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Archive for the ‘racism’ 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.




Fellow white people, be quiet and listen

I debated whether to post anything about the recent events in Ferguson, Mo., and finally decided I had to. Not because I’m an expert or I can pretend to understand everything that is going on. Far from it. I’m a young middle class white woman. My privilege protects me from the physical and psychological violence that has been directed at black communities since the beginning of this country. So when a grand jury decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown, I listened. My heart was heavy, but this wasn’t a moment for white people to rush in and make sweeping judgments about black communities. Of course, that’s exactly what happened.

So the purpose of this post is to implore fellow white people to avoid making any kind of bold statement or judgment and instead to LISTEN.

Chances are, you don’t know many, if any, black people. Research shows that most white people’s networks are incredibly white. And that shows when you say things like “I don’t think racism is a problem anymore,” “we should be colorblind,” “it’s racist to talk about racism,” etc.

So listen to the people on the ground in Ferguson.

Listen to the people for whom this violence is commonplace.

Listen to the parents who are losing their children for no reason.

Listen to the young people who risk their lives every day simply by existing.

Racism hasn’t gone away just because we elected a black president. Far from it. Racism has been, and will continue to be, a fact of life for millions of people. So start reading the stories below to understand even a fraction of what is going on in Ferguson and black communities around the country.

Yeah, it’s a lot of reading—and that’s just the beginning. We have a lot of catching up to do.

Self-Segregation: Why It’s So Hard for Whites To Understand Ferguson, by Robert P. Jones

Telling My Son About Ferguson, by Michelle Alexander, author of “The New Jim Crow” (both mandatory reading)

What Black Parents Tell Their Sons About The Police, by Toula Drimonis

Barack Obama, Ferguson, And The Evidence Of Things Unsaid, by Ta-Nehisi Coates

On Being A Black Male, Six Feet Four Inches Tall, In America In 2014, by W. Kamau Bell

Study: Cops Tend To See Black Kids As Less Innocent Than White Kids, by Philip Bump

In America, Black Children Don’t Get To Be Children, by Stacey Patton

Most White People Are Completely Oblivious, by Tim Wise

12 Things White People Can Do Now Because Ferguson, by Janee Woods

In Defense of Looting, by Willie Osterweil

Actually, Riots Are Good: The Economic Case for Riots in Ferguson, by Matt Bruenig

Neither Michael Brown’s Family Nor Protesters Should Be Held Responsible For The Violence, by Kevin Gosztola

In Defense Of Black Rage: Michael Brown, Police And The American Dream, by Brittney Cooper

The System We Have In Place Has Biases, by Lecrae

In Darren Wilson’s Testimony, Familiar Themes About Black Men, by Frederica Boswell

Ferguson Protesters In Boston Stop Outside Jail, Chant “Black Lives Matter,” by Amanda Terkel

How To Deal With Friends’ Racist Reactions To Ferguson, by Jenée Desmond-Harris

Dear White Allies: Stop Unfriending Other White People Over Ferguson, by Spectra

 It Is Time To Understand The ‘Other’ Side, by Steve Sullivan

 Why It’s Almost Impossible To Indict A Cop, by Chase Madar

White People Rioting For No Reason, by @red3blog via Jessica Roy

Cultural appropriation is not trendy

Well, it’s trendy in the sense that everyone is doing it, but it’s not cool. It’s not OK.

Everyone, as a matter of course, should read My culture is Not a Trend. Go on, click through the first few pages. I’ll wait.


It hasn’t been updated in more than a year because the person running it was so exhausted from trying to explain why that outfit is racist. That headdress is racist. That costume is racist.

Over. and over. and over again.

I can only imagine how it felt to see Gwen Stefani do this.

And Michelle Williams.

And Victoria’s Secret.

And Johnny Depp.

Apparently white people still need to hear this in 2013: Pretending to be part of a culture or race you don’t belong to, and that your culture has in fact oppressed and marginalized, is not OK.

It’s racist.


Rinse, repeat, read My Culture is Not a Trend until you get it. Then spread the word so everyone else gets it.

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.

Indiana denies health care to 9,300 patients

That’s what happened when Planned Parenthood of Indiana ran out of money this week to treat Medicaid patients — 9,300 people now have no way to access their regular health care provider. A state law ended funding in May, but an outpouring of private donations provided money for another month. About 9,300  of PPIN’s 85,000 patients depend on Medicaid to pay their bills. Without that money, they can’t be treated. And if a judge rules against PPIN in a lawsuit it’s brought against the state, most or all of the Hoosiers who depend on Planned Parenthood could lose their health care provider. PPIN will be forced to close some of its 28 clinics and lay off workers.

All because Planned Parenthood provides a legal medical procedure — abortion. But even though money to pay for abortions comes from private donors, and abortions haven’t been paid for with government funds since the 1970s, conservatives in both parties are determined to punish PPIN for even providing abortions by taking away its funding for services such as pap smears, birth control, STI testing and cancer screening.

Guess what happens when low-income women don’t have access to birth control? They get pregnant. Guess what happens when they can’t abort the fetuses? They give birth. Guess what happens when they can’t afford to pay for those children? They go on welfare — and end up costing the state thousands of dollars more than the original birth control would have cost.

This is not rocket science. If you want to lower the abortion rate and number of people on government assistance, GIVE THEM BIRTH CONTROL. Provide them with health care to take care of routine medical problems instead of making them wait until the problem is serious enough to end up in the emergency room. Help them treat that sexually transmitted infection so it doesn’t spread to more people. Save their lives by giving AIDS and cancer tests.

All of this is common sense. Study after study shows that for every dollar spent on family planning, the government saves nearly $4. Communities worldwide are healthier when women have the power to plan if, when and how they will have children. Indiana, along with Kansas and North Carolina, which have also moved to defund Planned Parenthood, is just shooting itself in the foot by denying women and men routine reproductive health care.

The right to vote is enshrined in the Constitution

Graphic by Clarke Daily News

The Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution reads, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” The Nineteenth Amendment reads, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

I don’t think that could be any plainer. Provided you are of a certain age (a reasonable restriction laid out by the 26th Amendment), your right to vote is inviolate. Yet across the country, Republicans are passing laws that disenfranchise people who are likely to vote for Democrats, including minorities and the elderly. They claim it’s to prevent voter fraud. However, the Brennan School for Justice at NYU School of Law hosts The Truth about Fraud, which shows that the problem of voter fraud is wildly overstated. The report by Justin Levitt reads, “Aside from a trickle of news stories of low-grade fraud in a few isolated elections, there are surprisingly few sources recounting specific incidents of alleged voter fraud.” Republicans pass voter ID requirements under the guise of preventing impersonation of other voters, an occurrence that Levitt says is “more rare than getting struck by lightning.” He sums up the issue quite well:

The voter fraud phantom drives policy that disenfranchises actual legitimate voters, without a corresponding benefit. Virtuous public policy should stand on more reliable supports.

He also says we need to distinguish between problems that arise from faulty ballots and genuine human error, and problems of people intentionally committing fraud.

One of the most recent states to pass voting restriction is Wisconsin. The new law would require photo ID at the polls; residence at your address for 28 days before an election (up from 10 days previously); and reduce absentee voting in clerks’ offices from 30 days before an election to 14 days, among other things. At a time when Gov. Scott Walker is all about cutting the budget by gutting unions, he’s supporting spending $7 million over the next two years to implement the bill. The Republicans are confident the law is constitutional because the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a similar Indiana law in 2008. But even Indiana’s elections official admitted it had weak justification:

Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita has conceded the state has never presented a case of “voter impersonation,” which the law was designed to safeguard against. The 2005 Indiana law requires that a valid photo identification be presented by a person casting a ballot at a polling stations. Previously, most citizens needed only to sign a poll book to vote.

Republicans can pull whatever tricks they want to get people to vote for them. That’s fair game, although another Supreme Court decision I disagree with is Citizens United. But I think it’s despicable they would prevent people from exercising their constitutional right. The United States was founded partly because of outrage about “taxation without representation.” Colonists were angry at England for dictating laws they had no say in (Tea Act, Stamp Act, Townshend Acts). They wanted to be able to choose their decision-makers. In this country, your vote is your voice, and often the only way to make your preferences known. If you don’t like the way your representatives vote, you can vote them out of office. Recalls are going on right now in Wisconsin for Republican state senators who supported gutting unions. On Tuesday, Democrat Kathy Hochul won a special election in a historically Republican congressional district, and pundits are saying it’s because of fear of Medicare reform.

Republicans want to deny that right to people who are already ignored and marginalized. They want to end Medicare as we know it, but they don’t want senior citizens without a state ID to be able to oppose them. They want to cut welfare for poor single mothers, but they don’t want those women to be able to express their anger by voting for Democratic opponents.

Call me naive, but I think the government should be increasing voter access, not decreasing it. Early voting and extended hours are good ideas. We already have a shameful voter-turnout rate (around 62 percent in the 2008 general election). We don’t need it to decrease any more.