Listening to Trump’s divisiveness, fear mongering, and racist statements, in conjunction with having to read through too many woefully misinformed and many racist comments on my recent article about Hillary, I feel compelled to implore people who will be voting in the Presidential election to please ensure that Trump does not take office.
Let us start by trying to really understand what racism is and the impact of racism on our country. Sadly, Racism, Prejudice, Discrimination, and Bigotry seem to be used a great deal as though they are interchangeable. These words are not interchangeable — they are not all synonyms for Racism. Racism has to contain an institutional and structural power dynamic. Here in the United States that power dynamic is held primarily by white, heterosexual, cisgender, middle-aged, Christian, well-educated men; these are the people who establish norms in our society and have a great deal of unearned privilege because of the color of their skin. This group, called the dominant culture, creates laws and policies — laws and policies that have an ugly history and were designed to help white folk while oppressing folks of color. Thus, Racism is: structural, institutional and systemic power that allows for discrimination and bigotry affecting someone’s health, well being, safety, and livelihood based on real or perceived racial or ethnic affiliation.
Perhaps a bit of a history lesson might be useful here. Let us keep in mind the multi-generational impact of these laws both economically and emotionally. 1857 the Dred Scott Decision: The Supreme Court said that people of African dissent were not and could not be counted as citizens of the United States. Let us jump to 1935 with the start of Social Security — a great act to be passed, but sadly it did not initially apply to anyone who was not white, a significant economic impact. Now let us move to the 1945 GI Bill — great opportunity for soldiers returning from WWII. Sadly, this bill did not initially apply to any of the soldiers of color returning from WWII. Here we see a HUGE economic impact for generations of whites with great advantage and thus a huge disadvantage for multi-generations of people of color. The GI Bill allowed for white soldiers to buy their first home and get a college education; this would qualify as unearned privilege due to one’s skin color.
Let us jump to 1954 when we witness the Termination Act. The Termination Act stripped ALL Native Americans from their identities as our government told all of these people: “Okay, you are white now, so you must live in the cities and turn over your lands to the U.S. government.” The cultural and financial impact on Native Americans was and remains profound.
Even more recent and disgraceful is SB1070 adopted by Arizona in 2010 and then adopted by Alabama in 2011, which demands that ALL Latinos/Hispanics must have proof of citizenship on them at all times. If someone with dark skin that is, or is perceived, to be Latino/Hispanic and cannot provide documentation of citizenship, they can be put in jail. Arizona modified the law with HB 2162, which does not do a lot to mitigate the impact of the very racist law of sB1070.
I approach the work of equity and marginalization as a gay man. Working as an agent of change means I am also obligated to know about the start of Gay Liberation in 1969. The LGBT community has a long history of being targeted and imprisoned. Until 2003 with Lawrence v. Texas, it was against the law to be gay in the United States. Sadly, regardless of Lawrence v. Texas, it is still against the law in most states in the south. In fact, the LGBT community have zero rights and protections in almost all of the South. My personal call to action is to stand in solidarity with all those that are oppressed by the dominant culture and to honor their narratives–to understand how LGBT people of color are targeted and why.
This history is carried with all targeted people and passed down from generation to generation, much like if you are Jewish your family knows about the Holocaust because it affected your family for many generations. Of course, the impact is more severe if one carries more than one of these identities. For example, if you are a woman and a woman of color or if you are a man and a gay man of color, the impact is far worse. Thus the importance of understanding intersecting identities.
Sadly, I, and so many of us, have heard such nasty reactions to the Black Lives Matter initiative. I have even heard such absurd comments like: “Black Lives Matter is racist.” I know many of us grow tired of hearing: “All Lives Matter.” Yes, all lives matter, and can we focus on the black lives right now, given they are disproportionately impacted by violence? Most recently, the shooting of physical therapist, Charles Kinsey, who on his back waving his hands asking, “please don’t shoot me.” There have been over 130 unarmed black men that have been killed just this year, including Philando Castile who was only 32 and Alton Sterling who was shot to death by Baton Rouge police while pinned to the ground.
While I would love to see our country have many political parties, we currently have a two dominant party system. I will be voting for Hillary and we certainly cannot afford a Trump Presidency. I would also ask that you think about the future Supreme Court appointments. Trump’s treatment of Khizr Khan and his family has been nothing less than despicable and is a signature moment for Trump, showing his disdain for veterans and those currently serving in the military.
My hope in publishing this article is to encourage and invite people to engage in a meaningful dialogue around the issues of race, gender, power, and equity. I hope many will contribute to this conversation in a respectful manner and also help me grow and share more effectively if I have committed any harm.