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An Open Letter to Boy Scouts’ Parents

I am one of those people who conduct gymnastics on the way out of the grocery store so I can avoid your children and what they are selling as fundraisers. Your children are always well mannered. Dressed in dress uniform. Polite. They call out with “Ma’am!” — something I don’t hear very often out West. I appreciate it so much. I’m a Southerner by culture, and manners matter to us. I’m also getting older. Manners matter me. So, thank you, Boy Scouts (and parents) for instilling some manners in the next generation.

Still, my family does not support the Boy Scouts because of the other value the organization communicates to the next generation. Namely, that discrimination is a-okay — when you’re excluding atheists and gay people. Maybe it’s more complicated than that. Perhaps, there are troops that are welcoming. Or, maybe it’s just that simple: the Boy Scouts promote God and the heterosexual lifestyle, and that is exactly as you think it should be.

Whatever. I don’t want to discuss this with you at the grocery store, in front of your children or in front of mine.

And yet, sometimes, my gymnastics with the grocery cart and my six-year-old daughter catch your eye. YOU want to know why I am avoiding your children. Today, you stood up from the table, and said loudly enough for me and my daughter to hear as we rounded the bend toward the parking lot:

“Can’t you spare five dollars for the coupon my children, these honorable Scouts, are selling today?”

“No, thank you.” That’s my normal response. Today, it wasn’t good enough. (So much for manners.)

No, you walked over from the table and right up to my cart, and asked, “Why not?”

It seemed an aggressive thing to do, especially during what is certainly still the Great Recession. And, I’m class privileged — perhaps you sensed that. I grounded to a halt, my cart’s squeaky wheel gasping. I looked over to your children. They were proud of you. Thankful for you asking. I’d seen them when we came in and knew their sales drive wasn’t going so well. Many had been, like me, engaged in cart gymnastics to avoid them on their way out of the store.

I waited a beat too long to respond. And so, you asked again with more vigor: “Why not?!”

I looked at my daughter and then to your children. Finally, I looked at you: “My family does not support the Boy Scouts, I’m sorry.” I turned, took a step. The cart squeaked again.

You also took a step. You asked again, “Why not?!!”

*Sigh.*

“Because the organization discriminates, sir,” I said almost in a whisper.

I really didn’t want to have this conversation in front of the children — yours, who likely know nothing about the Scouts’ positions on inclusion, and mine, who has many peers at school who are Cub Scouts.

“Discriminates against who?” you asked, again too loudly for my comfort.

My face reddened. I could feel the color flushing like juice up a straw.

“Against gay people and atheists,” I said. I wasn’t mad … I was … something else. Embarrassed? No, I was uncomfortable. I was uncomfortable having this conversation, here, right now, while grocery shopping with my kid, and with yours in view. My honesty seemed to make you uncomfortable, too.

Our mutual silence lasted long enough for me to look down at my daughter to see that she was looking up at me, both confused and proud.

You stormed off: “I don’t have enough time for this conversation.”

You literally stormed off. I swear you did.

I don’t know how the rest of your day went. I spent the next 10 minutes in my car on the way home, explaining what had just transpired to my six-year-old daughter. We’ve had several follow-up conversations tonight. No, the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts at your school are not bad kids. Yes, discrimination is wrong. Yes, the Supreme Court said the Boy Scouts could exclude gay people. And people who don’t believe in God. Yes, the Supreme Court is the most important court in the country. No, that doesn’t make it right.

Yes, we can have Girl Scouts’ cookies for dessert.

This post originally appeared on Jennifer Holiday’s website and is republished here with permission.

By:           Jennifer Holiday spent nearly 15 years working with a national civil rights organization, focused on diversity and equity issues in K-12 schools. Today, she works with select partners to produce materials that support the common good; serve children in her community as a board member for a public charter school; and undertake the ultimate labor of love at home, with her daughter Zoe and spouse Catherine. In 2010, she published her first book chapter in Are We Born Racist? with Beacon Press. She holds degrees from Davidson College and Auburn University, Montgomery, and is also a graduate of the Polarity Management Consultant Development Intensive.
On:           Mar 10, 2011
Tagged: , , ,
  • 9 Comments
    • kernelt
      kernelt

      You shouldn’t be embarrass, cause I’ll stand by you and confront them together on how dishonest (going against their own value when they discriminate) their club is. Not to mention rude in attacking and forcing other to support their cause when they first said no.

      Mar 10, 2011 at 9:38 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Scott Bonzitski
      Scott Bonzitski

      I’m sorry this “gentleman” put you on the spot in front of the children. Sometimes we DO need to speak up but, in other times it is not worth the effort to try and educate ignorance. Some people are set in their ways [wbc comes to mind] and will never have an open mind. I feel you did a good job in the situation you were PUT in. Great way to teach our children not to stand with the bigots. Maybe, just maybe, the ignorant ones will cease to exist if more people let there feelings known. It’s always sad though when children are involved. The best way to handle it is by always telling them the truth. That makes character. SB

      Mar 10, 2011 at 10:50 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Roman
      Roman

      Thanks for saying something. Staying silent about the discrimination embraced and promoted at The Boys Scouts of America is not helpful. All parents should be explaining to their children about hos the Scouts don’t treat all potential members and families fairly.

      Mar 10, 2011 at 2:17 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Shannon1981
      Shannon1981

      Thanks for standing up for what is right. Two often people simply bend to the willof the majority when they know deep down it is wrong, because that is what is easy to do. Also, I am sorry you had to do that in front of your own child and other children. That was an adult conversation and that so called “gentleman”(and I use the term loosely) should have taken your first “no” and left it be.Thanks again for being such a stand up human being!

      Mar 10, 2011 at 2:26 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • greenmanTN
      greenmanTN

      Good for you. No need for embarrassment because from the moment he came after you he rendered the social contract null and void. I’m not going to march up to a table of Boy Scouts are and air my views about their organization either, but if someone gets in my face about why I’m not giving them money? That’s a game-changer.

      FWIW, I was a Boy Scout. I don’t know if things are the same now but at the time you joined the Cub Scouts in about 2nd or 3rd grade, then later it was on to “Webelos,” which was the Boy Scouts junior division, then the Boy Scouts. (I don’t know if the “Webelos” still exist.)

      It’s a shame that once again we’ve allowed the bigots to define the debate and let them make it seem as if it’s about gay men being Scoutmasters. That’s just a distraction. What it’s really about is the Cub Scouts who join the organization in elementary school, well before they could reasonably be expected to know much about anyone’s sexuality much less their own, then later being told there’s something wrong with them, that they’re not worthy to be a Boy Scout. And that’s just wrong.

      THAT is the issue, prejudice against young people who are already in the organization, not the Right Wing fever-dreams about lines of drag queens and leathermen lining up to be Scoutmasters. (Gay men’s finess and ability to be good Scoutmasters is a worthy issue, but it’s not the main one.)

      Mar 10, 2011 at 3:55 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Dan Cobb
      Dan Cobb

      I understand this feeling. I do the same gymnastics with my grocery cart. I’m glad no one has ever confronted me because I would let them have it, in spades! I find it interesting that this Boy Scout “leader” felt comfortable confronting a woman with a child –all for his boys to see. Quite disgusting, if you ask me. Had he asked me I would’ve shouted my answer out to him, and it would have been very ugly.

      Mar 10, 2011 at 5:50 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • The Bony Man
      The Bony Man

      Besides the fact that he had obvious entitlement issues. If you get angry at someone for not giving you something, there is clearly a problem here. Just because you are a “good” organization doesn’t mean you are automatically entitled to other people’s money…

      Mar 10, 2011 at 6:09 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • MattGMD
      MattGMD

      Blah, they can be aggro, for sure. Tried to ignore one couple days ago, but he got louder and I got stuck behind another shopper unexpectedly. So I tapped couple times on my right ear, said “sorry mate, don’t hear so well from this ear since I got back from the middle east.” Then he smiled a Newt Gingrich-ish smile and bestowed god’s blessing on me. Bought enough time for the slow-ass in front of me to get moving again so escaped buying any of their tickets.

      Mar 10, 2011 at 8:23 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jeffree
      Jeffree

      Great example of speaking on behalf of truth & equality. And of being a great role model to the young’uns who look up to us.

      I’m glad Ms. Holiday wrote this article, that this site published it, and that the prior commenters kept the snark off this thread! Yay, manners!

      Mar 12, 2011 at 3:14 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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