Dear President Trump,
In keeping with my interest in finding intersections between social justice issues, I found the recent WP piece by historian Michael Miller fascinating. In it he recounts how the African American students who comprised the “Little Rock Nine” over 60 years ago were accused of being paid “crisis actors” when they enrolled at a previously all white high school and how the MSD students speaking out about gun violence are now being accused of the same thing. He also documents other similar attempts to undermine African Americans shortly after the Civil War such that those who courageously spoke out about slavery conditions and unfair treatment during reconstruction were discounted because they were paid a pittance so they could miss work to make the trip to Washington DC.
This particular strategy seems to be the go-to option when there are lots of people collectively going up against a group that is deeply threatened by their actions. There are of course attempts to pick-off the leaders of movements by trying to discredit them, but it’s way too much work to do this with everyone so it’s more expedient to paint them all as mercenary liars to keep people in the threatened group righteously angry. It occurs to me, though, that there is a sick sort of parallel that’s probably been in play since the dawn of the human race when it comes to more isolated situations between individuals. Here, rather than accusing the person who is calling out or bringing charges against someone who has hurt her of being a paid actor, the status quo simply goes after her individual personhood, digging for ways to discredit her and to undermine her report of how the other (typically male) individual harmed her. It’s been a highly effective way of keeping victims of domestic violence and sexual harassment and assault quiet because after all, who in their right mind wants to be victimized again through character assassination? But now in the wake of MeToo, Enough is Enough, and NeverAgain it’s become abundantly, appallingly clear that these are not isolated incidents and the tactics meant to undermine people who are speaking out against injustice of all sorts are not going to work any longer.
May we be safe to speak up.
May we be happy to push back on false, undermining narratives.
May this country finally be healthy enough to grapple with the real issues we face, fair and square.
May we approach one another with compassion and integrity.