Speak up

There is a time to be quiet but there’s a time to speak out. There is grace in fighting against injustice. There is dignity in speaking when no one wants to listen.
Our collective anger can bring about behavioral change. If we all stood for what was right and decent, then maybe, just maybe calling out racism, sexism, ethnocentrism, all the isms would bring about social change.
If we don’t speak up, the same old  disgusting behavior continues and then we are just as bad as the ones perpetuating it.

The summer before my senior year in college, I had the easiest job. It paid a decent hourly rate while only requiring me to be on the telephone trying to recruit PTs, SLPs, and other acronyms to work at short term nursing facilities. My boss, who happened to be the big boss, was this 50 something year old charming north shore white man. He happened to be a dad to kids around my age. I thought he was pretty cool as he liked to chit chat with his staff about random things. One day he asked me to help him with something. I followed him to the darkly lit dingy parking garage of this north shore building. We stood by his car and he talked to me about my grades, my summer break, blah blah. Then the clincher. “You know, this job is something you could probably do during the school year since you really just need a phone and we can send you lists.” I remember thinking, “heck yes! That would be awesome. I knew he was so cool!” He then said, “of course, if you want to keep the job, you’ll have to have sex with me and my brother.”
And there it was. How much more blatant can sexual harassment in the work place be?

I was freaking lucky to be a semi fast runner and thought I could outrun him if needed. I was lucky that I couldn’t hide my thoughts from touching my face. I was lucky that he didn’t actually make a move to touch me. I was lucky to not be desperate to keep my job to actually live life. I was lucky that if I needed to, I could have easily found other employment if I had tried. I was lucky the conversation quickly ended and he let me go back upstairs and back to my desk. I was lucky that I was so uncomfortable walking in front of him going up the stairs that I leered at him and he said, “don’t worry, I won’t touch you” and I knew it to be true. And I was lucky that the other staff (there were only 6 of us besides him) had started seeing the gross way he and his brother (who was co-owner) would come talk to me. (Like, they would come and whisper shit in my ear.)

But guess what. Not one person. Not one of them stood up for me. Not one. Not one person confronted him. Nope. And I was stupid. And I wanted to get paid. So I kept working there. I pretended it didn’t happen even though I started wearing giant sweaters (in the dead of Chicago summer) to work. I stopped showering before work. I stopped chit chatting with them. I never was alone- I even stopped using the bathroom. I tried to keep my head down. Like any and all of these things were reasons and therefore, my fault that my 50 something year old boss and his just as old brother wanted to have sex with me  and said so if I wanted to keep the job into the school year.

But, I was fortunate that summer. (Lucky. Fortunate. For some reason I can’t think of a better word. Christians- don’t even get me started on saying I was blessed. As if to say those that were actually sexually assaulted were not blessed.) Because nothing physically happened to me, unlike the thousands and millions of other people that were sexually assaulted that summer. I was stupid and kept going back. I was stupid and pretended that whole incident never happened. But you know what? The people around me? They were stupid for sitting back and never saying anything.

This is why I won’t shut up. I won’t shut up about any of it. There are clear standards to being a decent human being- no matter who you are. And standing up and speaking out for people- that’s all I ever want when I’m feeling vulnerable or alone. A nod, an – I see you . You are NOT alone, and it’s not your fault. People are NOT invisible. One person is no more valuable than another.

I cannot even think about the what ifs that will happen in my girls’ lives. It breaks my heart to think about the evil things in this world that lurk around every corner. I can only raise them to stand up and speak up for themselves and those who people refuse to hear. I can only show them how to be decent human beings who love God and love people. I mean, really LOVE them.
So if it isn’t clear, let me be clear. It is not ok. It is not ok to speak about people- no matter their religion, their race, their ethnicity, their sexual orientation, their gender, their age… the way that Trump has from the very beginning of his campaign. It is disgusting. It is vile. I don’t care what side of the political pendulum you swing, he is not ok. And if we don’t stand against his hateful rhetoric, we are perpetuating the behavior and belief that we are not all created equal.

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