We Need to Speak Out!

I haven’t really known what to write since Tuesday night. I know that I need to speak out though, because sadly we live in a country and world that silences the voices of those who aren’t white, heterosexual males. No matter how loud the marginalized populations scream, they fall upon deaf ears. That is not fair. Everyone, and I mean everyone, deserves a voice and they shouldn’t have to scream to be heard.

I may not be a man, but I have to recognize my privilege as a white heterosexual woman and use it for good. I can’t stay silent, because I “don’t know what to say.” I can’t stay silent, because I’m unaffected by this racist, homophobic rhetoric. I can’t stay silent, because I don’t want to call attention to myself or start an argument with an ignorant white person.

I have to speak out, because I know I will be heard due to my privilege as a white person.I refuse to stand with those who do not speak out, because they are white. I refuse to stand with those who claim they are not racist and then vote for a man like Trump. I have to speak out for my brothers and sisters of color, my brothers and sisters who are Muslim, my brothers and sisters who immigrated here for a better life, and my brothers and sisters of the LBGTQ community. I have to speak out, because when my ancestors were put in internment camps and exterminated during the Holocaust, I wish more people had spoken out for us. I want you to know that you are my brothers and my sisters, because race, religion, culture, and sexual orientation are not things that should divide any of us. What divides us is racism, xenophobia, and homophobia. What divides us is a man running on a platform of hate. And the scary thing is, he didn’t have to create that hate, it already existed in our schools, our media, our homes. He just had to tell people it was okay to express it openly, for people to feel comfortable enough to come out of the shadows and scream it at the top of their lungs. He merely shined a light on an already troubling issue in America.

We white liberals cannot deny that this hatred was always festering beneath the surface. It never went away when we ended slavery, when we ended the Jim Crow laws, when the civil rights movement woke us up to these injustices. It didn’t even go away when we elected the first black President. What it did was slowly poison the soil, seep into our rhetoric, spread rampantly throughout our schools, and hide between the whispers of our neighbors. I wasn’t in shock on Tuesday, because I knew these things to be true. I witnessed them firsthand, but I didn’t always say something and I’m ashamed of that.

I was born in Philadelphia. I lived in West Philly  and attended a K-12 school. I was the minority in that school. My family was half Jewish (Russian/Polish) and half Irish/English. In kindergarten there were a lot of white children. Then slowly over the years, as the black community moved into my neighborhood, the white community moved out. They fled to the suburbs. My family didn’t leave for a long time though as these changes happened. I was a kid and I didn’t care whether my friends were white, black, brown, or purple. To me they were kids just like me. My best friends in 2nd grade were two Vietnamese twin girls, a Puerto Rican girl, an African American girl, and a Jewish girl that looked like me. I had a little boyfriend named Kyle Green, who was black and had a rat tail hair cut. He gave me my first kiss on the cheek, then ran away giggling with his best friend, a Chinese boy. I had two friends down the street that came from Iraq and escaped because they were Christian. They were my friends and I never thought about them being different.

My family respected everyone. My dad was a teacher in the city and people would constantly ask him why he didn’t work in the suburbs where the kids were better behaved and succeeded in life. He refused to leave the city, because he was passionate about giving a fair chance to African American kids, who no one believed in. He hounded his students to do better, because he believed in them. I worked with some of his students later in life at Whole Foods and they all told me how much my dad made a difference in their lives. It was when we moved to the suburbs in 1999, that I became painstakingly aware of the blatant segregation that still existed in our school system.

When I started 6th grade mid-year at Haverford Middle School, the Assistant Principal told my mom that even though I was in the gifted honors classes at my school in Philadelphia, that didn’t compare to the gifted classes in the suburbs. He wouldn’t allow me to sign up for level one classes, because I was a city kid and therefore not as smart as the suburban kids. This stigmatized me for three years. I felt like I was not smart enough even though the level 2 classes were too easy for me.

Anyway, I digress from my point. My point is that I soon realized all the white students moved to the suburbs and received top class education, while all the poor minorities were stuck in the cities and received less than sub par education. All of the funding went to the suburban schools and the state government constantly pulled funding from the city schools. If it isn’t obvious enough from that, that the government cares more about the white people with money than the poor minorities in the city, than I don’t know what is.

My mom became a guidance counselor after going back to school, and she worked in the city as well. It seemed like every two years the school she would be working at would close, because they didn’t do well on the standardized tests and funding was pulled from the school. She switched schools 6 times. On the other hand, my school did great on the standardized tests and all the teachers got palm pilots and the students got a cruise on the Philadelphia Spirit. I was very aware of this stark contrast and it angered me, but I was afraid to say anything to my white friends. It took me three years to make friends at Haverford, so once I had them I didn’t want to rock the boat.

They knew I was a hippie who cared about the environment and social justice and wrote articles for the school newspaper about not drilling in Alaska and consumerism. I started a club called Feed the Children to raise money for hunger issues locally and abroad. I screamed at them for not recycling, but when my friends would say things like, “I like black people, but not those thugs in the city,” I didn’t know what to say. I had black friends at work, but there were barely any black kids at my school. Most of my white friends claimed to not be racist and then would spout rhetoric like that. It pissed me off, but I just smiled awkwardly and nodded. These were the kinds of things people said in the suburbs. Of course at home I could be more open. My dad constantly said white people are the ignorant ones, and I knew it.

White heterosexual liberals can be just as bad when they don’t even realize that they are racist or homophobic. I had friends that would say, I don’t mind gays, but they better not hit on me or I have nothing against them, but they shouldn’t be allowed to get married. There was no way we were as bad as the white supremacists living in the rural parts of Pennsylvania, because we had black friends and gay friends and voted Democrat every election. My family once went camping in rural PA and we saw Confederate flags on the back of people’s pickup trucks. I asked my mom if those people knew that PA wasn’t even part of the Confederacy, and she said, “sadly there are bigots every where.”

So, when the election results came rolling in late Tuesday night, I wasn’t shocked. I prayed it wouldn’t happen. I wanted to believe that we were better than this, but I knew deep down we weren’t. Trump was just able to do something that no other candidate has done. He went into those rural areas and fed the beast of bigotry. He lured them all out of the shadows and said it is okay to be a racists, xenophobic, sexist and homophobic. He let them wave their white flags and pound on their chests and be the animals that they have always wanted to openly be. I guess it is better that it’s out in the open now, so we can’t deny it, but as white liberals we don’t get to say we are shocked or we didn’t know it really existed. Our brothers and sisters have been yelling this at us for a long time, and we just didn’t want to listen or acknowledge it to be true.

Well the cat is out of the bag now and it isn’t going back in. We have a president who is dangling a mouse in front of the mouths of those despicable racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic people and that is how he won the election. He also won, because no one could fathom having a woman president. I totally understand that Hillary wasn’t a perfect candidate, but I also understand that this country wasn’t ready for a strong woman to run it. A black president was already too much for middle America to fathom, they weren’t going to let us move the dial that far forward in the name of progress. While 2008 was a revolution for the minorities to gain a voice through their vote, 2016 has been a revolution of the white man to snatch that vote back and regain their power and control over the country. They are here to let everyone know who is really in charge, and to not fool ourselves anymore.

Well, we have a message for them! We are not going to be silenced. We need to speak out for everyone that isn’t being heard. I will not let my gay sister lose her rights (my actual sister I mean), but also all my gay sisters and brothers. When she cried on Wednesday about the future of this country, I cried with her. I cried about all of my friends who live in fear of ICE deporting them. I cried about women’s rights, because Planned Parenthood was there for me when I wasn’t ready to be a mother and they were there for me when I was unemployed and needed annual checkups and free birth control. I cried about a rapist being elected president, because I’ve been raped and every time I see a rapist set free by a sexist judge I feel sick to my stomach. I cried for the Muslim families coming from Syria for safety. I cried for the future of America, the America that was moving in the direction of progress finally and is now coming to a halting stop and moving backwards again.

Now, I’m done crying!

Now, I’m ready to fight!

I’m ready to stand beside my LBGTQ friends, my black friends, my Mexican friends, my Muslim friends, my female friends and fight!

We cannot be silenced! We will roar right to the White House. We will lobby. We will switch the Congress in two years to a Democratic majority. We will educate Americans who thing they did a good thing electing Trump. We will make America Great, not again but for the first time, because it wasn’t great before. It was only great for white people. It needs to be great for everyone. The change they want, is a reversal of all the change we made. We won’t allow them to change that. We will take to the streets. We will speak up when someone says something hateful towards anyone. I’m finding it hard to not be hateful back, but I will educate them and shower them with love.

Let’s come together. Let’s stop hiding behind our whiteness and help our friends and family by screaming with them. Let’s make sure Trump gets nothing on his agenda done. He wants us to come together, well we will but not for his benefit.

Are you with me!?

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

-Martin Niemoller


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