Tag Archives: Multiracial

Hero of the Week Award, August 30: Cory Booker

30 Aug
Hero of the Week

Hero of the Week

Newark Mayor and New Jersey U.S. Senate candidate Cory Booker has a longstanding reputation as a politician who understands his power and uses it to truly improve lives. He is very engaged with the people he serves and makes a practice of walking his talk — including a week spent on a food stamp budget and other practical demonstrations.

Booker is also an outspoken ally of the LGBT community. Although empowered as Mayor to perform marriages, he refuses to do so until all the citizens of his state have equal access to marriage. He has discussed his homophobia as a youth as an example of how people can grow.

As a lifelong bachelor with no visible social life, Booker is often the subject of speculation regarding his sexual orientation. Since he began his campaign for this October’s special Senate election. gay rumors have been swirling like mad in the media and online. Booker’s response?

And people who think I’m gay, some part of me thinks it’s wonderful. Because I want to challenge people on their homophobia. I love seeing on Twitter when someone says I’m gay, and I say, ‘So what does it matter if I am? So be it. I hope you are not voting for me because you are making the presumption that I’m straight.

Even more impressive is that the level of risk for Booker, as a multiracial man, supporting LGBT equality says volumes about his character and  his ability to lead. Sadly, Booker’s opponent, Steve Lonegan, chose to denigrate Booker for his wonderful attitude. Calling Booker “weird,” he said he “likes being a guy” and used Booker’s fondness for manicures as a sign of weak masculinity. Booker wasted no time in reinforcing his solidarity with the LGBT community.

It’s just disheartening to hear somebody, in this day and age, in the United States of America, say basically … that gay men are not men, they’re not guys. It’s shocking to one’s conscience in this country, where we believe that the content of one’s character, the courage in one’s heart, the strength of one’s sense of purpose, the love that one has for others and their service is what defines them.

During this week of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, how sad that people like Lonegan are on the wrong side of history.  Lonegan, like other folks who behave in homophobic or racist ways strip, not only others of their dignity, but strip away their own dignity. Thank you, Mayor Booker. We’re looking forward to your long and productive tenure in the Senate.


Women’s History Month 2013: Melissa Harris-Perry

27 Mar

harris-perryToday we honor and celebrate another wonderful voice for equality. Many thanks to my friend and regular TSM commenter Christine for recommending Melissa Harris-Perry. Melissa is multi-racial, having  a black father and white mother.  She is originally from here in the Northwest, Seattle. The family moved to Virgina when she was young, with both parents involved in education.

Harris-Perry is an author, scholar, and professor as well as host of a successful, thought-provoking program on MSNBC. She received her B.A. in English from Wake Forest University and her PhD in political science from Duke. Due to her interest in the influence of the black church on political movements, she also received an honoris causa doctorate from Meadville Lombard Theological School and was a Master of Divinity student at Union Theological Seminary.

While at Wake Forest, she encountered her mentor, the wonderful Maya Angelou.

As her student I watched as she influenced public discourse, taught students, and shared ideas in a way that seemed to truly matter for people’s lives.

Harris-Perry taught political science at the University of Chicago, then moved to Princeton where she was an associate professor of politics and African-American studies. She is currently a professor of political science at Tulane, where she is founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Project on Gender, Race, and Politics in the South.

She is the author of Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought on the methods African Americans use to develop political ideas through ordinary conversations in places like barbershops, churches, and popular culture–sounds like good social work to me. Her book won the 2005 W.E.B. DuBois Book Award from the National Conference of Black Political Scientists and the 2005 Best Book Award from the Race and Ethnic Politics Section of the American Political Science Association.

After years as serving as a commentator, she was offered her own MSNBC weekend show a year ago. She looks at the program as a way to expand her education career, focusing on issues of politics and equality.

All I’ve ever wanted to be is a teacher. Phil Griffin and MSNBC are giving me the chance to have a much bigger classroom.

She is also an outspoken advocate for gay rights and marriage equality. Her work in this area won her an Ally for Equality award from the Human Rights campaign last month.

As a biracial woman with a passion for education and a fascination with religion, Harris-Perry has a firm understanding of the intersections of oppression. She has made it her mission to share that understanding with others with a firm commitment to social justice. Thank you Melissa Harris-Perry for being such a strong advocate and ally!

One of the Voices of Social Justice: Michael Anderson-Nathe

10 Jul

Those of you who have been reading TSM for the least two years now are clearly aware that this blog is dedicated to issues of social justice and civil rights; since you are reading this, I presume you share similar passions.  Today I was able to visit with my friend Michael Anderson-Nathe, and I have to say I love his voice of social justice, although he will not easily tolerate any accolades, for he is exceedingly humble and somewhat introverted.

Michael grew up in Minnesota: “I come from a Vietnamese mother and mid-west father. They met in Vietnam—my father was in the military.  I am a Vietnamese-American, and it was not easy growing up post Vietnam war being Asian-American; I’m a product of the war.  My siblings were born in Vietnam.  I was born here.” Michael is one of 10 children—the youngest. Four of them passed away.  He discusses his coming out to his family of origin, saying, “I came out when I was 17 and had a rocky period with my parents for two years. We did not talk.  Since then, there have been huge strides – they were at my wedding and love the family I have (my partner and daughter). My parents have come from one end of the spectrum to the other end.”

Do you consider you and your partner political?

We are always political, and now that we have a child everything we do is political whether we want it to be or not.  I also became Jewish, so we are a multiracial, queer, Jewish household.  There are times when it is easy to be political, but at times I just want to be a family—raising my daughter.  We had an open adoption, which means we have an ongoing relationship with our child’s birthmother.  Doing an adoption meant we had the opportunity to have a ton of very intentional conversations prior to adopting about how to raise a child and what will it mean to raise a child.  One of the most frustrating aspects of being a queer family is that people will often look around for someone that presents as female-bodied, and then look to them as though they must be Sophie’s mother regardless of context (despite obvious social cues as to who is parenting Sophie).  One thing I love about our parenting is how we talk about gender, sexuality, and body parts without shame. We make deliberate efforts to raise her in ways that don’t limit her own expression of who she is and that don’t oppress other people (reinforce socially constructed dichotomies)—we raise her with great intentionality—which is a continuously active, intentional process and we are better at it some days than others.

What made you become an activist for people living with HIV?

I stumbled into this accidentally.  When I was 17, I participated in a peer HIV education program and fell in love with working with the community and contributing to making sure people had information so they could make decisions that were right for them.  What I love about working in the field of HIV is that it truly is social justice work—working with the intersections of oppression that continue to fuel HIV. You can’t do this work without addressing issues of social justice.  It feeds a part of who I am.

What should marginalized communities do to have a stronger voice?

The biggest thing is that we need to come together; we need to stop playing into the game of who is more oppressed, which does not serve us.  To realize we are stronger together than divided.  We have a lot we can learn from each other.  I grew up with multiple identities.  I grew up not white enough, or not a person of color enough.  My identities were not integrated, so I went to hang out with the gay community when I wanted to celebrate my sexuality, but then I lost my Vietnamese ties. If I wanted to hang out with the Asian community, then I lost my gay ties.  All of the various intersections of oppression fuel HIV—all of the inequalities, homophobia, racism, transphobia—we have to address all of these if we are going to be successful in stopping HIV.

I don’t like the idea of “look at us! We are just like heterosexual families, so accept us”—we should be accepted regardless.  I don’t want to be considered the model queer family—I don’t think there is a model queer family, just as I don’t believe there is a model heterosexual family—those concepts just further ostracize other people in our community and I don’t want to be a part of that.  I don’t want my personal experience to be deemed acceptable at the expense of others in our community.  Who am I to say what a model family or what a queer person should look like? Doing so only further divides our community—who is the good gay who is the bad gay—and I think that is fucked up.  Ultimately, it is not their acceptance to grant and by doing so we subscribe to a heteronormative power differential.

Marriage Equality:

Is it the issue for the Queer Community?   Personally, it is not my top issue, but just because I don’t think it is the top priority does not mean I’m against it.  I think the whole “you’re either with us or against us mentality” of this movement oversimplifies a highly complex social issue and further divides us.  My main question for the movement is: At what cost does marriage equality come and who within our community is being left behind in our pursuit for marriage equality?

I want to thank Michael for taking the time to visit with me. I am most certain his words will inspire many, as does the way he lives his life.


Women’s History Month 2012: Frances M. Beal

22 Mar

Today we honor and celebrate a woman who explored the intersections of  oppression through the lens of feminism and the civil rights movement, Frances M. Beal. She was born in Binghamton, N.Y January 13, 1940 to a Jewish mother and an African-American father.The simultaneous family struggles against both racism and anti-Semitism informed her early social conscience. As a result, Beal spent her life as an activist, mostly by organizing, writing and speaking about the issue of rights for Black women and racial justice as a whole.

She started political activism in college with the NAACP in 1958, but soon ran into conservative restrictions. She took a break from American politics and went to France, where she attended the Sorbonne. Her worldview became heavily influenced by student opposition to the colonial status of Algeria. This was reinforced by many a cafe discussion about the decolonization process in Africa, which provided a world outlook of internationalism which came to define her politics at home.  Beal met Malcolm X in Paris and was introduced to the works of Simone de Bouvoire.

When she returned home, she worked with SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) and became involved in SNCC’s International Affairs Commission. Other influences included meetings with women at the United Nations representing African liberation and anti-colonial struggles. When the Moynihan Report was published (1965) positing that the main problem afflicting the Black community was the Black matriarchy – a view that tried to push Black women into a second class role – Beal became a founding member of the SNCC Black Women’s Liberation Committee (1968), which evolved into the TWWA (Third World Women’s Alliance (1970-1978).

Given her overlapping interests and deeply personal understanding of the intersections of oppression, Beal wrote a highly influential pamphlet in 1969, Double Jeopardy: To Be Black and Female. This brilliant excerpt underscores the tensions between the various civil rights movements of the day.

Much has been written recently about the white women’s liberation movement in the United States and the question arises whether there are any parallels between this struggle and the movement on the part of black women for total emancipation. While there are certain comparisons that one can make, simply because we both live under the same exploitative system, there are certain differences, some of which are quite basic. The white women’s movement is far from being monolithic. Any white group that does not have an anti-imperialist and anti-racist ideology has absolutely nothing in common with the black women’ t struggle. Are white women asking to be equal to white men in their pernicious treatment of third world peoples? What assurances have black women that white women will be any less racist and exploitative if they had the power and were in a position to do so? These are serious questions that the white women’s liberation movement has failed to address itself to.

Beal is also a lifelong peace advocate, supporting the end of colonialism, African liberation, and opposing the war in Vietnam. She has also worked for the ACLU (1987-2005) and in 1998, was elected National Secretary of the Black Radical Congress. Frances Beal retired in 2005 and continues to promote peace and justice through her support of the Women of Color Resource Center (a group that has its roots in the TWWA), and her opposition to war in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East.

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