Requiem: for a better world

I’ve lived in the Southern US my entire life. I grew up in a white, conservative Baptist home and my family went to (and still goes to) a mostly white, conservative Baptist church.

For my family and church, the world was better for us than the reality of many. I learned racial and homophobic slurs before I knew what racism and homophobia were. Mostly from my father and grandfather who used them occasionally and never in a good way.

I learned more or less through osmosis and white culture that there were black people who were the “good ones” and black people who were “thugs,” “hoodlums,” etc. But my public elementary school thankfully taught me history as it was in America not just for white people. I learned much about civil rights and recognized that the slurs my family would use were wrong, but didn’t see racism beyond that people said “racist” things.

My church was never explicitly racist or homophobic. But the subtleties were always there. Now more blatantly expressed especially in the wake of legalization of same-sex marriage, the Orlando shootings, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the Dallas shooting.

The first time I even heard the word gay was in second grade and it was used to describe a girl who was more “butch” than the rest. My Sunday school teacher around this same time surmised that perhaps the curse of Ham was in making people black/resulted in the continent of Africa.

In my family, while slavery was condemned as bad, they argued that black people should just “get over it” as if systemic racism was over when the Emancipation Proclamation happened or when schools were desegregated during the 60s. But it’s not over. And white people need to open their eyes and hearts to where we need to change.

Donald Trump wants to “make America great again.” What he really means is maintaining the status quo of Whiteness as being privileged and in power. And no one else. We like to pretend it’s not our problem that our founding fathers as a whole did virtually nothing to stop slavery and oppression. As a matter of fact, racism, oppression, and violence against black people and Native Americans is woven into the fabric of this nation’s history. Anyone who is Other or not like what we perceive as beautiful, normal, worthy of value in this country ends up being marginalized and made invisible. This is our history.

When I was growing up, I saw the world as full of potential, ready to fulfill my dreams and if I worked hard, I could achieve those dreams. If I was good enough, kind enough, loving enough, my life would be easy.

And actually, the world I live in is set up that way. Because I, as a white woman, have so much privilege. Not as much as a white, straight, cisgender man. But still. A lot more than I ever realized. It is incumbent upon me to say that being gay and a woman in this country does indeed make my life hard. And yet, I can hide behind my race even though my gender and orientation are often things that people use to discriminate against me.

The world is not as I had hoped for everyone. My concept of the world as mostly filled with good, kind people who treated each other with respect and dignity.

That idealistic, ignorant view of life has died. And I mourn for a better world for all those who have been severely mistreated. I mourn for this world–this dark, sinister, scary world. I long for it to be better and brighter for everyone. I long for a world where everyone really does matter and has the same opportunities to succeed. Where black people aren’t shot at traffic stops just for reaching for their wallets. Where people aren’t shot at a nightclub just for being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.

I long for a better world. It is not the world that we have. But it’s the world we should strive to have. The dignity of human beings is not up for debate. And it’s not a matter of opinion when we do not value everyone in a society based on race, gender, orientation, or physical ability.

Today…and for several months now…today I woke up angry. So angry at all that has happened. So angry at the loss of life and bloodshed we are so accustomed to in America. It seems we never get a chance to take a breath and grieve before something else happens causing us to grieve more. I want it to stop. I just want it all to stop. but I know I have no control over stopping the world from destroying itself. It feels like I have no control over how this nation is tearing itself apart from the inside out by snuffing out the lives of the most vulnerable.

I also know that giving into despair isn’t the answer. It’s not an option to quit–to give up hope. And I want to focus on what I do have control over. What WE have control over is standing up against in justice. We can say Black Lives Matter and not just say it but really truly mean it with our words and actions.

I can stand with my queer brothers and sisters and fight for no more hate. (’cause sorry Peter Thiel but the bathroom issue IS a big deal for trans people. they deserve better.) I will not give in to hate. I will not let fear and hate win. I hope that all of the violence that has happened these past few weeks and the past centuries in our country becomes less and less. That we take a stand for love, kindness, justice.

This is my requiem for a better world. It isn’t the world any of us asked for, but it’s the world we have. Let us make it a better place than it is now.

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