America, The Beautiful by Marie Cartier

There is a very white woman in a Lexus.
I could say her license plate number, but does it matter?
She’s that woman you’ve heard about—yelling at a brown woman
holding a sign, “I’ve lost my job. I have two kids. Help.”

The white woman leans out of her Lexus, “Go away! Go away!”
She will not move as other cars pile up behind her and the brown woman
does not “go away.” Where could she go at this point?
She’s surrounded. I watch from my car as I’m about to leave. I
take the yelling white woman’s picture. I get her license plate number.

I get out of my car. I stand by the woman with the sign.
I look at the woman in the Lexus and say to her,
“You need to stop. Really. You have to stop – now.”
She snorts. Her eyes roll at me—you’re crazy.
But I don’t move either. She wants to say something to me. You must be nuts. She is foaming mad.
But she doesn’t say anything to me. I am white — this is how it is.
It is a while, but she drives away. All the piled-up cars drive away.

I give the woman with the sign five dollars.
I note the guy pacing across from her. I hope she is not a trafficked victim. And these kids
are her kids and — they are safe? …Safe with the five dollars I gave them?
I put the white woman’s picture and license plate on Facebook.
I give hope a push, maybe. Hope for free kids and the woman. Hope.

For this is who we are now. Make no mistake. This is who we will become.
Each day we are
the woman in the Lexus yelling or the woman on the curb standing.   

I don’t want her to “go away.”
The woman with the sign about “the huddled masses.”

You with your permeable borders, open arms and generous heart
for those who are “yearning to be free.”
I stand with you, America. Don’t listen to the woman with the Lexus.

Keep high your torch, America.
Don’t go, America.

–Marie Cartier
July 2018
Long Beach, CA


Marie Cartier has a Ph.D. in Religion with an emphasis on Women and Religion from Claremont Graduate University.  She is the author of the critically acclaimed book Baby, You Are My Religion: Women, Gay Bars, and Theology Before Stonewall (Routledge 2013). She is a senior lecturer in Gender and Women’s Studies and Queer Studies at California State University Northridge, and in Film Studies at Univ. of CA Irvine.

Categories: abuse, Activism, Feminist Ethics

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25 replies

  1. Beautiful positive Action, Witness, and Poem. Our number of homeless and our is a shameful failure to live up to our country’s values. America has the $.
    In LA County where we both live (at far ends from each other!), we’ve voted in Measure H – major funding to address homelessness. But —- but real prigress is very sliw. Our county’s cities & towns blane each other. Don’t put a shelter here! Don’t have permanent housing here. Let fsith based rehab that insists on abstinence only models of treatment get gov.$ & shoulder most of the rehab. We can di better. As feminists homelessness is our issue too. There aren’t easy solutions, but we can try to be a part of steps forward in our own communities. Thanks fir acting & for expressing this so well.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I read this with interest. I am glad you showed the mirror to the yelling woman, and she went away, yet did she learn about herself beyond that she got uncomfortable? I still wonder how to really reach the angry, racist ones.

    A thought I am having is that an invitation to share a meal with the woman holding the sign, put the money towards that to find out more about her situation in order to find solutions together, maybe make time for that one day, with someone, if possible. Compassion has many flavors, wisdom and freedom can come from it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • hmm… how to reach those angry racist ones.., hopefully showing a mirror to them helps– which is what I did

      sharing a dinner with the woman with the sign? interesting. but, as that day, this women was actively working in her way in order to get money for her and her children, that is what her path was that day.

      if you try this option do let me know how it works out. I think we each do what works for each of us.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. THANK YOU MARIE!!! Thank you for your courage and compassion! I wish more people would care like this.As a white womyn ,I continue to be amazed at how many white womyn just don’t care about other womyn.People don’t seem to realize that in a second jobs,health,homes,etc. can be lost.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Heartbreaking scene, but (with variations) all too familiar these days. Thank you for having a heart.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Woman hating is endemic to this culture and until we deal with it we are going nowhere… this heartbreaking story is a prime example of how women really do hate other women. However, there is hope when each one of us stands up and says NO. Thank you for your courage and compassion – it sparks a little hope…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. How many times have I rationalized that what she was saying wasn’t true? Too many. Far, far too many times. It takes desperation to hold out your hand, and any woman who does so deserves more than a slap in the face. Last winter I started carrying warm mittens in the car, and I gave those out instead of dollars. I’m not sure that even that is the right approach when so many are hungry.

    Thank you, Marie, for your courage.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Maybe the woman seeking help, maybe her situation was true. Maybe not. We cannot know. What I see that matters here is your great compassion, Marie, and your courage. Because no matter what the woman’s situation was, the other woman in the car was wrong to yell and verbally abuse her. Period. Similar to the comment by herbiznow, I no longer give cash … but I will give food or whatever I have with me at the time that might help in some way.

      Liked by 2 people

    • thank you for posting and for yr own acts of compassion

      Liked by 1 person

  7. We feminist lesbians used to use the phrase woman-identified-woman.., I never hear that anymore… I am a proud Woman-identified-woman lesbian…. I want my last goodbye to my love to be only with women around me….

    Some women… like that woman on the Lexus… will never understand that… their identity is only a reflection of what their man lets them be or see.

    The woman in the Lexus either has no feelings or is reacting to her self hatred.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Tonight I saw a similar scenario at University Hills Shopping Center…fairly unusual to have homeless in that parking lot…close to Kathy and Bonnie’s…presumably they were parents with 3 kids under 8? and a sign wishing God to Bless Us…I, too, had $5 and gave it to the brown family…me a white woman in a predominantly white neighborhood. I hoped that they were an intact family. But isn’t it sad that we think about these things, now? Trafficking? I know it happens…but do I have to worry that every family unit I see might be victims of trafficking?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Love this! Thank you for bringing grace and compassion and the warrior spirit to this awful situation.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Powerful Marie!

    Liked by 1 person

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