Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The Rabbit Hole Just Got Deeper

Sometimes life feels like a lawn tractor mowing me down. I feel it now, and it is painful! Life gets complicated! The news of the Mueller Report and other trump administration missteps and blunders keeps me awake at night.
But I also worked hard into the evenings and early mornings for many months, despite some personal life issues, to release a new version of my book. It has a new title, updates, new personal stories, expanded stories, and questions for discussion so that readers really can join the conversation about race in America. Look for it on Amazon. It should be on Barnes & Noble soon. It is now titled Another Day in Post-Racial America: To the Mothers of the Black Lives Matter Movement, With Love. With hope, it will no longer be placed among books about motherhood and parenting, but where it belongs, among books that talk about racism in America. But, so far, it is slow going. People who reviewed the first edition don’t want to reread it (I understand, and I thank the readers who did), and with all that is going on in people’s lives, finding new reviewers has been difficult. Independently published books live and die by the number of reviews (whether positive or negative), so if you do order my book, and I hope you will, I also hope you will give it an honest review to make sure it appears in search lists. Thank you in advance, and thank you for joining the conversation about race in America in this time of mainstream white supremacy. I would be honored to facilitate a book club or classroom discussion via Skype. Contact me in the comments section if you are interested.
The Mueller Report was released, kind of. Attorney General Barr did his best to obstruct, acting as the president’s personal lawyer and not in his role as the people’s lawyer. Finally, he released a redacted version, but we need to know ALL the details and see ALL the documentation as well as the president’s tax returns. Our government is so corrupt under this administration, we are at risk of losing the very foundation of our country: democracy. The Democrats are infighting over whether or not to proceed with impeachment, worrying it will hurt the results of the 2020 election. The GOP can only clap their hands at how many conservative judges they are placing on benches, so they have turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to all of the president’s grift and criminality. So, we are left with the most corrupt president in the history of our country, who now feels there is no consequence, no matter how far he strays from the rule of law. The consequences to our country may be irreparable. 
I believe we are on the path to impeachment, but I also agree that we should not be hasty. We must have all the documentation and the testimony of Mueller and many of the witnesses named in the report. The country must understand the severity of this man's actions. 2020 will be here sooner than later, and the Russians and other foreign adversaries are ready and able to repeat their flagrant election interference. The president is unfit for the job, and, honestly, his lack of a moral compass should land him jail time. I still have hope our government system will work as originally designed.
I also believe we must pass laws that ensure election districting is nonpartisan, and  we need to eliminate voter suppression through the reenactment of  and recommitment to the Voter Rights Act, where the Federal government can intervene if states suppress the vote. We must encourage every person to register to vote and to get out and vote. Otherwise, our voices will be silenced. And, finally, we must look closely at the Electoral College and investigate its possible closure and rely on the popular vote. It will be a lengthy process and cannot hope to impact the 2020 election.
As of April 22, 2019, nineteen Democratic candidates have thrown their hats into the primary ring. Joe Biden is expected to join them this week. The field may still grow even after that. The pool is full of qualified, dedicated individuals who have committed their lives to public service. The youngest and least qualified may be Pete Buttigieg, but he has shown courage in the face of truth, brought other relevant experience to the table, and I haven’t discounted him. He has captured the interest of millennials, too. But I am hoping that all the white males who are running understand that even if they are equal in qualification, as a country, it is important to look most closely at women and ethnic minority candidates. It is past time, decades past time, where all Americans can feel fully represented by our elected officials, particularly the position of president. We are not just a country of white men, and our elected officials should look like the citizens they represent. I know, people will jump on me for even mentioning this kind of thought process. It won’t be the first time. But our government should reflect our populace. Even with the election of the most diverse Congress in the history of our country, it is still not reflective of who we are. We should not, as I say in my book, be a majority minority country ruled by a wealthy, white male ruling class. That is not what we aspire to when we speak of our greatest ideal, that we are all equal, so I hope voters will recognize the importance of having our elected officials look like our citizens and be individuals who can understand the unique needs of different constituents and be able to honor their narratives that are  so often smothered beneath the white male patriarchy. If we succeed at that, we can all experience equality and enjoy a better quality of life.
So, yes, the rabbit hole has gotten deeper, and darker, and scarier, but I haven’t given up yet, and I hope you won’t, too. Write to your elected officials about the issues that matter to you and about whether or not you support impeachment or some other action like censure, make sure you are registered to vote, watch the town hall meetings and debates, and make your best, most informed decision. Then support whoever the candidate ends up being. We need to change course in 2020.
And, please, learn about race in America and the way it impacts citizens of color. It is so important that the country understands the systemic racism and sexism under which our governance is operating. Joining the conversation means that, together, we can change the narrative and climb out of the rabbit hole. 

Monday, February 4, 2019

Dear White People Who Can't Figure Out if What You Did Is Racist Or Not

Dear white people who can’t figure out if what you did is racist or not, 

Stop waiting for black people to explain why some of your actions are racist. You already know they are racist when you do your best to claim such behaviors aren’t who you are, or you pretend they never happened. I say this, because of the debacle Governor Ralph Northam of the Virginia Commonwealth caused for himself.
In case you haven’t heard, the extreme right went on a hunt to discredit Northam. They uncovered a photograph in his 1984 medical school yearbook that showed one student in blackface and the other in a KKK robe and hood. They were after Northam because of a bill he was trying to get passed concerning late term abortions. It appears the extreme right will go to any lengths to ensure women, even if their lives depend on it, cannot have access to safe and affordable abortions. Their love of fetuses outpaces their love of people by eons. They’ve even killed for the cause.
I don’t understand their position, because if they made sure women had access to affordable birth control and reproductive healthcare, as they did under the ACA until the right dismantled it, the number of abortions would shrink to almost zero, and the procedure would only be used as a last resort, say in the case of rape (no, a baby conceived by rape is not a gift from God; It is the result of a violent physical attack.) or the mother’s health risk. But the extreme right doesn’t care, because embryos and fetuses mean more to their cause than people. If even one of them told the truth, they would tell you that what it really means is that they would fulfill their belief that women should be oppressed and submissive to men, and they should not be allowed to make decisions about their bodies.  I know this because of the number of men who claimed support of pro-life legislation, but were also caught telling their mistresses to get abortions so the men would not be found out and would not have to support a child they didn’t think was worth their support. In their case, the baby was certainly not a gift from God; It was the inconvenient result of caving to lust.
So they went digging to discredit Northam. Apparently they didn’t have to dig too deeply, because there was the photo in his medical yearbook, and another interesting tidbit in another yearbook: one of his nicknames was “Coonman.”
Many Democrats and liberals called for Northam’s resignation, along with the hypocritical right. It doesn’t matter who went digging, it matters that the incendiary photo existed at all. And it doesn’t matter what a stellar civil rights record he has. We live in different times. There was a time white men fought for civil rights, but were perfectly fine leaving systemic racism in place. They wanted to continue being the power brokers, decision makers, and leaders. There was no room at the table for anyone who looked different or thought differently from them. Those days are over. The 2008 election broke the glass ceiling for people of color, and Hillary Rodham Clinton’s run as the Democratic candidate in the 2016 election broke the glass ceiling for women. Not that there hasn’t been backlash. There has been a strong and sustained backlash. Trump is the face of that backlash. Nevertheless, we persisted in the 2018 election with the greatest turnover of Congressional seats in the history of our country and the most diverse Congress ever.
Northam, so far, refused to resign. On February 1, 2019, he issued an apology for appearing in the photograph. On February 2, 2019, he claimed he wasn’t in the photo and someone had put it on his page without his knowledge. He also admitted he had engaged in putting on blackface once for a Michael Jackson dance contest—he even said he only put on a little shoe polish since, if one had never done it before, one might not know how difficult it is to remove later. He even went so far as to consider giving a demonstration of his dance skills, but one can hear his wife caution that it is “inappropriate circumstances.”
It’s beyond inappropriate. In 1984, the year the yearbook was published, every single American would have known, with the exception of avowed white supremacists, that blackface is offensive and the KKK is a terrorist organization. Engaging in such behavior, particularly when one hopes to serve individuals as their doctor and, later, as their government representative, is egregious.
Some pundits are calling for statements from Obama and the Virginia Deputy Governor, Justin Fairfield, who would step into the governor’s position should Northam step down. No, they don’t have to weigh in. They will only be criticized, and, white people, you don’t need them to tell you what Northam did was racist and that he should step down. We know he should be held accountable. The only one who appears not to know is Northam himself.
Except, let me make a larger statement to the extreme right: You can’t call foul on liberals and not disavow Steve King (Iowa) who is a blatant white supremacist and trump who has an equally egregious record on race relations dating back to the 1970s when he wouldn’t rent to people of color. Remember, he also pushed the birther conspiracy and kept it going long after that horse was beaten to death. They should both step down, too. And you? You must start legislating equality.
So, let’s be accountable. The extreme right needs to stop doing whatever is necessary, including cheating at the polls, suppressing the vote, conspiring with a foreign adversary, and discrediting their colleagues on the other side of the aisle, to get their ideologically discriminatory beliefs into the mainstream. There is a reason there is separation of church and state. Do what you want in your churches, as long as you are not abusing people through conversion therapy or sexually abusing parishioners or doing anything else vile under the guise of God’s will, including believing that God favors white people over all others and that gives you permission to discriminate and hate anyone who doesn’t look like you. And stop looking for dirt to discredit Fairfield, too. Your methods are obvious and disingenuous.
Note: after I published this it came to light that the allegations against Fairfield may have come from Northam's camp. It has not been confirmed, but if true, this shows Northam's utter disregard for people of color as he is willing to crush another's career to save his own. This story is getting deep.
Note 2: An second allegation, this time of rape, against Fairfield. Fairfield is demanding an investigation, but it appears he must step down, too, even while third in line has his own black face story. The Commonwealth of Virginia is in trouble.
Northam, resign. White men have to stop expecting second, third and fourth chances when they mess up. Women and people of color still have to fight like hell just for one chance. Just because you are liberal and believe you are supporting righteous legislation for equality, doesn’t give you a buy. In fact, it holds you to a higher standard. Do the right thing, or risk discrediting the Democratic Party, because of your own self-interest. If we, the party of all people, can’t do the right thing, why would we expect the GOP to do it?
The rest of us will continue to fight for the right of all people to be equal under the law and in society, and we will let you know when we witness racist behavior and also unethical politics to support extreme ideology. We’ve proven these last several years that swimming in the muck of humanity makes us terrible people. That is why we must hold everyone to a higher standard.  Governor Northam, be the first to prove why taking the high road is the right road to take.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Dear Bernie Supporters

Dear Bernie Supporters,

Bernie Sanders is gearing up to announce his intent to run for president in 2020. I’m not surprised, and I understand your enthusiasm. I’ve had it myself for certain candidates over the course of the forty-four years I’ve voted. He is qualified for the position and he certainly has made a positive impression on many voters, which is true of most of the Democratic candidates stepping forward. But I would like to offer a word of caution for your unbridled enthusiasm.
This is not a zero-sum game. We find ourselves in an unprecedented national crisis and our democracy and standing in the world are at risk and have already been damaged, maybe irreparably. Our most important goal is to be united against the evil represented by Donald Trump and the GOP that has put party and power before country for the last fifty years. Only a united Democratic front can fight that kind of ultimate corruption.
This is not 2016. It is not 2008. It’s not 2000 or 2004. It is not even 1972. Our country is caving to authoritarian rule, our democratic processes have been corrupted and dismantled by greed, criminal activity, stupidity, foreign influence, and systemic white supremacy, which  has regained currency and credibility in the mainstream. 
This is not the time to believe that there is only one candidate who represents the singularly correct view of what America can be. It is not the time to support only issues that directly benefit the individual like legalized marijuana or free higher education.
It is time to understand that progress is what the Democratic Party is known for. It is time to take the concept of the greater good out of the closet and dust it off. It is time to understand how the system of government works, and that even if a candidate believes he or she can change an issue or usher in progress, it takes three branches of government and the support of the American people to make it happen. And even then, not everyone is happy. It is time to renew our belief in compromise and negotiation – we can all take a page from Nancy Pelosi’s playbook. The GOP stopped the government from working since 2008 because they believe the country is only for white Americans, particularly those who are male and those who are wealthy. We have to speak out, through our votes, and let them know that is unacceptable.
We did it in 2018. We elected the most diverse Congress in the history of our country. But we cannot stop there, because even the most diverse Congress still is not representative of the demographics of all Americans. The 2020 election may well be the most important election in our lifetimes.
That means our unity is very, very important. Trump won partially because our party was divided. And you have to know that many Bernie supporters were victims of Russian-generated messages pushed into their social media newsfeeds just as Trump supporters were victims. The messages were misogynist and bashed Hillary as a candidate. Why? Because Putin did not want her to be president. She was the most qualified presidential candidate in the history of our country – more qualified than Bill and Barrack! More qualified than the candidates stepping forward for 2020 – including Joe Biden, should he decide to run. She understood the threat Russia poses in world stability and she was respected across the world by our allies and by many of our adversaries.
We still probably would have been okay in 2016, and Hillary would have been elected, since she had 2.8 million more popular votes than Trump, but the work of the GOP in creating voter suppression sealed the fate of the 2016 election. Gerrymandering and voter suppression laws made sure that the election was not fair.
Many Bernie supporters know this. They understand the process. It didn’t stop them from feeling passionate and working hard to get their candidate elected as the Democratic candidate in 2016. When he didn’t win the primary, they voted for the candidate most Democrats believed would best represent the platform, ideas and beliefs of the party of progress. They voted for Hillary.
Others, as mired in the lies spread by the Russian government and the extreme right as Trump supporters, either refused to vote or voted for third party candidates. Their choice to not vote or vote for candidates who had no chance of winning helped get us in this situation. If we had their votes, even voter suppression efforts would have failed.
There are going to be a lot of Democratic candidates coming forward. So far, many of them are very qualified to step into the White House and stop this crazy train on which America finds itself trapped. We have to be open to their messages. We have to make sure we don’t fall back on old paradigms of white and male supremacy. We have to make a pact that all campaigns will be about platforms and issues, and not devolve into negative and attack campaigns. We have to understand that most Democrats, even the more moderate ones, are seeking progress and equality for our country. The issue that often divides us is that white privilege is as alive and well in our party as it is in America in general and in the GOP specifically. We have to check our privilege and bias. Our diversity is our strength!
Bernie Sanders promised not to conduct a negative campaign in 2016, and I believed him. I’ve been a Bernie advocate since the early 1990s. I’ve watched his rise as an independent Senator who caucuses with the Democrats. He and I agree on many of the issues and we both sit pretty far left. We old, lifelong progressives are idealistic and believe in equality, and we fight hard for it. But something happened to Bernie in 2015 and 2016. He could taste the power, just as Trump could taste the power. Neither one originally expected to win. Bernie threw in his hat because he felt Democrats should have a choice. As the primary got closer to the finish, he did engage in negative campaigning, and I found it hurtful personally and to the unity of the Democratic party. Of course, Hillary did the same in 2008. And I felt both Bernie and Hillary were late in conceding defeat. Both threw their support to the winning candidate, as they should have. Most Hillary supporters moved their support to Barrack, but some Bernie supporters didn’t care that he supported Hillary. They were never-Hillary voters. We can’t do that again. It hurt us. It aided in dragging us fifty years backwards into our history, not helped to push us forward.
So when twenty-four or thirty candidates step forward to run in the primary, do your research, listen to them speak at rallies, listen to the debates, read their white papers on issues, make sure you only read articles from the real and unbiased media, pick your best candidate, and vote for him or her. That is your inalienable right as a citizen of this country. But if your candidate doesn’t win, do the right thing. You can still fight for progress. You can still look to reach your ideal. Vote for the candidate that will defeat the GOP. And that is true for Senate seats and Congressional seats and state legislature seats and governor seats and municipal seats. We can only progress when we agree that equality and unity are our mandates – every American has the inalienable right to experience America like white male Americans do now and every American should have access to a living wage job, fair and decent housing, safe neighborhoods, affordable healthcare, good and safe schools, and affordable higher education – and  the GOP has clearly shown they believe in neither equality nor unity; they believe in the power of the dollar and in the myth of supremacy. 
Everyone deserves a voice in America, even the individuals we don’t agree with. There is plenty of room and resources for all of us. Letting everyone have a voice sometimes means we don’t get what we think is best or we don’t like the way policy is implemented, but if we remember equality and unity at all times and use them to guide us, we might understand that the process and the path to progress may look different but we can still arrive at the same place in the end.
And here’s the other thing: we older progressives fought hard won battles for equality in school, in the home, in the workplace and out in society. We served as, in my case,  a union steward, a lobbyist for affordable childcare, and an advocate. Our hard work and ability to make change make it easy for a young woman today to say that feminism never did a thing for her. That young woman doesn’t know the history and doesn’t realize whose shoulders she stands on when she makes a statement like that. The statement doesn’t make me angry, it makes me believe we need to educate our young Americans so they know the full story of our history of equality in this country and across the world – the truth really does hurt, but we can learn from it and vow not to repeat it, as we are doing today when babies are snatched from their mothers’ arms and put in detention centers.   
I would have proudly cast my vote for Bernie Sanders in 2016 had he won the primary, and I will proudly cast my vote for him if he wins this time or for whoever else garners the most Democratic votes and support. I don’t have a favorite yet, and I am excited about the level of possible candidates stepping forward. I hope you feel the same way, because the candidates are qualified and the field is strong, and though we have our personal favorites, we have to remember what is at stake. Use your vote and your voice thoughtfully.
Sincerely,
A lifelong progressive and Democrat

PS These are just two of the letters I have written to newspaper editors in my adult life. I often use the written word as my instrument of advocacy. The second letter urging for a change in the city school district gifted program selection process prompted several anonymous phone calls that bordered on threatening. It wouldn't be the first or last time my message of equality was received negatively, but I won't give up, and I hope you won't, too. There are many ways to advocate for progress and there is no shortage of issues in our country that require hard work, enthusiasm, and passion to make them better.

Letter to the Editor, The Daily Orange, circa 1978
Letter to the Editor, Syracuse Post Standard, circa 1990

Sunday, January 6, 2019

The Wall is Not a Thing

Most Americans don’t realize how many people actually work for the Federal Government.  The number is in the millions (2.7 million in 2014), and they represent a good portion of the middle class.  Right now, most of them are not being paid because of the government shutdown. They can’t pay their bills including mortgages, and are at risk of losing everything they’ve worked hard to buy.
Children whose parents rely on food stamps are also at risk.  So are farmers who rely on government loans to keep their farms viable. And what about the immigrant children who are being held in detention centers? The shutdown is catastrophic, not just for Democrats or liberals, but for millions of Americans, including a large number of Trump supporters. 
Two weeks ago, Trump held a meeting with Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer.  Trump announced he would be happy to carry the mantle of the shutdown. He would take full responsibility for it. Senator Schumer ducked his head and smirked. He knew well that Trump was caught on tape once again saying outrageous things.  Of course, Trump changed his tune early into the shutdown. He now calls it Pelosi’s shutdown or the Democratic shutdown. He has always used bait and switch as one of his strategies for getting what he wants (or what the powerbrokers like Putin, who are driving his policy stances, want). I think even his most loyal base is tiring of the game. It is hitting them squarely in their pocketbooks.  Many GOP Senators, who are up for election in 2020, are starting to back away from Trump and his rhetoric. It’s already been proven that they are at risk of being voted out, in spite of gerrymandered districts and voter suppression efforts. We all have to ask ourselves, do Trump and the GOP really have the best interests of America in mind when they cheat to win? I don’t think so. They have the interests of an elite group of Americans in mind, so they have to cheat to win.
I want to recommend a film and a short documentary series to my readers.
The first is the film Vice. It is a fictional account about the rise of Dick Cheney, from a drunken loser, to the most powerful vice president in the history of our country. I admit this film has a liberal slant, but, seriously, facts really are facts, despite what Kellyann Conway says, and if you look at what this man orchestrated in his career in Washington, along with other powerbrokers such as Don Rumsfeld, it will give you pause. During the GW Bush administration, 22 million emails were lost – it boggles the mind when one remembers how enraged GOP elected officials were over 32,000 emails belonging to Hillary Clinton that had already been vetted for security risks and mostly were personal emails about Chelsea’s pregnancy and other mundane topics. The Bush administration also conducted email exchanges on networks that did not record them for prosperity, because they didn’t want them recorded. Meetings were held in rooms where auto-record devices were not installed, and they were held without the president and without his knowledge.  Cheney abused his position again and again, and he started his power abuse back in the Nixon administration. Although there were dozens of investigations into the Bush administration, one can only wonder why there weren’t more investigations launched into the inner workings of this administration that lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and also made the stockholders of Halliburton wealthy beyond their dreams. Corruption in our government is not new, but we may discover it is at levels in the Trump administration that even the most power-hungry official could not envision.
But the path to this level of corruption was laid out a long time ago, across the world. It seems mankind can’t help but feel drawn to power and the abuse of it.
I say this as an introduction to my next recommendation, a documentary series on the Smithsonian TV channel titled Apocalypse: The Second World War. Ronald and I binge-watched this six part series last night. It is a must-see for anyone sixteen and older. The documentary used over 600 hours of declassified government film and film from private citizens taken during the war, and it was devastating to watch. This war was responsible for more deaths of soldiers and civilians than any other war in the history of mankind, and the number is in the tens of millions, maybe as high as 80 million. Historians estimate it wiped out 3% of the world population. 
Jews were left to starve in concentration camps or they were gassed en masse in gas chambers. Before the “final solution” was implemented, Jews were forced to dig their own graves and were shot while standing in them (and this horrific genocide was captured on film) – this method of genocide, later considered inefficient, was known as the Bullet Holocaust. There were millions of others who did not fit into the “master race” Nazis defined, and they were put to death, too. They included gypsies, homosexuals, political dissidents, and resistors.

Photo: Lt. Arnold E. Samuelson/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

But the Germans weren’t the only ones who acted with depravity and without regard for human life. The Russians let 600,000 prisoners of war starve to death, rather than use food needed for troops. The Japanese were guilty of crimes against humanity for their treatment of prisoners of war and for civilians, particularly in China and the Philippines. Italy conscripted its army and forced young men to fight for a mad dictator. America interned Japanese Americans, many of whom had been US citizens for generations.
This war clearly demonstrated unchecked power is capable of the most depraved, horrific, and inhuman actions by mankind. After the war, trials were held, but many war criminals were given immunity and were allowed to start over. Many resettled in America. The United Nations and NATO were put in place to try to prevent another such war from ever happening.
But we are living in a time now where certain personalities are rising to power and they are at risk of abusing that power. Trump is one of them. He has often used the rhetoric used by Hitler and other demagogues and he has used hatred and fear to get his way.
He is saying he may invoke his power to call a national emergency and build the wall between the US and Mexico. It is a clear abuse of power. He has dehumanized people seeking asylum in the US by describing them as criminals, animals, vermin, and as individuals who would change America as we know it – not very different from the rhetoric Hitler used against the Jews. Horrific acts were committed based on that rhetoric and we should be alert to this fact and try not to repeat the past.
At least five attempts were made to assassinate Hitler as Germans in high positions realized the absolute decimation of humanity the implementation of such rhetoric caused. Such failed attempts only caused Hitler to believe more strongly that God had placed him in power and was protecting him.
When people are experiencing hard times and they feel helpless to change their circumstances, someone like Trump or Hitler can come along and take advantage of that fear.  They needle away at racial and ethnic biases and give desperate people someone to take out their frustration and hatred upon. 
We’ve seen this at Trump rallies and in videos shared on social media. People feel more emboldened to act out against “the enemy” because Trump told them they could. Slowly, more and more inhumane acts become acceptable, including children being snatched away from their parents and imprisoned in camps or people of color being policed by white citizens because the white citizens believe people of color have no right to be in public spaces.
We have to stop this. We can’t continue on this path of hatred and genocide. Two children dying at the hands of authority are two children too many. Their deaths are imprinted on our souls.  If Trump has his way, we will be the ones burdened by our own hand in this atrocity. 
The wall is not a thing. Roger Stone made it up as a sound bite to rile the base, and it worked. No one ever expected Mexico to pay for the wall, or even to use taxpayers’ money to build it. In fact, it appears Trump is the only one left thinking the wall must be built. The number of illegal immigrants crossing the borders has decreased steadily since 2010. The only people coming now are seeking asylum from danger and violence in their own countries. We ought to open our arms to them, not build a wall.
Not only this, but Trump has also tried to denigrate the United Nations and NATO. He may very well destroy the pacts between countries that have so far kept us from another war like World War II.
We need to understand that power is corrupting to certain personalities.  Trump is one such person.  If we don’t understand and acknowledge the past and stand against such corruption now, early in the process, we may not be able to stop it in the future. 
The wall is not a thing. 

Sunday, September 30, 2018

#DONOTCONFIRMKAVA

“Now, in trying to determine whether you are telling falsehoods or not, I have got to determine what your motivation might be. Are you a scorned woman?”
That question was asked of Anita Hill at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing for Clarence Thomas in 1991 by Sen. Howell Heflin (R-Alabama). He asked it because he assumed women liked the kind of attention Clarence Thomas gave his employee – talking about porn films and sexual positions – and would react angrily if such attention wasn’t given.
Ms. Hill responded, “No.”
Back in 1991 I was a 34-year-old, married mother of seven-year-old twin daughters. I had moved from working in an academic environment, which tended to be more liberal and egalitarian, but still had its own issues of inequality, to the corporate sector, which felt rife with inequality. I ran the corporate library, and, when one patron said he couldn’t come to the library during the day, I offered to stay after work hours if needed, and he sidled up beside me and said he hoped I would. I didn’t. 
I watched the Thomas/Hill hearings closely, my outrage at the ignorance of the all-white-male committee exploding at the television.  Not only were the questions sexist, they were racist, too.  Senators are supposed to represent all Americans, but I didn’t feel represented.
Fast forward to 2018.  The GOP members of the current Senate Judiciary Committee decided not to question Christine Blasey Ford directly. Instead they hired a female prosecutor to ask questions. They didn’t want sound bites of the kind that came out of the Clarence Thomas hearing. The prosecutor was at a disadvantage, because no FBI investigation had been conducted, as was the case when Hill testified in 1991, when the FBI interviewed twenty-two witnesses. Therefore, she had very little to base her questions on.  In fact the committee had little to base their questions on, because they only had what the two people involved had to say.
However, Blasey Ford, admittedly terrified, was compelling. At one point I watched her as her breath became shallow, her voice quivered, as she said, “"Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter. The uproarious laughter between the two. They’re having fun at my expense." She was reliving the assault, in real time.
How awful that sex assault victims live with the assault for the rest of their lives in dreams, in perceived new threats which might be prompted by a comment or someone who inadvertently gets too close, in noises in the dark of night, or when alone in a parking lot.
Kavanaugh, on the other hand, was unhinged. He displayed anger, arrogance, self-pity and manipulation.  He tried to sound empathetic a couple of times when he said he believed Dr. Ford had been assaulted but she was mistaken when she identified him as the assaulter. Then he tried to best Senators Durbin and Klobuchar during their exchanges. He refused to answer a direct question from Sen. Durbin about whether he supported an FBI investigation. Then he engaged in a chicken fight with Sen. Klobuchar when she asked him if he got so drunk he suffered blackouts. He turned it around and asked if she liked to drink and if she ever had a blackout. It was a particularly insidious moment for me. 
Klobuchar explained her 90-year-old father was a recovering alcoholic who suffered the consequences of his drinking and Kavanaugh used that to try to knock her off her questioning. I grew up in an alcoholic home. The smell of beer, my mother’s choice of drink, still turns my stomach today because it was so pervasive in my chaotic home. I binge drank from the age of sixteen through eighteen, not every day or every week, maybe four or five times in those two years, but it was still terrible. I got alcohol poisoning when I returned home from college one weekend to visit friends, during a game of Chug-a-lug (a friend gave me straight alcohol since I didn’t drink beer, and I believed it was a mixed drink). I blacked out, and still felt drunken and nauseous two days later back at school.  I clearly saw the path I was traveling, the one my mother had surely taken, would lead to a life not well-lived but tolerated by blurring my emotions. I was in the top of my class. I received a scholarship to attend Syracuse University. But alcohol made my life precarious and dangerous.
I stopped drinking cold turkey after the alcohol-poisoning episode until I was in my late forties, thirty years later.  Now I drink a glass of red wine at dinner a couple times a week, more for heart health than love of alcohol, and an occasional gin and tonic or margarita.  
But did Kavanaugh ever stop drinking?  “I like beer. I still like beer,” he testified, “but,” he continued, “I did not drink beer to the point of blacking out and I never sexually assaulted anyone." Since I am intimate with alcoholics, I think Kavanaugh is one, and not in recovery, but actively still drinking to excess. He is what I would call a functional drunk.
Then he lied about the meaning of certain comments in his yearbook. “Boofing” was flatulence and “the Devil’s triangle” was a drinking game with coins. His reference to being a “Renate alumnius” was because he had taken her to dances, as had many of his friends, and he thought so highly of her. Renate Dolphin, the Renate referred to by several football players, had this to say: “I can’t begin to comprehend what goes through the minds of 17-year-old boys who write such things, but the insinuation is horrible, hurtful and simply untrue. I pray their daughters are never treated this way.”
 Kavanaugh claimed his detailed calendar proved he was never at a party with Blasey Ford. Yet there is an entry on July 1, 1982 that says, “Timmy’s for skis with Judge, Tom, P.J. Bernie and ... Squi.”  The term skis is short for brewskis, or beers. No further questioning about the calendar entry ensued, because Sen. Graham launched into his audition for the position of Attorney General (My interpretation of why this usually rational senator jumped over the edge of decency. I believe he would like to step into Sessions’ shoes after the mid-term election.) He shouted about the unfair treatment of Kavanaugh and slammed his hand on the table for emphasis. 
Two more credible women came forward with their stories about Kavanaugh and his friends. Debbie Ramirez said he exposed himself and pushed his penis toward her face at Yale during a dorm room party. Julie Swetnick, who grew up near Kavanaugh, claimed she “observed the future Supreme Court nominee at parties where women were verbally abused, inappropriately touched, made ‘disoriented’ with alcohol or drugs and ‘gang raped.’” She said she was raped at one such party, but did not name Kavanaugh as the rapist (or one of the rapists).
I’ve been posting a lot about white male privilege on FB and Twitter. We have to understand the power of privilege in all of this. Kavanaugh carried a golden ticket to success because of his family’s status and the schools he attended –it’s a perverse kind of affirmative action. He was also an athlete and that comes with some privileges and status, too. He may have lied during a previous confirmation to federal judge. Sen. Leahy tweeted the following: “We have discovered evidence that Judge Kavanaugh misled the Senate during his 2004 and 2006 hearings. Truthfulness under oath is not an optional qualification for a Supreme Court nominee.” Yet Kavanaugh’s career continued on an upward projection all the way to being nominated to the Supreme Court of the United States.
What did Kavanaugh think of Blasey Ford’s allegations? They incensed him. He isn’t used to being told no or to adversity of any kind. He perversely decided Blasey Ford was part of a leftwing conspiracy that the Clinton’s waged to exact revenge for the time he served under Ken Starr, the special investigator who investigated the allegations against Bill Clinton that lead to his impeachment. His rage was real, and certainly not demonstrative of the kind of measured temperament expected of a Supreme Court justice. 
Did Kavanaugh ignore Blasey Ford’s cries of no when he and Mark Judge pushed her into a room and then onto a bed? Did Kavanaugh continue to ignore her terror, as he climbed on top of her, ground himself against her, and tried to remove her clothes? Did he put his hand over her mouth, not just so the people downstairs wouldn’t hear her scream, but also so that he wouldn’t have to hear it? Did her fear and humiliation entertain him?
 Privilege doesn’t make every white man a sexual predator, a racist, or a terrible person. But it does give them the power to deny or diminish inequality and behaviors such as sexual assault.  It can lead some men to believe that women are objects to be used for sexual pleasure.  It can cause them to believe that their bad behavior should not be punished, because it might keep them from reaching their full potential.  They don’t care if they hurt, abuse, or otherwise impact others, because they do not value others who are not white, male, and in the same tribes (Georgetown Prep and Yale, for example).
It is particularly insidious when those in privilege protect one another. Two unnamed men came forward to claim they were the assailants. Their story didn’t go anywhere because there are no follow-up news stories after their admission. The GOP is guilty of protecting Kavanaugh, too, as they diminished Blasey Ford’s testimony by saying while they believed she was sexually assaulted; she was mistaken in her allegation that Kavanaugh was the one who assaulted her.  Many of these men are the same men who ignored allegations of sexual harassment against Clarence Thomas and sexual assault against Trump. They’ve continued to protect Trump even as more and more evidence emerges that he was a coconspirator with a foreign dictator. And they are protecting Kavanaugh, first, by keeping tens of thousands of documents from the Judiciary Committee, and, now, by making him the victim of the left and of Blasey Ford. 
Sen. Flake, who was ready to advance Kavanaugh to the Senate floor vote, only changed his mind after Maria Gallagher and Ana Maria Archila broke through a group of reporters and cornered Flake in an elevator.
“Don’t look away from me,” Maria Gallagher said to Flake. “Look at me and tell me that it doesn’t matter what happened to me, that you will let people like that go into the highest court of the land and tell everyone what they can do to their bodies.”
Back in session, Flake announced he would vote yes in Committee, but he didn’t feel comfortable voting yes on the Senate floor unless the FBI investigation was reopened.
Is that the only way we can dismantle white privilege? By cornering men and forcing them to listen to the millions of women and girls who have been sexually assaulted?
The FBI has one week to investigate the allegations made by Blasey Ford and Ramirez, but it appears the White House limited the investigation and they cannot investigate Swetnick’s allegations.  Why did the White House limit the investigation? Is it another personal vendetta of Trump’s against attorney Michael Avenatti who represents Stormy Daniels and now Julie Swetnick? What will the Judiciary Committee do with the data collected by the FBI? Will they still confirm the man, or will they deny him? Either way will be met with resistance, but I am almost sure that they will do everything in their power and privilege to confirm him. There may be occasional cracks in the lens of privilege that cause temporary responses that seem reasonable, but soon the lens is repaired, and we are back to the original view that white men are better than the rest of us and are entitled to do whatever they please at another’s expense. It is the uproarious laughter of those who refuse to hear no.
There is one way to stop privilege in its tracks, and that is to vote more women and minorities into elected positions. Only then can we begin to push back against systemic privilege and have the number of votes required to disqualify an appointee for credible allegations of sexual assault, for perjuring himself during the hearing, or for demonstrating his temperament is unfit for a position on the highest court in the land. But in the case of Kavanaugh’s confirmation, we have to rely on white men who are used to getting their way. So we need to start now.
Remember, when you go to vote in November, because we MUST vote in the midterm election, Christine Blasey Ford’s voice as she described Kavanaugh sexually assaulting her:
When I got to the top of the stairs, I was pushed from behind into a bedroom. I couldn’t see who pushed me. Brett and Mark came into the bedroom and locked the door behind them. There was music already playing in the bedroom. It was turned up louder by either Brett or Mark once we were in the room. I was pushed onto the bed and Brett got on top of me. He began running his hands over my body and grinding his hips into me. I yelled, hoping someone downstairs might hear me, and tried to get away from him, but his weight was heavy. Brett groped me and tried to take off my clothes. He had a hard time because he was so drunk, and because I was wearing a one-piece bathing suit under my clothes. I believed he was going to rape me. I tried to yell for help. When I did, Brett put his hand over my mouth to stop me from screaming. This was what terrified me the most, and has had the most lasting impact on my life. It was hard for me to breathe, and I thought that Brett was accidentally going to kill me. Both Brett and Mark were drunkenly laughing during the attack. They both seemed to be having a good time. Mark was urging Brett on, although at times he told Brett to stop. A couple of times I made eye contact with Mark and thought he might try to help me, but he did not.
During this assault, Mark came over and jumped on the bed twice while Brett was on top of me. The last time he did this, we toppled over and Brett was no longer on top of me. I was able to get up and run out of the room.
Vote in November for all the women, children, and men who were victims of sexual assault. Vote as if our lives, our equality, and our democracy depend on it. They do.

Mashup.com

Saturday, September 8, 2018

[Amonmymous] Times

When a man who can’t pronounce “anonymous” claims the speech of one of our greatest orators put him to sleep, we have to wonder about his grasp of words. If Trump is the best that many Americans think our country has to offer, what criteria are they basing it on? 
Is it the unethical and opportunistic way he runs his businesses and the government? The way he disrespects and objectifies women?  Or maybe it is his inability to understand the responsibilities of the office of president. Or it is his penchant for defying the rule of law. Perhaps it is his insensitivity to people with disabilities or maybe the way he attacks people of color with statements pertaining to their IQs and threats of deporting or imprisoning them. Maybe it is the way he has cuddled up to violent dictators, while disavowing liberals of any ilk here in America. Or is it because he treats immigrants as criminals, rapists, and animals by denying them refuge and snatching away their children? Or is it God ordained that we suffer this fool as some fundamentalists, who believe in the divine bestowal of white supremacy, suggest? Or is it because he claimed there were many fine Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville in 2017? Or, most importantly, was he the whitest white man in the bunch?
 If white supremacists think he is representative of supremacy, they are neither supreme nor intelligent. If the only way they can show supremacy is through bullying, taking away freedoms, carrying a gun, policing public spaces, and threatening the safety and wellbeing of others, we have to ask them, “What are you afraid of?” 
America, we all have a right to be who we are, whether that means being a Christian fundamentalist, an LGBTQ individual, a black American, a white American, a native American, Hispanic, Asian, Muslim, atheist, able-bodied, or an individual with disabilities, a man, a woman, a gender-free individual. And, guess what? We can co-exist. 
That doesn’t mean a great, big love fest. It means understanding basic freedoms and supporting those freedoms for all Americans. All Americans have a right to worship or not worship as they choose. They have a right to vote. They have a right to be represented by their elected officials. They have a right to be in public spaces. They have a right to feel safe in those spaces. They have a right to make choices about their bodies and healthcare. They have a right to healthcare.
The way to do that is through respect.  Not the kind of respect you earn. That takes knowing someone, and we don’t have to know every person in America to respect all Americans. I’m talking about the kind of respect that acknowledges every person has a right to be in public spaces and to work a living wage job and to live in a decent and safe neighborhood and attend decent schools that are safe zones from violence and that have the same resources as every other school and to have access to affordable healthcare. We’ve lost that respect. Maybe we never had it. I am leaning toward the latter. 
I’m not going to tell some white guy he can’t think he is superior to me, as a white woman, and to people of color. If that’s his personal narrative, so be it. I have my personal narrative, too. But if he is out there trying to oppress women and people of color by controlling or denying social and economic opportunities and advances, so he can gain some kind of advantage and privilege, I am going to speak up.  The collective needs to speak up. We need to support equality. 
White people, I am mostly speaking to you, whether you are conservative or liberal, because our society and governance is based on a system that gives us a leg up just for being white while it disadvantages everyone who isn’t. We have to disavow that system. And we have to stop feeling hurt when the topic is brought up. Nothing will ever change if we can’t talk about racism and white privilege as concepts that operate congruently. 
None of us is morally superior, intellectually superior, or physically superior because of our gender or race.
Who can deny that Serena Williams is the greatest athlete in the past twenty years? Just fifty years ago, we’d never have expected a woman, and a black woman at that, to be the greatest athlete. That's because women weren't expected to excel in sports. Furthermore, she just had a baby. She almost died during delivery.  She survived and became a wonderful mother, and, no, she didn’t make a comeback to the tennis world, she took up where she left off. 
I have to divert a bit from my main message in this post, although it is certainly related to the topic of race and gender. We just finished watching the 2018 US Open Women’s Finals. Serena's greatness as an athlete in no way guaranteed a win in this grand slam tournament or in any other tournament or grand slam championship. She didn’t win this time. Naomi Osaka, who just broke the top ten in rank at age 20, played powerfully and strategically against Serena and deserved the win. But I do have some questions about the severe treatment imposed by the chair umpire. I can’t help but think he has different expectations for women than for men players, and Serena expressed the same concern.  And what he did was impact the match at a critical time. His interference ruined the match for both players who should have felt the match was about the competition between their abilities, not the man in the chair who felt offended because a woman expressed her emotions and then called him on his call – I’ve watched many men over the years swear, break rackets and do other things that could be construed as abuse, and they weren’t penalized by a point and then the loss of a game. It left both women crying at the end, and I cried with them. I cried because Serena still had a chance to turn the tables had he not taken a game from her, and I cried for Naomi who should have been celebrating what great tennis she played instead of feeling she won on an umpire’s call. That’s what happens when genders are measured against different standards, including another female who was penalized during the US Open for changing her shirt on court (she had it on backwards and removed it to turn it the right way around.). Come on, how unfair is that?  
The moral is we have to stop elevating people and awarding them privilege based on gender and race. Any of us has the potential for greatness, and it has nothing to do with gender or race.
Getting back to the topic of governance, there are many white males who are more than capable of being the president of our country and the leader of the free world. Trump isn’t one of them. He never was. He never should have had a shot, because he isn't qualified. But here he is, and he has put our democracy and our national security at risk, all in the name of making America white again. But it never was all white, not from the beginning and not now. That is the important point our elected officials must make again and again to quell this awful tide of supremacy and hatred.
We also cannot forget that there are many women and people of color who are also more than capable of being the president and leader of the free world. Hillary Clinton was one of them – the most qualified candidate in modern times. She was more qualified than Bill Clinton and Barack Obama – both great leaders of our country. And I can list many, many others including Kamala Harris, Corey Booker, and Elizabeth Warren. They should be judged by their qualifications and not their race or gender.
So when people talk about who is qualified and who isn’t, it is imperative that we leave race and gender out of the conversation. The past eleven years have proven conclusively why that is. 
When one former president is elegant, intelligent, humorous, unifying, and passionate and the present president is unintelligible, blustery, self-centered, divisive, thwarted by his own administration, and an inciter of violence, the only lesson learned is that race and gender have nothing to do with how they acted in the office of president. It is the individual. One was qualified and saved our country from a depression; the other was unqualified and has brought our country to the brink of destruction. 
Americans, we can be better. We can coexist. We need all of us to do it. First we have to stop thinking some Americans are more equal and more deserving than others due to their race and gender.  We have to believe our greatest ideal: We are all created equal. 
It has to start in November. Get out and vote. Vote like our life and democracy depend on it, because they do. Don’t vote based on race or gender or religion or class. Vote based on qualifications and who can rise to the challenge of best representing ALL of us and who knows how to guide and explain why it is the best route to do so.  Yes, we are diverse, and that means we have a hard time understanding one another at times, sometimes because we don’t have the right words, but more often because we’ve stopped listening.  Our diversity means we have a better chance at the kind of progress and change that can lift all Americans, regardless of race and gender.  We can fix this mess. Vote.

Pexel.com photo

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

MAPE: Make America Progressive and Equal



When the right to bear arms, especially assault rifles that are designed to kill many people at once, is more important than protecting our students, teachers, and all our citizens and visitors in America, we have to admit our country just slid off the rails. When children are wrenched from their mothers’ arms and left for weeks in cages, some of them abused, and most neglected by human touch, we have lost all decency as a country. When black Americans are constantly endangered by white people calling in false reports of feeling threatened to the police for such things as wearing socks in the pool area, our country has bought into conventions and stereotypes that justified an oppressive system of inequality and free labor better known as slavery. And when we expect children as young as one year of age to stand before court in order to be reunited with their parents, we didn’t just slide off the rails, we plunged into a morass of ignorance, hatred, xenophobia, racism, white nationalism, and depravity.
Of course, our country has been on a crash course its whole history – forcibly taking land from natives, and committing genocide; forcibly bringing Africans to America for enslavement and to make white men wealthy off their labor. We never reconciled our past transgressions against humanity. But people want to forget or deny how this country became the world power it was; I said “was” because under President Trump we have lost our status among other countries.
Maybe we can admit it became visible to us over the past ten years, ever since Barack Obama became our first president of color, and his election to the highest office in the land was interpreted by some citizens to mean that they were now irrelevant and maybe they would end up being treated as non-white and non-male persons have historically been treated in this country. An out-sized reaction to an event that simply meant equality was within reach for all Americans.
Then the Russians interfered with our 2016 election, and we find ourselves with a president who is self-serving and more concerned about his popularity among his supporters and his wealth than he is in running the country and implementing policy that will benefit the greater good instead of the 1%.  He has also insulted and demeaned our allies while he praised dictators and human rights abusers. 
When did it become acceptable to elect the most inexperienced person for the position of leader of the free world? How did anyone, except for the Russians and white nationalists, ever believe this was a good idea?
And why are white nationalism, racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and homophobia still acceptable in this country? This kind of embracement of inequality can motivate white people to call police on black people for swimming or barbecuing or sleeping or playing or working because when black people are in public spaces some white people feel uncomfortable and like their sense of privilege is at risk of being lost—thankfully, many of these individuals were shamed across the internet after videos went viral.  It can cause a Trump supporter to vandalize signs with spray paint to appear as if an extreme liberal were making death threats to the president—thankfully, he was caught on video and he turned himself in to the police. It can cause a cop to aggressively harass two black men who were walking to the park outside of Chicago with threats that he could arrest them for videotaping the scene as he pushed them and tried to send them over the edge. Thankfully, his chief saw the viral video and took action.
There is so much to do to get this train back on the track. Yes, we need to mourn the victims of our terrible laws and leaders like the representatives who are protecting the gun manufacturers that ply them with campaign donations so the manufacturers can get even wealthier than ever off the loss of life or the Trump administration officials who think it is acceptable to force a one-year-old to stand in front of a judge in order to be reunited with his mother or who think reversing Roe v. Wade is somehow pro-life. The victims are the teenagers who lost their lives because someone had a gun and the children who have lifelong trauma due to being snatched out of their parents’ arms and the women who may lose their right to control their bodies and choose their reproductive healthcare.
And we need to let special investigator Mueller finish this complex and long-reaching investigation into this administration and the other players who interfered, aided, and obstructed justice. We keep saying never again, but then it happens all over just around the corner. One more law or executive order that discriminates against certain people, one more regulation that protected life dropped in favor of making more money more quickly, one more mass shooting that feels too much like a broken record, one more day where someone black is prevented from going about his or her daily activities, one more day where a child is bereft and traumatized because her mother hoped for a better life by seeking asylum here and this country forgot its humanity. It’s overwhelming. And it makes us immune to the fact that inequality is still the law and mores of the country.
Back in 1964 when our television news hours were filled with images of black protesters being attacked by police dogs and sprayed with fire hoses, our government leaders debated passing the Civil Rights Act. Back then the Southern Democrats were almost exclusively segregationists, and they fought hard to keep Jim Crow laws that touted separate but equal status of black Americans. Although it was more like separate and unequal, separate and oppressed, separate and low wage jobs, separate and poor housing, separate and underfunded public schooling, separate and lynched. Americans could no longer deny what their eyes were seeing, and they pressed their representatives to do something about it. And they did.
In an article in Politifact it was noted the house passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 290 votes to 130 with 61% of Democrats voting for it and 80% of Republicans. The Senate then went on to pass the act with two-thirds the Democratic vote and 82% of the Republican vote. The article goes on to say this:
The primary reason that Republican support was higher than Democratic support -- even though the legislation was pushed hard by a Democratic president, Lyndon B. Johnson -- is that the opposition to the bill primarily came from Southern lawmakers. In the mid 1960s, the South was overwhelmingly Democratic -- a legacy of the Civil War and Reconstruction, when the Republican Party was the leading force against slavery and its legacy. Because of this history, the Democratic Party in the 1960s was divided between Southern Democrats, most of whom opposed civil rights legislation, and Democrats from outside the South who more often than not supported it.

This pattern showed clearly in the House vote. Northern Democrats backed the Civil Rights Act by a margin even larger than that of Republicans -- 141 for, just four against -- while Southern Democrats were strongly opposed, by a margin of 11 yeas to 92 nays.

During that time our representatives, except for the segregationist diehards, worked together to find a common resolution to an immoral and deadly system of inequality. Now we can’t find that common ground and we are fighting over whether or not equality is even an American value. Big money and fundamentalists have put a wedge between us, peddling the old segregationist paradigms. They are fighting against progress but progress is good for a country. It keeps us vibrant, growing, intellectual and competitive.
You see, something happened after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were passed. Truly, white people started worrying that black people really would become equal.  In other words, they theoretically agreed with equality but emotionally weren’t ready for it because when they heard the term equal, they thought it meant better and maybe more powerful, not equal at all. They feared their status would be reversed. They couldn’t imagine what a country of equal citizens would look like. The systemic racism was so strongly imbedded in our history and our social structure and economy, that they could not imagine a different, more progressive, system. 
The backlash to the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act began with the election of Nixon and got much worse when Reagan came into power. Nixon implemented the Southern Strategy, which brought the Southern segregationist Democrats into the GOP, and he started the school to prison pipeline for young black men to keep them out of white society. During the Reagan years, Reagan created the Welfare Queen in order to make the face of welfare a conniving black woman who bilked the system on the backs of the good, law-abiding white taxpayers.  President Clinton, often jokingly called the first black president because he seemed to understand the plight of black Americans, enacted, at the behest of the GOP,  the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act that furthered the trend of mass incarceration of black men. Then came the Bush era economic policies that hurt everyone who wasn’t wealthy and increased poverty by 26% according to April Ryan in an article from 2015. 
Soon after President Obama was elected, the Tea Party rose to power with their mantra to “take back America.” It left me wondering whom they believed took it from them in the first place, but I knew. It was ethnic minorities seeking social and economic equality along with the old progressives from the 1960s who supported and voted for the Civil Rights Act.
You know the rest of the story. The fractured GOP and Russian election interference caused the rise and election of Trump with his call to “make America great again.” The message was clear. A great America has no room for people of color, nor non-white immigrants, nor women, nor non-Christians, nor LGBTQ individuals, nor individuals with disabilities. They are all to be relegated to second-class citizenship as they were in the past.
Here’s the thing. I am upset with our representatives, conservative and liberal alike, because they have to work together and they’ve proven they can’t. They’ve even turned on one another as Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi did after President Trump attacked Maxine Waters when he said, “She is a low IQ individual, Maxine Waters. I said it the other day. High — I mean, honestly, she’s somewhere in the mid-60s, I believe that.” Then he called her the “face of the Democratic Party” and told her to be careful. This was a racist dog-whistle for his supporters and a direct threat to her. Maxine Waters called for civil disobedience in the form of confronting Trump administration officials through the power of protest, but Schumer and Pelosi did not support her. Instead, Pelosi called her responses unacceptable while Schumer said Waters’ call for “harassment of political opponents” was “not American.” They sided with whiteness and failed to take seriously the threat issued by the president and the death threats she received from ardent Trump supporters. In my eyes, they have fallen from iconic to mediocre.
Black female leaders and allies of Waters, nearly 200 in all, wrote their own letter of protest to Schumer and Pelosi stating: “We write to share our profound indignation and deep disappointment over your recent failure to protect Congresswoman Waters from unwarranted attacks from the Trump Administration and others in the GOP. That failure was further compounded by your decision to unfairly deride her as being ‘uncivil’ and ‘un-American.’”
Even white leaders who philosophically agree that equality is our mandate sometimes fail to see their own buy-in to systemic racism and misogyny. 
How do we get our representatives back to working with one another like they did in 1964 and 1965? How do we remember that we theoretically want the best for all our citizens and not just the few? How do we shape what that looks like and abate fears that equality means giving something away? How do we prevent special interests from co-opting our government? How do we get people to understand that our freedoms are for every American? How do we speak to one another without all the vitriol? And how do we visualize what equality looks like and how it is implemented?
First, we have to demand that our representatives represent all their constituents, and we need to get rid of gerrymandering and make sure that every vote counts.  Then we need to vote! We need to vote in every single election, even when we feel our votes may not count. They do!
Next, we have to understand that we really need differing perspectives in order to best serve the citizens of this nation. We need conservatives, liberals, independents, centrists, libertarians, democratic socialists, fundamentalists, and whatever else politicians bill themselves as, to work together as a team to make the best decisions for the greater good, not just the few, based on the best information available. Representation of Americans should not all be one extreme or the other. We need politicians who are as diverse as our population. That means more women and minorities serving in elected positions and more varied perspectives being brought to the podium for discussion. We can and should be able to work together but, first, we need to agree that equality and progress are the mandates. We need to disavow false narratives that hurt and marginalize individuals.
Then we need to hold our politicians accountable. Don’t let the NRA or the Koch brothers or another country’s dictator buy our politicians. They serve us! They also need to stop using fear and hatred to garner votes. They need to disavow both those things along with calls for inequality. That’s where our votes matter yet again.
Another thing we need to be strong on is support of the free press. We rely on them to find the truth. It is imperative that they can operate freely to do that. Otherwise we are destined to become a country run by despotism.
And after a recent conversation with a relative about how shallow and unrewarding social media can be, I have come to the conclusion that we need to put down our computers and open our doors to have some real conversations with real people. We’ve forgotten that there are people behind the avatars representing them on social media. When one is responding to a picture or a quote, it is easy to drop all semblance of fair and equitable dialog.
Stop buying into fear and hatred. Realize equality means we all have a right to be in public places, and to act to keep our children safe, and to make choices about our bodies, and to worship or not as we see fit, and to make a living wage and have a decent place to live and good schools for our children. Be kind to one another, please, but don’t be silent when fear and hatred raise their banners.
Let’s do one little thing that might help us start to get the big things done. Join the conversation about race in America. Please, start by reading my book, To the Mothers of the Movement, With Love, to follow my decades-long journey of learning about race and racism in America. It isn’t always an easy conversation, but it is a necessary one, if we are ever to reach our ideal of an equal and progressive America.