I may be asked why I’m marched. After all, I’m a mid-50-something white-male. I’m the exact person that Donald Trump is trying to “Make America Great” for again. Well, except I’m not one of his billionaire friends or cabinet appointments. But by and large, the President is speaking to people like me. So why was I in the streets for the “Women’s March”?
First, I needed to ask myself, what do equal rights for women mean? Or what equal rights for African Americans mean to me, for me? How does another person’s chance to succeed take away, denigrate, lessen me? Does feminism take away from who I am? Does believing that Black Lives Matter make me a lesser person? I can’t find a way that is. Sure, I can claim, could posit, that denying another an opportunity improves my chance to find a job, get ahead. Perhaps, but what is the other side? I work in corporate America. I have a job. I rely on others around me. And every day the success of those others makes my success more likely. The reality is that good people, qualified people, hard-working people, regardless of race, or religion, of gender, of sexual orientation, they all make me more likely to succeed. If I hire only based on whiteness, on maleness, then I don’t hire, don’t succeed based on ability. I don’t find others to challenge me, to make me better. And that lessens my chance of success.
So why did I march? Part of my family is Jewish. They hear the hate, the diatribes against otherness, and they wonder, is the hate, the fury of Nazi Germany coming back. Will there be purges, pogroms, another Holocaust? I marched because I believe that evil only survives when good men do nothing. I believe the words of Edmond Burk:
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
And I believe the words of Martin Niemöller:
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
I won’t be the last one standing because I was afraid to speak. I won’t hide, saying I’m a white man, this isn’t about me.
Why did I march? I marched because I have a daughter. She was a choice. She has grown up in a world that is not the one I knew at her age. Race mattered when I was young. When I described someone else to my parents the words (keep in mind the time) would include “he is a Negro”, “she is Chinese” (or more likely at that time “Oriental”), and my world was the more polite, enlightened one (we will leave out that I heard from others). I’ve never heard those words when my daughter describes her world. Telling me about a friend has never involved their race, only who they are, why they matter, what they have done to impact her world, to become part of her life. I grew up in a world where people like John Lewis were beaten because they chose to stand up and say they refused to be treated as anything less than a human being. I marched because I can’t imagine a world where I have to explain to my daughter’s future children that I did nothing, said nothing, that I let hate, bigotry, misogyny grow in my, in her, world.
I marched because around the time I was born, when America was “great” hundreds of black men were lynched each year. I marched because I remember the days before Title IX provided opportunities for girls in sports and other places. I marched because I remember the riots here in Boston over school busing, the ugliness of that. I marched because my grandparents sacrificed so that their kids could have a better world, go to college, own homes, feel secure. Those grandparents lived through poverty, they were union members, they fought for a better future. I marched because I know that most of us are one paycheck away from homelessness, one medical emergency, one crisis, in the absence of the ACA, away from bankruptcy. I marched because I believe that today we are as good as we have been, better than we were, that the future holds promise for all of us. Today America is as great as it has ever been. We are more accepting of gays, of people of color, of our transgender brothers and sisters than we have ever been. I marched in honor of our progress, of how great we have become. And I marched as a reminder that there is work to do, that the progress we have made is just a transition, that as great as we are, we have more to do. I marched because I believe in who we are, our ability to change to become better. I marched because we won’t get there if we quit. And lastly, why did I march? Because I’m mad as hell and I needed to do something. Sitting at home is not an option, not good enough. I marched because I believe we can be better.
This was originally published on Facebook on January 25, 2017 as well as in the “Subscriber” section of The Boston Globe’s Facebook page and as a letter to the editor in The Melrose Weekly News.