Tag Archives: reflection

50th Anniversary Civil Rights March: A Reflection

28 Aug

50thToday is a most auspicious day, for it marks the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights March (organized by Bayard Rustin) in Washington, DC.  This is a reflection of how far the United States has come regarding civil rights and how far we have yet to go.

Something quite remarkable happened during this 50th Anniversary celebration.  One of my heroes, Julian Bond, the chairman emeritus of the NAACP, stated quite clearly that:

We are returning amidst a newly reinvigorated fight for civil rights that has grown rapidly to include lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans.

After all, LGBT rights are civil rights.

No parallel between movements is exact. But like race, our sexuality and gender identity aren’t preferences. They are immutable, unchangeable – and the constitution protects us all against discrimination based on immutable differences.

Upon reading this quote, I must confess that Bond’s words made me weep.  I wish we had more voices like his and like that of Rep. John Lewis.  While Bond’s words and actions are representative of a great move forward, we still have so far to go around issues of racial equity and full equality for the LGBT community, not to mention the horrible inequities faced by those that share several identities, such as LGBT folks of color.

Sadly, even as we have such strong expressions of solidarity, we have too many examples of the prevalence of discrimination and racism. The story of 25 African Americans being denied service in a South Carolina restaurant just because their peaceful gathering made one person feel threatened is a tragic reminder that racism is still blantant, aggressive,  capricious, and very much alive in 2013.

Shall we also look at immigration and how the United States treats Latino/a Americans?  In 2010, Arizona passed SB1070, which demands that all brown colored people be able to supply legal documentation of their citizenship, something white folk do not have to do.  In its always progressive mode (note the irony here) Alabama adopted the same law in 2011 — yes, Alabama where 48% of all African American men are not able to cast a vote. Coincidence? I think not.

Let us now move to LGBT rights and Virginia GOP gubernatorial candidate, Ken (I can only think about gay sex) Cuccinelli.  Cuccinelli has proposed to overturn Lawrence v. Texas. Yes that’s right, he wants to make homosexuality illegal.  I do wonder if Cuccinelli and Putin have been exchanging love letters.

Call to action: my hope is that each of takes a moment to engage fellow human being in a discussion around race, gender, power, privilege, and civil rights, including civil rights for the LGBT community.  Let all of the targeted populations in the United States stand in solidarity with one another.  We who believe in Freedom cannot rest.

Christmas Eve 2012: Feeling Grateful

24 Dec

pride-social-justice-progressiveWhile I am not a religious person, I am spiritual and find god in reading Walt Whitman, or watching the ocean during a winter storm, or witnessing the kindness in people I am fortunate enough to have in my life. Here on this Christmas Eve, I have been reflecting on how grateful I am for so many of the people in my life and the many kindnesses offered to me and accepted from me.

I am grateful that I have a life partner that travels with me on this, often times bizarre, wild journey called life.  I am exceedingly privileged that I have family, friends, and education.  It is a tremendous gift to be included in a network of folk that are social justice activists working for equality and equity for all.  I am grateful and privileged to have mentors who help guide me and encourage my growth as a social justice activist.

There is so much for me to be grateful for and there is also so much we all have yet to work for towards equality and ensuring people are treated with dignity and respect.  My wish list for things to happen within my lifetime is ambitious, but doable if we all act collectively for the rights of others — if we create a choir of voices for the rights of women, of the LGBT community, of all communities that are marginalized and stigmatized. We — all of us — must use our voices to eradicate racism and poverty, sexism, ageism, homophobia, and all of the intersections of oppression; this is my greatest wish.

It is difficult not to be in a reflective mood after Sandy Hook and the exceedingly idiotic remarks of Wayne LaPierre.  I think we would be far better off if we put a teacher in every gun store, rather than a gun in every school.  During this holiday season and in the wake of great tragedy, I hope everyone hears the words, “I love you” from a dear one, and that everyone exchanges a hug with someone.  May we all feel compelled to look for the goodness in others and to stand in solidarity with those who are marginalized.

Hero of the Week Award: June 8, Jason Alexander

8 Jun

Hero of the Week

Actor and comedian Jason Alexander made a spectacular transition from Bigot of the Week nominee to HWA winner. The former Seinfeld star appeared on Craig Ferguson’s The Late Late Show on CBS last week. During a conversation about British and American sports, Alexander made a number of disparaging comments about the sport of cricket. The bulk of his jokes had to do with cricket being “gay” and “queer” with an emphasis on things he found effeminate.

After many in the gay community took offense at his comments, Alexander resisted making a knee-jerk response, instead taking the time to consider what he had said and why he said it.

…a few of my Twitter followers made me aware that they were both gay and offended by the joke. And truthfully, I could not understand why. I do know that humor always points to the peccadillos or absurdities or glaring generalities of some kind of group or another – short, fat, bald, blonde, ethnic, smart, dumb, rich, poor, etc. It is hard to tell any kind of joke that couldn’t be seen as offensive to someone. But I truly did not understand why a gay person would be particularly offended by this routine. However, troubled by the reaction of some, I asked a few of my gay friends about it…As we explored it, we began to realize what was implied under the humor.

Based on this reflection, Alexander offered a sincere, complex, and thoughtful apology via Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAAD). The entire apology is worth reading, but two parts are especially powerful.

It is not that we can’t laugh at and with each other. It is not a question of oversensitivity. The problem is that today, as I write this, young men and women whose behaviors, choices or attitudes are not deemed “man enough” or “normal” are being subjected to all kinds of abuse from verbal to physical to societal. They are being demeaned and threatened because they don’t fit the group’s idea of what a “real man” or a “real woman” are supposed to look like, act like and feel like. For these people, my building a joke upon the premise I did added to the pejorative stereotype that they are forced to deal with everyday. It is at the very heart of this whole ugly world of bullying that has been getting rightful and overdue attention in the media. And with my well-intentioned comedy bit, I played right into those hurtful assumptions and diminishments.

So, I would like to say – I now get it. And to the extent that these jokes made anyone feel even more isolated or misunderstood or just plain hurt – please know that was not my intention, at all or ever. I hope we will someday live in a society where we are so accepting of each other that we can all laugh at jokes like these and know that there is no malice or diminishment intended. But we are not there yet. So, I can only apologize and I do. In comedy, timing is everything. And when a group of people are still fighting so hard for understanding, acceptance, dignity and essential rights – the time for some kinds of laughs has not yet come.

Given how many celebrity missteps go viral, it is heartening to see Alexander acknowledge that he should have known better from the outset. Even more significantly, he refuses to rely on the standard non-apologies offered by many (like Tracy Morgan) that consist of a feeble “I’m sorry you were offended.” Instead, he took the time to reflect on his words and actions, realize his mistake, and offer a sincere apology. Let’s hope both the realization and the apology can serve as models for other celebrities.

Honorable mention this week goes to Democrats in Wisconsin. Although they lost the effort to recall their loathsome governor, Scott Walker, their efforts should be applauded. Despite spending barely 10% of what Walker did, they managed to come close to victory. Given how many voters indicated that they oppose recalls on principle, this is impressive. Even more impressive was the turnout, with Madison having 119% of registered voters appear at the polls. (Wisconsin allows same-day registration.) The loss is bitter, but the effort was valiant.

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