Libraries are supposed to be neutral spaces, and for a long time I wanted my blog to be a neutral space, too. I welcome all thoughtful, open discussion, but in the past I haven’t written about anything that could be deemed controversial. I can’t believe I live in a country where respecting the humanity and rights of others can now be considered controversial.
If you don’t want to read this anymore, feel free to unsubscribe. But I’m done with staying quiet about things that bother me at the risk of offending others. I am saddened and scared by the hateful acts that have taken place all over the country — in schools, on buses, in parks, at several college campuses — since November 9. Muslims being threatened and having their hijabs torn from their heads. Latinx, black, and Asian American people being told to go back where they came from. Swastikas graffitied near campus Hillel houses. A lynching group chat sent to African-American students at the University of Pennsylvania. Gay couples being told they’ll burn in hell. My friends, my family, so many people I care about are being attacked. My teens at the library are being attacked. What does it say to them when so many adults in their country voted for someone who wants to strip them of their rights, who sees them as less than human, whether because of their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or (in most cases) a combination of these?
There are those who say our president-elect was a performer, that he said all the horrible things he said (ban Muslims, build a wall, “law and order,” “grab them by the p***y,” etc.) to get votes. Ignoring for the moment that that is a deplorable way to gain support, let’s consider the repercussions of this. We now have an elected official who has normalized discriminatory language and actions. Neither he nor any of the leaders who back him made any kind of public statement denouncing this behavior until a 60 Minutes interview aired five days after he was elected. And he said he was surprised by these acts of violence, when his campaign rhetoric fostered this hate. In his speech on November 9, Trump talked about working to unify the country, yet he doesn’t even call out the deplorable behavior his campaign condoned. By electing him, this country has condoned and normalized extreme acts of hate.
I have never been more saddened, more scared, or more ashamed of my white privilege. No, I didn’t vote for this, but maybe I didn’t do enough to stop it. Maybe if I’d been more open about how alarmed I was by this campaign, if I’d been more willing to risk offending people whose opinions differed from my own, if I’d been another voice speaking out instead of just liking and sharing posts while the brave posters subjected themselves to Internet trolls… I don’t know. Probably it wouldn’t have made a difference. But maybe it would have.
I’m still not allowed to talk politics at work. But I will fiercely defend the rights of all my patrons, and I will do everything I can to foster a welcoming environment. I will be there for my teens, to listen, to give them books that may help them through hard times, to provide game nights and craft nights and other programs that can serve as much-needed distractions.
And what I cannot say, but hope they’ll understand: “I’m sorry. You deserve better. And I will fight for you.”
Stay safe, everybody.