On Friday, I sent a letter to (Prince William County) Brentsville Supervisor Jeanine Lawson in response to her conduct on Election Day, the full text of which can be found below. I’m not one of her constituents, but the weight of her words and actions affect our whole county. Silence is not an option.
You can read more about the incident in question here.
Dear Supervisor Lawson,
As we enter this Thanksgiving Holiday weekend, we reflect on all of the blessings we have in our lives. Family, friends, faith, and so much more. I have been doing much reflecting of my own, and that is why I’m writing to you.
I’m writing to you in regards to your interaction with Evelyn and Heidi BruMar’s daughter on Election Day. It is no secret that I know their family personally, and because I care deeply about them, I know that I am far from an unbiased perspective. By the same token, I’ve read and seen enough to respect you; for your service to our county, for your commitment to your convictions, and for the care you show toward your constituents. It’s for those reasons that I don’t believe your words came from a place of intentional malice.
That all said, I feel that your conduct was both insensitive and disappointing. You may not have initiated the interaction, but the context of your reaction matters. Their daughter is a child who was already outnumbered by others who shared opposing viewpoints to her own. She is a teenager and was alone at a polling location on Election Day. You allowed others to belittle her beliefs loudly and publicly. In fact, you emboldened them with your mere presence. Depending on who else may have been present or passing by at that point, such behavior may be viewed as a form of voter suppression. You have struck me as an independent person, thinking for yourself with a grounding in facts over feelings; qualities of a leader. Your behavior on Election Day, though, runs counter-current to those qualities.
Again, I doubt this was your intent, but those of us who operate in the public eye know that impact often means more than intent.
Worst of all, you essentially told a child that her family is invalid in your eyes and in the eyes of the Creator. Even if you did not mean it in such a way, you implied that she is lacking a full life because she lacks a father and mother in the traditional sense. You likely have no idea what her past family situations were like, but such ignorance is not an excuse for your words. Those words perpetuate intolerance and a singular view of what can constitute a complete family. They also betray the notion that redeeming love can come in a wide variety of forms. Even if it wasn’t your intent, your words are encouraging to those who would spread fear, hatred and bigotry in our society.
Not too long ago, my own family would have been considered invalid in various circles. As I am the son of an interracial couple, I am keenly aware that the union of my own parents was seen as inappropriate in the “biblical sense” for the greater part of our history.
Was my family less because in some interpretations of scripture my parents were never meant to wed or have a child together? Did I live a less full live because of my mixed heritage, or the fact that my parents divorced when I was a child? What of children who have a biological mother and father who abuse them? Are they still better served simply because they have both of their “biblical sense” parents in their lives? Tradition matters, but what happens when life creates a different path?
I ask these questions not to offend, but to hopefully spur reflection. There was a time in which my beliefs in regards to family aligned almost identically to yours, but my experiences with families like the BruMars forced me to reflect over the years. In them, I see the same redeeming love that I see in families with heterosexual parents, foster parents, single parents, and in so many other familial configurations.
In closing, I know that there are likely things we disagree on, but I hope you can see through the noise of partisan rhetoric to understand that your actions have perpetuated division, and that your words have hurt a family. Regardless of your intent, damage has been done, and our community is a bit dimmer for it. If there is to be a silver lining though, it is that this interaction has opened the door for a much larger conversation. That must be the next step.
Thank you for reading, and I look forward to continued dialogue with you and the rest of our county supervisors. It is my hope that together, we can have earnest discussions on race, views on family, and a whole host of other issues facing our community.
Kenny Boddye – Occoquan Resident
CC: Remainder of the BOCS