Deedra

Thinking About Who We Are: Actions Over Words

July 10, 2020 0 comments

Let me tell you a story. 

Those who follow my social media know I have #DeedraDialogues, short conversations snippets I have in real life with real people.

This story is too long for a #DeedraDialogues and I want to tell you WHY the story is important. 

It’s not just a shared conversation that we can all be shocked by, laugh about, or ignore as someone not “with” us.

We often hear the Black, Latinx, and Native communities make statements that racism and bias are present in the Democratic Party. 

It often falls on deaf ears because we don’t “see it” and assume they’re talking about Democrats that aren’t active in the Party.

We don’t “see it” because we don’t have the conversations that would lead to the discovery. 

More importantly, most of us can so naturally not have those conversations because they don’t often come up for us, nor do we initiate them.

And therefore, we don’t confront the ideas head-on or even realize the conversations need to be had.

But some of us directly experience it, recognize it, and then are invalidated by those around us who didn’t witness it or don’t believe it… or worse, tell us why we must have misinterpreted it.

Just so we’re clear, I don’t avoid the uncomfortable. 

I’m not afraid to face rejection or negativity because I want to understand things as they are, not as I think they might be.

This was one of those times.

And there were witnesses to parts of it, and potentially all of it, as we were in a public space surrounded by people.

I attended Democratic social event in Maricopa County District 2 as a candidate for Supervisor.

When a member of #TeamDeedra asked a Democratic PC attendee if she wanted to sign my petition, she said she would wait to see who else was running. 

When they informed her that I was the only Democratic candidate and would not have a primary, she advised them she did not want to sign.

My Team immediately came to me, pointed her out, and told me I needed to “work my magic” on her. [their words]

As I worked the room, I kept my eye on her. A couple of times I joined groups she was interacting with and the entire group and I had conversations. 

Except her. You wouldn’t look at me, whether I was talking, or someone was talking to me. 

When I tried to include her in the conversation, she would turn away from me or even abruptly  leave the group mid-sentence.

What was most interesting was that no one noticed, except me.

I finally asked someone to personally introduce me to her.

We walked up and stood right beside her while she was sitting. 

She didn’t look up, though I was clearly hovering over her. She remained face forward and started talking to another woman sitting two seats away.

I knew the woman and started chatting with her too, looking at both women. The PC woman turned away from me and stopped chatting with the other woman.

Man [clearly confused, said to PC woman]: Have you met Deedra? She’s running for Board of Supervisors in this district.

Woman [without looking at me]: Yes.

Me: Really? I don’t remember meeting you. [putting my hand out for a handshake]

Woman [without looking at me and not taking my hand, literally looking at the woman two seats away]: It was about five years ago, I think…. At a Democratic social, maybe…. I can’t remember where exactly….

Me [still holding out my hand]: Well that was a long time ago. Let’s meet again. [She reluctantly shakes my hand, still not looking at me]

Man: Deedra’s running a great campaign. I can’t wait for her to win!

Woman [finally looking at me]: If you have a minute, you can sit down. I have some questions for you.

Me [taking a seat]: Sure! 

[man walks away, still looking confused]

Woman: You’re a practicing Muslim, right?

Me: Yes. 

Woman: So, you believe what the Quran says?

Me: Yes. Just like Christians believe what the Bible says, and Jews believe what the Torah says.

Woman: That’s not the same.

Me: What’s different about it?

Woman: You have to follow what the Quran says. 

Me: It’s a choice. Yes. Just like any other religion.

Woman: Your people in those countries are bad and we don’t need people like you here.

Me: What countries?

Woman: Saudi Arabia.

Me: Did you know there are 54 majority Muslim countries in the world? Saudi and Iran are not the only majority Muslim countries on earth. And I’m not from any of them. So, what do they have to do with me?

Woman: We can’t allow you in the government because you will put your religion into laws here. We can’t allow that.

Me [placing a calming hand on her arm]: Do you know what would solve that problem? Having a strong separation of religion and state so no one can put their religion in laws here.

Woman: Your beliefs are not compatible with the US.

Me: What beliefs?

Woman: Women’s rights. 

Me [laugh]: You really don’t know me. Here’s my card. You can look me up. My life has been fully online for more than 15 years. I’m the most transparent candidate you’ll find.

Woman [cringes away from my card]: You want to oppress women. 

Me: Every person on earth who knows me, even if they only know me online, would tell you you’re wrong about me. Especially on the topic of women’s rights. You can look on any of my social media platforms right now and see my most recent posts are supporting the right to choose and talking about rape.

Woman: I’ve read your Quran. You should be ashamed to support such a book.

Me: I’ve read just about every religious book and any of them have parts that aren’t the best face of the religion. And every one of them have been misinterpreted by someone.

Woman: But you have to follow the Quran.

Me: Obviously, my interpretation of the Quran and what you’ve heard about it are not the same.

Woman: You don’t get to interpret the Quran. 

Me [still holding my card out]: Sure, I do. We all interpret religious text. We even interpret the US Constitution. That’s what humans do. 

Woman: The Quran…

Me [cutting her off]: Before we go on, you don’t want to take my card?

Woman [takes my card]: The Quran says many bad things and no voter will accept you as a candidate in the US government.

Me: The fact that I’m telling you that what you think I believe and what I do believe are different doesn’t matter? The fact that you can look me up and see my entire history of speaking out about equality and equity and social justice and civil rights doesn’t matter?

Woman: No. Because I know what you really believe.

Me: What is your religion?

Woman: I’m agnostic. 

Me: So, you believe there is a creator, but you’ve rejected organized religion.

Woman: I believe in a higher power and I don’t believe in religion.

Me: Ok. So, you have separated yourself from what everyone else says about the higher power?

Woman: Yes.

[A woman sitting on PC woman’s other side gets up, walks over to me, and squeezes my shoulder in support as she walks away.]

Me: And you don’t think the rest of us can also separate ourselves from what others say about the creator? Isn’t it all interpretation?

Woman: No. You can’t interpret the Quran.

Woman: Why not?

Woman: Because it’s set and can’t be changed. You need to explain to me how you are okay with some quotes from the Quran, like…

Me [cutting her off]: I’m running for the Board of Supervisors, not to be a religious leader. If you want to understand the US Constitution, I’m your girl. If you want to debate religion, that’s not me.

Woman: You’re avoiding the issue.

Me: No. I’m on record as an advocate for a solid separation of religion and state. That’s how we keep religion out of US law. Not by keeping people from being in the government based on assumptions about them. You can look me up and ask other people about me.

[I get up and start walking away]

Woman: I know what you believe.

Me [turning back, leaning over]: You’re telling me that you know what I believe, even though I don’t believe what you believe I believe. Does that make any sense?

Woman: You might be the exception, but we can’t trust Muslims.

Me: There are over 100,000 Muslims in Maricopa County alone. You have the opportunity to meet them at any time and find out I’m the norm, not the exception…

Woman [breaks in]: …No….

Me [ I keep talking]:.. but if you don’t want to take the opportunity available to you, that’s on you.

[And then I walk away.]

I expect better of those who choose to identify as Democrats.

We Democrats accept our differences as the secret sauce that moves our country and our local communities to always do better. It’s part of our personal belief systems that form our political platforms.

Some of the witnesses and attendees attempted to reach out to her and dig deeper but none were successful.

She believes she is truly committed to equality and justice for all and that her outright rejection of Muslims in the United States is in line with that belief.

But this isn’t about her, or even about me.

This is about everyone.

This is about digging deeper and understanding many people are committed to justice and equality while holding “exception” beliefs for ethnicities and identities they believe are inferior or a threat to their belief system.

I expect better of every person, regardless of political party.

But I especially expect better from those I share an association or identity with that include aspirations and creeds setting up those higher expectations.

We can always do better, but not unless we talk about it in our social circles, and not just when an “other” is present or has been harmed.

The safe spaces of our own, usually bubbled, social circles are when the deepest conversations should happen because that’s when “politically correct” masks are more likely to come off.

We’re in this together and need to start getting to know each other better – and really be there for each other even when we’re apart.

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