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Don't Abandon Us in the Red States

Red states

Telling an LGBT person to "just move" is making this bad situation worse.

Lately, it's become the popular thing on social media to block people from your feed if they voted for Trump, even if they never talk about politics on their page. People have started muting or blocking anyone with a #MAGA hashtag in their Twitter profile even though they've never spoken to them. These little things are indicators that something worse is happening. Progressives are starting to hunker down behind their walls, even going so far as to say that it's better to let Trump voters suffer when the Affordable Care Act is repealed because they're too stupid for their own good, or even in the case of this GQ article, to just brand them all as unreachable idiots and racists. The thinking is that the left should just not even bother reaching out to them, to just stick to winning where they know they can win. As a liberal and a minority in the reddest state in the union, I look at all of these attitudes and wonder, What the hell is wrong with you people?

Firstly, as a liberal trans woman living in Oklahoma, I wonder if they realize what it feels like when you're told by your own ideology, "You're on your own, at least until we can trickle down equality to you." What it reminds me of, is when the Human Rights Campaign was pushing for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act last decade and decided to drop transgender people from the legislation because they deemed it just too hard to pass. They told trans folks, "Don't worry, we'll come back for you someday when this is easier."

If you ever wondered why transgender people dislike the HRC so much, that's your reason. We were told we just weren't worth the fight and to simply wait for equal protections to trickle down to us. Now it feels like when the left says these things to not only transgender people, but all of the LGBT+ spectrum, plus reproductive rights advocates, people of color, the poor, and any other number of marginalized groups who live in red states, it sounds like they're perfectly content to abandon us to our fate while they make their own states and areas more progressive. That's not progressive; it's regressive, defeatist, and quite frankly lazy.

I know that the typical reaction to this, and I know it'll be said on the Facebook posts, the subtweets, and in the comments section, "Just move." OK, fine, we'll all move. You got money for that? What about a place to stay until we can get on our feet? As hard as it's been for you to find a job, imagine adding thousands of people to the job market. Packing up everything you own and heading out onto the horizon with no prospects isn't as easy as you think it is, and yes, I've done it before.

Additionally, and this may sound shocking, we don't all want to move to a blue utopia. There's still racism, sexism, and transphobia in those states. Sure, not as much as Mississippi or North Carolina, but it's still there. Also, not all of us hate where we live. We like the slower pace of our smaller cities, we like the mild winters, the easy access to nature that's not some fenced-in park, less traffic. We like not having to pay $2,000 a month for a small, crappy apartment when we can get us an insanely nice house with multiple bedrooms and a huge yard for the same price.

Finally, telling us to move is the epitome of laziness, privilege, and tone-deafness. Imagine if Americans just told Martin Luther King Jr. to quit thinking he could change things in the South and just to move. I think of all those people who were beaten and murdered who fought for their civil rights and how cold it would be to tell them to "just move." I remember reading about how so many of those people who ended up being beaten by the local cops, the Klan, and riotous mobs weren't just the local folks, but people from all over the country who went South to help them fight for their rights and protections. One of the most notorious events in the civil rights era, the "Mississippi burning" murders, was not of three local boys too stupid to know when to leave, but a local black man named James Chaney and two Jewish white boys from New York state named Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman. The latter men took a summer off from college to help register black people to vote. They could have stayed home, hopped the bars, hit the beach, and just watched the marches and protests on TV and said, "Well, clearly those white folks down there are too stupid and evil to ever change."

But they didn't. They believed they could change things, make things better by reaching out and working in those backward states. Yes, they gave their lives for what they believed, but they did make it better for people of color there. Is it perfect in Mississippi, Alabama, or any of the other old Jim Crow states? Not by far, but they did make progress. No one's asking you to quit your jobs or spend your summers in the red states knocking on doors, but dismissing it all with a "just move" is an insult to the memory of these people.

Turning red states blue is not going to come from clever hashtags and sharing links to ThinkProgress on your Facebook feed. You cannot hope to change Congress, win the White House, and secure the Supreme Court while making blue states bluer. It's going to take a lot of hard, thankless, difficult, and spirit-crushing work to make America a progressive country. It can't be accomplished by waiting for court cases to snake their way through the legal system and hope that you have friendly and agreeable judges the whole way, especially since conservatives have shown they're not willing to play fair on appointments and may get to stack the court.

You can't swap Congress to progressive control without not only winning back purple districts but picking up traditionally red ones. And we've seen what can happen when it's just assumed that classically liberal states and voters are just going to vote for the liberal candidate and no effort is made to address their interests. Hoping to win over all three branches of government is like hoping to win the lottery when you pick 1 through 5 as your numbers.

The idea that you can live in a country this divided and see your ideological opponents as nothing but the worst stereotypes is a dead end. You will have to swallow your pride, talk to them like they aren't all members of a hate group, explain your beliefs in a language they speak, and show them why your beliefs are better without screaming and calling them names even if they do. We cannot exist in peace without making the effort to find common ground, to change minds peacefully and learn to accept each other's differences. Progressives hold themselves out to be the more enlightened, the more open-minded, the more compassionate and caring, and it's time we started acting that way to our opponents. Remember the words of a man who had a vision for his country even more divided that we are now; "A house divided against itself cannot stand."

AMANDA KERRI is a writer and comedian based in Oklahoma City. Follow her on Twitter @EternalKerri.

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