Civil Rights

BNV Finals: Asheville Offering

TRANSCRIPT OF CIVIL RIGHTS BY SHANITA JACKSON AND DAKOTA ODER.

B: I am a prime example of American unacceptability.

R: I’ve always been too

L: Gay

R: Black

L: Liberated

R: Uppity

B: And America has a time-honored tradition of keeping us in our place

L: Like November 27, 1978 when Harvey Milk was assassinated

R: More like April 4th, 1968 when MLK was shot down

B: Hold the Hell up

R: I hope you don’t think some dead gay guy is equivalent to Dr. King. Milk was a martyr, but King is an icon and that is not the same thing

L: I think you forgot the definition of Civil Rights; you’re not the only one struggling around here.

R: How could I forget anything when I look outside my window everyday and see the statistically correct neighborhood I was predicted to live in

L: At least they can see you. All they have to do is look at you to see where you come from, what you’ve been through. I am still fighting for the right to exist. They’re telling my children we should be kept in pens so we can die out like you quarantine disease.

B: How many times do I have to hear people say you fucking faggot/nigger

R: At least you know your last name. Our skin gives away our homeland but not our home. You aren’t owned or traded based on how hot you are as a commodity. We stood stark naked on a platform with the sun heating the skin beneath our shackles, watching our life value drain with every increasing bid. Bent backs, broken Bones and tear stained cotton is not something you could just forget.

B: My bones are genetically thickened due to the brutality my ancestors bore

L: My legacy has been swept under rugs. No one has ever sung me a closet spiritual to lead me to the promised land or made me rainbow cake to remind me of where I come from. We are history’s middle children who have to wear glitter to get attention. We are your siblings. We’re not looking to replace you on our family tree, we just want a hug at Christmastime.

B: They’re hanging us by our own ropes.

L: And for us, it’s déjà vu and I know for you it’s more PTSD, so

B: Why are you letting this happen to us?

R: Changing subjects is the same thing as giving up, which is basically saying black oppression is no longer an issue. But would the  Klan still run rampant internationally, waving their rebel flags and cowering beneath their white hoodies if this shit were no longer an issue. We were plagued with the elements of prejudice, doused by the stream of insults that drown our dignity. When was the last time someone spat on you and called you a flea bitten savage, a worthless monkey, told your nigger ass to go back to Africa when we were dragged here by force.

L: Do you know why they call us faggots? The only history I have to cling to is that once I was a fire starter that wasn’t even worth the price of a match. Witches were burned on my ashes like I was never good enough to be anything but kindling anyways. You think your roots run deeper, but just because you couldn’t hear me screaming doesn’t mean they weren’t

B: Raping and beating me, starving, and shocking, and anything to fix me.

R: I know you are not talking to me about burning. Those crosses in Carolina blazed, those bombs in Birmingham incinerated, compare a sprinkle of holy water to skin shredding fire hoses.

L: I was at  Woolworth’s  and Stonewall while you were too busy turning the other cheek to ask me if I’d walk with you. If it was possible that we could share roots. Didn’t want to see me at your rallies because it would complicate things. They tell me it was a different time, but you made sure times were changing, you just never looked back for your aunt Rosie and her roommate of 50 years.

R: Our voices were only heard because we screamed.

L: You didn’t give us a chance to open our mouths.

B: Can’t you see they’re trying to kill me. Trying to kill us.

R: So why are we waging a war between ourselves when

L: It’s them who put us on their hit list,

B: We’ve been burned mercilessly, lynched ceremoniously, ostracized inhumanely, beaten brutally,  lacerated, mutilated, segregated, bluntly hated

R: By many

L: By all

B: By you

Transcript found here

Agree to Disagree

It has been two years since I last posted. I’m going to be going through some of the archives of my computer and posting things I have written over the years. Hope we can get re-acquainted.

Got real, real mad yesterday. An emotion I am not oft to let myself get wrapped up in. I’m a pretty peaceable person. I’m tolerant. I accept that people will come to the table with opposing views and I try my darnedest to adopt a loving, graceful attitude towards others.

And then someone comes to table slamming their fists down and demanding that everyone else accept their beliefs at whatever expense. They try to turn the tables over (often thinking they are modeling the behavior of Jesus in the temple… but that’s a conversation for another post). They want to deny others access to the table and then are stunned when others call them unloving and non-accepting. They even cry out about the injustice of being asked to listen to the feelings and experiences of others.

I really hate using “us vs. they/them” language, but I absolutely want to be distinguished from that brand of Christianity. I absolutely want to welcome everybody until the table is groaning under the weight that the beauty of diversity holds. I want to hear their stories and tell my own so that we can get wrapped up in something better than hatred and disconnection- commonality, understanding, respect, care, etc.

I can agree to disagree all day long, but I will not agree to the dehumanization of others. I won’t agree to the denial of access to basic rights and resources. I just can’t.

Public Restrooms

I get harassed in restrooms on the regular. People stare/glare, make rude comments either to my face or under their breath (usually so I can hear it). Due to my affinity for bowties and all things dapper, they think I’m a man come to invade their sacred toilet spaces and leer at them. Most of the time I ignore them, sometimes I make a joke, and almost every single time I feel shamed. I hate using the restroom in public. Hate, hate, hate. I know I should have evolved by now, claimed my rightful place among the flushes and roars of hand dryers, but hate like that has a way of getting at your heart like sticks and stones shattering brittle bones.

The thing is, I know for a fact that there are those who experience my shame on a much, much larger and more pervasive scale (see: racism, transphobia, xenophobia, etc.).

Human beings have the capacity for beautiful, good things. I really believe that. But whenever I encounter these bathroom situations and read about systemic injustices, I am reminded that we also have the capacity to wound one another. The motivations vary, but the results are often the same: a person walks away feeling less than.

I know that we can’t just erase years of less-than-experiences, but it is worth taking pause to become aware of the ways we individually and collectively perpetuate the wounding of others and find ways to turn towards the beautiful, good things. Not just by saying the right things, but by taking ownership and moving to action. I believe that we have the ability to dismantle fear and injustice starting with ourselves and moving outward.

So, next time I get harassed in a public restroom I might just start quoting famous civil rights activists like “We must learn to live to together as [sisters] or we will perish together as fools.”

Or, you know, I could just flash them.

I shared this link two years ago and it set off a chain of events that ended with me being asked to step down from a leadership position that I loved for reasons I am still struggling to understand/accept. Unfortunately, people didn’t make it past the title to read the message. A message that calls the church to show compassion and love for everyone regardless of… anything.

I’m not trying to spark a debate about whether or not it’s okay to be gay. I know that there are some that really struggle with this topic for different reasons. I’ve come to my conclusion after years of working it out as authentically as I could. What I do know is that the statistics of lgbt people committing suicide are too painfully high for us not to find a way to embody the hope and love that Christ offers.

“It is my prayer that we can all try to have a Christ-like attitude while on this earth. We, as Christians, must let the Holy Spirit lead us to find ways to reach out to all people regardless of our differences because I truly believe it is the right thing to do. I am convinced that is what Jesus would do.”

Violence (Again)

I’m pissed.

Angry.

Livid.

Because my friend can get physically assaulted by her uncle as the words “dyke” spews from him ignorant mouth and it isn’t a hate crime. He’s just an uncle with an anger issue, not another perpetrator of unjustified violence based on the fact that she has a girlfriend. Because Love is real, but hate feels more tangible sometimes. Like fists and feet pounding into innocent flesh for the cause of a God who has clearly mandated a life of loving others well.

We live in a system that fails to understand or recognize the depth of violence perpetrated against lgbtq persons. It doesn’t always have to leave physical bruises. Sometimes it’s words. Or manipulation. Or the fear that sits just beneath the surface.

Like how I have to keep my head down when I walk into a women’s restroom because sometimes they demand that I leave.

Like how my youth pastor mocked our gay waiter after he left, with a limp wrist and a lisp.

Like how sometimes holding the hand of the woman I love can illicit some of the most bone chilling glares from strangers.

It’s hate rhetoric spewed by politicians more interested in getting votes than caring for all of their constituents equally.

It’s being asked to leave churches because, “it’s making others uncomfortable.” Because the point of being in a place dedicated to worshiping a man who flipped over tables is to make everyone around you comfortable. Yup. That’s it.

It’s serving a Christian organization for seven years and being asked to resign for fear of rocking a leaking boat. (Let the record reflect: Asking people to show love regardless of personal opinion will always be my favorite form of boat rocking).

I’m mad today and every day. For my friend who has done so much good work to be happy and whole. For my community and family of beautiful souls moving through a world thick with violence trying to keep the dust off of their feet, trying to keep their hearts soft and filled overflowing with love. For all the ways violence tries to take all of the good, beautiful things away.

I’m pissed.

Angry.

Livid.

I’m Not Struggling

These past few months have easily been one of the most challenging times in my life. Which feels weird to say, but it’s true. The short of it is that I was asked to step down from a position due to the suspicion that I am a raging lesbian (I guess the bow ties finally gave it away). It was a hurtful process involving those I thought that I could trust. But sometimes politics win and on a conservative Christian campus, my gayness will always lose. I’ve tried to act with as much love and grace as I can muster, but when the “struggle” word gets tossed my direction I want to throw the following words back.

I am in my late twenties and for a very large portion of my existence on this earth I was taught, and believed, that there was something fundamentally wrong with me. A misfiring, a disconnection, a depravity. I lived in the deepest recesses of shame; made my home in the most suffocating folds of guilt. Every day I convinced myself that they were right. That this was just a phase that I would pass through once I encountered some perfect fit in the opposite gender. But weeks became months became years and the switch wasn’t being flipped no matter how rug burned my knees were or how many bruises I beat into my chest crying out for a reprieve. They turned my God into a petty tyrant doling out punishment for this “struggle” that I clearly couldn’t trust her/him to take from me. I know all of the scriptures and ten steps and three keys to overcoming and just pray and believe and if you had more faith and I know this person who was delivered from their homosexuality and don’t you know that you can’t be a Christian and live in blatant sin- that’s blasphemy and… there was the mantle I bore dutifully until I had a literal mental break that put me smack dab in the middle of a psych ward where God felt more absent than ever before. And then I found an authentic faith and worked my ass off to become whole and healthy.

So when you use the word “struggle” to communicate that I am lacking in faith and choose to embrace my sexuality because I’ve been brainwashed by the culture at large- I will tell you that my brainwashing was at the hands of a church that profoundly misrepresents the love of God and ignores the reality of the Gospel. My struggle wasn’t with who God made me to be, but with who the church tried to change me into.

I keep asking God to fling open the doors of my heart in the middle of the most brutal storm. To let the scandal of grace and extravagance of mercy fill up every single crevice, every dent and scratch and nook and cranny so that I will always be able to look every single person in eye with an abiding faith and unfailing love and say, “it is well with my soul.”