My wife, Megan, decided that she wanted to walk to our local coffee spot, The Corner Cup, yesterday morning. Halfway there a motorcyclist rode by with a confederate flag cape wafting behind him just as a black woman on a brisk morning walk passed us by going in the opposite direction. I saw the walker but didn’t see the motorcyclist until he was a few yards further up the road. Megan looked at the walker with solidarity in her eyes and said “Good morning!” The woman looked back and gave her best acknowledgment she possessed in the moment.
That entire Sunday the event haunted me. I found my eyes tearing without my awareness a number times throughout the day — sitting on the couch speechless/petrified, trying to make sense of things. Why didn’t I do anything? What SHOULD I have done?
In the moment when I saw the motorcyclist ride away my adrenaline was high. My impulse was to flip him off, run after him to ‘engage in thoughtful discourse’? Since we weren’t far from our destination I even envisioned that he might also be getting coffee at the same shop. What would I do?
Reality struck, as it often does. What if he had a gun? What if he was packing a knife? Or even more realistically, what if he just had his fists that have been emboldened as of late? And so I was stunned into silence and inaction in the moment.
Typically when Megan and I walk together we hold hands. We were both so disturbed by the events on the way to the coffee shop. So, on our walk home she put her arm around my shoulder and I placed mine around her waist (I’m little). Both Megan and I live by the credo that “Love Wins!” It’s not a short-term solution. It might sometimes feel like spitting into the wind. Make no mistake about it — there is nothing more powerful than love.
I remember a sign I saw during the March for Social Justice in Atlanta this past January. It said “Make Racists Afraid Again!” It spoke to me at the time.
Fear sucks! When people are afraid they are more likely to act in ways that are not always the best representation of who they are or what they hope to accomplish. I want to make racists irrelevant — I would also add ‘again’ but they’ve never really been irrelevant. Let’s be honest.
I think now about Boston and the nearly 100 people who gathered at a ‘Free Speech’ rally in a display of solidarity after the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Then I see the largely peaceful protesters… nearly 40,000 strong.
Freedom of Speech is one of the many reasons that while I might feel shame about what is going on in America that I am still proud to be an American. Freedom of Speech does not belong to one side. Freedom of Speech is not absolute.
We cannot gather and march every day supporting what we of privilege have taken for granted and we of oppressed minorities have known has never gone away. But we can live our lives with love and solidarity.
While I laughed at Tina Fey’s ‘sheet caking’ segment on Weekend Update, I can’t hide from this. My visual activism is one small part of my protest. I dress in a manner that inspires me and tends to engage dialogue and connections with people — driving visibility, awareness, and social change.
Soon I envisioned the motorcyclist with the confederate flag driving through Atlanta. Slowly the ‘Dykes on Bikes’ started gathering on the road… American and rainbow flags waving behind them. This thought filled me with hope. It reminded me of the love that I have to believe will always win.
Stand up for what’s right! Stand up against injustice! Protect one another! Find your words! Find your voice! Be strong! Be brave! Above all, be safe!
Make racists irrelevant. Act with love.