Happy new year, y'all. This post is all about urging you not to stay silent. Don't be afraid to address injustice. You don't have to rely on insults. Nor do you have to accept insults. Speak up and speak out with compassion.
The start of the year is also the start of the congressional session. For Karen Handel, this is her first full congressional session. You may have heard about the contentious 2017 election in Georgia's 6th district, between her and Jon Ossoff. Notable for many reasons, it is the most expensive House election ever.
Until the next one, of course. Which could be this year! Don't forget that the ENTIRE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES IS UP FOR ELECTION in 2018. Get informed and VOTE, y'all. #forfuckssake
In honor of Karen Handel, who's NOT the first woman from Georgia to be in Congress (more on that later), let's review a comment thread that happened just after her win in June 2017.
The original post (not pictured) expressed dismay, from queer person, at Handel's win. A response:
"If you do your research"—yes, that would be wonderful. Especially because your previous statement is FALSE.
This is the point at which a legitimate assumption could be made. I did. And I posted it. With no guilt. Though this sort of statement looks aggressive on a screen, I meant it as a simple statement of fact:
That last censored box is the tag of her name. I wanted her to be notified of my legitimate assumption.
Subsequent comments on the thread were positive, despite the intense political climate. For example:
Other commenters were critical of Handel. For example:
Some context on "She hates gay folks": Handel does not believe in equality. For example, she opposes basic human rights for LGBTQIA people, such as marriage (or even civil unions), domestic partner benefits, and adoption.
Handel's message: For orphans, growing up without parents is better than being raised by non-hetero parents.
Eventually, the enthusiastic, mistakenly-certain-that-she-was-actually-informed supporter of Handel returned. She addressed me directly. She had a LOT to throw in my face. Like how I'm so awful:
Indeed, how dare I infer anything from people's own words.
More important is the point at which she admitted some of her ignorance. Not coincidentally, this is also where she begins to prove my assumption to be true:
Whew, there's a lot going on in this huge paragraph. I do want to emphasize this part:
"Im [sic] not sure what living wage is. Ill [sic] have to research that."
Hmm, for someone who's all about doing your research, you're not the most informed voter. Kudos for being willing to admit it. Perhaps this ignorance has something to do with privilege....
But wait, there's more:
Fortunately for me, she continued proving my point. For example:
"We have come a long way with gay rights. Gays can get legaly [sic] married, adopt children, have a surrogate to have a child for you, you have a child with donor sperm, ect [sic]. Openly run businesses, have a successful reality show, ect [sic]."
Yes, coming a long way for all people to have access to marriage and adoption. Except that those are all policies which your winner candidate OPPOSES. You don't know about the actual views of the candidate you champion.
Wait, there's STILL more:
This is an awkward attempt at describing #maga without actually using the phrase. She didn't use "again," but "start putting the greatness back into OUR country" is a damn loud dog whistle.
Given that, I considered carefully how to respond. I had no intention of backing down on my point about privilege.
My approach to disagreements is to start with kindness and continue with respect:
We agree: Do you research.
I made another assumption in this process, which was that a person who'd comment "Why is sexual preference being thrown in face?" and get very defensive about "gays" would not listen to my rebuttals to those comments.
Nevertheless, I was not going to allow that ignorance to go unremarked:
As previously mentioned, Handel does actually support the rights that the supporter is so happy that the "gays" have these days. I could have more clearly stated that Handel has stated her support to reduce these rights.
However, I intentionally pointed out the supporter's implication: that she, as an individual, is ignorant the views of the lawmaker for whom she voted.
I felt complete there. I could have stopped. But in my journey of learning about privilege and unconscious bias, I know the emotions that surface when someone shows me my harmful beliefs. Hurt, rage, shame, embarrassment, defensiveness—I've been there and more.
So I added what I think is crucial to have in these discussions:
Not that I expected her to agree with me. But it's still worth saying.
My last point was the most personal, given my identity as a woman and my voting history in my own district:
Just because DJT and his offspring tweet something repeatedly doesn't make it true.
Check your privilege. Check your facts. Continue the respectful dialogue the world needs.
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