Tag Archives: Race

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.

Why Are The Gays So Loud? Unsolicited Advice From David Brooks

3 Apr

David BrooksIn the nasty wake of Republican Governor Pence making it legal to discriminate  against the LGBT community (which Presidential wannabes Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush have both applauded), we have been admonished by his holiness, White Hetero David Brooks, shining his beacon from atop his throne  at The New York Times.

While I have never been a fan of Brooks, I used to think of him as being at least a quasi rational conservative, albeit one who never quite understands his position of power and privilege as a white heterosexual man in  the United States. Apparently our uniting and proclaiming that we will not be considered second class citizens was enough to cause Brooks to clutch his pearls and grab his smelling salts. Sadly, Brooks’ latest diatribe does not even bother to include transgender people, or bisexual people.

Brooks has missed the civil rights bus at several stops. First, NO,  the law passed in Indiana is not “just like” the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act. That Federal Law and the 18 state laws actually modelled after it have their own problems — just look at the recent Hobby Lobby decision irrationally referencing RFRA — but are fundamentally different from the Indiana hate legislation. RFRA prohibits government action from interfering with the faith of individuals. Indiana — just like Arkansas, North Carolina, and Georgia if they are foolish and bigoted enough to follow suit — allows individuals to use their personal beliefs as a weapon against other individuals, refusing services and goods. That is absolutely not the same, something a man with Brooks’ education and background ought to clearly understand.

Secondly, my goodness what great privilege you must enjoy, demonstrated by your ability to remain this obtuse:

Instead, the argument seems to be that the federal act’s concrete case-by-case approach is wrong. The opponents seem to be saying there is no valid tension between religious pluralism and equality. Claims of religious liberty are covers for anti-gay bigotry.

While I would never have claimed you as an ally of the LGBT community, I do fear you are working against us, and this editorial certainly commits great trespass, for which I’m fairly certain you will neither reflect upon, nor make any attempts at repair.

Like many of your contemporaries, older, white, heterosexual males, you seem to be driving the train to irrelevance in the 21st century world. This is not what I would want, for I truly believe there is room for us all, however, the onus to get up to speed and become more inclusive is on you, not those of us who are targeted, marginalized, and have disproportionately less power. One should note, the Anti-Violence Project has reported that the homicide rate against the LGBT community is up exponentially in 2015.

Looking at this through a lens of social justice, I would add that people of color who are also LGBT often have even more at risk, thus I have to bring up the issue of race, as race and misogyny are always inextricable from the conversation.

Mr. Brooks, your aimless, thoughtless piece puts the blame on the victims, wondering why we have to push so hard to make ourselves heard. Your own deafness should answer that question for you. As a Jew Mr. Brooks, what happened to tikkun o’lam? Your behavior along with this editorial do nothing to help repair the world.

Women’s History Month 2015: Women on 20s

20 Mar

Rosa20What a great movement to initiate during National Women’s History Month — getting women’s faces on our currency. How sad that while women make up more than half the population, we only see white men’s faces on our currency.

How might we look at this more equitably? How can we work together to put a woman’s face on the twenty dollar bill? Who should it be? I know Alice Paul is getting a lot of traction, as is the amazing Shirley Chisholm. I must confess, I am rather partial to seeing Rosa Parks on the twenty dollar bill, although I do love Eleanor Roosevelt.

 

A Call To Action: Click here to cast your vote! A Women’s Place is on the money!

Call The Midwife

23 Jan

Call the MidwifeAbout six months ago, my dear friend Janet Putnam recommended the BBC series Call The Midwife, explaining that I would love it because it demonstrates really good social work.  I must confess that I was rather hesitant and was not sure I would share her interest in the show, given it is about a bunch of nuns.  My interest was piqued some because it is also about the beginning of National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom. Coincidentally, this past Christmas, my friend Brad sent me the first season of Call the Midwife. It seemed I would have to cave in and watch at least one episode. Wow! My husband and I have officially become addicted to this brilliant series.  The story was taken from midwife Jennifer Worth’s memoirs and is based on her experiences working in London’s East End in the late 1950s. It truly is a documentary of the start of NHS and of splendid social work — walking alongside people, being present on their journey and offering help.  I love that the real progressive voices often come not from the “modern” nurses; instead the Anglican nuns provide  the progressive narrative. The stellar cast work together in such harmony, they compel one to continue watching.  A social justice icon, Vanessa Redgrave, narrates our story, as the mature Nurse Jenny Lee. Pam Ferris, from Rosemary and Thyme, is the feisty, stern, yet lovable Sister Evangelina.  The amazingly talented and funny Miranda Hart stars as the exceedingly endearing Chummy.  Judy Parfitt, many of you will remember from her Oscar worthy performance in Delores Claiborne as Vera Donovan, plays the lovely and absent-minded Sister Monica Joan.

Tea(r) Towel

Tea(r) Towel

This ensemble cast provide not only a narration of birth, they also give us a didactic story of health care, social work, feminism, and social justice. Each episode is like a gift — a remarkable story that is utterly compelling. I must confess that I cry so much I have to have a tear towel at my side. If you have not had a chance to watch this amazing series, I encourage you to watch at least one episode, for I know you will become addicted to this very sweet and sad story of humanity from birth to death.

Happy Birthday, Howard Zinn

24 Aug

Howard_Zinn-Anniversary-2Howard Zinn would have been 92 years old today. Zinn passed away on January 27, 2010.  I remember listening to NPR and crying my eyes out. Zinn has been one of my heroes since I first read his People’s History of the United States in 1987.  Zinn has had such a powerful impact on my life that I would actually say he is, in part, why this blog exist and why I try to work towards global equity and equality.

Zinn was from a Jewish Austrian-Hungarian immigrant family.  He fought in WWII as a bombadier to try and end fascism.  His experience in the war influenced his anti-war stance. Zinn reflects on what some refer to as “collateral damage” and many of us call the loss of so many civilian lives in war:

I recalled flying on that mission, too, as deputy lead bombardier, and that we did not aim specifically at the ‘Skoda works’ (which I would have noted, because it was the one target in Czechoslovakia I had read about) but dropped our bombs, without much precision, on the city of Pilsen. Two Czech citizens who lived in Pilsen at the time told me, recently, that several hundred people were killed in that raid (that is, Czechs)—not five.

Zinn also influenced my energy around trying to unpack racism, sexism, homophobia, and all of the intersections of how we target and marginalize people.  In 1963 Spelman College dismissed the then tenured Zinn from his teaching position for his activism with students in the struggle against segregation.  I love Spelman College and I suspect this was a very messy and difficult decision. I try to look at the level of risk for the college and balance that with the amazing work being done by Zinn and the students.  Two of his students in particular are also heroes of mine, Alice Walker and Marian Wright Edelman.

If there are a few of you who are not familiar with Howard Zinn, I strongly encourage you to read People’s History of the United States and watch the amazing documentary, You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train.  

Thank you, Howard Zinn and Happy Birthday! I can only imagine how the world could be a better place for all with his inspiration.

 

A Matter of Civil Rights…

6 Oct

Thank you to my dear friend Eva for inspiring me to post this.  Get a kleenex folks–you will need one.

Black History Month 2012: Eartha Kitt

15 Feb

Today we honor and celebrate a unique voice in 20th Century American entertainment, Eartha Kitt. She was born in South Carolina in 1927 to a mother of African-American and Cherokee heritage and a poor farmer father of northern European extraction. Facing double discrimination in the South because of her mixed ancestry, she was sent to New York City at a young age.

Kitt began singing with the Katherine Dunham Company at 16 and launched a long, illustrious career. Performing across Europe and North America, she also appeared in numerous films and television programs. She also worked frequently on stage and recorded many albums and singles. Kitt was fluent in four languages and able to sing in seven different languages. She is best known musically for the perennial Christmas classic Santa Baby and her Top 10 hit from 1953, C’est Si Bon. One of her most enduring roles is as Catwoman on the late 1960s Batman TV series, a role she assumed when Julie Newmar was no longer available and quickly made her own.

All too familiar with injustice and discrimination, Kitt was an outspoken activist throughout her career. She suffered significant setbacks in the U.S. when she spoke out against the Vietnam War at a White House luncheon. Responding to a question from First Lady Lady Bird Johnson, she said, “You send the best of this country off to be shot and maimed. No wonder the kids rebel and take pot.” The backlash hurt her career for over a decade.

In her later years, Kitt was something of a cult figure and appeared in many movies and TV shows again. She also acknowledged her large gay following and became a vocal supporter of equal rights for the LGBT community. Asked about marriage equality, she said:

I support it because we’re asking for the same thing. If I have a partner and something happens to me, I want that partner to enjoy the benefits of what we have reaped together. It’s a civil-rights thing, isn’t it?

Brava, Eartha Kitt! This amazing woman died on Christmas, 2008 at the age of 81, leaving behind a powerful legacy of entertainment and civil rights. I only wish I could maker her signature Growl sound.

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