Racism and Why We Must Defeat Trump

8 Aug

RAcismListening to Trump’s divisiveness, fear mongering, and racist statements, in conjunction with having to read through too many woefully misinformed and many racist comments on my recent article about Hillary, I feel compelled to implore people who will be voting in the Presidential election to please ensure that Trump does not take office.

Let us start by trying to really understand what racism is and the impact of racism on our country. Sadly, Racism, Prejudice, Discrimination, and Bigotry seem to be used a great deal as though they are interchangeable.  These words are not interchangeable — they are not all synonyms for Racism.  Racism has to contain an institutional and structural power dynamic.  Here in the United States that power dynamic is held primarily by white, heterosexual, cisgender, middle-aged, Christian, well-educated men; these are the people who establish norms in our society and have a great deal of unearned privilege because of the color of their skin.  This group, called the dominant culture, creates laws and policies — laws and policies that have an ugly history and were designed to help white folk while oppressing folks of color. Thus, Racism is: structural, institutional and systemic power that allows for discrimination and bigotry affecting someone’s health, well being, safety, and livelihood based on real or perceived racial or ethnic affiliation.

Perhaps a bit of a history lesson might be useful here.  Let us keep in mind the multi-generational impact of these laws both economically and emotionally.  1857 the Dred Scott Decision: The Supreme Court said that people of African dissent were not and could not be counted as citizens of the United States.  Let us jump to 1935 with the start of Social Security — a great act to be passed, but sadly it did not initially apply to anyone who was not white, a significant economic impact.  Now let us move to the 1945 GI Bill — great opportunity for soldiers returning from WWII. Sadly, this bill did not initially apply to any of the soldiers of color returning from WWII.  Here we see a HUGE economic impact for generations of whites with great advantage and thus a huge disadvantage for multi-generations of people of color.  The GI Bill allowed for white soldiers to buy their first home and get a college education; this would qualify as unearned privilege due to one’s skin color.

Let us jump to 1954 when we witness the Termination Act.  The Termination Act stripped ALL Native Americans from their identities as our government told all of these people: “Okay, you are white now, so you must live in the cities and turn over your lands to the U.S. government.”  The cultural and financial impact on Native Americans was and remains profound.

Even more recent and disgraceful is SB1070 adopted by Arizona in 2010 and then adopted by Alabama in 2011, which demands that ALL Latinos/Hispanics must have proof of citizenship on them at all times.  If someone with dark skin that is, or is perceived, to be Latino/Hispanic and cannot provide documentation of citizenship, they can be put in jail. Arizona modified the law with HB 2162, which does not do a lot to mitigate the impact of the very racist law of sB1070.

I approach the work of equity and marginalization as a gay man.  Working as an agent of change means I am also obligated to know about the start of Gay Liberation in 1969.  The LGBT community has a long history of being targeted and imprisoned.  Until 2003 with Lawrence v. Texas, it was against the law to be gay in the United States.  Sadly, regardless of Lawrence v. Texas, it is still against the law in most states in the south.  In fact, the LGBT community have zero rights and protections in almost all of the South.  My personal call to action is to stand in solidarity with all those that are oppressed by the dominant culture and to honor their narratives–to understand how LGBT people of color are targeted and why.

This history is carried with all targeted people and passed down from generation to generation, much like if you are Jewish your family knows about the Holocaust because it affected your family for many generations.  Of course, the impact is more severe if one carries more than one of these identities.  For example, if you are a woman and a woman of color or if you are a man and a gay man of color, the impact is far worse. Thus the importance of understanding intersecting identities.

Sadly, I, and so many of us, have heard such nasty reactions to the Black Lives Matter initiative. I have even heard such absurd comments like: “Black Lives Matter is racist.” I know many of us grow tired of hearing: “All Lives Matter.” Yes, all lives matter, and can we focus on the black lives right now, given they are disproportionately impacted by violence? Most recently, the shooting of physical therapist, Charles Kinsey, who on his back waving his hands asking, “please don’t shoot me.” There have been over 130 unarmed black men that have been killed just this year, including Philando Castile who was only 32 and Alton Sterling who was shot to death by Baton Rouge police while pinned to the ground.

While I would love to see our country have many political parties, we currently have a two dominant party system. I will be voting for Hillary and we certainly cannot afford a Trump Presidency. I would also ask that you think about the future Supreme Court appointments. Trump’s treatment of Khizr Khan and his family has been nothing less than despicable and is a signature moment for Trump, showing his disdain for veterans and those currently serving in the military.

My hope in publishing this article is to encourage and invite people to engage in a meaningful dialogue around the issues of race, gender, power, and equity.  I hope many will contribute to this conversation in a respectful manner and also help me grow and share more effectively if I have committed any harm.

Dear Hillary: How Very Dare You!

1 Aug

HillaryLet me be as candid and transparent as possible: I was a very strong supporter of Bernie Sanders, and until the past four weeks, held out great hope that he would become our next President. Over the course of the past month, I have had to do a great deal of reflecting and ask myself where does this seemingly irrational antipathy for Hillary Clinton come from? Why have I participated in it? After doing some research and looking hard at systemic misogyny, I have had to confront myself with the truth that I bought into a narrative about Hillary Clinton that has been produced, packaged, and perpetuated by mostly the GOP with the help of many democrats and independents.

This narrative is a 30-year-old vilification of a woman who is bright, independent, wealthy, and powerful — a woman who asks for what she wants and needs. How very dare you, Ms. Clinton? How dare you have a mind of your own? How dare you be bright and powerful? How dare you ask for what you want and need? Don’t you know these rights are still exclusively for white, Christian, cisgender, able-bodied, heterosexual men?

My research indicates that the reality — the facts (I realize facts are immaterial when talking to many Trump supporters) — are that Hillary Clinton is one of the most honest politicians tracked by the Pulitzer Prize winning fact-checking project Politifact. I would also call upon Jill Abramson’s piece in the Guardian. Most of you probably know Abramson from the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times. Abramson writes:

As an editor I’ve launched investigations into her business dealings, her fundraising, her foundation and her marriage. As a reporter my stories stretch back to Whitewater. I’m not a favorite in Hillaryland. That makes what I want to say next surprising. Hillary Clinton is fundamentally honest and trustworthy.

Members of the press, in their misguided attempt to be “balanced”, love to point out that we face a presidential contest between the two least-popular candidates ever. What they fail to do is analyze their own complicity in blindly adhering to the cartoon version of Hillary Clinton. Trump is unpopular — even with many Republicans who weakly support him — because of his stated positions. Secretary Clinton is unpopular largely because of an aggressive campaign of fictions and slander. That campaign has succeeded largely because of systemic misogyny.

Journalist Michael Arnovitz points out in his article Thinking About Hillary–A Plea for Reason (I strongly recommend his piece) that propaganda around Hillary’s “dishonest” nature stems from the pablum written by conservative writer William (I can’t be concerned with facts or evidence) Safire. Safire wrote the 1996 article Blizzard of Lies in which he vilifies and demonizes Hillary as a “congenital liar” without any evidence to support his claims. (How’s that for irony?) What I find profoundly sad is how quickly and how easily I — and so many Americans — bought into this false and misogynistic narrative. This tragically illustrates  how systemic sexism/misogyny is: how it is in the water we drink, the air we breathe, in every fiber we wear.

In fact, most of the resistance to Hillary initially was about how “smug” she was in pushing that “Universal Health Care” agenda. How dare she want all people to have health insurance–why that means that health care is a community health problem–there she goes again, with a mind of her own! Furthermore, apparently she was not behaving as a First Lady should. What the hell is that? How should a First Lady behave? The intense misogyny is too overwhelming to ignore here, and sadly, we are all implicated in this system of oppression. Just this past June, Hillary was shredded by the media for the Armani jacket she wore. Really? The day she was announced as the Democratic Nominee for President, it was a picture of her husband that made the front page of the paper. This is some intense sexism at work. Did anyone ask what Bill Clinton was wearing and who designed it?

Sadly, any time there is a claim of sexism at play, people roll their eyes as though such a thing does not exist, because women, women of color, people of color, LGBT folk, all of the intersecting identities of all targeted communities are always under suspicion. We are disbelieved disproportionately for asking to be treated the same way our white, heterosexual, Christian, cisgender counterparts are treated. All of a sudden being treated equally becomes “special rights.” So say those within the dominant narrative and power structure.

While I have never been a fan of David Brooks, he actually was able to offer some reflection and repair work on Friday’s NPR commentary with  E.J. Dionne. Brooks made the claim that Hillary is too guarded (why wouldn’t she be?).  Kudos to E.J. Dionne for pointing out the double standard to Brooks, that he would not make the same claim about a male candidate for President. Brooks connected and agreed that this was a sexist statement.

What I find profoundly sad is the blatant double standard of how we individually and collectively punish women who seek power, as opposed to how we reward men for the same ambition. As Arnovitz notes in his article:

What I see is that the public view of Hillary Clinton does not seem to be correlated to “scandals” or issues of character or whether she murdered Vince Foster. No, the one thing that seems to most negatively and consistently affect public perception of Hillary is any attempt by her to seek power. Once she actually has that power her polls go up again. But whenever she asks for it her numbers drop like a manhole cover…Even NBC news, looking back over decades of their own polls, stated that, “she’s struggled to stay popular when she’s on the campaign trail.” If this has nothing to do with gender, then wouldn’t the same thing happen to men when they campaign? But it doesn’t. Why not?

When I try to ask people for specific examples of why they “hate” Hillary, or how has she been dishonest, all I get is “everyone knows she is,” or “that’s just the way I feel.”  These two answers are problematic in so many ways. Regardless, this sentiment is testament to how effective the messaging/propaganda from Republicans has been over the past two decades. All I am asking is this: can we slow down and think critically and not accept without caution or question what is presented to us as the narrative of Hillary Clinton? Can we also allow for the fact that she has made mistakes and more importantly that she grows and learns from her mistakes.

I know I have gone from a true supporter of Bernie Sanders to an apathetic supporter of Hillary to now an excited and enthusiastic supporter of our first female President. It’s certainly true that she isn’t as progressive a candidate as I would like. Neither was Bernie and his stand on guns. Neither is absurd long-shot Jill Stein and her strange anti-science positions. That’s the reality of American politics in 2016.

I truly believe that Hillary and her platform are beneficial to targeted communities: people of color, people in poverty, people with disabilities, veterans, LGBTQ people, and all of the intersecting identities thereof. She is a hard-working, fundamentally honest person for whom — as she so nicely framed it — “the service part has always come easier than the public part.” I welcome people’s input here. All I ask is that you put in check any misogynistic comments and please have evidence to support your assertions.

Every election matters, but this one has even deeper resonance than most. Please remember to vote!

 

Of Brexit and Bigots: The Dowager Countess Goosenberry Weighs In

27 Jun
The Dowager Countess Goosenberry

The Dowager Countess Goosenberry

The past three days have been nonplussing at best, as voters in the UK have decided to leave the European Union. I was fortunate enough to catch up with my dear friend, The Dowager Countess Goosenberry by phone. She was exceedingly animated during our conversation and I fear given to the drink again while we were talking. Here is an excerpt she has allowed me to share.

Michael, I must tell you that at first, I had no idea what Brexit was. In fact, I was talking with my dear son Tarquin ( still a lovely bachelor, ladies), and he cleared it up for me. You see, I thought Brexit was some new type of American breakfast sandwich. Michael, I mean no disrespect, but you Americans seem so bent on vulgarizing everything you touch. 

I hear a long pause. Countess, are you still there? Oh goodness, I fear we Brits no longer have the moral high ground, do we? Our departure from the EU, motivated out of ignorance, fear, and outright racism, seems to put us in the same category of Swiftian Yahoos. 

I must confess, I have not been a fan of the EU, but leaving it just never made sense to me. Then I started seeing that awful racist, Nigel Farage talking about UKIP. Well, Michael, at first, I thought he was making some deranged command for us all to take a nap … and Farage does tire me. Finally, my dearest Tarquin explained to me that Farage and the UK Independence Party (UKIP) were pushing for the vote to leave the EU.

I hear a long and dramatic sigh from the Countess, when she resumes: Michael, I will tell you candidly, I did vote for David Cameron, which I regretted, and my Tarquin was quite vexed with me, but now I find myself having to actually defend Cameron. 

I have been both laughing at and feeling sorry for you over there across the pond with Donald Trump as a presidential candidate, but now we seem to be the target of much similar, well deserved ribbing. It is all I can bear to have to look at Boris Johnson. As my Tarquin says, ‘Johnson is Donald Trump without all of the orange base makeup gone wrong.” Is there such a thing as an albino cheeto? Michael, can you tell me is it true that your Mr. Trump has appointed right wing Christian fanatics and homophobes, such as Michele Bachmann and Jerry Falwell, Jr? Oh my! Well, I do suppose we are not quite as bad off as you are there. 

My hope is that your country will learn from our mistake. While the dissolution of the middle class is real, and we have overwhelming evidence of the negative impact of neoliberalism, this is not a time to yield to fear and hate mongering and to racism. Indeed, your Mr. Trump seems to thrive and give voice to racism, homophobia, and misogyny. As you know, Michael, the wave of regret is currently washing over the population here about leaving the EU. I hope your Yahoo Doodle Dandy Trump and his live reality television campaign do not prevail. 

I hear ice rattling in a glass during another pause. Finally the Dowager returns. Do forgive me, Michael, but I must dash. I’m heading to my Scottish property for a bit of fresh air. Whoever thought the Scots would get politics right?! Best of luck with your election…

Hero of the Week Award: Sen. Chris Murphy

17 Jun

Chris MurphyThis has been an extraordinarily painful week for the LGBTQ community, in the wake of last Sunday’s massacre. If it is possible for something good to come from all of this hate, homophobia, and fear, I hope part of the healing will come from gun control reform.

Kudos to Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn), for leading the filibuster on the senate floor to expand gun control policies with two specific measures. Yes, this is the very least the senate can do in response to the massacre in Orlando. As a side note, I need to point out that this is also very tied into race, gender, homophobia, and misogyny. The Pulse was — and will be again — a safe space for LGBTQ people, mostly queer people of color. The United States seems to feel it is acceptable to regulate women’s bodies, why can we not regulate guns? Finally the NRA’s bedfellow, Mitch McConnell, has acquiesced and agreed to hold votes for the proposed amendment.

It grows ever wearisome to hear the call for prayers every time we have people murdered by guns. We do not need the prayers, we need gun control! Sadly, I have to offer a dishonorable mention to Florida Governor, Rick Scott, a.k.a Lord Voldemort. When reporters asked Scott if there was anything that could be done on a policy level to prevent future shootings like this, Scott (who has put forth enormous energy to relax gun control laws (there is no waiting period currently to buy the AR-15) replied: “We can pray for the victims, pray for the families and pray this never happens again.” How’s that working so far?

There are at least 27 reported gun deaths EVERY DAY in the United States. The AR-15 was used in the following massacres: Orlando, Florida–49 killed, 53 wounded; Aurora, Colorado, 12 killed, 70 wounded; Sandy Hook, Connecticut, 26 killed; Santa Monica, California, 5 killed, 4 wounded; Roseburg, Oregon, 9 killed; San Bernadino, California, 14 killed, 22 wounded. Maybe its just me, but prayers don’t seem to be doing much to change things. Maybe we need action, such as adopting expansive gun control measures? Want that to happen? Get out and vote!

In addition to Murphy, I want to acknowledge and give an honorable mention to the following Democratic Senators for finally creating significant resistance against the NRA and pushing for greater gun control policies: Richard Blumenthal, and Cory Booker (NJ),  Dick Durbin (IL), Bill Nelson (FL), Chuck Schumer (NY), Joe Manchin (WV), Ben Cardin (MD), Ed Markey (MA), Patrick Leahy (VT), Al Franken (MN), Patty Murray (WA), Gary Peters (MI), Bob Casey (PA), Ron Wyden (OR), Elizabeth Warren (MA), Jeff Merkley (OR), Bob Menendez (NJ), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Claire McCaskill (MO), Mark Warner (VA), Amy Klobuchar (MN), Barbara Mikulski (MD), Sherrod Brown (OH), and counting. Yes, I’m very glad to see that both of Oregon’s senators were on this list!

The constitution is a living document and the flaws of the second amendment seem glaringly obvious. Given that no women and no people of color had any representation or voice in drafting the original document, it would stand to reason that this document needs further tweaking to represent more voices.

If you do not see your senator on this list, please contact them and let your voice be heard. I wish everyone a Happy Pride Month and let us not give into fear but share our love and solidarity!

Of Guns, Homophobia, Islamophobia, and Trump

13 Jun

PrideI suspect most of the country, like myself, is still in shock over yesterday’s mass murder in Orlando, Florida at the gay nightclub, Pulse. So much pain, so much loss, so much hate. As I reflect on the loss of life and the fueling of hate against my community, I can only hope that all of us within the LGBTQ community can stand in solidarity and support one another and reach out to support all of the families impacted by yesterday’s massacre. I hope we also unite and not give rise to the already intense Islamophobia the United States is currently engaged in. How disgusting and pathetic is Donald Trump with his comment around this tragedy: “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don’t want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!” Have you no decency, Mr. Trump?

When do we start to have serious conversations around gun control? The 50 people dead in Orlando no longer have a voice, so we need to use ours individually and collectively. I am hard pressed to be convinced that a human needs access to a gun such as the one Omar Mateen used, an AR-15 type rifle,  to carry out his homophobic slaying. My heart also goes out to Mateen’s family, for they have lost their son and they have to live with the consequences of his actions. There is nothing good for anyone in this tragedy.

My hope is that we do not give into fear, that we resist feeding hate, that we look for our shared humanity, and that we offer love and support to all impacted by the shooting in Orlando. I also believe now is the time we take action and demand for greater gun control. Here is a link (thank you to my friend Nancy) to sign a petition asking for a ban of the AR-15 type rifle from civilian ownership.

Finally, I hope the entire LGBTQ community can stand in solidarity and enjoy Pride Month — let us defeat fear and hate with Love!

Call The Midwife and Social Justice

27 May

CallTheMidwife_S5_BLUFor those who follow this blog, you know I am a devoted fan of Call the Midwife.  My husband and I just finished watching the conclusion to season five and wow! While the story is quite different from the show I fell in love with during seasons one through three — where they were drawing from Jennifer Worth’s memoirs and based on her experiences working in London’s East End in the late 1950s — season five proved to be an amazing journey. The season fully explores topics of social justice — issues of power, race, misogyny. In fact, season five seems to be the point of reinvention. This is where the show decided to really take on themes of that are sadly still relevant today such as queerness, the lesbian love story, and poverty, and how differently women have to navigate the world and how difficult it can be for women to govern their own bodies.

From the start, season five addresses powerful topics and does not shy away from where and when people in the “helping profession” cause harm. Such is the case in episode two, which deals with breast feeding or using formula. What is lovely is that our dear Sister Evangelina (Pam Ferris) is able to offer some repair work with a woman who was unable to breast feed. Episode three was very difficult to watch and deals with how we treat pregnant women who are not married and also takes on the issue of abortion. I strongly recommend this episode, as here in 2016 women still face so many of these same barriers. Of course, if we then look at intersecting identities, we look at how women of color and queer women may face even more barriers.

The show also takes on sex work, poverty, and the clandestine lesbian affair between Patsy and Delia. We also see the advent of the pill and how we look at women’s reproductive health and choice. I have to say that every episode is very intense and well done. I will continue to use many of the episodes in social work classes I teach, as they address what good social work can look like and what intersectionality is.

While I am exceedingly sad that our Pam Ferris has left the show, and I still miss Chummy (Miranda Hart), I am thrilled that Call The Midwife will return for a sixth season.  Rumor has it that our Chummy will return. I don’t know of another show that takes on social issues the way this show does, especially around the disparities of how we treat women. Well Done! Stay tuned for Season Six.

John Boehner and the Implosion of the Republican Party

29 Apr

cruz-devilIf you have followed this blog at all, you already know I have worked hard to expose how awful former Speaker of the House, John Boehner is, which makes it just that more delicious when even Boehner compares Ted Cruz to Satan. To be fair, I suspect Satan looks at Cruz and says: “Gosh, you are kinda mean.”  Boehner’s exact words in describing Cruz were: ““Lucifer in the flesh… I have Democrat friends and Republican friends. I get along with almost everyone, but I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life.”

My own bias is that yes, Cruz is an awful human being. He is explicitly anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-choice, anti-immigration, in fact, I’m not certain there are actually any people he likes, save for white Christian men–OY! Of course, given the wide berth his colleagues give him, the feeling seems to be mutual. I wonder if we need to ban Cruz from using public bathrooms.

This most recent trouble with Cruz is indicative of something greater at work–the implosion of the Republican party. The wave of Tea Party (right wing extremists) have pulled the GOP into a direction that makes a train wreck look like a lovely afternoon outing. I submit all of the GOP presidential debates as evidence. Cruz’ bizarre attempt at courting Indiana primary voters by trotting out Carly Fiorina as his running mate seems desperate but also exceedingly ignorant, as it holds no weight. If this becomes a contested convention, then the delegates pick the VP candidate. The implosion of this party manifests itself by working to hurt most United States citizens.  The rise of this hateful state has also emboldened the Chief Obstructionist and Racist, Mitch McConnell.

While it becomes more apparent everyday that Cruz needs to be sent to Guantanamo Bay, sadly, that would make him the only person currently that should be there. Let us not forget how equally awful John Kasich is, despite that “Golly Gosh” grin of his.

GOP leaders seem shocked that decades of discrimination and obstruction have left them with these yahoos as their candidates. Many congresscritters running in tight races have even said they won’t show up at the convention. Sorry, folks, but you built this — walking away won’t change a single fact, for you all have created a dirt that just won’t wash clean.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 845 other followers

%d bloggers like this: