Tag Archives: Racism

The Entitled Homeless

16 Apr

The number of people experiencing homelessness is growing exponentially as we watch and witness homeless camps popping up in both urban and rural areas across the United States. The entitlement I see with this community is astonishing! I’ve noticed that people experiencing homelessness have the audacity to want to be treated as human beings and want access to food, shelter, clothing, and access to hygiene and the ability to just go to the bathroom. There is an expectation that they be recognized, seen as human beings, perhaps even deign to make eye contact.

Sadly, the culture that is well established here is that we have created a narrative that not only vilifies people who are homeless, but we have managed to vilify poverty and to create insurmountable barriers for some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. I also want to acknowledge the disproportionality of targeted communities that intersect with being homeless–the overrepresentation of the LGBTQ community and people of color.

What prompted me to write this article was a string of recent events I witnessed. On my way back from Medford, Oregon where I was doing an equity and inclusion workshop, I stopped at the Burger King to grab a bite to eat before heading back to Portland. While sitting in the restaurant eating my lunch, I saw a young man enter the building and go directly to the bathroom. (I had just used the bathroom and it only accommodates one person at a time, so one has to lock the door) Behind me, there was a man that I would guess was in his mid 50’s, white, heterosexual, cisgender, with a shirt that said “Jesus loves me.” This man threw a fit that the young man got to the bathroom before him. He threw such a tantrum that he started banging on the bathroom door and demanded the young man get out. He then proceeded to demand to see the manager of the restaurant where he went into a rage that was so loud everyone could hear him. He screamed at the manager: “There’s some homeless kid that ran into the bathroom and now he has locked himself in there–he has no business being in there and you need to get him out!”

Of course, this sparked my own rage and the need to intercede. As I watched the manager and now two other employees banging on the bathroom door, I approached the manager and explained that first, the man throwing the tantrum does not know if the young man is homeless or not, and that secondly and more importantly, he has the right to use the bathroom regardless. Homeless people have the right to go to the bathroom! I would love to say that the manager and the two employees heard me and backed away to allow this person to use the bathroom with a modicum of dignity. Most unfortunately, they did not.

Last week, I was doing an equity workshop in downtown Eugene, Oregon. I went to get a coffee at the Starbucks. There are a critical number of homeless people around this particular Starbucks. I needed to use the bathroom and — quite disturbing to me — one has to have a code to use the bathroom. It is very clear that this now common practice of putting coded locks on bathroom facilities is to prevent people who are homeless from having access. I must confess, this whole absurd barrier is more than just mind boggling for me, for it speaks to the ugliness of just how awful humans can be. Even more tragically, these painful examples relate to just one key challenge faced by those experiencing homelessness. Our nation’s apparent intent to dehumanize them fully adds burden after burden.

More disturbing is that because of the recent overhaul of the social structuring of the United States in the grotesque guise called the Tax Cuts, we can certainly expect the homeless population to increase. All of this begs the question of how do we care for our communities? How do we address systems that create such horrific disparities in wealth and the hoarding of wealth? How painfully ironic that Paul Ryan, one of the chief architects of the Tax Cuts/Reform, has announced that he will retire at the age of 48 after stealing safe retirement from millions, compounding the homelessness crisis. Until we can purge the inhumane from the halls of government, how can we hope to treat all people with humanity? How do we assert our individual and collective voices to remind those who work in government are civil servants–just a side note–the ship has sailed on Scott Pruitt, Paul Ryan, and most of the GOP in their understanding the notion what it means to be a civil servant.

Take Action: There are things all of us can do. Find a way to get involved with a shelter that provides services without conditions. Donate money to some of the following organizations: Sisters of the Road, Street Roots, and Central City Concern.

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Roseanne Destroys Her Legacy

30 Mar

Roseanne has turned into Sarah.

I truly loved the original Roseanne series. During the Bush Sr. years, 1989-1993, (Bush who raised taxes, what a novel idea. Who do I need to strangle? The current Republicans are making me defend Bush Sr.!) we were in a significant recession and jobs were hard to come by.  There were no television shows that reflected Americans struggling with issues of money, paying the mortgage, unemployment, food, birth control, race, homosexuality, abortion, and body image. Truly, Roseanne was a revolutionary.

What happened? In an era of rebooted television series such as Will & Grace and the amazing One Day at a Time, Roseanne, unlike the other two reboots, neglected to become relevant. In fact, the reboot of Roseanne only serves to reinforce a dominant narrative of wealthy white heterosexuality. Roseanne’s use of this platform to bash Hillary Clinton and support 45 serves only as an insult to people who experience poverty and nothing but vile racism, misogyny, homophobia, and classism in ways that are so overwhelming that the United States is truly experiencing what I call 45 Fatigue Syndrome.

While we did give the show a try, I was sadly disappointed. The show is relies on a great deal of nostalgia, but lacks any sense of awareness or sensitivity or poignancy. The only poignant moment is when Jackie says: “All the weight you lost was the good Roseanne,” not a truer sentence said. Sadly, Roseanne has become the soulless sycophant that is Sarah Huckabee Sanders. But even more pathetic is that the show just wasn’t funny, and that is perhaps one of the most dangerous flaws of all for a comedy.

If you want relevant television that is ground breaking and reflective, I suggest you turn off Roseanne and start watching the reboot of One Day at a Time, or watch the envelope pushing The Good Fight. These are shows that are far more reflective and resist the white supremacist paradigm of 45 and the entire GOP currently. I know that during my recuperationOne Day at a Time, The Good Fight, Will & Grace, and The Crown are getting me through.

Finally, watching the reboot of Roseanne serves only to reinforce all that is currently wrong and inequitable in our country right now–it only normalizes Trump and Pence and their collective agenda. I ask that you RESIST and not normalize hate.

GOP Tax Plan: A Complete Social Restructuring of the United States

4 Dec

Welcome to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, 500 pages of far-right dreams smashed together in two weeks and rushed to a vote in the middle of the night. While there is an enormous amount of this plan that we should all be mortified about — specifically how it hoards wealth for the top 20% of Americans and steals money from the poor and middle class — there is far more going on here, much of which has little to do with tax “reform.”  I worry that most people are not paying attention to everything it does over time, as evidenced by the fact that most of the people who voted to rush this through have not even read the whole plan, nor have there been any substantive hearings or analysis provided. This massive document is also difficult to read because much of the marginalia is hand written scribbles, eliminating even concerned senators’ ability to read and understand the implication of the entire document before voting on it.

In addition to the sociopathic maldistribution of wealth this plan secures, the social ramifications are profound and are antithetical to what we have worked so hard to accomplish in the ways of equity in the past 100 years.  For example, this plan includes Medicare reductions that will end cancer treatment for people on Medicare. Yes, you read that correctly. This sounds like a death panel to me, and it should not come as a surprise, given that Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have been working to dismantle Medicare for years now. Oh, and as an added bonus it eliminates the Individual Mandate from the Affordable Care Act, basically robbing 13 MILLION Americans of coverage.

As outlined in the Chronicle of Higher Education, this bill creates even more barriers for people who are not in the top 20% of Americans to afford a college education. For example, this bill puts additional taxes on charitable donations to colleges that allow for financial aid. Small liberal arts colleges are heavily dependent on charitable gifts to survive. The message is quite clear, the GOP does not value education, as further evidence that Betsy DeVos is the secretary of Education. People do your homework here! Obviously, the lack of access to eduction benefits the GOP, as it encourages ignorance and precludes critical thinking skills: skills that would allow people to ask questions of the government, the people that are supposed to be public servants.

Another alarming part of this bill — so alarming I needed to get my smelling salts just to be able to write this — is the reversal of The Johnson Amendment. Yes, this is part of the Religious Freedom Act (specifically Christian agenda freedom) coming from the far right wing, which now controls our government. The Johnson Amendment, created by LBJ in 1954, prohibits all non-profits, or what is called a 501 (c) (3) from making any type of political endorsement or stand to lose their tax exempt status. Trump and his henchmen are now about to reverse this in this tax plan, but ONLY for churches, allowing them to become tax-free lobbying organizations. So much for separation of church and state.

The bill slashes the corporate tax rate, eliminates the bulk of the estate tax, and changes “pass-through” business taxation in a way that benefits only the wealthiest of business owners. These changes are PERMANENT. The tweaks that MIGHT make a small change for poor and middle class taxpayers expire within the first three years. At the end of ten years, the vast majority of households making $75,000 or less will see their taxes rise, often by 20% or more.

Many deductions are eliminated or severely curtailed including bike-to-work incentives, moving expenses, most mortgage and home sale deductions, tax preparation deductions, and disaster relief deductions. State and local tax deductions are greatly reduced, penalizing blue states that fund federal programs for red states.

The bill will increase the deficit by at LEAST $1 TRILLION. So much for the party of fiscal responsibility. Deficit hawks like Sen. Flake and Sen McCain (the Arizona Stooges) believe that wealth will trickle down as businesses have more revenue, even though EVERY major corporation interviewed has indicated that the vast majority of this revenue will be used to pay bonuses and reward stockholders, giving no benefit to the average American. Sen. Murkowski sold out her constituents in exchange for getting drilling rights in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Yeah, that’s a tax issue… Sen. Collins accepted a fig leaf promise for a vote someday on an ACA bill that won’t come close to solving the problems caused by the loss of the individual mandate. Sens. Johnson and Daines pretended that minor changes to the pass-through rules would help small business owners. Overall, over 20% of Republican Senators had major objections to the bill but voted for it with vague changes and vaguer promises.

The most nefarious impact is yet to come. As that big deficit hole comes into reality, Republicans will certainly use it to insist on austerity measures. This is a feature, not a bug. As the deficit grows, they will insist that Social Security, medicaid, and medicare be slashed to balance the budget.

Our only hope for derailing this monstrosity is putting pressure on the conference process that will reconcile the House bill (awful in many different ways) with the Senate abomination. Getting the House to accept all the little tweaks and odditities may be difficult, and losing them may make the final bill impossible to pass again in the Senate.

TAKE ACTION: Contact your Representative and Senators and demand that they stop this horrible bill. It’s not tax “reform”, it won’t serve the middle class, it crushes the poor, and it includes elements that will reshape the social network and basic protections that we rely on today into something mean, nasty, and unrecognizable.

Cancer During the Trump Era

9 Oct

I was just recently diagnosed with cancer, specifically colon cancer. I am still processing what this means and how it will impact me and my family. A good bit of me says “fuck cancer,” but a large part of me is just simply terrified. As my friends and family are gathering around me to support me, they insist that”I have the strength to beat cancer,” which keeps being echoed. I’m not sure I believe this–and I have serious doubts I can beat cancer during 45’s administration. I need to let everyone know that that the artwork shown at the end of the article was done by some former students, now friends/colleagues of mine–thank you Erin and Nick. I love you both!

In the context of living in the US during 45’s reign of terror, being diagnosed with cancer is making me wonder if perhaps this is my time to go. Being barraged everyday with another assault on human rights by a narcissistic autocrat is quite wearing on one’s emotional (and obviously physical) health. The intense racism, homophobia, misogyny, and classism have been more than just revolting: they speak to the very worst in humans. I must confess, this is not the world I want to live in and the fatigue of 45 is real. I also constantly worry I do not know how to adequately take care of those whom I love and love me. I know people that love me are scared and I struggle with how to care for all of these wonderful amazing people.

While hurricane Maria wreaks havoc on Puerto Rico (an American Territory), 45 has the chutzpah to blame the country and even worse, to blame the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz. (How dare you be a strong and smart woman!) On a side note, one should mention that Trump helped to contribute to the debt of Puerto Rico when he abandoned his golf course there and left the people of Puerto Rico with the 33 million dollar debt he created. To further push his racist agenda, 45 thinks he is on a television show again and wants NFL owners to fire the black athletes who kneel in protest of the racism people of color experience daily in the United States. 45’s exact words: “Fire the Son of a Bitch”–my how presidential. It is very difficult for me not to hear this as: Hey, all you white owners, you need to tell all of these black people how lucky they have it to work on the field.

More discouraging news which does not encourage one to fight any type of cancer: Gollum, I mean AG Jeff Session just found a way to allow employers not to cover the cost of birth control for women, but will continue to cover the cost of medication for men to have an erection. This all falls in alignment with what misogynist and homophobe Mike Pence has been promising around Religious Freedom, a.k.a the justification to hate and deny people their civil rights. In an effort to spread more hate and venom, on October 6, Sessions issued a 25 page memo that outlines how all business can now legally discriminate against people in the LGBTQ community under “religious freedom,” meaning Christianity. Who would Jesus Hate? This memo supported by 45 is one of the most significant bills of hate. Of course, the insane Spin Doctor 45 responded to this proposed bill with: “his administration will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore.” Wow! I have no words on how to address this twisting of power and the ability to sustain a white supremacist, homophobic, misogynistic power structure. If you are not actively resisting this mishigas, you are NOT an ally to targeted communities. Here is where I will agree with Rex Tillerson: “Trump is a fucking moron.” I have to also agree with GOP Bob Corker referring to the  “Whitehouse as an adult day care center.” Wow! I just agreed with two Republicans.

Yes, as you can see, there is not a great deal of motivation to fight cancer given the overwhelming amount of power that normalizes HATE, normalizes homophobia, normalizes racism, normalizes misogyny, and vilifies any type of journalism that tries to hold 45 and his white robed cabinet accountable. It’s so hard to believe that all of this has happened in just one week, the week since I received my diagnosis.

And yet! And yet I am going to fight in ways that people better be scared of me! I am 50 years old and I don’t believe I have said “Fuck You” to enough people. I have not shown enough active resistance to tyranny. Now is my time. I shall call this cancer “45,” and I shall fight it until I kick its ass and defeat it. My ability to defeat this cancer will signify that communities all over the country can use our power to love each other and embolden targeted communities–we can tap into our shared humanity and refuse to live in fear. “I ain’t dead yet.” Stay tuned!

Trump Pardons Martin Shkreli: Shkreli to Head Department of Health and Human Services

18 Sep

I have conflicted feelings regarding the seemingly united sense of schadenfreude that Shkreli is doing jail time for his sociopathic behavior. In the wake of the Presidential pardon of the law-breaking racist Joe Arpaio, it does not seem like that big of a leap for 45 to pardon Shkreli and then appoint him as the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, given the composition of the rest of the appointments — Betsy DeVos, Rick Perry, Ben Carson, Scott Pruitt, Jeff Session and the rest of the Basket of Deplorables. The common denominator for all of his appointments is racism, homophobia, and misogyny.

Action we can take now is to keep trying to contact your senators and representatives and start looking at the 2018 midterm elections.

A Nation In Jeopardy

25 Aug

My husband and I just returned from Iceland — what a sad return. While away from the United States, we tried to be unplugged regarding the ever hastening downward spiral of the American government under Trump. Sadly, we could not escape, as the whole world is watching this “reality show” — this buffoonery. What is profoundly sad is that it is not a reality show. Our journey to another country, visiting with some really lovely people from around the world, only confirmed what I already knew. We are now being led by a fascist government that denies climate change and dismantles every agency created to aid people living in this country — which is further normalizing homophobia, misogyny, transphobia, anti-Semitism, and racism. We are a nation in jeopardy and the whole world is watching our decline.

The first week away we learned that Trump was threatening North Korea. His threats were so scary that the quite undignified Rex Tillerson had to make public statements to assure people not to panic, which was met by Trump declaring his threats “did not go far enough.” A few days later Trump’s defense of Nazis on August 12 and the refusal of nefarious sycophant Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell to censure the President provide a very clear indication that the government of the United States certainly holds a Nazi/White Supremacist world view. I feel the need to note here that the United Nations officially condemned Trump’s response to the white terrorism in Charlottesville.

Trump’s white supremacist defense did not go unnoticed by the global community we were traveling with in Iceland. One of our tour guides, a native Icelander, talked with us over lunch. He casually said: “It seems like your country has some real problems with racism and gay people.” All we could say was, “Yes, yes we do.” I know my face was one of despair and I was grateful that Hilmar felt comfortable talking about politics with us. This government has turned all rational U.S. citizens into ambassadors for the best of our country.

One of the families we were traveling with, and became friends with, was a family from Washington, DC, who came to the U.S. from southeast Asia. Their son attends Virginia Tech. They told us stories of how their son has been repeatedly harassed by police because of the color of his skin. Those personal stories painfully echoed the news from Charlottesville.

It has been particularly alarming to see the Nazi swastikas appearing all over the nation. Trump has blamed the media — his “fake news” — for dividing the nation. I fear I have lost all respect for anyone who believes this horrific lie. Sadly, regardless of how many lies Trump delivers, his base of support will not be swayed. Even more disturbing is that the beliefs held by Nazis are being subscribed to by an increasing population in the United States: it is about to reach double digits.

As if to bring all of this home to us, upon returning to the United States we were met with great hostility and homophobia as we tried to go through Customs. There are signs that let people know you are to go through Customs as a family. My husband and I approached the agent as a family. US Customs Agent Lee looked at us with a look on his face as though he just smelled something painfully acrid. (I imagine he caught a whiff of his own noxious odor.) After a few minutes of silence and us just standing there, Customs Agent Lee (yes, I am using his real last name) pointed a finger at us and said: “So the two of you men live together?” At this point, I had to try very hard not to lose my temper and call this homophobic piece of hell out.

I was painfully aware that he had great power and could refuse our re-entry into the United States, so I kept silent and just affirmed that yes, my husband and I live together. All I could think about was: “Well, we are certainly living in Trump’s America.  Surely, we must be better than this?” My husband and I are U.S. citizens, returning from a vacation. Imagine how people like Agent Lee abuse their power to oppress and reject immigrants, refugees, and other targeted communities!

Sadly, the hits keep coming. Trump’s latest Klan rally in Phoenix included more threats to muzzle the free press. He defended career racist and convicted racial profiler Joe Arpaio, hinting that he would pardon him. He demands that Congress fund his racist boondoggle of a wall, threatening to shut down the whole government if he doesn’t get his way. And still Congressional leaders support him. Paul Ryan refuses to censure Trump’s nasty words in the name of “unity” — this from a man who promised four years of pointless investigations if he had to serve under President Hillary Clinton. For all that the press love to talk about the war between Trump and McConnell, Sen. Turtle continues to make mealy-mouthed assurances about a “shared agenda.” How nice that he wants to share an agenda of hate.

This strife resonates with me every day. I am the Executive Director of EqualityWorks, NW, an agency that works towards global equity for targeted communities. Never have I seen the need for the work I do to be so vital and intense. As the director, I want to invite people struggling to take action and resist this administration and to reflect on how power works, specifically white,male, heteronormative, “Christian”, patriarchal power. Take action and create space for the voices of targeted communities.

I also want to emphatically disavow the hate and venom being spewed by Trump, Pence, Ryan, McConnell, Sessions, and all of those refusing to put this administration in check. I invite us all to resist and to also try to tap into our shared humanity, albeit our shared humanity does not appear very humane at present.

45 Fatigue: The Struggle Is Real

30 Jul

Somehow I thought for sure this alone would have prevented 45 from moving forward, that his mocking a person with a disability would have been enough. Then I thought his bragging about “grabbing a woman by the pussy” would have been enough to stop him. Sadly, this is who we are stuck with currently and who is destroying Democracy on a daily basis. I do wonder how on earth are people able to live with themselves for voting for such a monster.

As I mentioned in my last article, I believe most of the nation is currently experiencing some serious 45 Fatigue — most of us in the nation are currently on edge, pugnacious, unsettled, anxious, depressed, angry, or any combination of the above. And it is not just those of us who identify as progressives who are feeling the pain. I am experiencing people all over the political spectrum who are struggling — as Ru Paul’s Kennedy Davenport said: “The struggle is real.”

I have some friends/family in Georgia who have been lifelong Republicans who are feeling the pain and disappointment. I suspect many Republicans are in mourning, for they are now realizing the party they believed in has been obliterated by 45, Paul Ryan, and Mitch McConnell.

One can’t even keep up with the daily barrage of bizarre goings on and the continued human rights violations that we are kept abreast of via Twitter, because that is now the way the President of the United States communicates with us. First, 45 and his administration came for our Muslim friends and family, then they came for the Latino community, then 45 came after the journalists, and scientists, then he came after the poor and tried to strip away health care for millions, then he came after all of us in the LGBT community. I hardly know how to cope. What’s more, I have daily reminders that my family members who supported and still support 45 are responsible for this destruction.

Apparently, there is and will always be approximately 25% of the population that will always support 45 regardles. This population is implacable and also sadly misinformed and guided by fear, racism, misogyny, and homophobia.  Sadly, 45 and his followers have only proven they are, in fact, deplorable. Of course, this hurts my heart more than I can express. It hurts my heart that the behavior we witness daily could be acceptable to anyone. 45’s appointment of Scaramucci is nothing less than appalling and only helps to normalize a vulgar society. I’m sure Scaramucci is only too happy to be 45’s work wife, or is he the Mini-Me for 45?

As I said, I can’t even recount all of what has happened in just the past week. Do I start with his inappropriate behavior with his speech to the Boy Scouts, whom he apparently thought were his Trumpenjugend? Do I address the transphobia? Do I focus on his encouraging police to increase brutality? How about bullying his loyal attack dog, Jeff Sessions or firing Reince Priebus? Blindsiding military commanders in hateful tweets that led them to believe we might be headed for war? I am having difficulty coping, as I know the rest of the 75% of the nation is right now. It is clear Scaramucci is an echo chamber for 45 and is helping to normalize vulgarity, as though this were some how Presidential? Yes, national television and radio are broadcasting Scaramucci’s speeches: “What I want to do is fucking kill all of the leakers…I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock.”  This from the new Director of Communications, sanctioned by 45. Wow! I have no words.

What is helping me endure this nightmare is watching television shows like: The Good Fight, Daytime Divas, Ru Paul’s Dragrace, and Samantha Bee. What are you doing to cope? How can we support each other? How can we be loving of ourselves, and of each other? I am going to work hard to invite joy into my life. I hope all of you find ways of creating and sustaining joy. Peace, Michael.

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