Donald Trump is right about one thing: America has become too polite.
Too often we think if we just vote the other direction, we’ve done our part. We feel it isn’t our place to get involved in the face of adversity. We want to do it from afar, at the ballot box and in our homes, but not when we see an actual injustice. We’d rather go home and tell our friends on Facebook about how tragic it was instead of doing something to help.
Protesters at Trump’s rallies across the country aren’t willing to turn the other cheek while hate runs rampant. His presidential campaign wears the guise of “Make America Great Again,” but let’s keep it real and call it what it is: “The American Hate Plan.”
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He is sexist. He trashes Muslims and Mexicans. He revels in violence. But at least Chicagoans shut him down, temporarily. Trump canceled his rally there on Friday, claiming protesters are violent. But he encourages his supporters to fight, to “knock the hell out of” opponents. No wonder Trump lover John McGraw punched Rakeem Jones in the face as he and other demonstrators were being escorted out of Trump’s North Carolina rally last week.
“Yes, he deserved it,” McGraw said in an interview after the sucker-punch. “The next time we see him, we might have to kill him. We don’t know who he is. He might be with a terrorist organization,”
That’s what happens when a presidential hopeful offers to pay the legal fees of anyone who fights protesters. Trump incites racial slurs, punches and threats. And he set the tone for the protests that led Kansas City police to pepper-spray the crowd outside of Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland on Saturday.
We must continue to speak out. When we see someone push hate and we say nothing, our silence is complicity.
As Brandon Stanton, the photographer behind the website Humans of New York, said in an open letter to Trump on Monday: “I realize now that there is no correct time to oppose violence and prejudice. The time is always now. Because along with millions of Americans, I’ve come to realize that opposing you is no longer a political decision. It is a moral one.”
This isn’t just about standing up to Trump and going to protests. We can’t change the country until we learn to advocate for one another every day.
Last weekend, my sister-friend was at young professionals party in Virginia when a guy asked her whether she liked porn and told her she looked like she could “take a good pounding.” He grabbed her arm and said this confidently in a room filled with college-educated career folk, just as casually as someone might say hello. He sexually harassed her, and she was brave enough to stand up for herself.
But where was everyone else? No one said a thing. We’ve lost our heart to draw the line, not just politically but in life. We have to find our voice.
A week ago, my friend was at her monthly game night in Johnson County when a woman had the audacity to say to her, “It’s no wonder you’re the only Jew at the table, since you like being in control so much.”
A hush fell over the table. My friend was so shocked she didn’t know how to respond. No one came to her defense, probably wanting to maintain civility over the Chardonnay and veggie platter. But someone should have. My friend kept her composure. Outside, after the party, she privately let the woman know how inappropriate her comment was.
I wish I had her guts and poise at a family-and-friends dinner in February, when I was the only brown person in the room. Ladies were holding big glasses of red wine, eating lobster and shrimp, and happily laughing together — the epitome of girl fun. Then someone told a story about a masseuse they all love, and they couldn’t stop talking about how “ghetto” the spa is.
I kept quiet. I didn’t want to be considered an angry black woman and ruin a happy night. The thing that really struck me is, had one of them insulted one of my friends, I wouldn’t have shrunk into the shadows. But since it was something that only hurt me, I let it go.
We’ve created a culture of taking seats when we should be taking stands. It won’t always be polite or fun or the right time. But if it’s rooted in love, it will trump hate. And that’s worth it every single time.