brian_clareyIt started with something my daughter said.

She was explaining to me, on the morning drive to school, the difference between sex and gender.

“Sex is biological,” she said. “Gender is who you are.”

She’s 11, by the way, and in those two sentences — one, if you give it a semicolon — managed to explain something that most of the state’s General Assembly cannot grasp, let alone old farts like me.

But that’s not the thing I’m talking about.

Right after that, she mentioned a girl at her school — a kid, who really didn’t know any better — who said something that just about any adult would identify as hate speech. It sort of blew me away, and I could tell that my little girl caught the brief look of shock on my face.

“What did you say?” I asked her.

“Nothing,” she admitted. “It just got kind of awkward for a couple minutes.”

I couldn’t blame her. How many times in my own youth — hell, in my adulthood — have I heard someone in my white, hetero circle say something repugnant about the others? Too many to count, that’s how many.

She rides up front on the way to school, a deal she cut with her brother who takes the shotgun seat on the ride home. And she doesn’t like it when I don’t look at the road. But I turned to her then anyway and told her what was up.

“I don’t think we can be quiet about this stuff,” I told her. “I think maybe that’s the problem.” This, too, she intuitively grasped.

“It’s because of Trump, right?” she said.

“Pretty much,” I said.

Because while most white folks are good people, there are those among us who feel the pinch of encroachment on our privilege, who envision themselves on the losing end of shifting demographics, who lash out at everything and everybody they don’t understand. And sometimes they say stuff that reveals this poisonous thinking — which is a good thing, because they’re letting you know who they are.

So it’s important when people say those things, I told her, to let them know who we are. And we, I reminded her, don’t like that kind of crap.

Silence is tacit approval. Silence is enabling. Silence gives the crackers the impression that people agree with them, even when they don’t.

But my daughter and I reckon there are more of us than there are of them at this time in North Carolina — we’ll find out for sure in November, I suppose — and our numbers grow every day.

And I suppose it’s possible that we’re wrong, that North Carolina is an irredeemably racist state where “the other” will always be demonized and fear rules the day.

But we’re still not gonna shut up about it.

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