Realfoodtraveler.com is a website dedicated to celebrating real, regional food and authentic travel around the world. We are not a political website. However, recently it came to the attention of our editors that North Carolina has passed some of the most oppressive and restrictive legislation that impacts the LGBT community. In a last-minute, before-a-holiday end run, and, under the guise of ‘religious freedom,’ the North Carolina legislature and their Republican governor, Pat McCrory, passed House Bill 2. The bill bans transgender people from accessing public facilities like bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity, eliminates all existing LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances in the state, and prohibits cities from adopting any new ones. It is one of the most unwarranted and regressive pieces of legislation we’ve seen in some time. (For more information on this legislation, check out this link to a Time.com video http://time.com/4270246/north-carolina-local-governments-transgender-rule/?xid=time_socialflow_facebook)
On realfoodtraveler.com’s Facebook page, I announced that our editors would not be traveling to North Carolina nor would we be publishing any food or travel stories on North Carolina as long as this reprehensible bill is in place. Most of our readers gave us thumbs up on Facebook for taking this stand. One reader, however, responded with, “That’s too bad. There are a lot of nice people in North Carolina.” To which I replied, “I’m sure there are, but that’s not the point.” The reader asked if I’d like to explain what the point is.
I don’t really believe that anyone who has to ask what the point of not traveling to and not publishing stories that encourage people to travel to North Carolina is at this time will ‘get it.’ However, I think this reader’s request deserves a response, so here it is:
I believe all of us have an obligation to stand up when we witness unfairness and oppression. If John Kenyones and his television show, “What Would You Do?” caught me or other RFT Editors in a situation where we were witnessing bias, unfairness, harassment, or other morally reprehensible behavior, I hope we’d speak up and stand up for the victims.
I remember the first time I encountered racism. I was in second or third grade and some older kids were pushing one of my classmates, a young black boy, into the mud. I was too young yet to see color. I only saw that older bullies were hurting someone in my class. I stood up for him and shouted at the boys to stop it and they did.
Later after school, that young black kid showed up at my parents’ door, asking if I could come out and play. While we were classmates, we hadn’t been playmates, but this young kid wanted to be friends. We went out and played together.
Over dinner that night, my sister taunted, “Bobbie has a nigger boyfriend.” My parents tittered and didn’t make her stop. I remember feeling confused and knowing, for some reason, being friends with this black boy wasn’t okay. We didn’t play together again.
That may have been my first encounter with racism and with standing up for someone else, but it certainly wouldn’t be my last. Years later, I gave a holiday cocktail party at my home. My guests included Joyse, a dear friend and her partner, who are black. Early in the evening Joyse said she was leaving. She was obviously upset and I asked why she was going so early. She told me another guest had repeatedly treated her differently by failing to pass appetizer plates and cocktails her way. I immediately asked the woman Joyse identified, who was also a friend and my neighbor, to leave the party. I told her that if she was going to treat any of my guests badly she had to leave. Behavior like that would not be tolerated in my home. The woman left and Joyse and her partner stayed the rest of the evening. Years later, Joyse told me how important that moment was for her. She’d felt discriminated against and told me. I’d believed her and acted immediately on it to correct the situation. No questions asked.
I’m certainly no moral saint, but I do believe that we all have an obligation as human beings to stand up to injustice. If you hear people making inappropriate racist, sexist, misogynist, homophobic, fat-phobic, ageist, differently-abled, anti-semetic, anti-Muslim (or other religious) jokes/comments or observe others being treating in discriminatory or unfair ways, say something. Stand up and be counted. It’s the only way things will change and people will grow to be more tolerant, more fair, more just.
And that’s just what we’re doing by taking a stand against North Carolina’s anti-gay, anti-transgender legislation. Our editors are sure that there are plenty of lovely, fair-minded people in North Carolina. There are delicious foods to write about as well as great places to see in the state. But we’re not going to be encouraging people to go to North Carolina. In fact, we’re encouraging people to not travel to North Carolina; to exert economic pressure on the state’s political leaders to be more fair-minded. Until North Carolina reverses HB2, we’ll be doing what we can to stand up and say “No, North Carolina. That’s not fair.” We hope you will too.
And to the dear RFT reader who wanted me to explain the point, I hope I’ve made it clear. Thanks for reading and being part of the realfoodtraveler.com community. – Bobbie Hasselbring, Editor, Realfoodtraveler.com