Why “Sticks and Stones…” needs to die

Yesterday, my wife and I were taking a walk near our house in the East Bay city of Martinez. It was a beautiful day until the air was rent by a “Fuck you Nigger” hurled at me from a passing car.

Now, this was not the first time that has happened (it happened a few times when I lived in Boston). Also, my wife is white, so I’ve had at least one threat of violence from white men (it’s always white men who seem to take special umbrage) in Boston. But it was the first time this had happened in the 3 years since we moved to the Bay Area three years ago, and it was disappointing.

Now, we have a neighborhood Facebook page, and I posted about the incident there. By and large, most of the comments were incredibly supportive (a few veered into weird territory, like defending the Confederate flag and claiming Trump is not racist). But one comment quoted the ‘Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will not hurt me’ saying, and a couple more were along the same line. While I appreciated the intent of the comment, I think it totally misses the point.

As a black person, I don’t have the luxury of being blasé about racism. Sure, the “Nigger” hurled from a passing car is the most base manifestation of racism, but more damaging is the real estate agents who discriminated against me in Boston, as is the cop driving by who screeched around and who stopped my wife and I to check whether she was OK (because surely a white woman standing arm in arm waiting for a bus with a black man must be in mortal danger, and once he found out she was my fiancee he gave me a look that could kill), or the multiple ‘random’ stops while driving in the Boston Metro area.

It’s easy to suggest to someone that ‘they just let it roll off’ their back when you have never been in that situation. It is the same advice given to women to ‘just ignore cat-callers’. It is stunningly bad advice, as many women can tell you that ignoring catcalls has led to both verbal and/or physical assault. It is easy if you are not in it to see an incident as a one-off, as opposed to being part of a larger pattern.

Now to Trump. It is also easy to want to see it as a one off. But if you are black/minority (or Muslim, or LGBT, or a woman), you can see a direct link between political rhetoric and your daily experiences. Boston in the 1990s was terrible because of how white city elites had used busing to scapegoat blacks, and the Charles Stuart affair in 1991 definitely did not help matters. Our current pied-piper of raging white hot hate and resentment is Donald Trump, and there have been a number of incidents even outside his rallies (i.e 2 of his supporters assaulted a Hispanic man in Boston). While I don’t know whether the person who yelled a racial slur at me was a Trump supporter, there is no denying that by and large he is the electoral choice for someone with views like this.

A few weeks ago, Emily L Hauser wrote a terrific article asking where all the hate is going to go. Even if Trump loses (Dear God, please let him lose), where is all the hate that has been stoked going to go?

I’m afraid of the morning after. I’m afraid of what happens when Trump loses.
Trump is not (by any means or measure) the only misogynistic, bigoted xenophobe in the 21st century Republican Party, and in the process of winnowing its primary field, the GOP has given increasingly clamorous voice to a profoundly embittered, violently enraged, and often well-armed minority, in the process normalizing it.

Trump has ushered in a new normal, where it is okay to display ones bigotry proudly and openly. I’m afraid we’ve not seen the last of it. I doubt “Just ignore it!” is going to be a viable solution.

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