Sunday, June 19, 2011

Neutrality in the Face of Bigotry: Letter to the Editor

This is a letter to the editor i wrote for the local West Bend paper, "The Daily News", when they published an article about school administration responses to bullying against the LGBTQ communities during the Day of Silence protests. It's from earlier this year, but i thought i'd repost it here:

Neutrality in the face of bigotry, hatred, oppression, and immorality does not exclude you of responsibility, of accountability. If you are neutral, you are complacent, and thus, a collaborator.

In the April 15th Daily News article concerning the Day of Silence actions, a Kewaskum principle is quoted, expressing his belief and decision that if “one group can make announcements and wear t-shirts, the other can, too”. What he’s referring to here is the “counter-protesters” who, on the Day of Silence wore shirts with slogans like “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” Look at this in contrast to the slogans found on the t-shirts of those who participated in the Day of Silence action: “Proud to be me”, “Stop the silence”.

Those who participated in the Day of Silence action were, obviously, human beings who identified as GLBTQ (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Trans, Queer) or allies to that community. These are people who are discriminated against more frequently than many others in Washington County could imagine. And they stood up. They said “no more”. What other option is there? When those with power let us down, leave us to suffer; it’s out of necessity that this happens. School administrations have done little to nothing to stop the hatred, prejudice, and violence aimed at GLBTQ-identified individuals. In some situations, they’ve enabled it or have acted as barriers to justice for these groups.

How can anyone not see the fallacy of neutrality in this “t-shirt” situation? Imagine if, during say African-American History month, white students wore t-shirts with racist or white supremacist slogans on them. Would the administration act then? Or, would they again say, “both groups have a right to make announcements and wear t-shirts”? This is not an issue about free speech, it’s about oppression and it’s about the powerful (those who are supposed to give “guidance” to our children seven plus hours, five days a week) siding with the perpetrators instead of the abused.

Those who claim neutrality in this situation are re-enforcing inequality and must be held accountable to the same degree as any other perpetrator of hatred and abuse. Our community will not be safe until every last one of these bigots are confronted and stopped in their tracks.

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