how many uncomfortable stories I share within my social media circles. Internally, I have begun to make excuses for which story is too harsh, unnerving, totally appalling to share, yet again. I censor who I talk to about certain horrible acts of violence and hate based attacks. By proxy, I give permission to those around me to do the same.
As a white, cisgender woman, all of these things are a luxury. To ignore, stay silent, or justify. Because they are not directly happening to me. My trans daughter passes easily and is less at risk than other trans people. A couple years ago that was not the case. I was hyper-aware and vigilant towards unknown people. Trusting a “friendly face” was no longer an option for a long period of time. #NIMBY is a dangerous symptom.
What I do and say matters. And what I don’t do and say matters equally. “White fragility” is a real thing that is perpetuating violence and oppression. In part due to complicit silence. A bystander is someone who stands by and does or says nothing. Every single minority group can no longer afford your silence or unwillingness to “be” uncomfortable.
If we are to survive and overcome this incoming administration, we must be willing to be uncomfortable. There must be a collective willingness to say something in the face of rejection. #welcometocomingout
Given our current reality for the next four years, cannot afford my silence or yours. My daughter cannot afford our silence. People suffering from police brutality steeped in racism cannot afford our silence. Every single person and family fearing deportation, ethnic and religious registration cannot afford our silence. Those I love in same sex marriages cannot afford our silence. Survivors of sexual assault and people with disabilities cannot afford our silence.
And to those of you angry at people wearing safety pins as a symbol of solidarity, I ask you to evaluate your judgment. Are there people doing it to make themselves feel or look better? Sure. However, a majority of people are trying to do something. Even if that something seems insignificant or ignorant to you.
When you took your first step into social justice was it graceful? Or was it clumsy, awkward and probably offensive to someone you knew? It’s easy to look down on others in the world of social activism. We tear each other apart for not knowing enough or doing the right thing. We cannot afford your self-righteousness.
Find some grace and encourage in someone’s step and willingness to wear a safety pin. Or however they try to show up in solidarity. Then compassionately educate them on next steps. BE the change you want to see. Guide them to another level of being uncomfortable as an ally. If I shut down every person that asked me an awkward, offensive or ignorant question around transgender issues our family would be alone. Period.
I have gone door to door canvassing registered voters on transgender inclusion in an effort to maintain a ten year old Washington State anti-discrimination rights for gender identity and sexual orientation. Let me break that down for you. I went door to door eliciting strangers’ permission to maintain equal access under the law for my daughter.
I’ll wait for you to process that.
Every single door I knocked on or doorbell I rang brought a wave of nausea, panic, and terror. With each door I knocked on (over 200), I opened myself up to my worst nightmare, whether or not it happened. Each door was an unknown. Every address was a potential threat. An uncomfortable conversation I opened myself up to. Because maintaining my daughter’s access to equal rights under the law was more important than being uncomfortable. Who was I to say, “I don’t feel comfortable” when my own child was under attack. As do transgender citizens across the country. On Monday Texan GOP lawmaker filed a version of HB2 for the upcoming legislative session.
In times of division, we must seek ways to be more inclusive not less. We are better served by being mentors in social justice than judge and jury. Keep in mind that we are all under attack. This new administration does not differentiate between minority subcategories. We are all under threat. And we have a choice. Stand united or be annihilated.
I am not willing to become complacent or idle. I’m asking you to do the same.
My comfort is not a deal breaker nor a measurement of involvement. Being on the right side of humanity will always be uncomfortable. You may lose friends, acquaintances or family relationships. I won’t sugarcoat it, that’s a scary and intimidating step to take. I know from first hand experience.
Here are the questions to focus on:
This is your country. Does it resemble and represent the one you love?
What are you willing to do?
Can you look yourself in the mirror and feel confident you did everything you could?
What step are you willing to take right now?
When will you take that step?