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Voices

The right not to
remain silent

The right not to
remain silent

Katie_higgins_arest

One Equality Rider explains why being arrested in the line of duty isn't quite as romantic as it sounds.

I'm shocked each time handcuffs are locked onto my wrists. Often it's done with a chapel--the house of a loving God--before me, as it was at Oklahoma Baptist University. Sometimes it's amid 100 students who are awaiting our arrival, as it was at Mississippi College. Other times it's to the sound of amplified preachers proclaiming my guaranteed seat in hell, as it was at Bob Jones University. Whatever the scene, the shock always comes while cavalier administrators stand witness to young adults being arrested. It seems business goes on as usual on their Christian campuses; we are merely marionettes waiting for our next pull.

The schools we face must understand that we do not walk on campus with abandon. Facing 112 Virginia state police officers is not enjoyable. Sitting in a Texas jail for 26 hours is not our goal. To survive a sustained action like the Equality Ride, we have to breathe new life into each of our school visits. The policies that force students to live outside of their authentic selves may only have slight variations in text, but we study the differences at each new school. We step on campus with integrity and clear motivation. Our goal is to relentlessly bring the message of inclusion to students before another dehumanizing word hits their ears and their hearts. Our arrests are the manifestation of homophobic doctrine. They are testimony to how far a prominent college will go to mute our voices.

As we head north, I'm aware that migration marks a philosophical shift. The first three quarters of our two-month journey focused on the Deep South. We spent days in jail, nights in jail, and six extra days in Mississippi to complete community service. Through this experience I have learned a little bit about the law: "Summarily, the constant and greater necessity for public safety far outweighs the limited inconvenience of a single group, whether or not the action is constitutionally protected," City of Clinton, Miss. Or this from a guard at the county jail in Waco, Texas: "You see, there is God. And there is the judge. The way I see it is that the judge can come in and sit at the right hand of God or at the left. It's up to him where he sits and when he comes in." I've learned that the battle for humanity often bleeds us dry in face of authoritative municipalities. Some departments will show you respect; the ones who abuse their authority are always "following procedure." We've learned to value "procedure" because it illustrates a level of discrimination that we had not previously seen on the Equality Ride.

Equality Riders standing vigil outside of Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, GA. If we were to step onto the grass, we would have been arrested.

On campus, I've been told a few times that, as a non-Christian, I can't discuss the Bible. Unless I understand the Testament as the infallible word of God, I can't possibly understand its laws, parables, and cultural implications. To this I say, please, friends, that one book has been used to question my morality, lessen my currency, kick my best friend out of his home, and justify the arrest of my fellow Riders. Don't tell me that I cannot speak with you about the Bible. It's our responsibility to understand anything that is misused against us. And the Equality Ride has proved to be a ministry of righteousness and fairness that outpaces the ministry that works so hard to condemn us.

Advocate Magazine - KehlaniAdvocate Magazine - Gus Kenworthy

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