The festering wound of hate
I grew up in the suburbs of Minneapolis. The school I attended was almost exclusively white and was a mix of students from upper middle class white collar families and some middle class blue collar families.
My experience with people of color was mostly limited to the Cosby Show, The Jefferson’s and Webster. I watched reruns of Archie Bunker and was white offended by Archie’s racism but being young, most of the messages in the show went over my head.
I seldom heard people in my life say things I recognized as racist and when I did, I was either silent or I challenged them gingerly.
To me, the Confederacy was always about slavery. I know Texas school books have long blurred that distinction but as I said, I grew up in the north.
I remember the first time I heard anyone speak out about the Confederate flag. It was Tom Petty and fans had been bringing them to his shows. I don’t remember how that started but I hadn’t thought twice about it till he said something. It hadn’t occurred to me that the confederate flag for a big portion of our population signified slavery. It does though.
Fast forward to today. I have transitioned genders and my privilege which had previously been invisible has hit me in the head like one of the baseball bats that the alt-right Nazis were carrying in Charlottesville.
I never thought much about the n-word. I thought it was unacceptable to use in any company but remained confused when it showed up in rap lyrics.
All of a sudden in my life, there was language that was used to diminish me as a person. I could be called tranny or shemale or he/she or just transgenders usually spoken with vitriol.
It fell to me to challenge those terms but, to the person using them, I was already less. I was beneath them and not worthy of not insulting. I certainly was not a person they should listen to as I asked them not to use that language. I am forced to depend on allies who are not transgender to challenge that language. If an ally is silent, there are no consequences to the person using the language. The only consequences are to me as the person diminished.
The same circumstances apply to other hate speech. If a white person uses the n-word unchallenged, it is tact acknowledgement that the language is acceptable to other white people listening.
The same applies to concepts and ideas. I am forced to rely on cisgender women to speak out for me on public restroom use. People of color are forced to rely on white people to challenge racist assumptions and statements from immigration to the treatment of black communities by police to assumptions about Muslims and terrorism.
The events of Charlottesville have taken a lot of the alt-right Nazis by surprise. They spent years not being challenged for their language and behavior but, after witnessing the violence and imagery of the unite the right rally, white people are pushing back.
White people have been silent too long and our silence has allowed and enabled the growth of these Nazis in America.
Hate must be challenged, always, or it festers and grows like an infection in our society. When one of the marchers in Charlottesville was identified and his parents interviewed, they said enough was enough and he would have to shovel their bodies into the ovens too. It is important to challenge all the speech be that around the dinner table or in the office or at happy hour. We all must be unequivocal and clear that racist and hateful language and speech is unacceptable.