Over the weekend, #BoycottGeorgia became a trending topic on Twitter after the Georgia Senate passed a revised version of the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) Friday. If voted into law, the act would legalize a version of state sanctioned discrimination giving individuals the right to refuse service to many marginalized groups including Georgia’s queer community. The hashtag was started by opponents to the act in order to show their displeasure with the legislation emphasizing its ignorant irrationality. It was a great promotional effort in support of social justice, however from the long-term activist’s point of view it has a flaw. The boycotting of a whole state will most likely require individuals to leave that state. This emigration of progressives minds moves the solution to American inequity farther from the epicenter of the problem that is the south.
Recently SECU: The Academic Initiative for the Southeastern Conference, hosted a collaboration workshop to discuss civility on campus among its member institutions. Each institution selected four leaders to represent them at the University of South Carolina at the beginning of this month. I, along with Tifara Brown, Crystal Mussenden and Justin Grimes, had the privilege to attend this historic meeting of the minds as representatives from the University of Georgia. The conference emphasized the significant impact young people can have on the world as well as the linchpin power of millennials in the south.
On the last day there we heard from a South Carolina transgender student who boldly pointed out the pivotal role of the Southern institution in progress. They highlighted the critical need for individuals like themselves to continue to promote inclusivity and equity in the region. They said the South is the best place for activism because it has the greatest potential for gain. A fact you could audibly hear resonate in the room.
As an follow-up, the University of Alabama’s current Student Government Association President Elliot Spillers politely reminded us that UA didn’t integrate their sororities till 2013. People often forget that he and his peers fought hard to desegregated Greek life in the 21st century. It’s heartbreaking that almost 60 years after Brown v. Board of Education and the historic desegregation of public schools, there are still communities of great homogeneity on many large university’s campuses and still work to be done.
Fortunately, big changes are continuing to happen in this world because people are continuing to persevere and fight for what’s right in the areas where these social issues are greatest! Take hope that groups like SECU are not shying away from difficult discussions on problems of race, gender, sexuality, and many other intersecting identities. What liberal southern leaders are finding though, is that if people #BoycottGeorgia and #BoycottTheSouth they are giving into the wants of the opposition and further hindering progress. It would make bigoted politicians very happy if FADA somehow booted all the “gays” from Georgia. To them that would be a miracle and hence it must not happen. Those that can, find havens of safety to stay in Georgia, to stay in the South and fight for the sake of all that is right. That is what is needed.
As Governor Jay Nixon of Missouri recently reminded the world after the discrimination issues at Mizzou, “change of this magnitude is hard; but this status quo is not acceptable.” So do not give up. Don’t ever underestimate your potential to create change where you are, even if you are a Southerner. The South needs you!