A Direct Response to Those who Say Women Had No Right to March:

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Social media has been abuzz with opinions in the past few days, mostly involving the women around the world who chose to march in response to, what many assume, is the election and inauguration of Trump. While I would never deny many of us are left feeling disenfranchised by the surreal reality of what’s transpired, let’s get one thing clear, he is not important enough alone to warrant these marches. He’s just gasoline on a pile of smoldering discrimination many experience every day.

For those, including women, who say women are not discriminated against in the US, there is apparently a disconnect between realities. It’s undoubtedly some level of privilege that allows some to say “I’ve never seen this or that”—a privilege many would love to live. However, to be clear, one person’s reality does not mean it is the realty for all. We cannot know what every woman in this nation experiences by glancing through our own windows. To be understood fully, we have to look through all the windows from every level—a task only possible by listening to the qualitative data—the voices—so many like to deny, or worse, squelch. Maybe some have never been mistreated or disrespected as females in the US, but some have. To say we American women have it made as a whole is a damaging misconception at best, a despicable lie at worst.

Here’s the truth many would like to shove off the playing field we call protest:

If you have never been humiliated, belittled, or damaged by the process of reporting a rape within the US, you do not get to say women & women’s rights are important here.

If you have never been slut shamed for wearing the clothes you choose, or worse, been blamed for your own sexual assault because of them, you do not get to say women are held in high regard.

If you have never been denied a medically necessary abortion because a group’s religious beliefs interfere with the process of medical care, you do not get to say women always have the right to choose.

If you have never tried to attain a promotion or raise in a male-dominated field without being told to “get in the kitchen, “ being forced to flirt, or being forced to perform sexual favors, you do not get to say women are treated equally.

If you have never had to fight your insurance company to cover preventative tests, like pap smears or cancer screenings, while insurance is regularly covering Viagra for impotence, you do not get to tell women their lives matter.

If you have never been forced to either abstain from sex or get pregnant, even in the context of a marriage, because you can’t afford the birth control your insurance won’t cover, you do not get to say women have the same choices as men.

If you have never become pregnant as the result of a rape, and then been forced to give your rapist visitation rights of that child, you do not get to tell women they have the same control as men.
If you have never reported domestic abuse, only to be asked what you did to make him mad, you cannot say women have equal protection.

If you have never had to fight your employer for maternity leave, a clean, private area & the time to pump breast milk for your child, you do not get to say the workplace is “woman friendly”.
If you have never had to tell a man you have a boyfriend to stop his advances because “I’m not interested, “ or “No” were not enough, you cannot say men value women’s opinions.

This is just a short list of the discrimination women face in the US. It doesn’t even begin to touch on intersectionallity, or the discrimation felt by other ethnic and religious groups. No, it’s not Saudi Arabia, Guatemala, or India. No, we do not have honor killings and female genital mutilation, although those things happen in the shadows. However, the argument that we don’t have it as bad as them is as ridiculous as saying someone with lung cancer shouldn’t complain because someone with brain cancer has it worse. It’s still cancer, which is exactly why women rose up to meet the occasion.

We stand and fight because a man who not only openly scoffs at, but promotes the degradation of women and other minorities represents the cancer that has lived so long within this country. Trump isn’t the only problem. It’s everything he represents. Sure, maybe he is a good businessperson. Maybe his failures are fewer than his successes, but it’s how he became successful we should worry about. The way he speaks, the way he openly degrades, women, people of color, Muslims, immigrants, and people who live with disabilities is sickening. To allow his presidency to become a larger reign of terror is to let us all implode.

You see, we don’t march so we can have casual Fridays, free cable, or even because we don’t like the word “pussy”. We march because when he says “grab,” “wall,” or “register,” we know what that connotes: assault fascism, and the end of the freedoms so many of us have fought for—not just for ourselves, but for ALL.

A Call For Peace and Resolution

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The recent events concerning police officers killing suspects has raised many questions. We have now opened up dialogue about not only racism and race relations, but also police brutality. Another subject I’ve seen brought to the table is accountability.

Some folks are saying that criminals should not be forgiven, and they effectively get what they deserve. While this is true to some extent, we cannot ask for accountability on one hand,calling these men horrible names like “thug” and “animal”,  and then let those who we should be able to trust the most cross lines without repercussion after they have unquestionably pushed their allowable boundaries.

This, my friends, is what the greater part of us activists are seeking.

At no time should there be a call to openly assault law enforcement officers. There should never be violent defiance or retribution. This solves nothing.

No one ever said criminals should walk free. If any of these men who were killed by police committed a crime, they should have to answer to that in a court of law. However, the same follows for law enforcement officers.

If police are to be held in high regard, then they must act thusly.

Without debating what requires a judge and jury to decide in the cases of the three men killed by law enforcement in recent days, I would like to say at no time have I heard anyone from my camp say they should just get away with crime. All we ask for is the same accountability in law enforcement many of you have asked for from civilians. Law enforcement officers are, after all, human and prone to mistakes, just as any other human being.

What myself and many others want is a higher standard of accountability from law enforcement officers—an institution that has some members who have gone astray.

These officers are sworn to uphold the law—something that goes beyond the duty of a normal citizen. Being that as it is, they then should have no problem with citizens videotaping incidents, or answering to allegations of malfeasance in a court of law. As much as they are here to enforce the law, they are also employees of the citizens. Our tax dollars pay their salaries. We have the right to question their authority. I do, though, believe this is a place and time for ONLY peaceful protest. Additional violence will not end violence. In fact, it only puts police on high alert, making them even more prone to pull a gun.

Let’s face it, what has happened as of late is something tragic for all involved. As much as things like racism are intertwined in these events, this is not a time to be divisive. Rather this is the time when we should all come together to find solutions. We only stand strong if we are united. Divisive behavior will be the end of this thing we call our own. Let’s think before we speak and act. Let’s pull our Nation back together so we can face the woes together, and find amicable solutions for our problems both now, and in the future.

(image source:https://www.flickr.com/photos/bluerobot/5493833292/in/pool-protest)

Understanding Racism and the Perpetuation of Racial Stereotypes: Why Did Ferguson Happen?

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Today, a friend shared a video of a speaker in her UU church. Although I didn’t know it before I began watching, I needed desperately to see this video. The message was so profound, I was nearly in tears when it ended.

The speaker began to highlight some recent hot topic events, including what is happening in Ferguson. His message reached beyond guilty/innocent, and into the depths of why we are even experiencing this atrocity—something I believe we should address head on until it is no more.

He spoke of the racial stereotypes embedded in our collective mind so deeply that we often act before our better judgment changes our actions. These stereotypes of which he spoke are age old. They didn’t come about by any truth, but were perpetuated during what is known as the postbellum period in the United States.

That time of reconstruction after the Civil War found many with a sour taste in their mouths. They were upset they’d lost the right to own slaves—their source of profit. So, they concocted a string of lies to scare people into discriminating against people of color in order to keep people of color in indentured servitude. Some of those lies were created out of fear—former slave owners really thought slaves would revolt and kill them if freed. What we see today in our media is an outgrowth of the web of lies these angry, fearful white southern sympathizers created.

In the documentary film Ethnic Notions by California Newsreel, we are shown several stereotypes created to defame African American people, as well as other people of color. Early filmmakers concocted images of African Americans who were “lazy,”  “shiftless,” “violent,” and African American women who are not sexually attractive. Each of these stereotypes served a purpose.

By showing African Americans to be less than the ideal human beings and perpetuating prejudices, white Americans could retain the control they so desired. Beyond that, these stereotypes also created a group of “others” who barely functioned as “true Americans,” therefore making it “acceptable” to exclude them from the “in” group. These stereotypes were the bedrock of Jim Crow laws—the dastardly laws enacted to form segregation, justify lynching, and the other atrocities that happened pre-Civil Rights Movement.  Why would we still subconsciously submit to these false stereotypes? Have you ever watched TV?

In the media, nearly every person of color fits into some stereotype. African American men are portrayed as either only successful because they are athletes, or lazy criminals with no job. Moreover, no matter which role they portray, they’re shown to be violent. We, then, are subliminally told to fear them, not to admire them, and definitely not to respect them.

African American women are often portrayed as having children they do not want—or worse, need. They are shown to be loud mouthed, disrespectful, and either sexually unattractive or promiscuous. In that way, white men would never “want” to be with them sexually, and if they are with them, it is because the women are “giving it away”—the men are led on by sexual prowess and promiscuity. Sadly, this stereotype was born of the “Mammy” figure in order to cover the sins of white men who raped African American slave women.  Male or female, these stereotypes are dangerous and damaging to the African American community. Yet the media perpetuates them over and over for us to view—although this is improving, somewhat.

Bringing this back to the issue of Ferguson, Missouri and the death of Michael Brown, we can see that we cannot separate this tragedy from racism. What happened there is so deeply intertwined with racism that we cannot tear them apart. Although people want to deny that and argue only that Michael Brown was a “criminal,” a “thug” who “got we he deserved,” we must ask ourselves why Darren Wilson thought it necessary to use deadly force. For one, he was not carrying a Taser—a fact released after the grand jury decision, but why did he think he needed to shoot and kill Michael Brown, a young man who was unarmed and who had not committed a violent crime such as murder?

By his own account, Wilson was afraid. He thought Brown was a “demon”.  This man towering near 6’4” and 210 pounds, a man who was carrying a gun and had access to call in back up, feared an unarmed teen—a Black teen. But why? Was it so embedded in Wilson’s subconscious that black men are “demons,” that they want to kill all white men, that his better judgment was lost?  Is this the world we have created, and continue to perpetuate? Are we going to continue to allow groups like the KKK to feed this toxic disinformation to us?

We need to remember from where these stereotypes are born—they are born from hate filled white men, who feared loss of their patriarchal power, and sometimes even their lives, to those they had enslaved for hundreds of years. These stereotypes have no scientific basis—ethnology was disproved decades ago. We must end these lies in order to save lives and procure peace.

If you take nothing else from Ferguson, please at least recognize why this tragedy happened, and why it happens over and over again. It’s not just about one police officer, one child killed, or even one community at odds with itself. This is about an entire group of people seeking no more than the same rights we white people enjoy every day. This is about understanding our fellow human beings as actual human beings who are as capable of being moral and upright as we. We cannot let this fade away, known only as “that time some protesters set some buildings on fire”. No. We need to make this known as the time we all finally came together to change our world—both black and white—for the better. If we want to prevent more Fergusons from happening, if we don’t want more parents to feel the pain the parents of Michael Brown are experiencing, then it’s time to demolish the walls we’ve built, once and for all. Let’s put Jim Crow to rest. It’s long past time to say goodbye to him, the only real demon here today.

Bad Reflexes: Reactions to Ferguson

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I awoke this morning to comments to the effect of “you didn’t see white folks protest after OJ was acquitted,” and “white people don’t go around destroying their own neighborhoods over a court decision”.  You know what? There is a kernel of truth there, but there is reason behind the truth.

First of all, the OJ case was different. He was indicted. He went to trial. Wilson will never be on trial. He appointed himself as the supreme decider of Michael Brown’s life. Even if the kid stole a truck load of cigars, he didn’t deserve to die. Michael Brown didn’t have the opportunity for a trial. No grand jury got to decide if he’d be indicted because Wilson decided that there, on that street where Mike Brown lost his life. OJ’s case was also not racially motivated. Brown was killed because of racial stereotypes. How many differences would you like me to point out? Point being there was no need to protest because an entire People was not under attack by OJ Simpson.

Which brings me to the second point. No, white folks generally don’t protest court decisions. Would you like to know why? The militarized police state we white folks have created doesn’t have white children in the streets killing them. People of color must live in fear of law enforcement. Would you not protest if your babies were being killed in the streets?

Don’t get me wrong. This overreaching police state is becoming a problem for everyone, more so than most would like to admit. However, if you’re a person of color, as has always been, you are at a greater risk for being acted upon violently. Racial stereotypes have perpetuated visions of demons that simply do not exist.

And while I’m at it, let’s make one thing clear: White folks do protest. We riot over our favorite sports team being “robbed” on the court or field. We will burn a town down if a rival basketball team takes a championship. We are as prone to violence as anyone of color, just for different reasons. We don’t protest and riot court decisions because we don’t have to. We aren’t under attack.

Mainly, what I would like for people to understand comes from a tweet I read this morning. It stated simply:

If, after last night’s decision, all you saw was rioting, you missed everything.”

(Image and quotation source: https://twitter.com/KevinAvery/status/537231346473893888)