Tag Archives: marginalization

Bigot of the Week Award: June 28, The Supreme Corruption

28 Jun
Bigot of the Week

Bigot of the Week

The Supreme Court wrapped up its judicial year this week with a number of major decisions. On the four that got the most press — and had the largest impact — they managed one disaster (Voting Rights), one victory (DOMA), and two adequate indecisions (affirmative action and Prop 8). As those rulings were rolled out, however, the aggressive activists on the right of the bench bared their ugly souls once again.

The most vile decision was Shelby County v Holder, in which the Four Injustices of the Apocalypse were joined by two-faced Kennedy in gutting the Voting Rights Act. Despite the fact that the VRA was renewed unanimously by the Senate and by an overwhelming majority in the House after extensive research, the Court ruled that Congress acted capriciously and violated States’ rights. That rationale fails to disguise the clear desire to allow states to practice voter suppression, disproportionately impacting marginalized populations which coincidentally vote overwhelmingly for Democrats.  Talk about intentional disenfranchisement!

Chief Racist Roberts penned the poison decision, helping secure his horrible legacy. He also wrote an ugly dissent in Windsor v United States, the case that overturned DOMA.

Speaking of ugly legacies, Justice Scalia managed to spew his usual bile with flair and volume. He continues to argue that calling a bigoted law bigoted is biased against bigots. That’s some weird reasoning. He also displayed his split personality in the Shelby and Windsor rulings. To support racism, he trumpets States’ rights and blames Congressional overreach. To support homophobia, he says that Congress should have the final say, and the will of the states that support LGBT rights be damned. In a curious bit of double-speak, his Windsor dissent includes:

It is an assertion of judicial supremacy over the people’s Representatives in Congress and the Executive. It envisions a Supreme Court standing (or rather enthroned) at the apex of government, empowered to decide all constitutional questions, always and everywhere “primary” in its role.

That is one huge spleen that Scalia has!  Justice Alito-Mussolini, joined in the discrimination chorus. He also demonstrated his ongoing behavior as a petulant brat. During Justice Ginsburg’s scathing Shelby dissent, he rolled his eyes and shrugged his shoulders. He displayed similar disrespect to opinions offered by Justices Kagan and Sotomayor on other matters. Racist, homophobe, misogynist — score three for Alito, but of course “he does make the trains run on time.”

Justice Thomas remained inert, participating only far enough to support a version of the Constitution that must have been written in 1276, content to continue suppressing the rights of others now that he’s got his lifetime gig.

What a horrible example of judicial activism and abuse of power!

There’s plenty of dishonorable mention to spread around, as well, so let’s just highlight two magnificent examples.

  1. Texas Governor Rick Perry, whose efforts to crush Planned Parenthood and severely restrict reproductive choice in his state were thwarted by true democracy in action, chose to demonize state Sen. Wendy Davis. He argued that she’s lucky she wasn’t aborted by her unmarried mother and should take a lesson from that. My he is Klassy!
  2. Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R – What’s the Matter with Kansas) followed the DOMA decision by introducing a new bill to ban same-sex marriage in the U.S. Constitution. I guess the House didn’t waste enough taxpayer time and money defending the indefensible.

Many of the usual homophobes spewed their bigotry in despair after the Windsor ruling as well. Rather than bother with names and quotes, let’s take a lesson from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, whose flawless response to their angry bloviating was a calm, “Who cares?”


LGBT History Month 2013: John Oliver (The Daily Show)

14 Jun
Hero of the Week

Hero of the Week

Thank you to my dear friend and fierce LGBT ally, Jennifer Carey for inspiring me to write today’s article.  Comedy Central’s The Daily Show has always struck a nice balance between humor, irony, and information. Few of its correspondents are as good at the irony as John Oliver. Sadly, while I love his exposure of the hypocrisy of French and Russian homophobes, it is also a painful reminder that we have so far to go for LGBT rights around the world.

What a shame that something joyous — the establishment of long-needed equality and recognition for the relationships of same-sex couples — has resulted in such monstrous behavior. Thank you John Oliver for showing the hypocrisy in behavior that would be downright silly…if it weren’t so viciously destructive.

We are most regrettably targeted and marginalized around the world and most states in the USA.  One way to conquer homophobia is to be VISIBLE: let the world know we are everywhere!  Click here to see John Oliver’s lovely exposé.

YES to Fluoridation…

6 May

Yes on 26When the whole issue of fluoridation for Portland water came up recently, I thought, naively, big woo.  Who cares?  Really is this an issue we need to be concerned about?  However, in the past six weeks, it has become a big deal, as I read the literature available and watched both campaigns for and against, I have to say I have come to strongly believe that we must vote YES on Fluoridation.

I have come around to this decision from a social justice and equity perspective.  While the campaign against make some interesting points and express legitimate concerns, the overwhelming scientific evidence and efforts toward equity in health care for Portlanders has won me over. Sadly, Oregon ranks in the top ten states for uninsured residents, with 35% of children having untreated tooth decay. Oral hygiene contributes to overall health in significant ways beyond tooth decay throughout life. While fluoride is especially helpful to children, it is important for low income and marginalized adults and seniors as well.

Portland is the largest (and one of only eight) major city in the country not to fluoridate its water. Opposition is mainly based on scare tactics that exploit and distort minor facts and half truths. The information that opponents use — linking fluoride to bone cancer, sick pets, and damaged wildlife — overlook two key facts. Significantly, the very data they use has been incorporated into the fluoridation proposal to ensure that levels will be safe and effective both. Second, many of the studies that are cited refer to other forms of fluoride, a natural mineral that — like many — can be beneficial or harmful depending on its form and its intensity.

Toothpaste and mouthwash aren’t enough, or Oregon (#48 nationwide in fluoridation rates) would not have the terrible oral hygiene problems that it does. The poor, elderly, and underserved are disproportionately impacted by not taking this simple, SAFE step. Again, I would point to the issue of equity.  If we remove barriers for underserved populations for tooth decay, pain, lost time in school, and periodontal disease, we are investing in everyone’s future by creating a stronger Portland with a stronger workforce. Dozens of organizations — including the ADA, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the NASW — support this sensible move. Gov. John Kitzhaber, MD, has been a vocal advocate.

Portlanders should engage their civic spirit and sense of care for their fellows and vote yes on 26-151.

Social Justice For All

7 Apr

SJALL BlogI started my blog, The Solipsistic Me, three years ago.  I must confess it started off as a lark and at that point, I did find the whole process of blogging a bit solipsistic.  However, three years later and my surprise at the success of the blog have made me reflect that blogging can be far more than just a lark.  I have found there is amazing power and impact through blogging.

The content of the blog is exactly the same, but now the name of the blog actually reflects the mission of the blog.  Social Justice for All will continue to address: misogyny, homophobia, racism, ageism, bigotry, discrimination, hypocrisy, power differentials while also celebrating the heroic acts of our fellow human beings who work to expand social justice and civil rights for everyone with a focus on the marginalized and underserved and those living poverty.  Of course, I hope most of the stories published here will also contain some humor, for if we can’t laugh at our selves and the world around us, we lose a great part of our humanity. Thus you can count on another interview with my friend the Dowager Countess Goosenberry, and we must keep vigilant, now more than ever, for that scary Gay Agenda! 

Welcome to Social Justice For All, same blog with a new name.  Let us hope that I and all of you readers learn how to create a space that provides a counter narrative to the dominant discourse and celebrates allies and those that stand in solidarity while spotlighting and embracing with joy those voices that are marginalized and oppressed.

Black History Month 2013: Martha Wash

13 Feb

MWashToday we honor and celebrate an amazing singer whose perseverance has made the music industry a more just place while entertaining millions and advocating for social justice. Martha Wash was born in 1953 in San Francisco. By her early 20s she was already known as a powerhouse vocalist. She teamed with Izora Rhodes Armstead as regular vocalists with gay disco icon Sylvester. Celebrating their big voices and ample frames, the duo billed themselves as Two Tons O’ Fun.

Two Tons pursued their own career starting in 1980, recording two albums that were very successful on the dance charts. Their first brush with pop stardom came when songwriters Paul Jabara and Paul Shaffer offered them a song that had been rejected by Donna Summer, Barbra Streisand, and many others. They renamed themselves the Weather Girls and had a huge international smash with It’s Raining Men. The track also solidified Wash’s credentials as a diva of the gay scene, an honor she has embraced throughout her career. Izora moved to Europe in the late 90s and Wash began planning a solo career.

In the meantime, Wash did session work with a number of producers. In 1989 and 1990, her voice was everywhere as she sang on hits credited to Seduction and Black Box. She had been led to believe that she was creating guide vocals or demos, but the producers were so impressed with her voice that she ended up on the final products. Sadly, she was not given vocal credit, however, and Black Box used French model Katrin Quinol as the face of the songs. Infuriated with the lack of credit, low scale compensation, and clear discrimination against her size in the video realm, Wash sued Sony music. She received an undisclosed settlement that included credit and royalties. Occurring in the wake of the Milli Vanilli scandal, her actions also changed music industry law, requiring proper credit and royalties for anyone used as a lead vocalist.

Besides her amazing talent and business determination, Martha Wash has used her fame and fortune for social justice. She is active in charitable work for autism and is the official spokesperson for Quality Services for the Autism Community. She is also a staunch supporter of gay rights and an outspoken advocate for marriage equality.

Look, from my perspective, there have been more gay couples who’ve stayed together longer than straight couples. My feeling is, if you are a citizen of the United States, you should have all rights and liberties of everybody else. If you’re paying taxes like everybody else, why can’t you have the full commitment from the United States government, from marriage on down?

Recognizing her debt to her early gay fans, she is flattered by the many drag performers that cover her songs. She also enjoys telling stories of the many people who have told her they came out while one of her songs was playing.Wash was part of the opening ceremonies at the first OutGames in 2006 and performs many benefits.

Having come to fame during the early days of the AIDS epidemic, she is also a strong advocate for the HIV+ community. She has no patience for those who stigmatize the LGBT community for the disease or for those who marginalize those impacted by HIV. On World AIDS Day in 2012 she was awarded a lifetime achievement award from the AIDS Emergency Fund for her ceaseless advocacy and fundraising.

Martha Wash isn’t resting on her laurels, however. She started her own label, Purple Rose, and released her first full album in 20 years on January 10, 2013. Something Good proves she’s lost none of her vocal fire and is aptly named for her presence in the world.

Hero of the Week: February 8, Kathleen Sebelius and the Dept. of Health and Human Services

8 Feb
Hero of the Week

Hero of the Week

In the wake of the tragic shootings in Newton, national attention centered on the issue of guns. One frequent sidebar, however, was mental illness. The NRA seized on this, insisting, ironically, on a national registry of the mentally ill. For a while it seemed that shrill voices and fear would capitalize on the existing stigma and further marginalize those with mental health issues, making care for the mentally ill even more challenging. Fortunately, calmer voices are prevailing.

In a wonderful editorial this week, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius outlines the recent history of mental health care and what her agency intends to do to improve things. Like too many caring, common sense aspects of government, inclusive approaches to mental health started nearly 50 years ago and have been undermined by the Reaganite approach to strangling government programs. Sebelius intends to reverse that trend.

She rightly identified the main problems as stigma, early diagnosis and care, and well-funded and accessible programs. Building on the fundamentals already rolling out thanks to the Affordable Care Act, HHS will be working on new programs to ensure people get the care they need and encourage people  seek timely, meaningful help. Thank you, Madam Secretary, for taking this growing problem seriously and treating it with humanity and dignity.

Thanks to my friend Jennifer Carey for this week’s honorable mention. In another welcome move from the Obama administration, the Department of Defense has announced plans to begin implementing benefits for same-sex partners of military personnel. Sadly, because of DOMA, many of the more than 1100 benefits provided to heterosexual couples are blocked. With the dismantling of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, however, gay and lesbian military personnel can be open about their families and the government can provide some basic benefits for them. It is delightful to see another agency taking the mandate of the President’s second term seriously and moving forward — with or without Congress — to do the right thing for the American people.

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.

Obama’s Inspirational Inaugural

24 Jan
We the People

We the People

The inaugural speeches of U.S. Presidents are seldom very interesting. As part of a larger ceremony — admittedly a significant one in the operation of our government — they tend to be bland “what a great country” orations.  I must confess that I don’t usually pay much attention. This year, however, the presence of Myrlie Evers got me watching, and I’m truly glad that I did.

President Obama can be an inspiring speaker. This Monday he delivered what may be the finest speech of his career. The handful of great inaugurals — Lincoln’s call for healing in 1865, FDR’s “nothing to fear but fear itself” in 1933, JFK’s “ask not what your country can do for you” in 1961 — have taken place at pivotal moments in our country’s history. It can be hard to spot such moments when you are living in them, but our President did just that and I don’t know that I have ever been prouder to identify as an American.

The divide between Americans — by race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and so much more — have been cast in such sharp relief by the politics and behavior of the past decade that too many of us wonder where we fit in. Obama’s theme, We the People, called out this problem and sought everyone’s participation in its solutions.

I was stunned and thrilled to hear him use the world “marginalized” in the speech. That barely prepared me for the next sentence.

We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths –- that all of us are created equal –- is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall.

Having the leader of the nation clearly show the path from the first feminists to the struggle for racial equality to the struggles for LGBT rights was stunning. The participation of gay poet Richard Blanco in the inaugural events was a welcome touch. The very real words of the President, calling for that march of justice to keep moving, was overwhelming. My husband and I were both in tears, caught off guard and astounded by his direct call for justice; this is probably the most hopeful I have felt in years.

The entire speech, only 15 minutes but packed with power, is worth reading. As a social worker, I found his very specific challenge to those who write the laws as well as those who rally for social justice particularly resonant.

It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began.  For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law — for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia, to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm.

For the first time, a President actually explicitly used the word “gay” in an inaugural. I have seldom felt so accepted as a citizen of this nation.

It’s no wonder that days later pundits and journalists and Americans of all types are still marvelling at this speech. It wasn’t just a pale summoning of an America that might be. It was an invocation of what we say we are and a challenge to all of us to live up to that promise — not just for ourselves but generations to come. Let us celebrate this President, his words, and his intentions. Let us work together to help his vision come true.

MLK Holiday 2013: A Conversation Around Race

21 Jan

martinlutherI’m glad that we have a National holiday honoring civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  What troubles me is how far we have yet to go in the civil rights movement.  I hear people talking now about the March on the Mall in Washington, yet they don’t know the March was organized by the openly gay Bayard Rustin.  Hearing so many people purporting to have been present during King’s I Have a Dream speech, also leaves me a bit bothered. We like to pretend that we are not a nation continuing to struggle with racism; I have even heard people use the phrase “post-racist” society as though that was something real and already achieved.  Yet we have no further to look than the numbers.

Let us start with the Senate.  Of the 100 Senators currently serving, only one of them is African-American (and he was appointed to his current office).  Moving on to the House of Representatives (note the word Representatives), of the 435 civil servants (albeit 433 right now due to current vacancies), only 41 are African-American.  Of the 50 Governors only one is African-American. Of the nearly 8300 U.S. mayors, only about 650 are African American. This disproportionality in representation and leadership clearly speaks to how far we have yet to go.

As one can see the power structure is still fundamentally white, male, Christian, and heterosexual.  Whether we want to admit it or not, most people still benefit from institutionalized racism.  I am not saying most people are racist, in fact, I would assert that most people are not racist (save for the Tea Party), yet we have a mass of people who are the beneficiaries of racism.

I am grateful for the significant strides being made for civil rights and social justice, but let us acknowledge there is still much work to be done around people that are marginalized and how we treat people that are not part of the institutional power structure.  Dr. King’s voice of advocacy for civil rights has room for many others to join the choir and push back against how we “other” people and strip populations of their dignity–now is not the time to be satisfied:

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity…–I Have a Dream, Dr. King

TSM also wants to wish a heart felt congratulations to President Obama on his second inauguration! I hope everyone gets to see the amazing Myrlie Evers deliver the Invocation.  I also want to note that the openly gay  Latino Richard Blanco is the inaugural poet–nice choice.

Happy Birthday, M. Carey Thomas

2 Jan

M_Carey_ThomasOn this date in 1858 a pioneer in education and women’s rights was born. Martha Carey Thomas — known as Minnie to her family but simply as Carey by her own preference — was born into a Quaker family in Baltimore. She was badly burned at the age of seven and became an avid reader during her convalescence. She had a strong independent spirit, influenced by her mother and aunt, both early proto-feminists. She graduated from Cornell’s Sage college and was offered a position as dean but opted to expand her horizons first.

Coming from great privilege, she toured Europe where she developed a love of music and theatre. This put her at odds with her Quaker upbringing, leaving her largely without religion for the rest of her life. She attended a number of universities in Europe to demonstrate the academic prowess of women and received a PhD in linguistics from the University of Zurich. (Her dissertation was on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, one of my favorite works of literature.)

When Thomas returned from Europe, her father had just been made a trustee of the new Byrn Mawr college. Drawing on her academic strength, she petitioned to be made president of the university. Citing her age — she was 25 — the board rejected her offer but made her a professor of English and a dean. Recognizing her talents, President John Rhoads had her tour other women’s colleges to get ideas for the new school. She visited Vassar, Smith College, Wellesley, Cambridge in Boston, and Radcliffe, returning with a stronger sense of feminism and a strong desire to improve education for women.

After Rhoads’ death in 1894, Thomas was made President. She stopped teaching, but continued as Dean until 1908. She maintained strict academic standards and designed a system of tracked academic courses modelled on Johns Hopkins. (She herself had attended that school but left because she could not officially gain credits as a woman.) She frequently lectured on women’s intellectual equality with men.

One man’s mind differs from another man’s mind far more widely than all women’s minds differ from all men’s.

She was a staunch suffragist and the first president of the National College Women’s Equal Suffrage League. She was also a peace activist and a supporter of the Progressive party. Sadly, she did not always use her privilege for good. Despite being part of a marginalized population and an activist for equality for women, she was also a eugenicist and an opponent of non-European immigration, thus showing her complexity as a flawed human being.

Thomas was romantically involved with Mamie Gwinn, whom she had met while studying in Leipzig. They were together for many years until Gwinn left her to marry a man. That triangle was immortalized by Gertrude Stein in Fernhurst. She later became involved with Mary Garrett, with whom she lived in the campus president’s home until Garrett’s death.

Carey Thomas retired from Bryn Mawr in 1922. Mary Garrett had left her the astounding sum of $1.5 million; she dedicated some to the school and used to the rest to retire in luxury, engaging in world travel and her love of music and theatre. She died in December 1935 at the age of 78, leaving behind a complicated legacy.  While I do celebrate Thomas’ voice for the Suffragist Movement, her peace activism, and her stand for equality for women, it is a great disappointment to see that she was not able to look at the intersections of oppression, or realize how her eugenicist beliefs marginalized people, as she was marginalized.

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