Saturday, September 23, 2017

Sit, Swear, Stand

This government is of the people, for the people, and by the people. If you are not protesting this current administration, then you are handing our democracy to an inept despot whose advisors are white supremacists, Nazis, white nationalists, and, probably, the Russian government.
So when trump uses the power of his office to tell NFL owners to fire players who refuse to stand during the national anthem, we ought to align on the side of freedom of speech and on the side of equal justice in our police and justice system. If you don’t, just hand our country over and prepare to live without the freedoms we often take for granted but that aren't shared by all our citizens.
I stopped placing my hand over my heart during the pledge of allegiance and the anthem years ago. I’ve lived the ugly side of America. I understand many in this country don’t think my husband Ronald and my daughters Cara and Mackenzie matter, and in turn, don’t think my voice matters because I engaged in race mixing. That hasn’t stopped me from being a patriotic citizen. I continue to fight for the ideals and values of this country that are sometimes skipped over or ignored in the quest to prove this country is for white people and not all our citizens. Now I will not stand for the national anthem or the pledge of allegiance. I agree with the professional athletes who know that any day of the week when they are off the field or the court, they are just another black person at risk of becoming victims of dangerous and possibly fatal interactions with the police, vigilantes, and white supremacists. They are also representing the 28 percent of people of color who live in poverty and who do not have a national stage on which to speak about the issues their communities face. And don’t tell me how, as a few people already have, that professional athletes make so much money they should stay quiet.  No, they shouldn’t. Don’t be silent, especially under the rule of this racist administration.
The white team owners are horrid and racist if they cannot support the players who make them so much money and make sports so exciting to watch. They don’t deserve to have such great players if they are only valued for their skills and not because they are human beings who matter and who face discrimination and danger in this country.
In many of my Facebook posts, I swear. I use common swear words such as fuck, shit, asshole and bastard when I post articles about trump (I also refuse to capitalize his name—and I certainly will not call him president) and everyday articles that clearly show we are not living in a post-racial society. Rather we are living in a segregated society where it is dangerous and sometimes fatal to be a person of color.
This started after a homeowners’ association meeting I was holding when I was still the president—before I resigned because they refused to stop doing business with the attorney we hired to conduct our legal affairs when I discovered he was the state chapter chairman of the League of the South, a white supremacist, secessionist group that hopes to start a race war. At the HOA meeting we were talking to the district police captain, who came to our meeting to talk about safety and how to reduce crime in our neighborhood, about our shooter neighbor, the one who blindly shot through her garage door because she heard Mexican voices in her driveway and who also claimed an escaped prisoner, a black man, of course, had been captured behind her house—it was a lie. He was caught six miles away.
We were trying to explain to the cop that she made our neighborhood dangerous for the neighbors of color, many of whom were teenagers. In fact, she was a danger to all of us, because shooting blindly without knowing what is beyond your target, and not even knowing if your target is a true danger to you, puts everyone in danger.
The cop kept defending her Second Amendment right and said that he supported her shooting blindly because she had a small child in the house, and nothing would change his mind.
Ronald stood and told the story of how a police officer treated him while he was doing yard work at our old Syracuse home. He demanded to know if Ronald lived there—I suppose lots of criminals rake the lawn before breaking and entering. Then he told Ronald to get his “fucking license” to prove he lived there.  Ronald quoted the police officer in telling the story, so people would be aware of how quickly a police stop initiated by racial bias can escalate.
We were holding the meeting in the community room of the church near our neighborhood, where one of our neighbors is a pastor. He made Ronald leave the meeting for swearing in the house of the lord, and he locked him out. I was crying when I told him that Ronald does not swear, he was quoting the officer to make an important point about how dangerous it is to be black when certain neighbors were vilifying every black person who entered the neighborhood. He didn’t care, and he didn’t unlock the door. I asked the one black couple if they could give me a ride home after the meeting, but Ronald had waited for me out in the parking lot.
That evening made me want to swear, even though I don’t usually, because when people think using swear words is worse than people of color being murdered just for having brown skin, I think we should take a fucking stand against it. So I decided that night I won’t put up with that bullshit and I will take a fucking stand until it is safe for people of color to live their lives safely in America without the threat of dying by the hand of a racist while going about their daily business.
I will sit during the national anthem, in support of people of color who feel this country doesn’t want them here, doesn't think they matter, and will engage in murder to prove it, and until such time all Americans are duly able to exercise their rights as citizens and where they can safely be where they are; I will swear until Christians get their damned priorities straight and stop hating on people, claiming it is in God’s name that they are doing so, and until they remember the good news and act to live it;  I will stand beside people of color in protest of the new Jim Crow, the blatant murder of people of color, and the segregation of our country where people of color are expected to be invisible so white people can feel comfortable. I will stand with them because their lives matter. I hope you will, too, even if you think it doesn’t affect you. Check your white privilege and join in, or else nothing will change. Join me in being a creative maladjusted. Don’t be silent.
Washington Examiner

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Disavow Now!

I am angry, but then again, I’ve been angry for quite a while now. America voted a racist into the White House, the place he calls a dump, which was built by slaves. He led the charge against the Central Park Five, even after they were proven innocent, he wouldn’t rent to blacks when he worked for his father, he tried his damndest to delegitimize Barack Obama as president and as a citizen, and he openly courted white supremacists while he campaigned and pushed for a violent response against his protesters. He hasn’t spoken one word of unity for Americans or one word of disavowal against white supremacist terrorism. Yesterday’s statement was worse than disappointing. It was a quiet pat on the back to white supremacy.
Did you vote for him? What didn’t you hear right when you listened to him speak? Or did you silently agree? Or loudly agree like the Trump supporter who raised her hand Nazi-style? What kind of country were you hoping for?
Domestic white supremacist terrorists consider Trump their ally. His dog whistles called them and emboldened them. He hired them on his staff and appointed them to his cabinet. Do you understand this yet? Are you outraged yet?
Yesterday white supremacists wore riot gear and carried bats and rifles to protest the removal of a confederate monument. They intended violence. And it happened. One dead (three if you count the helicopter crash) and 35 injured. 
Where were the parents of the man who plowed his car through counter protesters? Did they know he was becoming radicalized? Did they think it was just a phase or did they agree with him? His mother said that he has a black friend -- the excuse used by many a racist these days. Dylan Roof had a black friend, too.
Or is this what the other officers of my homeowners association averred when I pointed out that our lawyer was a white supremacist, a leader in his racist organization? That it was "just a hobby," and would not prevent the lawyer from serving all our neighbors equitably. They supported keeping him and accepted my resignation. Does his mother believe it was just a hobby?
Do you understand what those monuments represent? They are not monuments to heroes. They are not monuments to Southern heritage. They are monuments of intimidation. They were erected in the early 1900s during Jim Crow law to impress upon black Americans that they were not equal and never would be. White domestic terrorists have been a part of America since the beginning of this country when settlers turned on the native people and set up an economic system based on the free labor of black people. Their belief in a supreme race allowed them to treat human beings as less than animals, to abuse and torture them, kill them, and rape them. Certain eras gave them permission to spread their hatred and beliefs in supremacy, and this is one of them. People have died violently because of their rhetoric and continue to die. 
The system of supremacy and privilege is still in operation.
It won’t change as long as you won’t acknowledge that it exists. You are afraid of losing something, of losing what you believe to be your status as a white American, endowed with supreme abilities and intelligence. Maybe you won’t say it out loud, but you believe it, every time you applaud the police for shooting an unarmed black man or child or choose to be silent, every time you applaud Trump for his hateful rhetoric or tell us to give him a chance, every time you don’t disavow the hatred and violence of white supremacy.
And, liberals, you are a part of this, too. Every time you shut down a friend or family member for telling you how it is to be a person of color and every time you tell them they are reading into a situation as racist because you don't see it that way. Every time you don't check your privilege. Every time you say it isn't as bad as we say it is. Every time you think of us as whiners and worry about how we ruin your comfort and your good time because we make you think about how different and dangerous our experience is from yours.
I don’t feel sorry for you if you can't see this for what it is or it makes you uncomfortable to talk about. Your thin white skin exhausts me. Either you are or you aren’t. Either you stand with us or stand with haters. Will you really listen this time or blow it off because it doesn't affect you? Will you be part of a united America or part of white supremacy and engage in subjugation, deportation and murder of those who you consider unequal? It really is black and white.

Ryan M. Kelly/The Daily Progress, via Associated Press

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Reversing Discrimination

I owe you an apology, dear readers. I’ve left you hanging since January.  Maybe you think the Trump high jinks left me wordless. I can’t say they haven’t had an impact, but rendering me wordless was not the result. Rather, I’ve been writing and writing, and I am nearly done. I will publish a book soon, and I hope you will read it, not just to humor me, but because it is a small contribution to the conversation about race in America and is in honor of and dedicated to the women who have lost sons and daughters at the hands of biased police, vigilantes and white supremacist terrorists. 
Now a little bit about these last seven months:
There has hardly been a day when I haven’t had the news on for most of it. That isn’t the healthiest response to all that is going on, but, at the same time, there is so much going on. The difference in headlines in as little as an hour can be mind warping and tough to keep up with. Trump voters got what they wished for when they kept searching for ways to delegitimize former President Obama and candidate for president Hillary Clinton – lots of scandal and incompetence and chaos and election interference and maybe, no, probably, collusion and criminal activity. It’s like watching a really bad reality TV show. I’m expecting fisticuffs in the daily White House briefing any day now.
Trump supporters also wished for isolationism, and Trump has diminished our world presence and his status as the leader of the free world one stupid misstep, bullying word, and ignorant comment at a time. Trump had one success, the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Gorsuch can barely hide his extreme right agenda.
Trump supporters denied climate change, and Trump withdrew from the Paris climate accord. Trump supporters were afraid of immigrants and wished to turn America white again, and AG Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, even beleaguered, in Trump’s opinion, showed his support of a bill presented by Senator Tom Cotton under the guise of immigration reform that, if passed, will assure America remains a white, (fundamental) Christian, and English speaking only majority. The beleaguered AG also penalized sanctuary cities, put a halt to consent decrees negotiated and agreed upon by cities and police departments to hold the police accountable in use of profiling and excessive force, and announced a crackdown on journalists and their sources in the federal government who leak information. Finally, and one wonders how someone so beleaguered can accomplish so much of his white nationalist agenda, the AG announced a call for attorneys to assist in an investigation and possible charges against universities who use affirmative action plans in their admissions  processes.
Watch what you wish for, Trump supporters. Fields of vegetables and orchards of fruit are going unpicked and are rotting due to a shortage of workers, while Trump successfully brought into the country 15,000 immigrants for his low-paying seasonal hospitality jobs. Obamacare hasn’t been repealed or replaced, and some of you are secretly relieved. The wall wasn’t built. The swamp wasn’t drained, rather, it is spilling over. Taxes for the wealthy weren’t cut – how was that going to help you again? The Legislative branch of government is even more dysfunctional and paralyzed than ever. And your lives haven’t changed one iota except that the air you breathe and the water you drink, cook with, and bathe in is about to get dirtier.
Affirmative Action, which has been around since the 1940s, has gone before the Supreme Court many times in the past forty years. Each time, it is ruled legal. Perhaps Trump believes the Supreme Court now has the votes to shoot it down. Or maybe this is an exercise in appeasing the Trump supporters who continue to show up at rallies to boost his ego.
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Office of the General Counsel, defined affirmative action this way: Any measure, beyond simple termination of a discriminatory practice, that permits the consideration of race, national origin, sex, or disability, along with other criteria, and which is adopted to provide opportunities to a class of qualified individuals who have either historically or actually been denied those opportunities and/or to prevent the recurrence of discrimination in the future.
There are a couple of important things to remember: 1) there is no quota system, which many detractors claim is the reason the laws are unjust, and it specifically states “qualified individuals, ” which detractors seldom mention because it goes against their narrative of unfairness; 2) these laws protect these classes of individuals from future discrimination. Companies, municipalities, and universities create affirmative action plans based on criteria such as demographics, historical patterns and practices of recruitment, hiring, admissions, and retention, and current information about applicants. These plans are in place to level the playing field, and until the playing field is completely level and there is no threat of regression, they will continue to exist.
The concept of reverse discrimination is a tell on white privilege. It proves that if you are white, your expectations are shaped by that fact. You expect to be hired, accepted into college, approved for a mortgage, approved for a lease, to live where you want, to be hired in the field you are interested in pursuing, to have the best schools, to go wherever your heart desires, and to seldom hear the word “no.”
It also proves something else, and that is if you believe there is reverse discrimination, you know that discrimination exists and you approve of it. You know not everyone can hope for the things you take for granted, and you don’t care as long as you get yours even at the expense of others. People with this mindset accept privilege and worry that equality will diminish their status rather than lift the status of others to equal status.
The Declaration of Independence opens with this: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.
The use of “men” does not exclude women and gender non-conforming individuals, nor does it only refer to white Christians. Man, or mankind, is inclusive, not exclusive.
The preamble of the Constitution states: We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessing of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
The Trump administration is erasing the best hopes and ideals of this country and is flouting its founding principles.
The response is to resist, persist, contribute to the national conversation on defining who we are as a country, be an active civic and critically thinking citizen, disavow discrimination of any kind, let Trump supporters know our vision of America is inclusive and we welcome them to the conversation, support the individuals who are willing to run for elected office and who are willing to go to the mat to fight for our best selves and ideals for America, stop in-fighting about who is and isn’t progressive enough, remember your own privilege and check it, and vote in every single election. We got this.

Trump supporter
Chicago Tribune

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Goodbye, America

Ronald always carries a paper towel in his pocket due to his allergies. Every once in a while, he forgets to remove it when he puts his pants in the wash. That happened this morning, and I’ve spent a good part of the day removing paper towel bits from the washing machine, the dryer, and the clothing, sheets and towels I washed.  Because of the static, it is even more difficult to locate every little piece stuck to a sock or a pair of underwear. I’ve found a little joy picking up all those pieces of paper towel. They are a mundane distraction from a weekend filled with terrifying news.
America, as we know it, grand, a world power, the melting pot, and wholly imperfect, is gone. In its place is a country created through the dire lies of an ego maniacal, self-absorbed, ignorant, bigoted, misogynistic, rich, reality TV star posing as president. He used those lies to sign one executive order after another, appoint completely unqualified individuals to important cabinet positions and posts, and surround himself with advisors who are white supremacists and greedy businessmen. Then he spends his time distracting us by talking about the size of the inaugural crowd and the millions who, he is sure, voted fraudulently.
And America is left with the fallout and the consequences of his words, actions, and orders.
America has always been imperfect. Democracies are, especially ones that open their doors to anyone who dreams of something different and better. We have a history that we are not always proud of. We have stumbled and fallen on the wrong side of history more than once. We still have a race problem that a good part of America refuses to address. There is an economic division that is ripping the middle class to shreds and leaving the poor with no paths out while making the rich even richer. There is too much corporate intercession in our laws, causing the government of the people to be more about the government of the corporations and their wealth. And while we continue to struggle for equality and quality of life for all our citizens, some people are still left on the fringes.
In spite of all of that, we are still a great country. The struggle is part of who we are and, more often than not, our moral compass guides us to the right side of history.
But that is not true right now. Because of an individual who is unfit to hold office, we are a country in crisis. The impact of this man’s erratic and uninformed leadership affects not just our country, but global stability.
I am still waiting for the GOP to speak out against the things that are going on: White supremacists in key positions, Russian influence on the election, ill-conceived and unconstitutional executive orders flying out the door as quickly as they can be written, attacks on the free press, and, now, attacks on immigrants, even ones who are now citizens. The Muslim ban Trump promised his supporters was rolled out Friday by executive order, only White House staff is trying to spin it differently, using those alternate facts Kellyann Conway was quick to offer up when Trump was caught lying.
Where is the GOP? Why haven’t any of the GOP Congress or Senate appeared before the press to weigh in on what’s happening in our country? Senator Chuck Schumer did, with tears in his eyes and his voice breaking, because the very foundation of our country has been pulled out from under us.
The ACLU stood up to the executive order to detain Muslims. So did thousands of citizens who protested at airports. Others are emailing or calling their representatives.
Will any of this stop this train wreck? I don’t think it will unless the GOP stands with us. They are the ones in power. When will they decide the country is more important than their elected positions and ideology and do the right thing?
Are we going to repeat a terrible world history, the one that caused the world to go to war a second time in one century and that caused us to say over and over, “Never forget?” Have we forgotten that terrible history so soon, the memory of which Trump trampled on as he wrote his Muslim ban executive order on the remembrance day of the Holocaust?
Where is the GOP?
In the meantime, besides doing one thing every single day to resist, like writing to my representatives and donating money to groups who are standing up to this oligarchy, I will continue to pick the paper towel bits out of the laundry and yearn for our imperfect America where we can fight the good fight through discourse and votes, hopefully ending up on the right side of history, and where our president, even when we don’t agree with him or her, is still serving the best interests of the country and not his own self interests and those of his inner circle.

#resist #unite #impeach #holdtheGOPaccountable

Friday, December 30, 2016

2017 and Counting

We are at a precipitous time in our lives and in the history of our country. A sense of dread hangs over my every thought and action. Maybe many of you feel as I do: depressed, angry, anxious, and fearful, with a sense that the world tilted on its axis and something is coming to an end.  The weird thing is both sides of the partisan aisle feel that way. The right feels it looking back over the last eight years, and the left feels it looking forward to the next four years as we witness an end to progress.
Ever since it became apparent that Donald Trump would be the next president of the United States, I have suffered anxiety and paralysis. I know this response is useless, and so is any display of anger at those who elected Trump, or those who worked behind the scenes, including Russian hackers, to sway the election, or those in our own country who worked to make voter access difficult for some populations. It is more important to take action as President Obama did with sanctions against Russia.
Along those lines, I thought I would list some possible New Year’s resolutions so we can try our damndest to right this runaway train before the inevitable crash occurs.
But I find myself feeling resolutions are not quite the right term for 2017.  They may seem like good intentions that don’t have to be fulfilled. Plus they cannot possibly fix all that is broken. They cannot possibly lift me or us from the depths of despair. They cannot possibly stop the train wreck.
Instead I will call them living commitments, and I am suggesting them for individuals and for the collective America we all call home, although not every single one will apply to every person (you’ll know which ones are which for your situation):
1.     Appreciate the people in your life who love you just as you are. Love them back just as unconditionally. Don’t just tell them you love them. Show them every day through kindness, compassion, attentiveness, and concern. And when life gets in the way and things feel dire, help, if you can, and if they accept your help, or sit and listen. Let them vent, and vent, and vent, until they feel better. One day you will need the same.
2.     Stay fit and work toward maintaining good health, but don’t get obsessed about it. Sometimes it is just as important to treat yourself and to have a good time. Everything in moderation isn’t such a bad adage.
3.     Stop believing your time and your life are worth more than others’. Especially stop believing your skin color or your religion makes you better.  The world isn’t as big as it used to seem and we are all in it together. We are all exactly the same at birth, imperfect and trying to survive, equal in every way, except our life circumstances and the cultural and ethnic beliefs in which we are raised and through which we view the world around us are different, so even the people you may think do not deserve equality are your equals. Treat others, as you would have them treat you.
4.     Speak up as often as necessary and do not let this Trump circus become normalized with excuses or pleas to “give him a chance.” He’s blown all his chances and then some, and he hasn’t even been sworn in yet. He is an egomaniacal, ignorant, bigoted, ethically challenged, sexually inappropriate, greedy, developmentally stunted, rich guy who will destroy our country and possibly the world. Remember what Maya Angelou said: “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” Don’t be complacent.
5.     Read the real news from the free press: The New York Times, The Washington Post, or any of the big city newspapers, and your local paper so you know what is going on in your area. Learn which outlets are fake news outlets and don’t support them by reading or sharing their trash. Stop watching news entertainment channels like Fox News. They make money by making you view the world through fear, paranoia, and hatred.
6.     Get involved with your local politics. Be an informed voter, pass out flyers, help people register to vote, make phone calls, or think about running for office – we need people to run for office. At the very least, get out and vote in EVERY SINGLE ELECTION and write to your representatives at all levels so they know what their constituents are thinking. We need to get out there and get the word out that hate and insularity are not our mandates. Equality and quality of life for every single American are our mandates.
7.     Remember how small the world is now and how important it is that we engage in the global negotiations among countries, global human rights, and the global economy. We are a world power, though we may not be for long. Trump has it wrong, very wrong, and his ignorance and reliance on white supremacists and crazy, old, white generals who believe in conspiracy theories could very well stir up world unrest. It already has. World War III is now a possibility, and it won’t be like the other wars, which were horrible, devastating, and inhumane in their own right. This one could end it all, especially since Trump tweeted about a nuclear arms race and because there are other unstable, egotistical, world leaders like him. Do you really think they care about human life other than their own lives? You are delusional if you think they do.
8.     Speak up against discrimination of any kind. The worst you can do is nothing. It makes you complicit. Even if you don’t think it is your problem, it is, because it is our country’s problem. There are people who are oppressed socially, educationally, and economically because of the color of their skin, gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, or ableism.  Do you think it is okay when one group feels perfectly comfortable defining the worth of other people based on a single standard (white, male, heterosexual, able) and then treat others differently, indifferently, or even violently? If you don’t, then don’t be silent.
9.     The only reasonable response to the murder of unarmed black men and women is outrage.  Think of it as the new Jim Crow control of the black population through terrorization, akin to lynching prior to the Civil Rights movement. If you don’t feel outrage EVERY SINGLE TIME you see such murders on the news, ask yourself why. If the answer is racial bias, which it probably is, work hard and learn how to overcome it. It is important that we recognize, acknowledge, and question our biases. If we don’t, our country will NEVER overcome systemic racism, sexism, homophobia, ageism, classism, and ableism. We will never reach the ideal of equality. Our citizens are becoming browner and female.  Will we become majority minorities with a white male ruling class, or will we get this figured out so that every American is bestowed freedom equally, has a voice in the process of governing, and where we can truly govern our country for the greater good and not for the good of the few? Don’t just feel the outrage. Do something about it. Write to your representatives, the Attorney General, and the police departments that switched from protect and serve peace officers to militarized population control. And if you are thinking we should care as much about the police who occasionally get gunned down, I agree. But let’s get real: some people are going to snap when they fear walking down the street or having a broken taillight could result in death by police officer. Can you imagine living under that kind of stress? It feels unbearable, right? Until we retrain police to be peace officers who are invested in community policing and police departments reflect the ethnic makeup of communities they serve, that kind of over-the-top retaliation may still occur. So this is about the safety of all parties involved, and, yes, all lives matter, but we are focusing on black lives because those are the lives that appear to have no value in our society.
10. Stop pretending our economy and the middle class are reliant on manufacturing jobs. Technology has changed manufacturing, and those jobs, as well as coal mining jobs, are gone, not necessarily shipped out. Our economy is energy, technology, consumer, and service based. Pay a living wage and allot full time status to those jobs that were traditionally reserved for high school students. Let unions negotiate pay, benefits, and workers’ rights and safety again. We need unions and the strength of their membership numbers to make working conditions better for everyone. A rising tide lifts all boats, no matter their size.
11. Fight against privatization of government functions. The government doesn’t have to make a profit. Running the government like a business is a terrible mistake. Private companies do and want to make money, lots of it, through methods that put the bottom line above all else, like quality and affordability of service. Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, the US Post Office, and the Internal Revenue Service are government functions that are almost wholly self-sustaining.  Prisons should also be a government function – a privatized prison system is only cost effective when the prison is full beyond capacity, which means ridiculous sentences for petty crime. Health care should be a government function – a single payer system that can negotiate drug and health service pricing, focus on preventative health care, include dental care, and take the burden of providing health insurance to employees from corporations that complain the cost is too much (it is expensive, for both the corporation and the employee, who is saddled with expensive premiums and high deductibles). Then corporations could spend more on jobs. Don’t let rich (mostly) white men, hoping to get richer, take over such functions. They will be more interested in making money than in serving the interests of the public, and services will not be equitably distributed. Furthermore, the middle class is filled with government workers. Privatize those jobs and the middle class will shrink even more.
12. Public education should remain public education. Vouchers are just a way to ensure wealthy people can send their children to private schools using public school funds instead of their own money. Their advantage will disadvantage our children. It will never be equitable and the same goes for the privatization of public schools.
13. Stop feeling like you worked harder than other people to get where you are. Realize most Americans work hard, and being punitive about pay and benefits is a horrible way to treat fellow Americans. Assigning more worth to one job over another is wrong – we need all kinds of jobs to make our country function, so all jobs deserve a living wage. Many people benefitted from systemic and institutional racism and sexism to get where they are, so they are not better or harder workers, but privileged. Most people want to work, and there should be jobs for them that pay a living wage. Place a cap on executive pay, so that it is not more than ten times the lowest paid employee of the company (right now it is 300 – 400 times higher). For those who can’t work, provide living wage assistance.
14. Stop being punitive to poor people. Most of them are poor due to systemic classism or racism. Poor, white people (many of whom live in rural areas) outnumber poor black people because blacks make up only 12% of the total population (an amazing statistic when you consider the number of Africans who were taken from their homeland and sold into slavery. At one time there were many more slaves than white people, particularly in the South. Are you inquisitive enough to wonder why that is? The conditions of slavery, Jim Crow, policing, and systemic racism have caused a stark decline in the population of American blacks. Genocide in our country is not new or unique. Ask the one 1% of Native Americans.) – racial bias makes most people believe blacks make up the majority of poor people. We can help all poor people by making sure they have access to education, jobs, health care, housing, and food.  Not a single child in America should go hungry or without a warm bed or a safe place to live and attend school. Our tax dollars should support safety nets and access to the inherent rights listed above. Relying on churches and charities is wrong because they do not have enough to help all the needy and sometimes they are subjective about whom they serve. Think of your tax dollars as tithing. Such a small amount of tax dollars cover safety nets (the majority of tax dollars are spent on defense), so taxpayers should not feel they are helping freeloaders, who are a definite minority amongst the poor.
15. Remember patriotism is not just blind allegiance to our country. It is the active participation and contributions one makes as a citizen that is true patriotism. If you are in support of the Confederate flag, you are not a patriot, and you are guilty of treason. White supremacy is a myth and your support of it, or your support of a supremacist president and his supremacist cronies, goes against the best ideals of this country and is a damaging testimony in regard to your character.
16.  Equality doesn’t take away from some to give to others. It simply ensures equal access and opportunity to reach one’s God-given potential. No one will take your jobs, your guns (except maybe assault weapons which have no business being used by anyone not in the military), or your religion from you. That is the lie you’ve been told so you will vote for the wealthy to get even richer. In fact, equality will ensure you have the freedom to live, work, socialize, and worship as you choose, and it ensures it for every person. Realize that if a person decides to marry someone of the same sex, for example, that decision in no way impacts your religious rights. If you decide your religion prevents you from assisting such a reunion, then please don’t run for the position of city clerk or have a business which daily puts you in conflict with your religious beliefs. That is something you must personally decide upon while not imposing your will on others.
17. Remember this country has enough room and resources for everyone here, including illegal immigrants (and their children) who were brought here by large corporations, like Trump’s businesses, so they could pay them lower wages and not provide benefits. Our diversity is our strength. That’s what true democracy is: the cacophony of many ideas and perspectives in order to find the best path to serve the greater good.
Happy New Year, dear readers! We will get through this time in our history just as we struggled, fought for, and won progressive change in the past. We will head toward the righteous and progressive path and be on the right side of history, even as other forces try to turn us backward. Let’s turn our anxiety and despair into action. America is already great, and together we can make a difference and make it even greater.

Friday, November 18, 2016

I Am Tired of Talking about Race and Gender, Too

Whenever life got difficult for me as a child, and that was fairly often growing up with an alcoholic mother, I gave myself a pep talk. I do it in adulthood, too, when life seems overwhelming or seems to go against my grain. I remind myself that everything is temporary, and if it is temporary, I can get to the other side of it and come out fine.  It is usually a big enough push to motivate me through the worst life throws at me.
But on November 8, 2016, I started sinking fast. I fell down the rabbit hole, hard. Each announcement on election night pushed me farther down the hole. I could not believe what I was seeing. I started swearing at the TV and slapping the chair. Ronald was mostly silent.  At one point, he said, “It’s over.”
“No,” I said. “They haven’t called Florida yet. Surely she will take Pennsylvania.” But soon I, too, realized it was over, despondency oozing over me.
Although Secretary Clinton won the popular vote by over 1.5 million votes, she lost the Electoral College vote.  The last time that happened was in 2000, and, admittedly, some odd things occurred during the Bush/Gore election, including those mysterious hanging chads.
Over the next couple of weeks, I commiserated with other progressives, argued with those who take a more conventional and close-minded approach to life, shed a lot of tears, and expressed a lot of anger when talking to my immediate family.
I could point fingers: it is the fault of the third party voters and/or the fault of the 50% of the voting age populace who chose not to vote.  All in all, Trump won on less than 25% of all possible votes. But now that I find us here, how is blaming others any good? It won’t change the outcome.
As I watch the parade of possible appointments including Steve Bannon and Jeff Sessions, both men who have demonstrated racial hatred and other extreme conservative views, I feel like I am being suffocated in the rabbit hole.  Then there are all the racially motivated attacks, graffiti, tweets, bullying, and other acts of white supremacy.
The rabbit hole exit is disappearing from sight.
I’ve talked and written about racism for over forty years now, but more so in the last eight years. We were on a steady downhill slide to the rabbit hole ever since President Obama was elected and the far right decided, when they could not find any real scandals to bring Obama down, to systematically attack his validity, credibility, and character. The birther conspiracy, supported and carried on by Trump, caused all kinds of racist responses.
But Americans got tired of being accused of being racist and they responded… with more racism. Nothing better than accusing the victims of being responsible for the hatred and oppression heaped on them. Then America voted in Trump, the candidate openly endorsed by the KKK. And almost all of the Trump supporters expressed anger at being called racists. However, they are not disavowing all the hate crimes popping up around the country, over 400 reported so far, and a good number of the people perpetrating these crimes are avowed Trump supporters.
People are saying they are tired of hearing about racism. Quite a few contend racism didn’t exist until President Obama started talking about it. They have short memories and a poor understanding of our history. 
Every time we made racial strides in our history, there has been an equal or stronger backlash.  President Obama’s election eight years ago, and his list of accomplishments, caused the rise of the Tea Party and the rise of Trump. Hatred is strong, even when it is only inside the hearts of a minority. Silence by others makes it even stronger. Silence is complicity.
In the past black towns, successful with black-American-owned businesses and commerce, and segregated from white towns, were burned to the ground and black Americans were lynched. So much for “separate but equal.”
After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 (75 years ago next month), Japanese Americans were rounded up and placed in internment camps. They lost their freedom and everything else, because Americans believed their loyalty would lie with Japan, even when they had been Americans for generations. America offered restitution to the survivors of internment in 1988 under the Civil Liberties Act.
Black American descendants of slavery and Jim Crow have yet to receive restitution.
Today I argue discrimination and hate crimes are equal to those perpetrated in our history. But an awful lot of white Americans disagree.
I can tell them that I am tired of talking about racism, too, and misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, and religious intolerance.  But I have to talk about it because they are not going away, and at this time in our history, with the election of a racist, misogynist, religious intolerant president, it will only get worse. I am also tired of people supporting systemic racism and the other isms, but pretending denial, like when they voted for Trump.
We are losing our freedoms including freedom of the press, freedom to protest, and the freedom to be fully participating American citizens. This should scare the shit out of people, but many are celebrating how this will hurt the people they hate (they are confident they themselves are excluded from this loss of freedoms) and a bunch more are silently compliant.
Some of my extended family members are worried that my speaking out will result in imprisonment. I jokingly told my mother-in-law to visit me in prison and bring cookies (I have been bringing her home-baked cookies when we visit her up North), after I am arrested for political activism that includes this blog, my FB posts, and writing to my Congressmen.
But maybe prison for political activists is not such a distant reality, and maybe we are close to another McCarthy era when people’s lives were ruined and some lost their lives because the government didn’t like their politics. Senator Doug Ericksen, a Republican state senator in Washington, is trying to pass a bill that makes certain kinds of protests a felony (right now one can be arrested for blocking traffic or causing property damage, but both are misdemeanors) and supporting protests will be a felony, too, if the law gets through. Such a law would not only result in a possible prison sentence or probation, it could revoke the individual's right to vote. Think about that and the number of protesters who came out for Black Lives Matter and against a Trump presidency.
A professor at Rutgers University, Kevin Allred, who is white, was picked up by police at his Brooklyn home for tweeting, "Will the 2nd amendment be as cool when I buy a gun and start shooting at random white people or no...?" They delivered him to a psychiatric hospital. Although extreme racial bias is still not considered a mental illness, apparently political activism is. My extended family members may not be overreacting in their worry over my safety.
So here I am, a couple of email exchanges with Senator Thom Tillis on record, other emails penned to Senator Richard Burr, Representative Virginia Foxx, and Speaker Paul Ryan; a growing number of outraged and angry FaceBook posts logged; and now this post. Yet I am still reeling.
What if Trump’s cabinet were filled with racists, misogynists, homophobes, the religious intolerant, and xenophobes? Will Trump’s rant to “make America great again” or as many of us say, “white again,” become reality? Will we be living in a country where political activists are jailed, people of color and women are second class citizens, separate and unequal, dreamers will be deported to a country they never stepped foot in, LGBTQ individuals will be subjected to conversion therapy, women will have to ask their male partners permission to take birth control and perhaps will go to jail if they get an abortion, Muslims will have to register as such with the government for possible deportation or internment, all of us will be forced to worship under fundamentalist dogma, and citizens will be encouraged to demonstrate their hatred toward any group that is not compliant or white and heterosexual?
My panic just soared past the moon. Time for a pep talk, but I gave it already on FaceBook yesterday. Here it is:
This country needed HRC. The majority of voters realized that, even those who didn't think she was perfect. We lost, more than just the election, as we are seeing in these days of transition of power. But we cannot give up, not for one moment, because of all the people who came before us and refused to lie down and take oppression and violence and segregation and economic hardship and second-class citizenship. In their honor and for the future generations, we have to keep going forward while the white nationalists, white supremacists, misogynists, homophobes, reality TV stars, and powerbrokers try to force a vision of America on us that we know is shameful, hurtful, ignorant, and finished the moment we stand against it. Stronger together.

Yes, I will get through this, and you will, too, but it will take hard work, the ability to speak up loudly and often, and perseverance in the face of unprecedented obstruction. There is a way to climb out of this rabbit hole, and that is to keep talking about race and gender, no matter how tiring it gets, until we no longer have to. We got this.

Additional thoughts:
I just realized I am in mourning. Watching the Medals of Freedom ceremony gave me that understanding. The last eight years haven't been easy, but they were a promise. President Obama was a promise of a different America, led by a man who embodies grace, perseverance, intelligence, humor, and a view of what a truly egalitarian America would look like, an America in which my family is just another American family. I would have still missed President Obama terribly if Secretary Clinton had won the election, but I would have looked forward to her chance to lead us toward a truly progressive America, taking up the gauntlet we handed to President Obama in 2008. Instead we elected a horrid, self-centered, self-aggrandized, entitled reality star who doesn't respect women, minorities, people with disabilities, the free press, and anyone else who doesn't adore him. He is a monster who is fully taking advantage of hatred to promote nothing but himself. If he had a shred of ethical and compassionate thought, he would stand before America in a press conference devoted to just this topic, and tell America that white supremacy and white nationalism are treason and abhorrent. A statement during an interview is hardly taking a stand. I am in mourning for more than the term of Obama's presidency. I am in mourning for the loss of our country to haters and supremacists who are no better than Dylan Roof and the Confederate flag/Southern heritage bunch. When you have to debase others to feel better, you are lacking in character and quality, and you have no right to drag the rest of us down with you.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Not Okay

I stood in the elevator with a colleague. We exchanged pleasantries as the doors closed. Then he was behind me, wrapping his arms around my waist and pulling me against him. He was a big man, but I pushed him away. I said, disbelief squeezing my voice, “Why did you do that?”
“I had to.”
I told my supervisor. I was crying. I asked him if I had ever done anything to make someone believe it was okay to touch me without asking. He said, “You didn’t do anything. He was wrong.”
He reported it to senior management. Maybe someone spoke to the man because he never touched me again.
I was in my late twenties, a new mother. I knew it was wrong, but I thought he was a nice man, so I looked at myself instead of acknowledging he was terrible for thinking he could touch me just because he wanted to.
In college not just one, but two men, stalked me at different times. When I called the police to report the one who followed me in his car every morning as I walked to campus, repeatedly asking me to get in, they told me they could not do anything unless he touched me. There were no stalking laws then. I told the officer I would be sure to call back after they found my cold, dead body. Both men stopped stalking me after I pointed them out to Ronald and he threatened them. I still feel the anger of having to rely on him to feel safe instead of the men accepting my refusals.
Another time I was assigned to work on a class project with one of the football players.  He came to my dorm room. When he knocked on the door, I let him in my single room and left the door wide open. He turned around and closed it. I opened it again and told him my boyfriend was on his way over (Ronald WAS on his way. I asked him to come over because I knew it might not be safe), and he should leave the door open or I would report to the professor that I could not work on the project with him.
A director at the university library where Ronald and I were work-study students decided he did not like seeing us together (for new readers, Ronald is black. I am white. We have been together for forty-one years). He tried to fire Ronald and when that failed because the rest of us resigned, he tried to have me moved to a different department. Our supervisor told him off, especially after the director stated people had been complaining about us.  I could not believe he felt entitled to monitor, challenge and change my choices.
A professor was advising me on one of my student teaching lesson plans. He started calling me at my apartment and showing up at my work-study job. My roommates started screening calls and I changed my work schedule. One day he caught me on the stairs at the library and said, “Just have a drink with me. That’s all I ask.”
“I can’t.”
“Why?” he asked, stepping into my personal space.
“I just can’t.” I turned and ran down the stairs.
More than one white man, my father included, told me I could do better than dating Ronald. How many of them felt they were somehow missing out or that a black man had taken something that belonged to them?  Many acted as if they were concerned for my welfare, but I knew they were only concerned with their own wants and pleasures.
Other white men told me, because they saw me with a black man, that I was “easy.”
I reported a facilities problem at one job, but I didn’t know whom to contact, so I contacted the department head. The next day one of the facilities guys showed up at my office. He was enormous, about 6’5”, and he weighed well over 300 pounds. I am 5”2’ and on the tiny side. He leaned over me, his face just inches from mine, and yelled in his booming voice about how things would not get fixed because I had not gone through the right channels. I was terrified, but I looked him in the face, refusing to cower, and said, “It’s not that serious, Mike.”
After he left I went to the restroom and burst into tears.
One time a manager denied my request for personal time off to attend an event at my daughters’ school. As a manager myself, I told him it would not impact the operation of the department I managed, but he would not change his mind and suspected I did not think my job was a priority. I told him I would go to human resources and he said, “Go ahead,” like his word was the last one.
I reported him and told the personnel manager the company could not retain women managers in an environment that did not encourage work/life balance, where managers like the one I reported to judged a school event as not a valid reason to take time off. She said she would take care of it. Twenty minutes later my manager emailed me and said he had reconsidered, and I could take the personal time.
Another time he told me he could not picture me “fitting in” at the corporate office. I was not sure if he meant the way I looked, how I conducted business, or something else, but I knew it was a negative.
At another job the personnel manager shut his office door when I went in to ask him for more hours. He told me he would give me more hours, but I owed him. He leaned over the desk, loosening his tie. I raised my voice and asked him if he had ever heard anyone scream the word “rape.” He opened the door and, as I walked out, I said, “I don’t owe you anything.” He gave me more hours.
After he got transferred to another location, he stopped by my station to tell me I kept him honest. I told him, “I am your goddamned conscience.”
At a different job a manager, looking me up and down, said,  “Your hair was longer in my dream last night.” Then he patted his lap and asked me to have a seat. Another day he reached out to touch the spot between my breasts and, when I slapped his hand away, he told me he was only going to touch my button to tell me he liked it.  I reported him. The executive said he would fire him – zero tolerance for sexual harassment – but I asked him not to. The man was on his third marriage and his new wife was pregnant. I felt sorry for her and asked the executive to tell him that another infraction would immediately be reported and then he would be terminated. I gave him a second chance.
A day later he asked if he could come to my desk and speak to me. He said I misunderstood him, that he liked to joke around, and he was sorry I took it the wrong way. Even at risk of losing his job, he was cavalier.  I told him I did not appreciate his brand of humor and that it had better not happen again.
Even at fifty-nine I still feel vulnerable when I am out and about alone. Sometimes I feel invisible, too, because there is a different way older women are treated and described, like the way Trump says Secretary Clinton has no stamina.
All the women who are coming forward and speaking publicly about their experiences with Trump as sexual predator brought these stories, and many more than I have space to tell, back to consciousness. I am angry. Angry for all the times men made me feel like a thing instead of a person and for all the times they felt entitled to make sexual comments, invade my personal space, or make judgments about my looks, sexuality, abilities, intelligence, and choices.
We not only taught our daughters about race and racism in America, we taught them about how society might treat them as girls and women. As they became  young teens and then left home at age seventeen to go to the dance conservatory, I told them the following:
1)                   Don’t play games with boys and men. Be clear about what is comfortable and what isn’t. Be clear if you don’t feel mutual attraction.
2)                   Don’t put drinks down at a party and leave them unattended. Don’t accept a drink from anyone, even friends.
3)                   Protect yourself from getting into a situation in which you don’t have control over the outcome.
4)                   Speak up no matter how uncomfortable it may make you feel.
5)                   You can tell me anything, and, although I may be upset or even angry, I will still support and love you.
6)                   Stay safe. Take a cab. Tell someone else where you are and whom you are with. Have someone go with you.
I only hope parents are teaching their sons how to treat girls and women as equals and with respect, not as sex objects or by shaming them about their bodies or sexuality. But I know, with the high rate of rape on college campuses, we have a long way to go.
Obviously no one taught Trump how to treat women. He does what he wants. He feels entitled. He said so. When Trump says the women who spoke out are liars and “you know me,” he is gaslighting his supporters.

But the women who are coming forward? They are courageous. They know their truth, and they are ready to speak it. Trump can’t gaslight them anymore, making them feel like they were mistaken or it was something they did or some personal failure or that they are too ugly or old to have held his attention -- "look at her." Nor can he gaslight the majority of the electorate who knows exactly who he is – a sexual predator. 
Don’t be silent.