A Less Perfect Union

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CW: anti-Blackness, racism, police violence

I spent most of this afternoon in deep Brooklyn at a film shoot as an extra. I’m still out here, walking around and trying to get my thoughts straight. (This probably should be at least two separate reflections.)

The film is, broadly, about gender fluidity, but the talent (read: those of us not in street clothes) featured in the scenes being filmed not only ran the spectrum of gender identity but also race and ethnicity. I started the afternoon very clearly convinced that I was not nearly cool enough to be there, but the environment that the performers created was so supportive and mutually affirming that within 30 minutes, I was able to look at least mostly past my own insecurities.

As somebody who has tried their best to find spaces that weren’t so white and heteronormative in a series of institutionally backward-facing environments, this felt truly and organically different, a feeling I have not had often.

But the people marching today do not see most of the people I spent time with today, myself included, as less human, or less than human, simply because of the color of their skin. (The distinction doesn’t much matter right now.) The people who told someone they didn’t know to simply be me, to express myself, to have confidence in myself are apparently somehow unworthy of existing in this world. As much as LGBTQ issues can’t and shouldn’t be separated in practice from the question of race and their combined role in this white supremacist backlash, I would like to make this conversation simpler.

Even if you support a president whose policies I find unequivocally abhorrent, this march alone should make you question why we are still here.

If it doesn’t, I’d like to talk.

And that president’s inability to condemn an act or terror against those assembling against the white supremacist rally should make you question why he can’t take a stand against literal, overt, and intentional racism, and whether living in that world is okay with you.

If it doesn’t, I’d like to talk.

I am unquestionably from the North. Of the five cities I’ve lived in, my current one, New York, is the furthest south. The narrative I was given growing up in Cleveland was that race was a problem, but we were the ones who came in and fixed it. My state’s only hockey team is named explicitly after the Union Blue of the American uniforms during the Civil War.

In first grade, I had a creative writing exercise where I wrote a history of France over the next ten years. I decided that there would be a civil war in 2004, with slavery once again being the issue. (I think I saw it as an excuse to try to freehand sketch the borders of France.)

My teacher chuckled and told me that it was “creative”, but that I shouldn’t have to worry about people having such overtly racist motivations anymore.

My claimed city of Cleveland has a police force that shot an unarmed 12-year-old Black child while under federal investigation for shooting at two unarmed Black people 143 times. Try to tell me that police forces, which the George W. Bush-era FBI noted were becoming hotbeds of white supremacy, should make everybody feel safe.

My 95% white suburban hometown, with a median household income of $70,000 and a poverty rate of under 2%, voted 48% for Obama, and almost 2:1 for Donald. Try to tell me that the shift wasn’t about the threatened dominance of the cis straight white man but purely economic.

The car that mowed down counterprotestors was registered in Lucas County, a county that contains Ohio’s fourth largest city and has not voted for a Republican since 1984. Try to tell me that the people we want to find are unfindable and unreachable or, more dangerously, all confined to a sliver of the rural South.

People have already put their bodies and their lives on the line for this. If you believe yourself an ally, if you believe in the idea that a more perfect union requires the establishment of justice and the promotion of the general welfare, if you believe in the promise this country has never truly fulfilled for a massive segment of our people, your people, the very least you can do is put your feelings and your pride on the line for them.

I know where many of you stand on this issue. For the hundreds of others I may not have talked to in a while, I hope that if I reach out to you in the coming days and weeks, you will be patient with me, listen critically to what I have to say, and offer your honest thoughts without fear of judgment.

Do @ me, y’all.

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