Long Over Due
You might have noticed that I haven’t blogged in quite some time. In fact, the last post I made was back in March. YIKES! Well, not to make excuses, but here are my excuses. First (and I hope you already know this about me), I don’t blog unless I am inspired to do so. Of course there have been moments since March where I was inspired to write so that isn’t really a great excuse. Like the “Ben Roethlisberger having sex in a bar bathroom with an underage, intoxicated co-ed that didn’t get called sexual assault even though it walks and quacks like a sexual assault” for example. I could have written a book on that. And…I wanted to. Which leads me to the second reason why I have been away – the Texas PEACE Project. Over the last year, I, along with a small team of co-workers, have been steadily plugging away at creating all things Texas PEACE Project for my day job at the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault. We just launched the project at out annual youth summit at Trinity University in San Antonio [he said with a huge sigh of relief].
The Texas PEACE Project (formerly Students Taking Action for Respect) is our youth program. The intent of the project is to engage, encourage, educate and support youth activists and their adult allies to create social change and equality across Texas in order to end sexual and dating violence. The Texas PEACE Project employs a peer education model. We believe that youth educating their peers is the most effective means of bring about that change. We train youth to speak out against all forms of oppression – in particular sexism, racism, homophobia and adultism as they are all root causes of sexual violence and have a profound impact on Texas youth.
This has been a tremendous undertaking that has occupied all of my time – especially since January or so. It has been worth all of the work, but I have had no gas left in the tank to devote to Responsible Men. I am glad to see that people still have been reading my blog even though I have not been posting anything new. And now that I am nearly out of the proverbial woods, I can safely say that I will jump right back into the game on a regular basis, er, when I am inspired, er, you know what I mean.
Even though the topic is a bit dated, I did want to share something I did write during my hiatus. This was a soapbox piece I wrote for the Spring 2010 TAASA Revolution newsletter that you can read in it’s entirety here if you like. For now, take a look at my contribution below:
I grew up in a very small, southern town with not much diversity. For the most part, the people of my hometown were fairly conservative and reserved. Everyone looked alike. Everyone talked alike. Everyone even said pretty much the same things when
they spoke. As a member of a community like that, you know everyone’s business and everyone knows yours – like it or not. From what I can tell, my hometown isn’t all that different from Fulton, Miss. In fact, I remember watching, as a boy, the local community college playing against Itawamba Community College (from Fulton) in baseball and basketball every year. The similarities between my hometown and Fulton are numerous, but there is one notable exception. The people of my hometown, when faced with overcoming hatred and discrimination, did the right thing and took a stand against it.
My hometown is Pulaski, Tenn. Most people have never heard of it. Those that have most likely know it as the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan. As ashamed as I am of that part of my hometown’s history, I am very proud of the fact that the citizens of Pulaski found a way to step out of the shadows of the town’s past and write a new page in the history books. When I was in high school some 20 years ago, the Aryan Nation (a white nationalist neo-Nazi organization) was looking for a place to set up a training and recruitment facility. They targeted Pulaski because of its historical significance in the white supremacy movement. I guess they thought it would be a good fit. I imagine they also believed the people of Pulaski would be tolerant, if not welcoming of them. However, when whispers of this group’s intentions spread, the citizens of Pulaski decided to take a stand. On a weekend when the Aryan Nation scheduled a rally to announce their plans publicly, Pulaski citizens united and spoke out by completely shutting down the city. Gas stations closed. Hotels closed. Restaurants closed. Everything closed. So when members of the Aryan Nation, the Ku Klux Klan, and other hate groups invaded Pulaski they were greeted with locks on every door and orange ribbons (a symbol for racial harmony) in every window and on every car. The message was clear that things like hate, discrimination and inequality were not going to be part of Pulaski’s future. It was heard loud and clear and the Aryan Nation made other plans.
So what’s that got to do with Fulton, Miss.? Well, Fulton is the hometown of Constance McMillan. You might have heard of her. She is an openly gay senior from Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton who has been thrust into the national spotlight for wanting to attend her senior prom with her girlfriend. In case you haven’t been following this, the school decided to cancel the prom rather than let Constance attend with her date. After a federal Mississippi court ruled that the school violated Constance’s First Amendment rights, the parents from the community offered to host a “private” prom on April 2 that would be open to all students. Spring 2010 It seemed like Fulton, in some ways, was following in Pulaski’s footsteps. They realized an injustice and came together to do what was right. Sadly, it appears that is not the case. Apparently the parents from Fulton secretly organized two private proms on Friday, April 2. Constance and her girlfriend were only invited to one of them. According to Constance, they arrived at a local country club expecting “the prom” and discovered that only five other students were in attendance, including two students with “learning difficulties.” The school principal and some teachers were there to chaperone, but it doesn’t sound like there was much for them to do. Meanwhile, the rest of the students attended a different prom at another “secret” location.
If I could give a message to the parents, students and school officials of Fulton, Miss., I would say “you made a HUGE mistake.” You chose to overlook that Constance, like everyone in the LGBTQ community, is above all else a human being. You had the opportunity to treat her with the dignity and respect every human deserves (even if you believe homosexuality to be morally wrong). Instead, you chose to treat her as if she were somehow less than human. You chose to degrade, humiliate and exclude her because she is presumably not like you. The way you have treated her is not that different than the examples of bigotry and racism of the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and 60s. Did you learn nothing from the 1962 race riots that erupted after James Meredith became the first African-American student to enroll at the University of Mississippi? Is the unbelievable pain and suffering caused by a segregated and exclusionary past not enough for you to change the way you treat people in 2010? If not, then perhaps you are the ones who are not human, for it is empathy and the ability to learn from our mistakes that make us so.
While Fulton cannot tear these pages out of their history, they still have the opportunity to write new ones where they will be remembered for their ability to rise above their past rather than for drowning in it. As singer Tom Morello said, “History, from this day forward, is what you make it.” I sincerely hope that the community of Fulton will realize the devastating and far-reaching repercussions of their present actions and learn to embrace and value the diversity of all people. If they do, then perhaps 20 years from now Constance McMillan will be able to write about the time that her hometown stepped out of the shadows of its past and started making history for all the right reasons.