When Civility Is Violence

How we talk about Sarah Sanders at the Red Hen

Kitanya Harrison
6 min readJun 27, 2018


Photo by Emanuela Picone on Unsplash

Politeness is a valuable social skill. We should all aspire to be courteous to our neighbors even when we’re having a bad day. If that moment of manufactured kindness sparks genuine warmth in return, your day may become a bit brighter. It may also lift the spirits of someone who may be going through a rough patch but hasn’t shared the details. Those moments when we bite our tongues and choose gentleness over hostility can help us find our better selves.

As marketed, civility is about shared values. It’s about co-operation. It’s about having agreed upon how society should function.

Civility is also a powerful weapon, though.

Civility is used to silence.

Civility is used to dismiss.

Civility is used to exclude.

Civility is used to mask inhumanity and indecency.

This is what we’re watching unfold in America right now: the weaponization of civility to protect the ruling class.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is the chief propagandist of the Trump administration. She outright lies to journalists about the human and civil rights violations the regime is committing. She has faced no consequences for this. Any opprobrium leveled against Sanders — including Michelle Wolf describing her eyeliner as made from the ashes of lies — is swiftly cut down, often by those who should be holding her accountable.

When Sanders entered the Red Hen restaurant, her presence discomfited the staff, some of whom are members of the marginalized groups she and her colleagues violently target. The owner, Stephanie Wilkinson, took a vote, and the majority of the staff voted not to serve Sanders. Wilkinson quietly requested Sanders and her party leave, and Sanders complied.

Is this uncivil? Politely asking the mouthpiece of American fascism to take her business elsewhere?

Using the word “fascism” in reference to Sanders and the White House where she serves will have some calling me uncivil as well. The act will be decried as name-calling.

Consider this exchange on CNN, where the host, Kate Bolduan, chastises her guest…



Kitanya Harrison

*squinting in Nanny of the Maroons* | Read my essay collection, DISPOSABLE PEOPLE, DISPOSABLE PLANET: books2read.com/u/mBOYNv | Rep: Deirdre Mullane