This Thursday, September 8, the 4Cs and our D.U.E. Justice –D.U.E. stands for Democracy, Unity, and Equality– partners are joining together to hear Rev. Dr. Barber of the North Carolina NAACP and founder of the Moral Monday Movement. The D.U.E. Justice is calling for collective action on 5 key issue areas needed to turn our state around, and to hold our political leaders accountable for their efforts and commitments in those areas. Those 5 issue areas are:
- Good Jobs and Fair Wages
- Universal Access to Quality Public Education, Preschool to Grad School,
- A Vibrant and Fairly Funded Public Sector,
- Racial, Gender, and Ethnic Justice,
- Democracy in our State and in Our Work Places.
Rev. Dr. Barber is an inspiring speaker who has given speeches at some high profile labor and democratic events in the past few months. I witnessed him firsthand speaking at the SEIU Convention, heard him on television at the DNC, and saw video of his speech at the Fight for $15 Convention.
While I’m excited to be inspired again by Rev. Dr. Barber, I’m not just going to hear him speak.
I’m attending on Thursday because of an incident that really bothered me over the summer. I was a passenger with my sister and a close friend in a taxi coming home at the beginning of the summer. An irate driver not only tried to drive our cab off the road, but when he stopped next to us at a red light, he called our taxi driver the N word and physically started punching the cab with his fist. This happened in my town, less than two miles from my house.
It’s been several months since this incident took place but it still bothers me. It bothers me that someone who likely lives in my town used this hateful language against another human being. It bothers me that my taxi driver was able to remain calm, most likely because this was not the first time this hateful language was thrown at him and sadly because he didn’t want to risk losing his tip. But more than anything, it bothered me that I stayed silent during the exchange.
I am a white woman raised in liberal Massachusetts. I understand that racism still exists, but despite being 40 years old, this is the first time someone used the N-word in my presence.
Yes, the man who used the hateful word was bigger than me, angry, and clearly prone to violence. I did not want to escalate the situation. After the incident, we apologized to our taxi driver – embarrassed and angry that someone would use such hateful language towards him. He appreciated our kindness but simply shrugged off the incident.
I cannot shrug off the incident. Rather that trying to find peace or solace in the excuse of not wanting to escalate things, I’m going to use this incident as motivation to break my silence and use my voice. Therefore, I’m not just going to listen to Rev. Dr. Barber speak – I’m going to join with the thousand others to speak out on the issues important to us.