Recently horrifying things have been said and broadcast about the treatment of people of color and women. Woefully inadequate apologies have been offered, and ever deepening the harm, the horrifying words have been minimized and dismissed. Words do matter, actions matter even more.
To say, “It is locker room talk,” “Boys will be boys,” or “I didn’t mean it like that” is to replay centuries of oppression and dismissal of human dignity.
My compassion is deep for those of you who have felt the impact of these words upon your bodies and hearts, and know the dismissal of your pain is salt in your wound.
As our country finds itself torn apart by words and deeds we must embolden our faith in each other. We must strengthen our selves by remembering all the times we have pulled, one agonizing moment at a time, out of despair. We must remember all the women and men who have stumbled, fallen and yet found a way to boldly walk back into love and civilization.
Last weekend I was reminded of the stories of suffragists like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and Lucy Stone, the triumphant feminists of the 19th century. Lucy was told she could not go to college, despite having a brilliant and curious mind. She was told she was only good for marriage, producing children, learning how to sew and cook, and that she would never own property or vote. Instead of bowing to the systemic oppressions of her day, she went to Oberlin College, becoming the first woman from Massachusetts to graduate from college. She learned to become an outstanding orator, which she used to advocate for abolition and to gain women’s right to vote. She inspired Susan B. Anthony, and helped organize the first National Women’s Rights Convention in Worcester, MA. She married a feminized man who worked at her side as her partner, and ensured she was legally and emotionally supported.
I keep my faith in humanity because of my predecessors like Stone who risked everything and worked tirelessly for women’s rights and as well as our dignity. I also keep my faith in men who speak out to defend and object to sexualized banter and abusive language. Such words demean all of us, and have always led to some escalating and justifying their actions of violence as “boys being boys.” We are not living in a locker room, and boys will not be boys when they speak and act on behalf of all people living within systems of oppression and cruelty.
My faith is emboldened when I remember all those who have built the long path behind me with their tears and their faith. They knew I would be here some day as an owner of college degrees, property and the right to vote. My faith remains stubbornly strong when I remember all those who depend upon me to not give up on humanity and thus continue to build the long road to dignity, respect and love for all.
Rev. Dr. Kate R. Walker