Auntie Maxine Was Right: It’s Time To “Push Back”

July 3, 2018  |  


When Maxine Waters told us to “push back” against members of Trump’s cabinet when we see them out in public she sounded like she was channeling every other Black mother who’s attempted to arm her babies against a world that does not always welcome them. Although some may say that she is inciting and encouraging violence, I believe that she is telling those of us who know right from wrong to stand our moral ground.

Last month, Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave a Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, VA, because she’s a member of the Trump Administration. The very next day she took it upon herself to tattle about it on Twitter, setting the national conversation firmly on the course of increased calls for civility among the American public.

Meanwhile, children have been ripped from their parents at the nation’s southern border. Athletes kneeling to call attention to disproportionate police brutality against people of color have been penalized and called “sons of b-tches.” The NRA and other supporters of the current administration have been fear mongering nonstop. Journalists have been gunned down for doing their job. And people have called the cops on their neighbors for minor imagined offenses (selling water, mowing lawns, napping, having a cookout, etc.). Where is the civility in any of that? Why are these things less alarming to the right than Sanders being refused service at a restaurant?

The powers that be are working overtime to make Sanders into a sympathetic figure. Last week, she spoke to the White House Press core about her experience, insisting that her reaction to the incident says more about her than it does about the owner of The Red Hen. And, on that point, I would agree. That Sanders is framing herself as a victim while whole communities are suffering unimaginable injustices says quite a lot about who she is. And it says a lot about the priorities in our nation. #WhiteWomanTears

Growing up as a Black child in a mostly White area, you learn to uncover the unspoken meanings in common words that are used to veil less-than-kind intent. If our parents care to do the extra work, we are taught the value of critical thinking and being observant. In that way, we are almost conditioned to see the differences in how people are treated based on race, religion, and a host of other criteria. Nothing is taken at face value, and we are educated on the reality of covert racism and other forms of inequality. Seeing what’s going on in the country right now definitely pings my Spidey senses about the real agenda at hand.

What I recognize is that the right is not calling for civility to keep public discourse on an equitable and polite playing field. MAGA conservatives are calling for civility as a means of fostering compliance and complacency. They’re using covert words to guilt others into tolerance and silence so that they can continue pushing to reshape the nation within their own self-serving (and discriminatory) framework with as little opposition as possible. They want tolerance–or rather silence–so that it is easier for them drag us all into Gilead.

Understand that I am not saying we should throw actual civility out the door. However, there are times when we need to stand up for what is just. That does not require that we get violent, but we do need to be firmer with our opponents. As such, I don’t feel the need to be overly polite to people that continue to attack the humanity and dignity of those they oppose. Being tolerant of intolerance does not help bend the Arc of the Moral Universe towards justice. It simply gives more ground to allow injustice to take hold. There is no reasoning with people who have decided that certain communities are not worthy of basic human decency. There is no way that politeness and tolerance will change their mind about the value they place on the lives of people who are not like them. We’ve learned time and time again respectability simply does not work. In a land that insists “all men are created equal,” we’ve been waiting centuries for America to live up to the promises it’s made (including those written on the Statue of Liberty). Being tolerant of the intolerance that plagues us ensures America will never fully live up to those promises. It’s time to push back.

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