Tag Archives: Alabama

The Return of Concentration Camps for Gays

17 Apr

It is with great sorrow and disgust that I share this news story. I write it because we must take action and because the world needs to know what is happening right now. We seem to be intentionally ignoring the lessons we should have learned from WWII.  Currently, the Russian republic of Chechnya is rounding up men who are gay or perceived to be gay and putting them into concentration camps where they are being tortured, beaten, their hands electrocuted, and being forced to sit on bottles. At present, we know that at least three men have been murdered according to the  independent newspaper, Novaya Gazeta.  Of course, Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov denies these claims saying that Chechnya has no homosexuals and reported: “You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic.”

Sadly, Russia has a long established history of homophobia and anti-semitism. What is more disturbing is that our own government in the United States seems to be creating a parallel structure of hate, homophobia, racism, anti-semitism, and misogyny. The anti-semitism coming from 45 and his minions like Sean Spicer is not only embarrassing, but it is exceedingly dangerous! Since 45 became President (thanks to a lot of help from Russia) right wing racist and homophobic Christians have become emboldened to the point that they are now taking our country hostage and eradicating our democracy and replacing it with a KKKristian theocracy.

For example, the trans bathroom rights established by President Obama have now been repealed, putting trans-identified and gender non-conforming people in danger. HB24 just passed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee in Alabama, thus paving the way to make it legal to discriminate against LGBT homes and deny them the ability to adopt or take in kids in the foster system. Of course, this all fits into Vice President Mike Pence’s agenda of establishing a national “Religious Freedom” law, which would allow for his perverted idea of Christianity to rule the nation and to discriminate against the LGBT community. Ultimately, this would mean gay/queer people must worry they will be denied services, denied housing, denied medical care. Yes, this is where we are now as a nation.

Take Action: We must stand in solidarity with each other and we must enlist the help and support of allies. We must make it known around the world that what is happening in the Russian republic of Chechnya is unacceptable. We must resist 45 and his homophobic administration at all costs! If you consider yourself an ally to the LGBTQ community, now is the time to make your voice heard.

Black History Month 2014: Edgar Nixon

25 Feb

Edgar NixonToday I would like to honor and pay tribute to Edgar Daniel Nixon. As a community based social worker, Nixon caught my attention and my heart, since he dedicated his life to community organizing, activism, and social justice. Nixon was a key figure in organizing the now famous Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. Nixon played a pivotal role in bailing another civil rights hero, Rosa Parks out of jail. The bus boycott lasted 380 days, presenting over a year-long struggle for African Americans.  As testament to this struggle, Nixon’s home was firebombed and he was indicted for violating a state anti-boycott statute. Fortunately, the bus boycott helped to put an end to bus segregation, an embarrassing mark in US history.

Prior to helping organize the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Nixon was organizing people for voting rights as a part of his dedication to the civil rights movement. In fact, Nixon rallied and led a march of more than 700 people in Montgomery protesting unfair barriers that blocked blacks from voting. Nixon also served as president of his local NAACP chapter. Dr. King referred to Nixon as:

one of the chief voices of the Negro community in the area of civil rights … a symbol of the hopes and aspirations of the long oppressed people of the State of Alabama.

Nixon worked as a Pullman Car Porter ( a porter for sleeping cars on trains).  In the 1940’s he worked to organize a USO Club for black serviceman.  He contacted Eleanor Roosevelt to garner her support. Roosevelt took action and helped to establish a USO Club for African-American servicemen.  By sheer coincidence, Nixon and Roosevelt got to meet on a train where he was working as a porter.

Thank you, ED Nixon! Your legacy of social justice lives on in the many of us you have inspired.

Defining Racism in the United States: A Starting Point

29 Jul

racism_logo_sqThere has been an amazing amount of discussion after I posted my Paula Deen/ Trayvon Martin story.  While I am so appreciative of much of the conversations, I have to admit a few items gave me pause.  I shared this article on LinkedIn’s Diversity A World of Change group and I’m not sure that several people, while prolific in their comments, truly understand the definition of the word Racism.

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, 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 all 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.

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.

Finally, let us illustrate the sad state of racism in the United States with the belligerent, bellicose, bigot Ted Nugent.  As of late, Nugent seems to be the appointed spokesperson of the GOP.  In response to the Zimmerman verdict, Nugent went on a racist tirade:

Why wasn’t Trayvon [Martin] educated and raised to simply approach someone he wasn’t sure about and politely ask what was going on and explain he was headed home? Had he, I am confident that Zimmerman would have called off the authorities and everything would have been fine.Why the nasty “creepy a– cracker” racism and impulse to attack? Where does this come from? Is it the same mindless tendency to violence we see in black communities across America, most heartbreakingly in Chicago pretty much every day of the week?…When you live in a fog of denial, usually inspired by substance abuse — you know with all the lies about dope being a victimless crime, I think you’re listening to the victims of this dopey crime, because their brains are fried. They’re either fried on substance abuse, and all of them know who I’m talking about.

The fact that the severely misguided and undereducated Nugent feels justified making these very public racist comments, along with people like Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson makes it quite clear that we still have a long way to go around issues of racial and gender equity.

Call to action: Imagine how powerful we could be if all of the targeted populations joined together to stop this type of oppression and even more powerful if we enlist the support of all of our allies that are within the dominant culture?

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 correct me if I have committed any trespass in my exposition here.  That being said, I certainly appreciate all of the comments people offer on the Facebook and on LinkedIn; might I invite you to also share those comments here on the blog, so as to reach a larger audience?

Black History Month 2013: So Much Accomplished, So Far to Go

1 Feb

BHM2013This is a significant year for Black History Month. 2013 is the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington and the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. Looking at the historical context of those two major events and looking at our nation today, it is easy to see that we have made substantial progress as a nation. Sadly, we still have far to go.

This month is set aside to celebrate the substantial accomplishments of African Americans and to look at the cultural and political history of the African-American experience. Here at TSM we’ll take some time to celebrate more individuals who have made great contributions to social justice as pioneers, activists, and role models. Although it is wonderful to have many people to celebrate, the list of “African-American Firsts” still has many gaps; distressingly, many of these firsts have happened in just the past decade — many are still first-and-only accomplishments.

Equality is still just a dream when nearly 13% of the people in our country identify as African American and far fewer than this are represented in most walks of life. Sadly, the places where African Americans are over-represented include poverty, dropouts, and incarceration, further evidence that institutionalized oppression still plays a major role in how things work in America. In states like Alabama, blacks that are or were incarcerated lose their right to vote for the rest of their lives–so much for the 14th Amendment.

Until leadership — political and economic (what I call the dominant discourse) — in this country is truly representational, it will be hard to overcome these facts. Progress is slow. Even with the most diverse Congress ever, fewer than 10% of the House is African American. In the Senate, this month will see the first time ever that two African Americans serve that body, and that 2% representation was entirely appointed, not elected.

I would love to see a point in history when we don’t need Black History, Women’s History, or LGBT History Months. I don’t see that happening until we have a level playing field, which would require eradicating racism, misogyny, and homophobia.  This also means we see accurate representation in history books of Blacks, Women, and LGBT folk.

For now, there is still much to celebrate. Let’s kick off Black History Month in this historic year with an eye to so many wonderful accomplishments. Let inspiration drive hope to fuel more success.

Lilly Ledbetter and a Pro-Woman President

5 Sep

Last night, there were several amazing speeches given at the DNC.  How you could anyone not be in love with First Lady Michelle Obama?  Another particular speech that really resonated was that given by Lilly Ledbetter, who has been celebrated before on TSM.

Many of you may remember that Ledbetter had the courage to fight for equal pay when she learned that her male peers were earning more than she for the same work at the Good Year Tire and Rubber Co. Finally the case went to the Supreme Court in 2007, where the Fecal Five told Ledbetter: “Sorry, but you should not have waited so long to file the lawsuit–deal with it.”  Fortunately in 2009, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which now allows women and all Americans to challenge unfair pay practices.

Not only am I consistently impressed with Ledbetter, but I love that we have President Obama who is not afraid to stand up to bullies and is working to protect women, the LGBTQ community, marginalized populations, and the middle class. Ann Romney can take her token role to promise that her husband is kind of okay once you get to know him. The dozens of women appearing onstage at the DNC tell the compelling story of a party and a president that really want to make this country fair for all. Not such a hard choice, is it?

Slavery in Alabama

17 Oct

No Latinos Please

For those people living in the U.S. who think racism is a thing of the past, I challenge you to think hard about how we treat people of color.  While I have addressed head on the current hostile racist environment for African Americans, I would also like to call attention to the Latino community.

Recently, the state of Alabama passed HB 56, what some might call the most abusive and racist anti-immigration law in the country. HB 56 provides institutionalized encouragement to imprison immigrants and to actually make a profit by doing so. The law is so vicious it reminds me of our collective ugly history during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl when our government was trying to repatriate Mexicans, some of whom were born in the United States. As soon as HB 56 passed, the state started to cut off water service to families who could not prove they were legally here. They arrested one man who turned out to be here legally.

Because there is now such a critical mass of Latinos who have been automatically been identified as “suspicious” by the state of Alabama, the surge to imprison families and individuals has overwhelmed the public legal system. It furthermore forces an outright racist practice for those that are expected to police all movements and transactions of the Latino community.

Let us talk about who profits from this blatant racism.  If the public jails are overcrowded then where does the state of Alabama turn?  The state will have to turn to CCA (Corrections Corporation of America) and the GEO group, two privatized detention centers. One should note that CCA and GEO  have a combined profit of more than $5 billion a year.

Now let me tell you how this becomes an industry of slavery.  John McMillan, agriculture commissioner of Alabama wants to replace farm work being done by immigrant workers with the soon to be overwhelmingly large population of immigrant prisoners.  Am I the only who sees history repeating itself?  This sounds an awful lot like white people making a great deal of money from the free/enslaved labor of people of color.  Here is a link to the full article.

I would like to recommend some very necessary reading here.  There is a brilliant book for young people about the history of oppression of Mexicans and Mexican Americans, Esperanza Rising, by Pam Munoz Ryan.  I would also strongly recommend Barbara Kingsolver’s The Lacuna, which does a remarkable job painfully detailing the racial discrimination against Mexicans during the Great Depression and WWII, as told through the protagonist who is not only Mexican but also gay.

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