Unless you are completely checked out or blissfully unaware of the world around you, you have heard about the stabbings that happened in Portland last week. Here’s a brief recap, in case you fit in one of those categories.
A complete dickhead who is a known white supremacist, got on a train in Portland wielding a knife, and began verbally attacking two teenage girls. They were both black girls, and one of them was wearing a hijab. The dickhead yelled anti-Muslim slurs at the girls, telling them to go back to Saudi Arabia, among other things. The girls did their best to get away from the dickhead. At this point some men on the train stood up in defense of the girls, and three of them were stabbed by the dickhead. Two died from their wounds and one remains in the hospital with serious injuries. The girls, thank goodness, escaped the train physically unharmed. I’m sure they are processing a shit ton of trauma as a result of this.
If you want the names of the people or more details about the incident, look it up. This post isn’t a news story.
This post is about other things.
1.) I would like to recognize that three white men stood up for two black girls. The fact that those with the most privilege stood up to injustice gives me a small sense of hope for humanity. I am glad these men did the right thing instead of ignoring the situation or letting the girls take the brunt of it. I love them for this, and while I can’t imagine the grief their families are experiencing and would never want to diminish that in any way, I can’t think of a more honorable way to die. (Except that this dickhead shouldn’t have been allowed on the train to begin with, but hopefully you take my point, which is that dying while standing up against hate is an honorable way to die.)
2.) The fact that white men stood up against injustice and lost their lives is NOT a reason for us to claim that we live in a post-racial society or that race isn’t an issue here, or that white supremacy doesn’t exist. Don’t do that. Recognize and celebrate these men’s sacrifice, and also recognize that bigotry and violence is the reason they died. Racism is the reason this incident happened at all. Recognize that there have been many, many times when white people have not stood up, and have remained silent. If these brave men wouldn’t have died, I hate to think what would’ve happened to those girls. Girls who were just trying to get somewhere. Girls who were attacked for no other reason than the way they looked. Do not forget that this story is ultimately about two young girls being harassed about their race and religion.
3.) I want to say that I will stand up. More people need to stand up. The fact that so many people stay silent about this shit fuels people like this dickhead. I know this is a scary story, and I am SURE there are those who are thinking, “See, this is why I don’t get involved. I just keep to myself and take care of my own family and I don’t hurt anyone…” etc. I want to say, loudly, that this is not my reaction. My reaction is that I pledge to do the same thing if I am ever in a situation like this. If my children were with me I would make sure they stayed out of harm’s way first, but aside from that, I am ready to stand up. I am not afraid of dickheads like this guy. Dickheads like this guy feed on our fear. And I am not, by any means, alone in this–I know there are A LOT of other people who are willing and ready to use their privilege and their very bodies to fight dickheads like this guy. My hope is that if enough of us stop being silent and stop “minding our own business,” dickheads like this will feel less emboldened. THEY will be the ones who are afraid. They SHOULD be afraid, because our numbers will grow, and as the men on the train in Portland proved, there are those among us who will not be stopped by fear. There are those among us who will sacrifice their own safety for other people.
*image from Portland Patch