By Bex Peterson, Editor-in-Chief
Here’s a fun fact about me: A week after Donald Trump was elected president, a racist man tried to punch me in the face on the SkyTrain.
I want to make it clear—he did not take a swing at me because he thought I wasn’t white. This burly, towering, red-faced man barreled back onto the SkyTrain car to try to assault me because I’d had him removed in the first place for threatening to assault an elderly Black woman and a group of East Asian teenage boys. I was, according to him, a “loudmouth bitch” who was “going to get what’s coming to you.”
The first thing that struck me, ironically, was that I was not struck—a construction worker with quicker reflexes than me intercepted and hauled the man back before his punch landed. Other people on the car formed a wall around me until he was wrestled off. I was and am still extremely grateful, but it isn’t lost on me that this rush of support was a result of overwhelming privilege. These people who protected me, patted me on the back for “standing up to the bully”, did not say or do anything when the man was shouting racist slurs at the people of colour on the train. They asked if I was all right; they did not ask if the teenage boys were all right, or if the elderly woman was all right.
The man was right about one thing: I’m a loudmouth. I can be abrasive, and you don’t have to know me very long to know my opinions on things. I tilt at far too many windmills and I carry around a stack of soapboxes to climb up on at any given moment. I know this about myself, and I know that being a loudmouth can put people right off. Especially if you’re saying uncomfortable things.
It seems like we’re in the age of the loudmouths, and I can empathize with the fatigue this instills in people. We want to stop hearing about how the world is going to hell and everyone and everything is wrong and bad. We want people on all sides to stop hollering into the megaphones. We want to hear one nice story about a SkyTrain car full of strangers banding together to protect a brave loudmouth from a scary racist without having to think about the implications of why people were far quicker to protect the white person over the non-white people who were the actual victims of that man’s racism.
I think tentative leftists fear volume, fear alienating the uncertain audience. I used to feel the same way. Now, I fear inaction far more than I fear making people uncomfortable.
In the ongoing barrage of the 24-hour news cycle that seems to speak truth to all my worst nightmares, I can’t help but hear echoes of author and playwright Larry Kramer’s admonishment of a crowd of bickering AIDs activists in 1991. I’d recommend finding a clip of it on YouTube, but the line that keeps coming back to me is, “Until we get our acts together, all of us, we are as good as dead.”
Sometimes you need a loudmouth to unite a room. And if no one else is taking up the megaphone, it might just be up to you to become the loudmouth we need.
Until next issue,