Yesterday as I sat on a Zoom call with two members of ASUP, a notification came through of a new post on the Beacon website. Sage Taylor, Connor Heffernan, and I cocked our heads almost in disbelief of what we were reading.
The opinion piece, entitled “Don't do anything now you might regret later” by Melissa Bowers states in part:
“You all go to school in Portland, Oregon, a place where if I went now and walked down the street in downtown Portland, I could come up missing and dead because I am a Trump supporter.”
There is an incredible number of attacks of people, movements, and ideologies in the piece which ironically attempts to convince people not to attack others. Rather than approach the whole of the submission, I’d like to focus on the section above and its own hypocrisies. As Bowers said herself, “Tolerance is respecting the completely opposite point of view.” I hope to exemplify just that.
To Ms. Bowers: It genuinely saddens me that you feel unsafe walking the streets of our city. You are not alone in this fear. Regular Trump hat wearers felt so unsafe that, in 2019, one man even made an app to document locations where harassment wouldn’t occur for red hat wearers.
I use a very similar app today to find places where I can use the restroom with a lower risk of becoming the victim of a hate crime. As a visibly queer and transgender person I understand how it feels to question whether I will make it home alive from a walk alone. I have also been made to feel physically unsafe and question whether I would make it to my dorm alive on the UP quad due to my identity. Have you?
Many of my fellow Pilots who are LGBTQ+ and/or BIPOC have also experienced this feeling. I urge everyone to look at the @blackatuniversityportland and @pilotsspeakUP Instagram pages to see that this is true. As Bowers says in her article, often the best course of action is to, “learn to listen with your mouth shut.”
There is a fundamental difference between the Bowers and LGBTQ+ or BIPOC experiences of this fear; Bowers is never required to display what makes her different. If she feels unsafe, she can, at any time, remove her MAGA baseball cap or stow her TRUMP 2020 flag and look just like any other white Portlander. I too experience some of this privilege because, as a white person, it is less dangerous for me to be openly trans and, as a transmasculine person, my transness is easier to mask than it is for some trans women.
This extra privilege is inaccessible for LGBTQ+ or BIPOC folks who cannot pass as white and cisgender. The fear that Bowers feels when navigating liberal spaces with a Trump hat on is a comparatively small and ultimately escapable glimpse of the everyday minority reality.
It is my opinion that all people should be able to safely display their opinions if they do not invalidate or physically threaten the existence of others. Neither the Constitution nor I support free hate speech as a right. Racial hate groups continue to freely exist in our country and even support the same conservative politicians as Bowers. As recently as 1966, copies of The Negro Motorist Green Book were published to help Black Americans avoid “Sundown Towns” where they could be murdered if they were seen after sundown. These Sundown Towns still exist today. Rates of hate crimes against marginalized communities (especially Latinx people) reached their highest point in 16 years in 2018. Within only 15 days of Trump’s inauguration, open racial biases became notably more normalized and accepted as they increased by a statistically significant 2.3% in self-reports.
Bowers, I understand that it’s your right to display your opinions and beliefs physically. I don’t expect that my thoughts on these matters will fundamentally change anybody’s systems of belief or political affiliation. My one request for you and other “proud conservatives” is this: That next time you don your Trump hat and are glared at or have to remove it out of fear for your safety, you consider that we are not so different. I and others fear you because our communities have been hurt by yours. You believe that “the condoning of any group that has caused death to their opposition is not acceptable” and I agree. I am just afraid of you as you are of me. I do not believe that you are a bad person, only that you are misinformed and misguided. I don’t trust the government either. The cornerstones of my life are also my family and community. I am also proud to be a Pilot. We are not that different after all. Pretending that we are only harms us both.
Tate Harris (they/he)
UP School of Nursing '23 | Gender & Women's Studies Minor
ASUP Sophomore Senator | Student Affairs Committee, Chair
Moreau Center Service and Justice Coordinator for Kenna Hall
Gender and Sexuality Partnership Vice President
UPSON International Education, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee (IEDI)
”Have you learned the lessons only of those who admired you, and were tender with you, and stood aside for you? Have you not learned great lessons from those who braced themselves against you, and disputed passage with you?” ― Walt Whitman
P.S. I highly encourage others to share their thoughts and experiences relating to this piece, as I can only speak from my perspective and am eager to hear the opinions of others!
Tate Harris is a sophomore Nursing major at the University of Portland. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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