White Like Me (Part I)

I am not the most “woke” person on the planet, and I’m not here to persuade you of any of my bona fides.

What I am here to do is to start a conversation – overdue, to be sure – about race. I’m going to tell you where I come from. Because I am having these conversations with my children. Because these conversations have to be had.

We can’t NOT talk about race.

My father’s parents were Irish immigrants, and my father grew up in a lower-income neighborhood in Pittsburgh. My mother’s parents were first generation Italian-Americans, and they lived in the Italian neighborhood in Erie, Pennsylvania.

I grew up in Erie, the oldest child of two college-educated white people. My parents never talked about race, but they hardly had to. Erie was strikingly white and Catholic in the 1970s and ‘80s – probably still is for that matter. I grew up in a white neighborhood; my K-8 school was white and Catholic; my parents’ friends were white and non-immigrants, and they had children who looked just like me. All my friends were white.

I, obviously, was aware that people of color existed – I watched Sesame Street and The Electric Company growing up. But until high school, I barely interacted with people of color. Not that I didn’t want to, or felt I shouldn’t. It simply didn’t happen.

It’s safe to say that my parents weren’t (aren’t) racist. We didn’t use racist language, they didn’t draw bright lines between “our kind of people” and any other kinds of people. My parents’ parents may have been racist, but I never heard the n-word growing up. My mom’s father was prejudiced against, to use his words, Krauts and Jews, which I always found confusing.

My pap-pap died when I was 6, and I’ve no idea on his views on race. He was, however, an Irish beat cop in Pittsburgh, so they probably weren’t super enlightened. Although my father has said that his father never used the n-word, and when my father asked about it as a child, he told my father, “We don’t use that word.”

I remember my Italian grandmother occasionally talking about ‘colored’ people, and I used to tease her. “What color were they, Grandma?” So, yes, probably some racism there. But hardly malevolent, white-supremacist-flavored racism.

Fast-forward to high school, and finally, I was going to school and seeing non-white and non-Christian people on a daily basis – not many, but some. I went to a small, Catholic all-girls school.

When I tweeted about this the other day, I said, “I didn’t witness any overt racist acts”, but I’m not sure that’s true upon further reflection. We had one Indian girl who was definitely targeted for some harassment, for example, being asked if she was in an arranged marriage. I didn’t do that; she was someone I would’ve counted as a friend. I bet if I asked Robbie, one of the black girls in my class, she would have a story or two to tell.

I never remarked on this limited diversity in my high school at home. We didn’t talk about race. Again, I think it was more the default position of not *needing* to talk about it, about having enough privilege that racism was something that happened in the ‘60s. Everything was cool in Erie! Everything was cool because of civil rights!

Clearly, since the time of Barack Obama’s running for president, then becoming President, since the shooting of Trayvon Martin, since the (continued and now publicized) murder of black boys and men by white cops, since Black Lives Matter and the Safety Pin Box, it has been made abundantly clear that we hardly live in a post-racial society. If the election of T*ump and the events of Charlottesville are any indication, we may be moving backwards.

I talk about race with my children. They go to school with, play sports with, and live near more black and brown children than I ever did. We talk about shootings (in age appropriate ways). We talk about Charlottesville and white supremacy.

I don’t say we are “colorblind.” I tell my children to see and to be aware of differences in their peers and in the wider world, whether that’s skin color, or sexuality, or religion, or disabilities. Differences matter, although they do not make anyone superior to anyone else. Differences matter, because they mean individuals have different experiences and views.

We have to understand and recognize difference. Knowing in our hearts that everyone SHOULD be treated the same doesn’t mean everyone WILL be treated the same. And we have to recognize when differences lead to injustice, and how, and what to do about it.

*with apologies to the book of essays by Tim Wise, White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son – which I promptly bought and will be reading post haste. Buy it here.

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

“What is white supremacy?” Flora asked.

Before I could formulate my answer, she added, “It sounds totally stupid.”

It made me laugh.

“You’re right,” I said. “It is totally stupid.”

It’s stupid to think that you are better than someone based on the color of your skin.
It’s stupid to think that other people getting rights to things like job parity, education, and healthcare means your rights are being taken away.
It’s stupid to chant Nazi slogans while carrying a tiki torch.
And it’s stupid to fight to preserve a history of which American should be embarrassed.

It’s stupid to think that we need to preserve “white culture.” It’s a fucking joke.

We stole this country, and built it on the backs of black slave labor. We can be clear-eyed about that, and work to fix the mistakes of the past. (Don’t tell me ‘your grandparents were immigrants who were treated just as badly as slaves.’ They weren’t; stop telling yourself that lie. And don’t come at me with “violence on both sides.” A man killed a woman WITH HIS CAR.)

And the President of the United States endorses and condones this shit.

++

Kate, my performer, Kate, my orator, on white supremacy:

“Trees change the colors of their leaves. Do we judge the trees? No, we do not…. Apples come in different colors. Do we judge apples on the colors on the outside? No, we judge apples by their taste. We don’t judge people by their skins; we judge them by what’s inside.”

++

Michael has been watching Holes. (It’s an excellent book as well as an excellent movie.) He loves it.

One of the plot points involves a black man, Sam, and a white woman, Kate, played by Dule Hill and Patricia Arquette. **SPOILER ALERT** Sam and Kate are falling in love, and the white townspeople (the story is in a flashback) don’t like it. When Kate is spotted kissing Sam, her schoolhouse is burned down, and Sam is murdered.

When Michael wanted to watch it yet again, I decided to say something.

“Do you know why Sam is killed in the movie?”
“I think so.”
“Why?”
“Because that other man likes Kate, but she likes Sam.” (Accurate.)
“It’s also because Sam is black. Black people and white people weren’t supposed to be together, or get married.”
“That’s dumb.”

MY CHILDREN GET THIS. It’s not hard.

*sigh* I’m tired. What a luxury.

Credit for the featured image: @AndeStrega

How to Be A Decent Man

This list was inspired by a number of things, including a Dear Prudence letter and an article from Upworthy. (You should definitely read the Upworthy article.)

10. Don’t catcall. Anyone. At any time. It’s not flattering.

9. Don’t tell a woman to smile. We’re not here to look good for you.

8. Realize that you are not entitled to sex. No matter the size your bank account (or your cock). Again, we women do not exist for your pleasure.

7. Even if you have had sex with a woman before, you are still not entitled to sex.

6. Don’t have drunken sex. (This goes for women too.) Sex is better when you’re not trashed. I’m not saying don’t drink. Go ahead and drink! Get drunk! Have some fun. Just don’t have sex with someone you don’t know well if you or she or both of you are drunk. It ends badly.

5. Understand consent. (Link is to the clean version of the Tea Consent video. Again, another worthwhile thing to check out.)

4. Listen to women. Don’t interrupt. Don’t be thinking of what you are going to say. Just pay attention to the words coming out of her mouth. Hear her.

3. Don’t mansplain. If you don’t know what that is, or you don’t think you mansplain, think about your response. If the first word out of your mouth when responding to a woman who is talking to you is “actually,” you may be mansplaining.

2. Don’t harass women online.

1. If a woman says no, move along. Don’t call her names. You can’t go from wanting to get with a woman to calling her a bitch. That’s just dumb.

Just: Treat women like people. It’s not that difficult, it’s honestly not. Although, to be fair, you also have to stop treating women like every one is a possible sexual conquest. So, your level of difficulty may vary.

All right, ladies, what am I forgetting?

Safe Space

Pursuant to our discussion about her hair, Flora also talked about some difficulties some of her friends are having. She says three of her friends have come out to her – and they have also come out to their families, with very discouraging results.

According to Flora, one of her friends came out as bisexual. Her parents have forbidden her to even speak about it at home, and her older sister calls her a schizophrenic. When Flora told me this, I felt like my head was going to catch on fire.

“You tell your friend,” I said, emphatically stabbing the table with my index finger, “that she can come over ANY TIME. Our house is a safe space for her.”

“Yeah, Mom, I already told her,” Flora responded.

Okay then.

I do not understand how a parent can reject a child. Especially on the basis of sexuality or gender identity — not just at this age, but at any age. Don’t they remember how scary this time was in their own lives? Trying to figure out who they were and who they wanted to be? The constant fear of not fitting in, of being rejected, of being alone?

In these years between puberty and adulthood, our children have more questions and insecurities, and do more exploration than they did since they were toddlers. (Apparently, a child learns more between birth and age 3 than for the rest of his/her/their life.) Tweens and teens are seeking their identities, independence, and acceptance. And even though they are pulling away from us parents, they still need us!

  • LGBTQ youth are at increased risk for dating violence and rape
  • LGBTQ youth are at increased risk for suicidal thoughts, behavior, attempts, and suicide
  • LGBTQ youth report higher rates of bullying and substance abuse
  • LGBTQ youth are at greater risk for homelessness
  • (Source)

If a child at this stage feels unloved, unsupported, and unheard, how much do you bet these risks and behaviors increase?

It will not stand, people. Not as long as I have a roof over my head.

I’m going to need a bigger house.

Copyright for feature image: badboo / 123RF Stock Photo

Lack of Imagination

Aside from the constant reflexive lying, the thing that bothers me most about T*ump is that he is completely and utterly UNCURIOUS. This bothers me so much.

T*ump cares nothing about anything that doesn’t have to do with him. He is on an international trip, and he’ll be served steak with ketchup at formal dinners, which is its own travesty. People have been advised to keep comments down to two to four minutes and use visual presentations because of his attention span. People in charge of briefing the President at the White House put his name in documents SO HE’LL KEEP READING THEM.

This is a 70-year-old man we’re talking about. Not a high-school student riddled with ADHD.

He has no sense of American or world history, and I get the sense he has no intention of learning. Any news stories he doesn’t like are labeled ‘fake news’. He’s in Israel today, and he seems to have this amazing idea that HE is going to be the one to solve the problem of violence in the Middle East. “People are sick of it,” he informed the Israeli president. So you should just stop that, seems to be the implication.

And no, I won’t call our President a child. My children are bright, and curious, and the are capable of learning things — heck, they are EAGER to learn things. They are involved in the world, like being around people different than they are, and while they have strong opinions, they still are interested in other points of view.

Our President isn’t a child or toddler. He’s a grown-ass adult who cares nothing, not one whit, about anything that has nothing to do with him, nothing that doesn’t profit him.

If you read this blog (still), you probably are not a T*ump voter. If you are a T*ump voter, I wonder if you care about the man’s utter lack of interest in the world around him. I have additional news: He’s not interested in YOU either, not what will benefit you.

What bothers you the most about T*ump?

If the World Is Ending, I Don’t Feel Fine

Look, if the world ends in a nuclear armageddon because T*ump is — the list of adjectives here is too long, I’ll leave it at “thin-skinned narcissist bully utterly unfit for office of President of the United States” — if T*ump blows up the world, I’ll be seriously upset.

I mean, on one hand, I believe in an afterlife. If — God forbid, get it? — the Orange One does end the world, I have faith Heaven is waiting for me. I will be rejoined to God and resurrected in the life. My faith teaches me that, and, it’s true, I am willing to believe it. Your mileage may vary.

However, here’s a short list of reasons that I seriously do not want the world to end in fire (or otherwise). And why, when people ask or comment, I won’t “give him a chance” or stop resisting and writing and calling.

1. My children. Look, I had children rather selfishly, and I selfishly want to see them grow up and become the amazing, fully-realized people I think they are becoming. If the world spins on into their adulthood, I expect that they will do great things. And I don’t mean they will do great things like cure cancer or HIV — although maybe they will. I mean they will do great things by realizing their potential, not letting fear hold them back, and treating everyone they encounter with respect and kindness.

I’d like to see that.

2. I’d like to publish a book before I die. Again: selfish. All about me! But hey, I finally finished a manuscript, and learned how this publishing gig works! I would appreciate having the opportunity to show people a book with my name on the cover. (Er, or my pen name. Whichever I decide.)

3. I’d like to grow old with Dan. Sixteen years of marriage, seventeen years of being together, is not enough for me.

4. I would like the world to go on long enough to see three things happen in Washington DC:

    a. Big Democrat wins in the 2018 election.
    b. The impeachment of T*ump
    c. The true development of a progressive party (and not the Bernie Sanders progressive party). Seriously, if the Democrats response to T*ump is “re-engage with white male voters” count me OUT.

Again, if you’d like to read more about where I’m coming from, please go see (and support) Shakesville.com. She is getting this stuff Spot. On.

Not Normal: The Cuck and Globalist Edition

Reports surfaced today of infighting in the White House. Steve Bannon, the white nationalist who use to run Breitbart and who is now Chief Strategist at the White House, called Jared Kushner, who is… an adviser to the President? Shadows the Secretary of State — I honestly do not know if he has a title, but I do know: he is the President’s son-in-law. No, not President Bannon’s son-in-law; T*ump’s son-in-law.

I digress.

Bannon seems to be having a persecution complex, and has been complaining that Kushner is trying to push him out of the White House. His insults include “cuck” and “globalist.”

First thought: Steve Bannon thinks cuck and globalist are EQUIVALENT INSULTS.

Second thought: Do you know what “cuck” is?

Third thought: Steve Bannon is insulting Jared Kushner — T*ump’s son-in-law — by impugning his marriage to T*ump’s daughter. In that, Bannon is saying that Kushner wants his wife, Ivanka T*ump, first… daughter, I guess, to go sleep with black men.

Yes, that’s what a cuck is. That term takes the idea of being a cuckold, and gives it a nice white supremacist twist. (A cuckold is not just a man who has been cheated on. A cuckold is someone who wants his wife to cheat on him. It is what he finds sexually exciting.)

Make no mistake, I have no love for Jared Kushner or Ivanka T*ump. I think this is the worst first family to ever occupy the White House and they can all fall into a pit as far as I’m concerned.

But Steve Bannon is putting on a display of racism and misogyny that is… shocking doesn’t seem to quite cover it. Despicable. Stunningly gross.

THIS IS NOT NORMAL. This is not how normal adult people talk to or about each other. This is how internet trolls talk. AND THESE ARE ADULTS IN THE WHITE HOUSE?

The media are laughing about this. It’s funny to them, all the drama (at least the media reports I have seen thus far).

This isn’t funny. These frat boys are running the fucking country, not sparring in an internet chat room. This isn’t something you joke about, this is a situation where you look around for the grownups.

Where are the grown ups? They aren’t in the GOP Congress, that’s for damn sure. McConnell had a tantrum, and ended the filibuster. The President is probably watching cable news and tweeting about it. The Speaker of the House is… I have no fucking clue what he’s doing. Trying to appease the terrible people who want the ACHA to succeed. My own Republican Senator is a coward who refuses to listen to his constituents. He’s in lock step with his party.

Jesus, take the wheel.

Letters to Congress: List of Demands

To the Republicans:

1. Appoint an independent counsel to investigate the T*ump administration’s ties to Russia.

2. DON’T repeal the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare. Sit down with the Democrats and figure out how to make it better. You have three members who aren’t going to vote for anything less than full repeal – you don’t need them. The majority of your constituents don’t want the ACA to go away.

3. DON’T defund Planned Parenthood. Again, play the numbers. The majority of Americans want to have access to affordable reproductive health care, and the majority of Americans are in favor of a woman’s access to abortion.

4. Stop taking away rights granted under the last administration. Don’t pass laws about trans people in bathrooms; enforce current rape laws. Don’t roll back marriage equality; as a matter of fact, expand protections for LGTBQ people in their places of work.

5. Have live town halls with your constituents, you cowards. We pay your salary. You are our representatives! That means that you represent us in Washington, D.C. We don’t pay lobbyists to tell you what WE want the law to look like.

To the Democrats:

Look, we are glad that you are there, that you are standing up for us, that you appear to be listening. Just a few things.

1. Do Something: Write laws and submit them. Speak out against the egregious misdeeds of the T*ump administration. Hammer Republicans on healthcare, family leave, employee protections, and minority rights. Put some heart and fire into your messaging. And continue the relentless calls for an independent investigation into the T*ump administration’s ties to Russia.

2. Do Better: Hire and promote more women and minorities in your offices, both in DC and stateside. Find the women and minorities in your districts and mentor them. Hire and mentor them alongside white men, it’s fine! But you are going to have to acknowledge the blinders of your own involvement in systemic racism and sexism and BE BETTER than that.

Also, you’re going to have to walk to walk on corporate money. And transparency.

3. Do More: You are going to have to fight like hell for every vote, every seat, every state and county. Talk to everyone. Make your plans to benefit everyone clear. Tell butthurt people who don’t want everyone to benefit from living in America that it’s too bad their feelings are hurt. Equal rights and protections aren’t just for whites or religious people, or men. Be honest, but fair.


What would you add?

Letters to Congress: Save PP

One of the GOP platform action items is to defund Planned Parenthood and other family planning services. So I emailed my congressman to register my opposition to such action. I believe, as I stated in this blog post, that access to reproductive health care is vital for the economic health of families and women.

This is the letter I got in response:

Thank you for contacting me with your support of Planned Parenthood, Title X, and family planning funding. I appreciate the range of beliefs that have been shared with me on this topic and I thank you for contacting me with your own unique perspective. An overwhelming majority of my constituents object to the government directing their taxpayer dollars to fund abortion services, or to fund organizations that perform abortions. Towards that end, I have not supported continued federal funding for Planned Parenthood or any other organization that provides services to terminate pregnancies.

Thank you again for contacting me to share your thoughts on this issue. Please do not hesitate to contact me with further questions or concerns. If you are interested in receiving my email newsletter describing important votes and key committee activity, I invite you to visit my website at http://murphy.house.gov and sign up.

++

Oh, ho ho, sir. I don’t think so.

1. Tax dollars don’t fund abortions, and you should be sure to let your constituents know that. Ask them to look up the Hyde Amendment.

2. I don’t want my tax dollars to go to building a wall on the Mexican border. I don’t want my tax dollars to go to immigration bans, or drone warfare, or housing the First Lady in her New York penthouse to the tune of millions of dollars a year. Where’s my opt out?

Here’s a short list of where my friends and I would like our tax dollars to go, since we get to pick now: local infrastructure improvements; education; science initiatives; women’s shelters and food banks; EPA enforcement and national parks. (h/t to @AngrierFish, @MissSinBin, and @omgitsjen)

3. It is not up to you and your constituents to decide what other people – some your constituents, many more of whom are not – choose to do regarding family planning and reproductive health services.

My perspective is not “unique.” The majority of Americans, sir, believe in a woman’s right to choose; believe in the services that family planning centers provide – the majority of which are health screenings and birth control – and want families to be able to access care that benefits them… so that abortion becomes less necessary.

I have a feeling you may be hearing from an overwhelming number of constituents regarding this matter soon, and also from many people who support the ACA. Good luck with that “overwhelming majority” argument.

Sincerely,
A Constituent

Image copyright: Copyright: wolterk / 123RF Stock Photo

Close to Home

Some days, I really don’t know where to start.

Should I respond to the incredibly condescending letter from my representative in Congress who apparently thinks that I’ll buy Republican spin about the ACA being a failed law, and be satisfied with the list of GOP “reforms” that are going to fix the problem? Because I don’t, and I won’t, and those “reforms” aren’t going to protect people’s healthcare or lower-slash-control costs.

I suppose since a number of GOP supporters were confused that the ACA and Obamacare were the same thing, maybe Representative Murphy thinks he can get away with his spin.

And then there’s Murphy’s support for disability advocates to protect constitutional and civil rights — as long as those constitutional and civil rights have to do with gun ownership, amirite? When comes to access to affordable health care, reproductive services, and marriage equality, I’m sure Murphy has no intention of protecting the rights of citizens. The hypocrisy is rather breathtaking, but maybe he’s hoping no one will notice.

I noticed.

Don’t even get me started on the whole Russian thing. I am honestly flummoxed that Congress doesn’t see the need for investigations (or, I don’t know, IMPEACHMENT) — but then I remember they are controlled by GOP long-timers who have an agenda they’d like to see signed into law, and quickly. They don’t have time for stinking investigations! Even though they had *several* hearings on Benghazi.

++

But I also have some problems closer to home, governmentally speaking. There’s the terrible SB3, which restricts abortion access after 20 weeks. It’s more restrictive than Casey v. Planned Parenthood, which is itself more restrictive than Roe V. Wade. Many people think Roe v. Wade is still the law of the land, but it’s really Casey v. Planned Parenthood, which caps abortion access at 24 weeks (with, I think but I am not sure, exceptions for the mother’s health).

Look, the abortion rate is the lowest it’s been in more than forty years. And, since the birth rate hasn’t gone up, it’s not because abortion laws have grown steadily more restrictive. It’s because women and men have access to reproductive health services, comprehensive sex education, and birth control.

Plus, do you know what happens at the 20-week mark of pregnancy? It’s something called the anatomy scan. This is an ultrasound that measures the baby’s growth and looks at all of his/her parts to make sure development is going along well. This is the point where most often problems are found — the baby is not growing well, or an organ is not developing normally. This is where parents learn if their child can live outside of the womb, and sometimes the answer is that the baby can’t. He or she has something devastatingly wrong with it.

(For reference, Dan and I had learned something pretty scary at Kate’s 20-week scan. Fortunately for us, it was a problem that required constant monitoring and no life-changing decisions.)

So, restricting abortion access at 20 weeks 1. Is unlikely to lower the abortion rate in Pennsylvania any further and 2. Is going to take a decision out of the hands of people most qualified to make it (parents and their doctors).

So, excuse me while I take care of business a little closer to home. I think I’ll write letters, because it’s hard to sum all this up in a phone call. Except to say to my representative in the Pa Legislature: don’t override the governor’s likely veto of SB3.

I took a pretty substantial social media break last weekend, because it really is TOO EFFING MUCH to take in on a daily basis. But I continue to call and write. If my Senators ever have a town hall meeting, you bet your butt I will be there!

What are you doing to resist this week? What are you doing for self-care?