Nice For What: what it really means to ask for civility from the oppressed

Niceness, something we teach our kiddos when they are growing up in order to keep peace on the playground, is now being used as a rallying cry against those who are being oppressed by this current administration.

Representative Maxine Waters is one of the many sounding the alarm on Trump since his name fell on the election ballot. Recently, she encouraged the citizenry to stand up to the Trump administration following White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders being denied service at a restaurant. Rep. Waters (aka Auntie Maxine) said “If you see anybody from that cabinet…you get out and you create a crowd. And you push back on them. And you tell them they are not welcome.”

Oh, the fallout! Given what the President has said, you would think we wouldn’t be having a discussion about this. But the people felt some type of way. I expected Trump and his people to feel aways (after all bullies always feel a ways about being challenged on their turf). Where the surprising is that the Democrats, who are seriously not stepping up in this prime season ripe for a democratic comeback, rallied to condemn

What is negated is the fact that this same administration was not only ignoring the massive problems occurring around ‘Merica but separating children from their parents to ship them to detention centers, even toddler ones known as “tender age shelters” and deporting the parents before returning the kids to their parents, allowing pregnant women to bleed for hours, even days, resulting in miscarriages, and a number of human rights abuses. And that is what Auntie Maxine was telling us, the citizenry, to push back against.

Their complaint about Auntie Maxine? Her call was not civil. It wasn’t nice. Senators Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, and others we thought would stand up for Rep. Waters, backpedaled away from her, even citing our favorite FLOTUS, Michelle Obama, saying “When they go low, we go high.”and how we can disagree without harassing the administration. And I think its BS.

It’s in moments like this that I hearken to my own summer anthem, Drake’s Nice for What. Why be nice? Nice for what?

  • What is nice in Trumps America, when racist and bigotted people are getting caught daily in rants (and still getting fired for it too!)?
  • What is nice in a country where there is a Muslim ban?
  • What is nice when women’s health rights are being threatened at every turn, when the pay gap is not properly being addressed, and when #MeToo is being scoffed at by the highest office in the nation?
  • What is nice when Latinx families are being torn apart simply for daring to believe one this nations creeds welcoming “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free” and missed the memo that this only applies to immigrants and refugees, not of color.
  • What is nice when entire American cities STILL don’t have clean drinking water, when Dakota access pipelines cross sacred lands of this nations original citizens and poison their waters when waters and storms have all but destroyed an entire province of the U.S. and the nation does nothing to help?
  • What is nice when those who have been sacrificing their lives in this nation’s military in order to become full citizens are being quietly discharged left and right, despite the time and service they have given?
  • What is nice when white mass murderers get better treatment than unarmed Black men, women, and children?
  • What is nice when a gun still has more rights than people who dare to just go to work, go to a movie, go to church, or go to school?

What is nice when those who oppress are being let off the hook while those being oppressed continue to suffer?

No, I say the that the time for niceness is over. In the fight for justice, niceness gets thrown out the window, because feelings of oppressors don’t matter when the lives of people are at stake.

So, no, Kirstjen Nielsen, you cannot go to a Mexican restaurant and enjoy a meal when you and your administration are responsible for human rights crimes of breaking up families of refugees seeking asylum (the nerve by the way). No, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, no one feels bad for your little feelings after being refused service at the Red Hen. Sorry, Tomi Lahren about the water splashed on you, but you don’t get to say the inflammatory, condescending, bigoted things you let fall out of your mouth to an audience that is very dangerous to people like me, and get to just go out as if business is as usual. No, Micheal Selyem, you cannot say “Being a loud mouth cunt in the ghetto you would think someone would have shot this bitch (Rep. Waters) by now.” on social media and expect to keep your job as a top San Bernardino prosecutor.

And no Democrats, being refused service at a restaurant or bakery because of the administration is causing lasting harm and trauma that has a real effect on millions of citizens is NOT the same and being refused service because of the color of your skin, your ethnicity, your faith, your sexual identity, or your ability. Because people have the right to refuse to serve you because of what you have done, not who you are.

If Rep. Waters, who has been fighting for justice in this country for over four decades, is receiving death threats for simply standing up for what is right, no one who is doing this harm deserves any peace either.

And no, I am not saying we should leave death threats, threaten or commit violence, or do anyone any harm. But to deny service to the people responsible for the Trumpster fire we are now in is a right that should be afforded to every citizen seeking justice.

Luvvie Ajayi on her podcast says this; “How you demand justice should not be about how politely you ask for it.” After all, we have tried being civil. If there was ever a more civil protest, it was Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reed taking a knee behind the sidelines, quietly. And you see what the NFL, its patrons, coaches, and others in power have done.

Now is the time to get loud. Now is the time to let our votes, our money, our protests, our movements, get really loud. We have to make things get as uncomfortable for them as it has become for us, us as people of color, people of different faiths, people of different gender identities and orientations, people of different languages, people of this country.

And if that means not being nice, then so be it.

This post was originally shared on The Reclaimed Blog.

Whitney Alese is a writer, podcaster and cultural commentator. Featured in WIRED Magazine (September 2020). She is based in Philadelphia.

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