Tag Archives: white privilege

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.

Celebrating the Fair Housing Act

11 Apr
LBJ expands his powerful legacy

LBJ expands his powerful legacy

On this date 46 years ago, President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968. This important piece of legislation is better known as the Fair Housing Act. Its core purpose is to prohibit discrimination in housing — whether for lease or for sale. The law makes it a federal crime to “by force or by threat of force, injure, intimidate, or interfere with anyone … by reason of their race, color, religion, or national origin.”

Sadly, even with the landmark civil rights legislation already passed, housing discrimination was rampant in the United States, particularly in urban areas. This blatant discrimination — including redlining, social steering, and other heinous practices — was not restricted to the South. Even though there was 100-year-old legislation (the Civil Rights Act of 1866) that implied the rights of property, the lack of a strong enforcement mechanism allowed many nasty practices to grow over time.

As the civil rights movement grew and the first major laws were passed — the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act — activists began focusing on housing. The Chicago Open Housing Movement was a trailblazing effort and federal legislation was drafted based on the successful aspects of that movement. Unfortunately, Congress had lost some momentum and many members felt that civil rights had been sufficiently covered — a view afforded to those with white privilege. The draft law languished.

Then tragedy struck. On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Riots broke out and racial tensions rose again across the nation. Never one to miss an opportunity to take bold action, LBJ decided the time was right to re-energize the Fair Housing Act. He wrote personal letters to Congressional leaders demanding immediate action. As was often the case, he was sufficiently persuasive. One week after King’s death, he signed the Act into law.

LBJ has a complicated legacy, but he was a powerful, convincing leader whose passion for civil rights and equality cannot be questioned. No president before or since has done more to create legal protections for oppressed and targeted people. The Fair Housing Act created strict guidelines and penalties. It also established an enforcement agency, the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. The NAACP and ACLU have successfully pressed cases that have expanded the protections to include urban renewal planning. People with disabilities and families with children were added to the protection umbrella as subsequent legislation was passed over the years.

While this law was critical and made a real difference, housing discrimination is still a significant problem. The Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates approximately two million cases of discrimination every single year. Imagine what the problem would be like without a law in place! As with most federal protections, Fair Housing still does not carry protection based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Several states and localities have created protections, but without cohesive federal standards this piecemeal approach is not enough.

Call to Action: We who believe in freedom cannot rest. Given the current Supreme Court’s fondness for gutting rights laws and the blatant violations that still exist, we must be vigilant to ensure that the enforcement, protection, and punishment mechanisms that are in place remain strong. We must also work to include all people in this protection, demanding strong federal protection based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Bigot of the Week Award, January 31: Thomas Perkins and the Wall Street Journal

31 Jan
Bigot of the Week

Bigot of the Week

Sadly, there was yet again a plethora of bigots to choose from this week, but none  so clearly sank to such a nasty level as this BWA, making this week’s winner  an easy choice. Venture capitalist Thomas Perkins wrote a letter to the Wall Street Journal complaining about the way the rich are treated in the United States. Yes, you read that correctly, this rich, straight, white guy is feeling mistreated because a few progressive voices are complaining about the lopsided distribution of wealth and inequitable treatment of people based on their net worth.

The myopia and hypocrisy would be tragically laughable, but Perkins managed to work in a bizarre Nazi reference and some aggressive anti-Semitism.

Writing from the epicenter of progressive thought, San Francisco, I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its “one percent,” namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the “rich.” … Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendant ‘progressive’ radicalism unthinkable now?

Did anyone else throw up while reading that? What is this man smoking? American progressives are the “descendants” of the Nazis? Jews in 1930s Germany were the equivalent of Perkins, Romney, Koch, and the other malevolent 1%ers in America? Perkins has no shame, no sense of history, and a stunning lack of awareness of his own power and privilege.

Perkins’ writings were horrific enough. Sadly, the Journal saw fit to print them. Going one step further, after an unprecendented wave of protest hit the paper, the editors published a feature entitled “Perkinsnacht.”  They called his letter “unfortunate, albeit provocative” — begging the question of why they published it — and then stepped up the hypocrisy with this gem:

the vituperation is making our friend’s point about liberal intolerance — maybe better than he did.

So, people calling a nasty bigot a nasty bigot is intolerant? Blasting anti-Semitic, hyper-privileged nonsense as nonsense is intolerant? I don’t think that word means what the editors think it means. This is such a grotesque situation that it leaves me in despair.  Are we to really supposed to pity people who carry enormous amounts of power, wealth, and privilege? I worry that not only does Perkins have no moral compass, but that the Wall Street Journal also lacks any sense of proportion or irony.

Dishonorable mention goes to long-time conservative hack Michelle Malkin, who opted to use her column inches this week to defend Perkins. Wringing her hands about the “grievance industry” of “wealth-shaming,” she accused Perkins’ detractors of participating in a “bullying epidemic.” Just a note, Ms. Malkin — the last refuge of a bully is accusing others of bullying…

Black History Month 2012: America and the New Face of Racism

1 Feb

We Need Black History Month More Now Than Ever

Election year is here and how sad that many in our country seem to be determined to do anything to ensure that we “get rid of that black man in office.”  Even here in “progressive” Portland, OR, I hear people holding up President Obama as an end to institutionalized racism.

Allow me to introduce the definition of Racism and I say emphatically that the words Racism, Prejudice, and Bigot are not interchangeable.

Racism: “A system of advantage based on race” (David Wellman). I also have to give a nod to Beverly Tatum here for introducing me to Wellman.  Racism contains prejudice, but its implications are far more dangerous.  Racism has the element of institutional and systematic power.  While many white people are not active racists on an individual level, white people certainly benefit from institutionalized racism.  Even today, if one looks at access to schools, resources, jobs, housing, and healthcare, we are looking at a sad imbalance and pathetic distribution of power.

The disproportionality of African-Americans in the criminal system (or what I like to refer to as the Injustice System) is not a coincidence.  The laws we have were created by white people to sustain a white power structure–is it really that difficult to grasp this?  Look at Alabama and the newly constructed laws against the Latino population.

Let us revisit the current election year.  Newt Gingrich seems to believe he knows what is best for black people, if they would just get a job and get off welfare–I think Newt and Donald Trump are drinking from the same pot of tea.  Then we have multi-millionaire Mitt “It is so nice to see so many white faces here” Romney who is okay with black folk now because the Mormon church said it was okay in 1978.  Ron (Do you like my white hood) Paul, who said:

Boy, it sure burns me to have a national holiday for Martin Luther King. I voted against this outrage time and time again as a Congressman. What an infamy that Ronald Reagan approved it! We can thank him for our annual Hate Whitey Day.

And do I really need to even say anything about Rick (the P is silent) Santorum?

I would love to see a point in history when we don’t need a Black History Month, Women’s History, or an LGBT History Month, but 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.  Today I celebrate the beginning of Black History Month.

Happy Birthday, Dr. King: Welcome to 2012.

15 Jan

Happy Birthday, Dr. King

While the national holiday is not until tomorrow, I thought it would be nice to recognize Dr. King’s actual birthday.   In 1994, President Clinton signed legislation – put forward by Sen. Harris Wofford (D,PA) and Rep. John Lewis (D, GA) – which transformed the decade-old holiday. The goal was to challenge Americans to use the day for citizen action and volunteer service. As noted on the official site for the day, “It calls for Americans from all walks of life to work together to provide solutions to our most pressing national problems.”

Lest we forget, however, one of our Presidential Candidates, Ron Paul said about MLK Day:

Boy, it sure burns me to have a national holiday for Martin Luther King. I voted against this outrage time and time again as a Congressman. What an infamy that Ronald Reagan approved it! We can thank him for our annual Hate Whitey Day.

Talk about blatant racism and white privilege at work.  Shame on you, Ron Paul!  Shall we also look at the racist and privileged comments from GOP Presidential contender, Newt Gingrich:

The fact is if I become your nominee we will make the key test very simple — food stamps versus paychecks. Obama is the best food stamp president in American history.  More people are on food stamps today because of Obama’s policies than ever in history. I would like to be the best paycheck president in American history.

Now there’s no neighborhood I know of in America where if you went around and asked people, would you rather your children had food stamps or paychecks, you wouldn’t end up with a majority saying they’d rather have a paycheck.

And so I’m prepared, if the NAACP invites me, I’ll go to their convention and talk about why the African American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps. And I’ll go to them and explain a brand new social security opportunity for young people, which would be particularly good for African American males because they are the group that gets the smallest return on social security because they have the shortest life span.

Wow!  Where do I even start to deconstruct the racism here?  God forbid we address the system that keeps a marginalized population from accessing resources and just address food stamps.  I also just love it when a white hetero millionaire has the chutzpah to tell black folk what they need and what they need to do.

Let us move on to multi-millionaire (Mormon) Mitt Romney.  The Mormons did say it was okay for black folk to be included in 1978–how white of them! Rather than let the man’s faith define him, however, let us listen to Romney’s words:

You strengthen the American people by securing our borders and by insisting that the children who come legally to this land are taught in English.

These men say they want to lead our country. It is clear that they want to be the President of the white, the powerful, the privileged. Anyone who falls outside that power structure must be doing something wrong and doesn’t deserve their aid or support until they can emulate privilege. How sad that nearly 50 years after Dr. King told the nation that he had a dream, one party’s choice for leaders would transform that dream into an archaic nightmare.

Let us celebrate Dr. King and his legacy today. Let us celebrate the brave and wise people who helped build a foundation so that dream could become a reality: Bayard Rustin, Coretta Scott King, Rosa Parks, John Lewis. Let us take the challenge of civic engagement embedded in this holiday. But certainly, let us not offer our highest office to those who would ignore this legacy, this hard work, and would rather see a nation of growing divide, where their own power is extended while millions suffer.

I shall leave you with a small excerpt from Letter from a Birmingham Jail:

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

 I love this excerpt because it applies to all marginalized populations outside of the dominant white heterosexual power structure.  Our task, our duty is to enfranchise ALL.  Happy Birthday, Dr. King.

Forbes Magazine and How White Folk Just Don’t Understand Racism

14 Dec

I need to thank my friend Katherine McGuiness for inspiring me to write this article.  Katherine is a true social worker!

Just reading Gene Marks title of If I Were A Poor Black Kid in Forbes magazine on-line, I knew we were going to be in for a bumpy ride but I forced myself to read the full article.  Waste of time?  NO!  Very sad and pathetic commentary on how so many white people really do NOT understand what institutionalized racism is? YES!

I just love it when white heterosexual men have the chutzpah to prescribe what black folk need to do to make their lives better.  First, allow me to cut Marks a modicum of slack.  While I don’t believe he participates in racism on an individual level, he certainly seems unaware of how he benefits on an institutional level of racism.  According to Marks:

 I believe that everyone in this country has a chance to succeed.  Still.  In 2011.  Even a poor black kid in West Philadelphia.

It takes brains.  It takes hard work.  It takes a little luck.  And a little help from others.  It takes the ability and the know-how to use the resources that are available.  Like technology.  As a person who sells and has worked with technology all my life I also know this.

Oops! That would be fine and well if we all started on an even playing field, but we don’t.

Sadly, Marks goes on to say:

If I was a poor black kid I would first and most importantly work to make sure I got the best grades possible. I would make it my #1 priority to be able to read sufficiently.   I wouldn’t care if I was a student at the worst public middle school in the worst inner city.  Even the worst have their best.  And the very best students, even at the worst schools, have more opportunities.  Getting good grades is the key to having more options.  With good grades you can choose different, better paths.  If you do poorly in school, particularly in a lousy school, you’re severely limiting the limited opportunities you have.

Wow!  Did you really say that out loud?  I’m sorry, but it is really hard not to hear you as a pompous, privileged, punitive, pinhead.  I wonder if it occurred to you that if you are a poor black kid, the challenges you would face are not just attending “the worst public middle school.”  Can we talk about safety? Can we talk about is there enough food in the house? What does one’s diet look like? Are you able to get to school easily? Do you have access to health care? Regardless of how bright young black men are, they are still being profiled and pulled over by police.  Mr. Marks, do you ever have to worry about being pulled over the police for the type of car you drive? Do you notice that people watch you very closely when you enter a department store? Do you notice that there just are not a whole lot of black folk in positions of power in our government?

Honestly, I really don’t think Marks is trying to be racist, but I do worry how many people think like Marks and think it is okay for white people to tell black people what is best for them? ACTION: I would strongly suggest all TSM readers please read Dr. Beverly Tatum’s Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And other Conversations About Race, or if you would like to see how a white heterosexual man is able to acknowledge his own privilege and hold a respectful and intelligent conversation about race, read Tim Wise’s White Like Me.  

Unfortunately, Marks’ entire article turns a blind eye to history and the idea of privilege.  His words prove he has no concept of the generational impact of Plessy v. Ferguson, or the fact that the GI Bill after WWII, which allowed returning soldiers to buy a home, was only extended to white officers.  I could go on and on here, but I think you get the message by now.

For those of you wondering why I included this article in Feminism and LGBT, it is because I believe we have to address the intersections of oppression and acknowledge the disproportionality of oppression if you are gay and black, or a black woman. Again, I urge everyone to address racism and call it out when you hear it or experience it.

*TSM is now taking nominations again for Hero and Bigot of the Year Awards.

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