I wasn’t going to write about this.
In fact, giving attention to the debacle feels like I’m helping spread the message first intended by Rick Tyler, an independent candidate in the race for Tennessee’s 3rd congressional district seat.
However, after careful consideration, I decided my reaction in words here is necessary.
It’s important that I not only speak for myself against an obviously bigoted sign and message, but for everyone else who was denigrated by this person.
In my great state of Tennessee, here in the United States of America, Rick Tyler put up the following sign as part of his campaign:
I was born in Tennessee in Hamilton County in 1966, so I know the dark underbelly of bigotry, misogyny, patriarchal dominance, and religious persecution first-hand.
This was the culture I was brought up in. My family, primarily made up of relatively poor, working, blue-collar white Protestant Americans, had some deep-seated hate and prejudice going back for centuries. (Never mind our Native American heritage, which was obliterated by the very people my family now stood so tall and proud for, spouting their beliefs).
I left as a teenager and came back 31 years later at age 46 as a woman who had been to different parts of the country, the world, and through my own personal journey where I experienced: sexism; prejudice for being from the South; for not having earned (yet) a college degree; rampant patriarchal power trips against me for speaking against men having all the power at home, work, church, school, and in the community; religious, social, and legal shaming of me and my life as a divorced and single mom; criticism of my parenting skills; prejudice for having two transgender kids; physical, sexual, mental, and emotional abuse.
Even before I moved with my mom and sister at age 15 to Florida, I was personally a witness to (and a victim of) domestic violence at home, open criticism of women, blacks, Latinos, Gays, Lesbians, Jews, Muslims, Catholics, Native Americans, Yankees (anyone not from the South), and even people with college degrees who thought outside the parameters of their upbringing. “I guess they think they’re better than us, liberal know-it-alls!”
My childhood in the 60’s and 70’s, my mother’s, both grandmothers, and my great grandmother’s childhoods (and adulthoods) were not always great.
We were marginalized, beaten, abused, derided, shamed, and bullied. We weren’t Ozzie and Harriet or Leave It To Beaver or Happy Days.
My Native American heritage was stripped from some of my ancestors. No one discussed it. None of The Way of the Cherokee and the traditions were passed down to me, my mom, or her father. We were supposed to integrate with the white part of our culture and family.
Boy, did we ever.
Where Cherokee women had power and respect, in my family and many others who were forced to assimilate into White-European culture or face expulsion from their homes here in Tennessee and the surrounding states (Trail of Tears), or retribution for not conforming. Women in my family stood meekly by and let the men handle all of the decisions, money, and power. There was no respect reserved for us.
So, I have some words for Rick Tyler:
- America was never completely white. Native Americans, Spaniards, Mexicans, Italians, Jews, Asians, and African people who were made to be slaves have been here from the beginning, or at least, during what you consider the “heyday”of America.
- America was never great, according to your so-called justification and “truths” for putting up this sign and running on this slogan for political office.
Your utopian ideals make no room for women’s rights (white or otherwise), any people of color, differing religious backgrounds from your own (after all, you’re the one quoting The Bible, an obvious Protestant-Christian resource), differing sexual orientation, or anyone with beliefs opposed to your obvious slogan, which should really read, Make White Patriarchy Great Again.
Therefore, instead of remaining silent, I’m calling out Rick Tyler and all those who are in support of his inflammatory and deluded ideals.
- WE ARE NOT GOING AWAY.
- YOUR IDEALS ARE AN AFFRONT TO ALL AMERICANS AND TO THE WORLD.
- YOU AND YOUR CONSTITUENTS CANNOT SCARE OR BULLY US BACK INTO A LEGACY OF SILENCE CREATED BY YOU AND THOSE LIKE YOU.