|My brother and I with my daughters at|
Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC (circa 1997)
Today most of us have safe access to clean, climate-controlled restrooms around the clock, but this has not always been the case. My aunt and uncle had an outhouse when I was in elementary school. In high school one of my favorite teachers, drivers education instructor, and eventually assistant principal was a very kind and wise African American man - Mr. Fuller - who made sure to cover the "bathroom rules" during orientation for every new class. I thought it was odd that he was so passionate about this now seemly mundane (to me) topic as he explained: "You don't need my or anyone else's permission to go to the bathroom. If I don't see you raise your hand and you have to go, then just get up and go. Don't ever let anyone stop you from going to the bathroom." I was reminded of Mr. Fuller's advice this week, and Linda Williams - writing in the News & Observer - provides some insight into the possible motivation for his passion on this topic.
I started public school in North Carolina the year my rural hometown elementary and high schools were first desegregated - almost fifteen years after Brown v. Board of Education. I have never experienced fear associated with going to the bathroom, but I do recognize that some have - and some still do. And I hope that we can all agree that everyone needs a safe and accessible place to pee. In the wake of the shameful, misguided and disastrous legislation just passed in my state, our governor is calling it a "common sense privacy law." So it is worth reflecting for a moment on what we really mean by "common sense."
"Common sense, and direct observation, tells us that the Earth is flat, that the sun (like the moon) rotates around the Earth and that forces don’t operate at a distance."
This law was made public, rushed through the General Assembly, and signed by our governor in twelve hours. The legislature allowed only thirty minutes for public comment. Our governor - who previously served a record fourteen years as the mayor of Charlotte - signed this bill into law overturning Charlotte's recently passed nondiscrimination ordinance without even bothering to speak to the current mayor of Charlotte beforehand. This law goes way beyond bathrooms and will be challenged in court in a matter of days. I wonder what Mr. Fuller would say about it? As a devout Christian and an African American who was raised in a not too distant past that is now unfamiliar to many of us, I suspect he would be concerned about the safety and accessibility of bathrooms for transgender people and the folly of the current situation in our state. I know I am.
Update (April 1): If you live in North Carolina, please contact your state senator and representative and urge them to sponsor and vote for legislation to repeal HB2 in the upcoming short session of the NC General Assembly (starts April 25). You might also consider signing the petitions by the ACLU, Equality NC, and two NC state legislators. There's still time to stop our state from once again wasting taxpayer dollars (not to mention the lost business activity) trying to defend unconstitutional legislation passed by extremists in the state legislature. Meanwhile, you can follow the legal case here. No foolin'.