Tag Archives: Arizona

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?

Bigot of the Week Award: June 21, Jeff and Tanner Flake

21 Jun
Bigot of the Week

Bigot of the Week

Thanks to my dear friend Bob for inspiring me to write this week’s BWA. Newly elected Senator Jeff Flake (R – AZ) is a complicated fellow. He is staunchly anti-choice and was an active part of the nasty budget battles while in the House. He is also supportive of strong immigration reform and was one of only a handful of Republicans in the House to vote to overturn Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Right after joining the Senate, he voted against modest gun control legislation despite pleas from constituents impacted by the Tucson shootings.  Basically, I was not able to understand this man at all.

Sadly, I suspect he is mortified at his son’s behavior and we are left wondering where did his son learn this horrific behavior.

Flake’s 15-year-old son, Tanner, recently gained some Internet notoriety for the following tweet:

To the faggot who stole my dirt bike from the church parking lot, I will find you, and I will beat the crap out of you.

Isn’t that just lovely. Is this common language found in church parking lots?  If it is, we have another difficult conversation that needs to be had. That post led to increased scrutiny of the younger Flake’s online presence. The results? Finding an online game that he plays as n1ggerkiller; countless racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic posts where he freely uses the words “nigger” and “faggot”; calling Mexicans the “scum of the Earth;” and much more. There’s also a video where he pretends to commit suicide with a loaded gun.

Sen. Flake issued a very tepid apology, promising that he had “spoken with” Tanner. This pattern of behavior is far too disturbing to be satisfied with a simple non-pology. The Senator needs to look at his own behavior. Where did his son learn these things? What can be done in his household to ensure a real change? What lessons can he learn from this that will make him a better legislator?

For now, that apology is all we’re seeing. So much for “Family Values.”  Here is where I must take three deep breaths and hope that Tanner gets the serious help he needs and I must believe he is capable of a transformative experience.

Will the Real Jan Brewer Please Stand Up?

29 May
Inspiration strikes?

Inspiration strikes?

In many ways it would probably be far easier to believe that Hell has frozen over, or that Dick Cheney has a heart (not just a heart facsimile), or that poverty has finally been eradicated than to believe Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s recent broken clock moment. In a stunning display, she demanded legislative support for President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

Yes, you read that correctly.  The Governor who signed a bill to allow concealed weapons in Arizona the day before the shootings in Tucson, the Governor who believes women should have no rights to govern their own bodies, has now vetoed five bills and will continue to veto any bill that comes before her until Arizona expands Medicaid and passes a state budget. Medicaid expansion is one of the lynchpins of the Affordable Care Act and would help millions of Americans.

Governor Brewer stated:

I warned that I would not sign additional measures into law until we see resolution of the two most pressing issues facing us: adoption of a fiscal 2014 state budget and plan for Medicaid.  It is disappointing I must demonstrate the moratorium was not an idle threat.

Of course, this has not made our Jan popular at her own Tea Party.  The ever charm-free Senate President Andy Biggs (R-Gilbert) told NBC News that he would do everything in his power everything ” to keep a vote on Medicaid from even coming to the floor.”  Lovely! I guess Biggs (ironically named) has a very small heart for any population that is underserved and dependent on Medicaid.

I’m not sure what has gotten into Brewer’s Tea, or perhaps she has stopped drinking Bachmann and DeMint’s homemade brew.  While I am still not a fan of Brewer, I feel I have to acknowledge good behavior. We have three branches of government for a reason. It’s good to see an executive applying some checks and balances to an out-of-control legislature and demanding proper care for the citizens of her state.

Bigot of the Week Award: October 5, Matt Birk

5 Oct

Bigot of the Week

After all the voices for equality emerging from professional football lately, it was perhaps inevitable that a player would feel obligated to buck the trend. Jumping in with both feet (in his mouth), Baltimore Ravens center Matt Birk decided to blast his homophobic bigotry far and wide ( I suppose he is a wide end receiver hehhehe). The man who was named NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year in February wrote an OpEd for the Minneapolis Star Tribune (the home of his previous team, the Vikings) aggressively opposing marriage equality. On what basis? His desire to impose his religion on everyone (he’s Roman Catholic,  you know the Pope in his beautiful frock covering up all the sex scandals)  and the sad lie that marriage exists only for the children.

Same-sex unions may not affect my marriage specifically, but it will affect my children — the next generation. Ideas have consequences, and laws shape culture. Marriage redefinition will affect the broader well-being of children and the welfare of society. As a Christian and a citizen, I am compelled to care about both.

Yes, you should care about both, Matt, and the fact that this “redefinition” creates equality and sends that next generation the message that everyone has value. I guess that doesn’t matter to you. Not content with his essay, Birk also recorded this toxic PSA for the Minnesota Catholic Conference reiterating his stand. I guess all of you single parents are sinners in the eyes of Matt Birk.

Thank you to my friend, Jennifer Carey for inspiring this week’s Dishonorable Mention, which goes to the Arizona legislature. Not content with their state’s abhorrent racist laws on immigration, they’ve decided to join the war on women as well. HB2625, which passed the house in March, is now working its way through the Senate. This odious bill allows employers to opt out of the mandated provision of birth control. Employees must submit to intrusive questions,verifying the purpose of the medication to be solely for medical reasons and not to prevent pregnancy. The bill would grant employers the ability to deny female employees the right to be covered based on religious beliefs. Given the makeup of the Senate and the nasty beast sitting in the Governor’s office, it is very likely that the bill will become law before long.

Bigot of the Week Award: Justice Antonin Scalia (with bonus Rand Paul sauce!)

29 Jun

Bigot of the Week

What a relief! The same week that the Roberts Court followed the Constitution and decades of legal precedent, SCOTUS Justice Antonin Scalia wackied his way back into BWA territory. The world once more makes sense.

In another surprisingly decent ruling, SCOTUS also struck down most of Arizona’s horrific breathing-while-brown immigration law. The odious “papers please” component was sustained but given a stern warning. Scalia’s head nearly exploded as he launched a dissenting screed so noxious that even Justice Thomas wouldn’t join in. Making an argument that legal scholars would typically designate as ass-backwards, Scalia gave this pronouncement:

So the issue is a stark one. Are the sovereign States at the mercy of the Federal Executive’s refusal to enforce the Nation’s immigration laws? A good way of answering that question is to ask: Would the States conceivably have entered into the Union if the Constitution itself contained the Court’s holding? Today’s judgment surely fails that test. […] If securing its territory in this fashion is not within the power of Arizona, we should cease referring to it as a sovereign State.

So laws and rulings affecting the states can only be made after consulting an Oracle to determine if any future state would refuse to join the Union based on that action? REALLY? Perhaps Justice Scalia should brush up on his history, as well as remember his own roots. Scalia, Mr. Anti-Immigration and Anti-Affirmative Action is the son of an immigrant, and it is not long ago that Italian immigrants were looked down upon with great disdain.  Based on his reasoning, it seems that he’s encouraging Arizona to secede. Didn’t we fight a WHOLE WAR over that? Just for good measure, he managed to throw in a dig at the President, declaring the Executive implementation of the DREAM Act sufficient cause for Arizona to create its own police state.

Moron of the Week

Dishonorable mention this week goes to Senator Rand Paul (Idiot – Wonderland), who joins Scalia in the alternate reality where their wishes trump the law of the land. After the Supreme Court issued its ruling on the Affordable Care Act, Republican lawmakers went into a spiral of rage and nonsense. Paul managed to sink below the general level of discourse with this astounding statement.

Just because a couple people on the Supreme Court declare something to be ‘constitutional’ does not make it so.

Wow. Sounds like somebody needs to take a grade school civics course (and a quick lesson in math) before returning to work…

Republicans in Your Vagina…

6 May

Raise Your Voice!

Thank you to my friend Nancy (a strident advocate for social justice) for inspiring me to write this article. Republicans continue to dictate who we can fall in love with and marry, signing pledges to discriminate against the LGBT community (thank you, Mitt (I hate the homos) Romney). The war they are waging against women increased exponentially with Jan Brewer’s move on Friday.  Gov. Jan Brewer on Friday signed into law a bill to cut off Planned Parenthood’s access to taxpayer money funneled through the state for non-abortion services–way to go Arizona.  Is there anyone safe in that state that is not white, male, christian, and heterosexual?  Again we see an attack specifically on women without economic means.  Planned Parenthood addresses women’s health, specifically women that are disenfranchised.

I saw this video last night and have to share it, for it perfectly captures the Republican War Against Women.  Click here to see the full video. As you will see from the video, government should not be in banks, or classrooms, but it should be in all vaginas.

Jan Brewer v. Roe v. Wade

16 Apr

Is there anyone whose rights I still need to trample?

Sadly, we have another Stepford wife perpetuating the war on women.  Our Jan Brewer(R. Arizona) who suffers from internalized misogyny, has signed a bill that in many ways challenges Roe v. Wade and sends the message that women are not able to govern their own bodies.   The absurd law states that:

…gestational age as beginning on the first day of a woman’s last period, rather than at fertilization. In practice, that means the state has banned abortions after about 18 weeks.

The absurdly named Women’s Health and Safety Act moves the cutoff threshold for abortions so early that it prevents most medical testing that would inform a woman about the health and viability of a fetus. This is bad enough, but the bill also effectively ends another common, medically sound practice.

Medication abortions, which are nonsurgical and usually performed within the first nine weeks of pregnancy, and account for between 17 and 20 percent of all abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive-rights advocacy group. While women often take the pills at clinics and in their homes, the bill now mandates that a medical provider must have hospital privileges within 30 miles of where the procedure takes place. Many times clinics or homes are not within 30 miles of hospitals, and the distance prevents providers from other cities or even states from caring for women, says Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute. Another factor that could contribute to what Nash called a “shutdown” of medication abortions is that the law requires abortion pills to be administered using outdated protocols, confusing providers and obscuring proper use of the drugs.

This bill continues the alarming trend of right-wing legislatures (Arizona’s is one of the most draconian) and tea-soaked governors doing everything they can to thwart the established law of the land regarding abortions. Since taking office, Jan Brewer has proved hostile to every vulnerable population she comes across. How sad that this latest action provides more cover for the Republican obfuscationsists to say “how can it be a war on women when a woman supported it?” Bigots and villains have no better allies than the self-loathing, and Jan Brewer clearly loathes everyone.  We tried to reach Gov. Brewer for comment, but she was busy directing her minions to build a wall around Arizona to keep out Latinos.

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