I read volumes about race, sexuality, women’s suffrage, and the myriad ways people can be oppressed. I am pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Women and Gender Studies.
I often wonder if I would have had the courage to face such enormous adversity. Would I have been brave enough to stand in the middle of a crowd, fist-pumping, and scream, “No! Not today! Not on my watch!”
I would love to say there was never any doubt about how I would respond. I wish I could say, emphatically, that I would always be on the right side of history.
I wish I could but I can’t and didn’t–until Trump.
My aunt, who raised me and my identical twin sister, is one of the most intelligent, opinionated, and strongest women I know. She taught us that what we had to say matters. Our place in the world was not necessarily in a kitchen or nursery.
We learned that blue wasn’t just for boys and being girls didn’t mean that we had to love pink. We could be bad-asses, love the color black, and paint burst balloons or fighting bumble bees on our bedroom walls. We learned to be strong, self-reliant, courageous women.
My sister and I attended integrated, public schools for both elementary and middle grades. We knew nothing different. We knew nothing of sanctioned segregation.
One of my closest friends was Erika, whose mother was white and whose father was African American. I cannot say that Erika’s mixed race raised any questions.
A friend’s brother was gay. I spent countless weekends with him and his partners, as they dressed for the stage, loved and laughed, and I never questioned any of it—Peter was Peter and I loved him as the brother I never had.
I would like to think that I was not simply tolerant, for with tolerance comes judgment, but that I was accepting. That is a cop-out. My “acceptance” disregarded all that Peter and Erika encountered every day, just so they could put one foot in front of the other.
Now I see the privilege of a white girl from a middle-class neighborhood who understood almost nothing about life except her own. Prior to the 2016 election, I never would have classified myself as an activist despite the fact I grew up with a fairly progressive mindset when it came to homosexuaity, integration, and a woman’s place.
It allowed me to be a good parent to my beautiful daughter who was born with the vestiges of my own childhood in the rearview mirror. That same strength kept my spine ramrod straight when my son was born intellectually challenged and developmentally delayed. I took on the world the day my children came into it, and I have seen victory in their eyes, in their smiles.
Every word in every book I’ve ever read, every bleary-eyed paper I’ve written about human rights all came down to a single moment in a voting booth.
The woman who wept herself to sleep the night of November 8, 2016 woke up with a determination and will power she didn’t know she had. When it came to putting my money where my mouth is and showing my children what it means to stand up for what is right, I had no choice.
Out of the smoldering remains of a ballot, an activist was born.
Each generation has its defining moment. As a country of mixed races, ethnicities, religions, genders, and sexualities, we are faced with our Stonewall, our Civil Rights Movement, and the need to resist ethnic cleansing. As a generation, we stand at the edge of a precipice, jump or stand strong.
History is unlikely to mark my participation in #TheResistance. I am but one among millions who have poured their souls into letters to Congress and to editors everywhere, screaming in the face of oppression, all the while recognizing that privilege allows my voice to be heard.
But, I will have been there, fist-pumping, and declaring,“No! Not today! Not on my watch!”
Susan Stutz is a student and paralegal living in Port St. Lucie, FL.