On Friday, May 11, I had the honor of attending the 2018 Campaign Kick-Off Dinner hosted by the Columbia County Democratic Party. We are able to meet other candidates, see old friends, and bring together many different people to promote the upcoming election.
The reason for this post, however, is to bring forward a troubling occurrence that happened during the program. In fact, it is more than troubling. What happened reflects the seething undercurrent of bigotry and oppression that plagues this country.
One of the invited speakers read a version of the poem, “I am Somebody,” as part of his speech. The poem itself, while a bit overused, comes across as a unifying lyric to bring people together. A version of the poem appears below.
I may be poor. But I am Somebody!
I may be young. But I am Somebody!
I may make a mistake. But I am Somebody!
I must be respected, protected, never rejected.
I am God's child.
I am Somebody!
The speaker ad-libbed portions of the poem to be seemingly inclusive. He added the following line, “"I may be gay... oh no... but uh, I am somebody.” The addition of this line, and the stuttering pause, negated the sentiment, tone, and meaning of the message. More to the point, it reaffirmed the inherent bigotry many have for the LGBTQIA* community.
Coming from the chair of the 12th Congressional District, this not only was callous and ignorant, but also came from a place of authority. It should be immediately condemned.
On that note, too often we find in our leaders these microaggressions, small comments meant as humor, scalding statements in the underbreath, or the invisible stare through someone. All of these things only reinforce bigotry.
Because of this, there is an inherent danger in the spoken word. Any person, when given a platform, can easily cast dispersions upon another person or group through seemingly innocuous statements. But, these statements are far from that.
As a society, we claim to celebrate diversity. We claim to celebrate our humanity. We claim to celebrate freedom. However, in reality this diversity, humanity and freedom is of the convenience those in power. We need leaders that are thoughtful, reflective, and understand that a diverse and inclusive society is key to our growth as humanity.
For the past few years (and previously just in thought), I have devoted myself to diversity, inclusion, and social justice. When I see episodes like this, I have a two minds. One mind is painful frustration and ire toward those that behave this way. The other is one of hope, because when this happens, we have conversations, open up dialogues, and expose these realities and, perhaps take tiny steps toward a more inclusive society.
I would like to close with a poem by Kiowa writer, N. Scott Momaday.
I am a feather on the bright sky
I am the blue horse that runs in the plain
I am the fish that rolls, shining, in the water
I am the shadow that follows a child
I am the evening light, the lustre of meadows
I am an eagle playing with the wind
I am a cluster of bright beads
I am the farthest star
I am the cold of dawn
I am the roaring of the rain
I am the glitter on the crust of the snow
I am the long track of the moon in a lake
I am a flame of four colors
I am a deer standing away in the dusk
I am a field of sumac and the pomme blanche
I am an angle of geese in the winter sky
I am the hunger of a young wolf
I am the whole dream of these things
You see, I am alive, I am alive
I stand in good relation to the earth
I stand in good relation to the gods
I stand in good relation to all that is beautiful
I stand in good relation to the daughter of Tsen-tainte
You see, I am alive, I am alive
Peace be to all of you.
With the exception of a year, I have been a teacher or a student for my entire life. I have taught on many different levels. I have been a middle school teacher (okay, for one semester for student teaching...because of this, I have a profound respect for middle school teachers), high school, undergraduates and graduate students. I have coached soccer in youth leagues and high school. Education is in my blood.