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Archive for the ‘immigration’ Category

What are you willing to sacrifice?

That’s a question every white person should be asking themselves right now.

“What am I willing to sacrifice in order to be anti-racist and resist the Trump administration?”

If the answer is “nothing,” you’re part of the problem, and you’ve come to the wrong place. Part of talking with other white people, especially those we know well, is that there have to be consequences for bad behavior. If someone you know is racist, and their beliefs are never challenged and they never face consequences for it, why would they change? Maybe they don’t deserve your loyalty or the gift of your company anymore.

I fully expect to be ending relationships with people in the days and weeks ahead. I used to be able to agree to disagree on politics. Not anymore. Someone who cannot see my humanity and the humanity of millions of Americans is not someone I want in my life.

If, however, there are people in your life you think can change, or if you need to work on your own views, here are some more things to think about:

–If a person of color says something or someone is racist, don’t argue with them. Don’t say “well, actually,” or defend the racism. The same applies if someone tells you that you have said or done something racist. Don’t be defensive. Don’t deny it. You’re being given a chance to identify and change your behavior. Take it and be grateful. An example of how not to act would be Ellen DeGeneres. She has done racist things on her show and continues to deny her racism. (This is also why the “I have a black friend so I can’t be racist” trope is false. DeGeneres is clearly a fan of Barack and Michelle Obama, yet she obviously at the same time holds racist views about black people.) It doesn’t matter what her intentions were. Few people would admit to being deliberately racist.

A good example of how to behave is Chris Hemsworth, who this year apologized for appropriating First Nations clothing at a party.  He didn’t make excuses. He acknowledged he should have known better and apologized. That’s how it’s done.

–Don’t be the person who says “talking about racism is racist.” Talking about racism is its only possible solution.

–Know that racism is not a mental illness. Neither is sexism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, ableism, or Islamophobia. They are learned behaviors. Mental illnesses are not. That’s why it’s dangerous (and ableist) to dismiss Trump and people with similar views as “crazy,” “nutjobs,” “lunatic,” etc. It denies the racist person agency and obscures the fact they have control over their behavior. They can choose not to be racist, or sexist, or homophobic, etc. People who are mentally ill cannot choose not to be.

–Speaking of ableism, people who are disabled and receive government support are some of the most vulnerable under a Trump administration. Cuts to the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security/SSDI are literally a matter of life and death for some people. Do not forget them and their struggle. One of the things that struck me about the deaths caused by Hurricane Matthew was how many of the people used wheelchairs. We must do better for people with disabilities so they can lead full, healthy lives. Consider donating to Human Rights Watch or Disability Rights Advocates.

–Finally, here are some good resources for how to have those hard conversations with people at Thanksgiving (itself a racist holiday) this year:

How to Tell Someone They Should Racist by the incomparable Jay Smooth

A post-election guide to changing hearts and minds

Speak up: Responding to everyday bigotry

 

 

 

What white people need to do to resist the Trump administration

After the violence and protests in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014, I started following journalist Sarah Kendzior on Twitter. She was a local white woman who had a lot of insightful commentary. Eventually she started posting about Donald Trump and the danger he posed to the country. I didn’t disagree with her, but she was also sure he would win. I thought that she was being alarmist. I knew what the polls said. I knew many people who had worked to re-elect President Obama were also working for Hillary Clinton. I was pretty confident we would get the right woman for the job. Last spring, I muted Kendzior.

Then, of course, everything she predicted came true. Trump won the election, and his bizarre behavior over the course of the campaign made sense through the authoritarian lens Kendzior provided from reporting on Central Asian dictatorships.

I am not a conspiracy theorist. I am not paranoid. But I believe the United States is heading toward being an authoritarian dictatorship faster than the majority of the population realizes. I underestimated the threat Trump posed once. I will not do it again. We cannot afford to. As the saying goes, “Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” And because Americans are convinced of our exceptionalism, believe “it can’t happen here,” it will. It already is, faster than most of us can keep track.

This is not normal is only a partial list of all of the things that are abnormal–racist, misogynist, corrupt, immoral, etc–about the incoming administration. Every day, there are more things to add to it. It’s difficult to keep up, which is why a lot of it isn’t being reported as vigorously as it should be. Trump settled a fraud lawsuit over Trump University. His daughter is sitting in on visits with foreign dignitaries. White supremacists are being nominated for Cabinet posts. NONE OF THIS IS NORMAL.

This is not politics as usual. This is the freedom of our country and the world at stake. As someone on Twitter so aptly put it, the United States is one terrorist attack away from becoming a military state. And there are no checks on his power. The Republicans will go along with it. Democrats may put up a token resistance but people like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, supposedly liberal lions, are already talking about compromising with Trump.

There is no compromising with a fascist.

Our institutions have failed us. The only thing we have is ourselves. Our belief in a better world than the one Trump envisions. The certainty that he and his supporters are a minority of the population. Roughly half of the voting population didn’t (or couldn’t, because of suppression) vote, about 25 percent voted for Hillary, and slightly less than that voted for Trump. Hillary won the popular vote by more than 1 million votes (and counting). There is reasonable suspicion that Russia hacked our systems and swung things Trump’s way. At the very least, there should be an investigation into foreign interference in a U.S. election.

I believe dire times are ahead; indeed, they are already here. The day after the election, there were reports of up to eight trans youths who had completed suicide because they were terrified of living under a Trump administration. Another woman had a friend complete suicide because she knew her health care would be taken away, and she could not live without it. Hundreds of hate crimes have taken place. And it will undoubtedly escalate.

There is little good news to be found since Nov. 8. However, there ARE things we can do to resist Trump and fight for the future. Here is a far-from-complete list:

–First, no safety pins. Most people who are being targeted by Trump–people of color, immigrants, Muslims–see this as an empty gesture with little real effect. And white supremacists are already planning to co-opt it and use the pins as bait to attack unsuspecting people.

–Call your senators and representatives and let them know you oppose any effort to put Steven Bannon and Jeff Sessions in the White House. Calling is more effective than emailing. If aides are on the phone all day taking calls, their bosses will hear about it. Call regardless of which party your representatives are. Let them know you are watching them closely and will hold them accountable for their actions.

–Donate to organizations that will be on the front lines: the ACLU, your local abortion fund, Planned Parenthood, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Trevor Project, CAIR, Sacred Stone Camp (fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline), Black Lives Matter, NAACP, Southern Poverty Law Center.

–Reach out to your local mosque, synagogue, temple, and black church and ask what you can do to help. Let them know you will stand with them in the coming months and years.

–Consider running for office. Too many down-ballot Republicans run unopposed. Republicans understand many of the decisions affecting people’s everyday lives are made at the local level. Democrats haven’t made many strides here. If you can’t run for office, recruit your friends to do it.

–Donate to Foster Campbell, a Democrat running for Senate in Louisiana. He’s in a runoff election in December and could secure another seat for the Democrats in the Senate, which would be crucial. If you’re near Louisiana, consider volunteering for him. Encourage your friends and family nearby to do the same.

–Donate to and volunteer with your state Democratic Party. This is important for many reasons. First, the statehouses are the ones that do the redistricting for congressional seats. There will be a census in 2020, and whichever party is in control at the time will determine the congressional districts. In 2010, Democrats didn’t turn out to vote, and Republicans swept to power in statehouses across the country. They gerrymandered districts so that even though House Democrats, like Hillary Clinton, won the popular vote nationwide, Republicans are safely in control of the House. We cannot let them continue to dominate statehouses. Second, it takes three-fourths of states to ratify amendments to the Constitution. If many more statehouses turn Republican, they will have a clear path to doing away with any amendment they don’t like (for example, the First), and adding any amendment they please (forbidding marriage equality, ensuring lifetime terms for presidents, prohibiting abortion, whatever your nightmare scenario might be). The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee is a nationwide group devoted to putting Democrats in more statehouses.

–Work to restore voting rights to disenfranchised people and felons. Voter suppression worked exactly the way the Republicans wanted. We must push back against this and work to expand voting rights. It’s crucial to our democracy.

–President Obama and former Attorney General Eric Holder have created the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which has a similar goal to the DLCC. Watch for more information on that and how you can get involved.

–Hold people accountable for normalizing Trump. There is no “everyone does it,” “both parties do it,” “nothing to worry about here.” Every. Single. Thing. He. Does. Is. Not. Normal. The media have already started by refusing to call white supremacists what they are. They won’t call a racist racist or a fascist fascist. Words have meaning. We need to use them.

–Read this and believe it: Autocracy: Rules for Survival

Read this.

–Lastly, but most importantly, we white people need to work on our racism. Many anti-racism activists and researchers, including Jane Elliott, believe we are all racist simply for growing up in the country we did. The United States is a country built on racism–first the genocide and colonization of indigenous people, then slavery, Jim Crow, mass incarceration. We have never acknowledged any of it. Too many white people, who often only know other white people, believe racism is a thing of the past. They think black people talk about racism too much. They insist “I don’t see color.” It’s easy not to think about race when you’re white because it affords us so much privilege. We aren’t targeted by police for being white. We’re not incarcerated at higher rates for being white. We’re not denied housing, education and employment for being white. We don’t die at earlier ages because we’re white. The list goes on.

We are all taught racism, if not by our parents, then by our culture. I grew up in a predominantly white area. There were no black students in my class until I got to high school. I had maybe two teachers who were people of color until I got to college, though I did have one white science teacher who would perform in blackface each year for his lessons on George Washington Carver. This teacher admired Carver and I’m sure he thought he was honoring Carver by wearing blackface. The administration allowed this. My classmates thought it eccentric but not incredibly racist, as it is for me in hindsight.

My classmates were more likely to be Asian–Chinese, Thai, Korean, Indian, Pakistani–than black. There were two or three black students in my class of 300+ people. And it never occurred to me to discriminate against them for anything, but it also didn’t occur to me until years later how hard it must have been for them to live and grow up and learn in such a white area.

So, just because you don’t go around saying the n-word, that doesn’t mean you can congratulate yourself on not being racist. Being non-racist is a lifelong process. It’s a matter of degree. It’s being able to call each other out when we mess up. It’s being able to admit most of our favorite popular culture is racist–because most of it is created by white people. And it’s important to remember that liking it doesn’t automatically make you a bad person. But it’s also important to know that the issues are there.

Some favorites who are problematic: Elizabeth Warren claimed Native American ancestry, which genealogy has disproved. She has never really apologized or had a conversation about why what she did was wrong. That is racist. JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series, which I love dearly, is racist. Her new series is racist. The Lord of the Rings is racist. Star Wars is racist. Katy Perry is racist. Gwen Stefani is racist. Johnny Depp is racist and an abuser. Cultural appropriation is a real thing. Stealing someone’s culture and identity for your own use is racist and wrong. White people having dreadlocks is racist. Saying things like “you speak English so well” is racist. Asking a person of color where they’re from is racist. Buying into the “welfare queen” stereotype is racist (the majority of welfare beneficiaries are white, not black). Consuming all-white media and not criticizing whitewashing is racist.

It’s also racist to think there is such a thing as reverse racism. Racism is based on power structures. As long as there has been a United States, white people have held the power. White people have never been an oppressed population here. So people of color may dislike white people as a group or stereotype them, but they cannot be racist against white people. However, they can be racist against fellow people of color. White supremacy is a powerful thing, and it rewards people of color who buy into its myths, the same way patriarchy rewards sexist women (e.g. Phyllis Schlafly, Ann Coulter, Sarah Palin, etc).

Don’t assume racism is something that will die out with older generations. Young people are plenty racist. Racism is taught, so if Baby Boomers and Gen X are racist, their children will be too. There’s also no rule that says just because you have one black friend you can’t be racist, or because you have gay friends you can’t be homophobic. It doesn’t work that way.

If you know people of color, remember it’s not their job to educate you about all of this. It’s your job to learn and do your own research. People of color have had to learn how to live in a white society to survive. White people’s lives don’t depend on knowing the ins and outs of black culture and history, so we are ignorant. The good news is, there are plenty of resources available. Go to your library. Use your friend Google. Make sure  to study and read authors and researchers who are people of color.

When the economy crashes–because Trump has plainly stated that’s his goal–remember it was white people who voted him into office and white people who implemented his policies. He will try to blame everyone else for what happens. Nothing is ever his fault. Remember. It’s not the fault of immigrants. It’s not the fault of people of color. It’s completely Trump and the people who voted for him.

 

 

 

Why I volunteer for the president despite disagreeing with him

The reason why I support the president despite sometimes disagreeing with him should be obvious. There’s not a single person in my life I agree with 100 percent of the time. If you respond you do have someone like that in your life, please go grow a spine.

Off the top of my head, I can think of several areas where I disagree with the president: he doesn’t support same-sex marriage; he hasn’t closed Guantanamo Bay; he signed an executive order when the health care law was passed banning federal funding for abortion; his support of the EPA has been tepid; more undocumented workers have been deported under him than any other president (not something to be proud of); and he and his defense secretary are opposed to any cuts in defense spending despite the fact that makes up the majority of our budget.

However, his list of accomplishments is vast: he has appointed more women and minorities to positions of power than any other president, including two women to the Supreme Court; passed the most sweeping health care reform in generations; killed Osama bin Laden; passed a stimulus bill that prevented a depression; saved the auto industry; ended don’t ask, don’t tell; stopped defending the Defense of Marriage Act; made a video for the It Gets Better project; appointed former rival Hillary Clinton to secretary of state, where she’s had wild success and approval; improved the standing of the United States around the world; halted massive job loss and created new jobs; proposed the American Jobs Act to fix our aging infrastructure and project public sector jobs; and ended the global gag rule that prohibited U.S. aid to foreign family planning groups that even mentioned abortion to their clients.

Yet liberals who supported Obama in the 2008 election seem disillusioned this time around. Most of the people I talk with are planning to vote for the president again, but they’re not jumping in to volunteer for the campaign.

They’re disappointed for what boils down to two reasons: They thought Obama was more progressive than he really is, and they blame him because Washington is gridlocked.

First of all, I can’t think of a single issue where Obama has ever pledged a truly liberal stance, despite screaming from the right wing about how he’s a Marxist/communist/socialist. But because the United States got dragged so far to the right under George W. Bush, and even under Clinton, Obama looked like he was more progressive than he really is. He’s a centrist, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s a far sight better than what we had from 2000-2008.

Second, in our government, it takes three groups to get anything done: the Senate, the House and the White House. After the 2010 midterms, the Republicans took control of the House, and although the Democrats still have the Senate, they don’t have enough votes to pass bills without Republican support. And even if they did, they’d still run up against the wall of opposition in the House, where leaders are determined to get nothing done. They want the economy to do badly because they want Obama out of the White House. There’s only so much Obama can do without the approval of Congress. And he has bent over backward to compromise with Republicans and include them in discussions to move the country forward. They refuse.

I’m disappointed that more people who supported Obama in 2008 don’t understand the above points. Over the weekend I had a union organizer tell me that based on what he’s hearing, if there were a Democratic primary challenge, Obama would be in trouble. I wanted to beat my head against a wall. Obama is the smartest, most serious, most reasonable president we’ve had in a decade. And one of his best characteristics is that he’s open to criticism, feedback and new ideas.

I wasn’t surprised to read about friction in the early stages of his administration over the role of women in the West Wing. According to the Washington Post, female staffers felt shut out of discussions and disregarded to the point where it could qualify as a hostile workplace. Obama’s reaction? He finally sat down with the women to hear them out.

“Those tensions prompted Obama, urged on by senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, to elevate more women into senior White House positions, recognize them more during staff meetings and increase the female presence in the upper ranks of the reelection campaign. … The complaints seemed to subside over the last year, as officials have made a greater effort to promote women and the tight-knit inner circle has shifted to bring new advisers into the building.”

That, to me, is the work of a good leader. No, he’s not perfect. No one is. But despite the areas where I disagree with him, I truly believe he is a good man. I truly believe he has the best interest of all Americans at heart. That is why I have put so much time and effort into re-electing him. It’s why you should consider doing the same.

What would a Republican recruitment video look like?

I had that thought the other day while thinking of a woman I spoke to during my calls for OFA. Laurie has had incredibly poor fortune the past few years. She and her husband both had health emergencies in 2008. Her husband lost his job because of his, and he couldn’t get another one because he was a) illiterate and b) too ill to work. They had to deal with a mess of red tape to get unemployment benefits, which have since run out. Laurie has diabetes and so can’t get private insurance because of a pre-existing condition. Her husband gets about $900 a month in Social Security payments, $650 of which goes to the rent. They have no other income and are struggling to provide for their daughter.

Laurie was obviously lonely and desperate; it was the longest call I’ve had so far because she kept talking and I just didn’t have the heart to hang up. She kept saying “it’s not fair” and I completely agreed with her. Obviously an election more than a year away was not at the top of her list of priorities. I gave her the number for the local United Way hotline and said I honestly believed President Obama had the interests of average people like her at heart when he crafted policy.

It’s because of people like Laurie that I’m involved with the summer program at Organizing for America. It’s because of people like Laurie that I’m trying to get Obama re-elected. We have to lower the unemployment rate and create jobs. We have to raise taxes on the rich to raise revenue and balance the budget. We have to revise our health care laws so people like Laurie and her family don’t fall through the cracks. We have to raise disability payments to a living wage so Laurie isn’t worried about her family ending up hungry and homeless. That’s not the promise America was founded on.

Of course, Republicans are totally opposed to all of the steps outlined above. They seem to care only about the top 1% of fellow millionaires. I presume the Republicans have a similar program in which they recruit volunteers. How do they do that? By appealing to “family values” and “tradition”? By extolling the racism and sexism of the 1950s and refusing to acknowledge a multicultural future? By saying “you, too, can help pollute our nation’s air and water”? By championing massive profits in the oil, financial and health care industries? By criticizing so-called “entitlements” while at the same time benefiting from government subsidies and health care? By bellowing about constitutionality while taking away people’s right to vote? By advocating smaller government while at the same time nosing into the most personal details of women’s medical care? By celebrating all of the old white men in their establishment?

I just honestly can’t imagine what kind of tools they use to get people interested in their party. Obviously those people are out there, what with the success of Fox News and Rush Limbaugh. And certainly Democrats aren’t perfect. We don’t have strong, assertive voices or clear messaging on vital subjects. But I believe more Democrats have more average people’s interests in mind than do Republicans.

Time to retire "pro-life" banner

It’s pretty obvious if you follow politics that “pro-life” is a convenient frame for Republicans (and some Democrats) to use to get support from anti-abortion activists. However, although they oppose abortion, they don’t vote for bills that would support maternal health care and make for healthier babies and families.

For example, a bill in Nebraska that cut funding for undocumented mothers to receive prenatal care has resulted in at least five deaths:

The elimination one year ago of Medicaid funding for prenatal care for about 1,600 low-income women has had dramatic effects, doctors and health clinic administrators reported Wednesday. At least five babies have died. Women are traveling 155 miles to get prenatal care. Babies have been delivered at clinics, in ambulances and hospital emergency rooms.

… Four infants died in utero at the Columbus health center, she said. In the previous seven years, the clinic had never had an in utero death.

And the House GOP is also proposing cuts to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that would reduce funding for immunizations that save babies’ lives:

In the past year, California has experienced the worst whooping cough outbreak in more than 50 years, an epidemic that has killed 10 infants and resulted in 6,400 reported cases. But even as the state’s public health officials have struggled to curb the disease, Republicans in Congress have proposed slashing millions in federal funding for immunization programs. Public health advocates warn that these cuts threaten efforts across the country to prevent and contain infectious and sometimes fatal diseases. And they add that lower vaccination rates could eventually result in more outbreaks that endanger public health at a major cost to taxpayers.

Clearly, what people who claim to be “pro-life” really mean is they are anti-abortion. No one who truly values life would make cuts that threaten the most vulnerable and marginalized people in society. So the next time someone tells you he is “pro-life,” ask what he’s doing to make sure wanted babies have every chance of getting a healthy start at life.

Etiquette for the digital era

I like reading a funny e-mail as much as the next person, but I think 80 percent of e-mails that get passed around are junk. Many are chain letters that promise something exciting will happen if you forward the message to 10 people; these are, of course, lies. Others take aim at specific groups of people. I tend to delete junk forwards without looking at them, but in the past couple of years I have replied to three e-mails, all sent from relatives, that attacked Muslims and immigrants. The most recent one was about a supposed Muslim stamp that President Obama introduced. I exchanged a couple of messages with the sender, then checked out Snopes.com and found out the whole thing was false. No response when I pointed this out to the sender.

Even if your message is funny, I’m less likely to look at it if you send me five or six messages a day. Same with Facebook posts. Even if I’m interested in the topic, I’m going to scroll on by because reading everything takes too much time. I’m much more likely to pay attention if you post or e-mail once a day.

Petitions are another thing I think there should be limits on forwarding. I sign one or two per day, probably, but then I post them on Twitter or mention them on the blog. I don’t necessarily think my whole contact list will be interested in the same causes I am.

One of the reasons I started this blog with Rick is because I don’t feel comfortable sharing all of my political opinions on Facebook. I’m not ashamed of them, and I do make occasional posts that are political, but in general I don’t think a personal Facebook page is the proper outlet for passionate interests, whatever they are. I’m more interested in what and how you’re doing personally than a story I could find myself on CNN.com.

So here are a few general guidelines for today’s digital age:

1. Think twice before passing along an e-mail that targets a specific group of people (Muslims, Christians, men, women, the mentally ill, etc). You’re likely to make yourself look racist or sexist to at least one person. When in doubt, err on the side of caution and don’t send it.

2. Check Snopes for urban legends before passing along a message. Just because you get it in an e-mail doesn’t mean it’s true.

3. Keep in mind not everyone has a chance to constantly monitor her e-mail. Try to be considerate by passing along or posting one or two things a day instead of five or six, which can quickly clutter inboxes.

Are there any digital habits you wish people would rethink?

WHM Day 18: National Women's History Museum Online Exhibits

Today I was thrilled to see a link to the National Women’s History Museum’s online exhibits. There are nearly 20 exhibits on a wide range of fascinating topics, including Women in Early FilmClandestine Women: Spies in American History, American Women in the Olympics, Young and Brave: Girls Changing History and Women with a Deadline: Female Printers, Publishers and Journalists.

There are so many interesting exhibits I almost didn’t know where to start, but I began with Chinese American Women: A History of Resilience and Resistance. It talks about some of the first Chinese women in the United States, who were unfortunately exploited as curiosities:

Large crowds attended the Chinese women’s “acts,” which again included lessons on how to count and speak in Chinese, and play Chinese instruments and use chopsticks.  Such shows gave rise to the earliest stereotype of Chinese women as foreign curiosities.

By marketing Chinese women as a form of public entertainment, businessmen like P.T. Barnum and the Carne Brothers developed and exploited a sensationalist mass culture in America, instructing American audiences to view the Chinese, especially Chinese women, as human oddities.

There’s so much information it’s going to take me awhile to digest it, and I can’t wait to read some of the other exhibits. Thank you, National Women’s History Museum, for all of your great work. Please consider signing their petition to build a permanent museum in Washington, D.C. A bill has come before Congress but was blocked by male Republican senators.