Messages of hate weaken community
In April of 2019, I ran for a seat on District 211's board of education and I won. I ran as who I am: a person who cares deeply about my community and the young people who live in it. I didn't hide that I'm an experienced sex education teacher who specialized in teaching teen pregnancy prevention and an expert in health education, because I couldn't feel prouder of my nationally recognized work.
Though I certainly anticipated heated disagreement on issues coming before me as a board member, I did not anticipate getting Facebook messages telling me to kill myself. I did not anticipate emails littered with curse words and hateful slurs. I did not anticipate people posting satellite images of my home on social media alongside dangerous, evidence-free accusations too disgusting to summarize. I did not anticipate people who find my work so reprehensible that they twist it into something monstrous and publicly slander my character.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time I've experienced this kind of treatment. The abuse I am open about surviving did not break me, and neither will enraged emails from people who've forgotten how to disagree with any kind of decency. But using dehumanizing language in person or on social media gives implicit permission for others to use that same kind of language against all of us and that is unacceptable.
We can and must be able to disagree with one another without forgetting that we are neighbors. We are all humans with families to look after, friends to hug, jobs to work, and people to love. If we let our passions twist into shapeless hatred, it corrodes the connections that bind us together. Our connections to our neighbors and our communities are too important to lose.