“We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.”
James Baldwin’s quote pours cold water on the fantasies of Charlotte coffee shops packed with red and blue voters having casual dialogue about differences and ending national “divisiveness” in 2020. The opposition to hosting the Republican National Convention was not based on differences in how people see fiscal policy. It was based on non-negotiable disagreements over people’s humanity and rights to exist.
In my sophomore year at UNC, I lived out the convention dream folks seek. My roommate and I passionately sparred on policy before stopping and asking if the other was ready to watch SportsCenter. This guy and I were at each other’s weddings and remain friends to this day. He says he does not recognize his Republican party today.
When Homeland Security Secretary Kirsjten Nielsen doubled down on the Charlottesville “both sides” defense of white supremacy that terrorized a church service with tiki torches and Nazi chants before killing Heather Heyer, she and the Trump administration re-legitimized homegrown terrorism. The idea of legitimizing ISIS is universally unfathomable, but on white supremacy — our largest perpetrators of domestic terror — the GOP has barely blinked, hiding behind a freedom of speech defense you wouldn’t dream of giving to armed ISIS supporters.
In addition to the eight white nationalists running for Congress, an N.C. GOP candidate has said that “God was a white Supremacist.” WRAL reports the fastest-growing gang population in North Carolina is white supremacist groups. CBS News reports hate crimes continue to be on the rise. Is this the “economic” anxiety that people said drove Republicans to Trump?
While integrating KKK mottos like “America First,” our president has described Latino immigrants as “infesting” our community and called African countries “shitholes.” The lack of loud and firm denouncements on the national level from non-lame duck GOP members of Congress speaks volumes.
Let’s not forget that Tony Perkins, who was recently appointed as a U.S. commissioner on International Religious Freedom, recently said we should have “never stopped criminalizing homosexuality.”
Tell me, how many of these issues relate to being fiscally conservative? How exactly does one exchange coffee and conversation with someone who wants them dead, incarcerated, or sees them as subhuman?
This is not about all Republicans. I work with and care for many people with whom I don’t agree politically, and I never have or will stop valuing their humanity. But I focus on people’s words and deeds, rhetoric and policy, and most important of all, their silence.
That’s why I invite our host committee and local GOP leadership to step up in a way that hasn’t occurred nationally. Publicly denounce all forms of racism, homophobia, anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim bigotry and hate, as things that are not welcome in Charlotte. Embrace the convention, but also embrace the opportunity to reclaim your party and protect Charlotte. Ending “divisiveness” will never occur as long as fundamental questions of humanity remain.
We’ve recruited the responsibility of the 2020 GOP convention. Those who advocated hardest have the duty to step up and do the hard work of addressing the elephant in the room. That’s how you become “world class.”