Prejudice Poison Clinging to Our Collective Soul

Recently I have been getting to the point that I don’t like opinion pieces. All too often, opinion pieces are used as an alternate to real news. They make claims that aren’t backed up by fact, are completely tainted by ideology, and serve only to try to persuade people to substitute propaganda for reality.

I am making an exception to my hatred of opinion for this piece from the New York Times. This piece, while labeled as opinion, is based on an interview and the events that followed. It serves to shine a spotlight on some of the most basic problems with race relations in the United States. As such, You should read it in an attempt to understand the problems that the United States faces as well as some fundamental strategies that we can all use to move forward.

“I speak for a lot of unspoken people,” he told me. “Maybe millions of white people who are afraid to admit” their racial fears and prejudices. “They’re not bad people. They just don’t know how to behave and how to interact” with people of different races.

It is difficult to admit that we are prejudice, that we are either afraid or unknowledgeable of how to interact with people who differ from us by their skin color. Oh, sure; it isn’t too difficult if ‘they’ go through all the trouble to act like ‘us’, but when ‘they’ don’t change to emulate our expectations, we often have no tools to bridge the gap between us.

I have admitted that I am prejudice a long time ago. Being prejudice isn’t something to be ashamed of in-and-of itself. What we choose to do about it determines whether we should be ashamed of ourselves of not.

Many of us can’t help being prejudice. We were born into a system that was prejudice. We were taught the system before we had the tools to evaluate it. It wasn’t just that we considered the system ‘normal,’ it was the only system that we knew existed. We were surrounded by the system. It was presented to us on television, on the playground at school, around our holiday tables, and reflected in our friendships. No, we didn’t do this to ourselves, it was done to us.

After our childhood was spent processing prejudice as ‘normal,’ we carried it with us like an irrational fear of the dark that we just can’t quite shake no matter how rational we try to be about it.

With Mr. Trump headed to the White House, my now-friendship with the “racist caller” on C-Span seems like a glimpse of a path not taken. Garry makes me believe that even though a man endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan won the majority of white support, people can change. He told me he now notices his own stereotypes and is eager to replace them with something more generous and true about his fellow Americans.

We need conversations like mine and Garry’s to happen across the country, outside of politics. Societies that have been through traumas have embarked on racial reconciliation processes; South Africa’s is the most famous, but there are dozens more. There’s no reason we can’t do that here.

Not only is there no reason why we can’t do that here, it is incumbent on each and every one of us to do the work necessary to see that the system that instilled racism in us isn’t perpetuated. We owe it to people of color that still struggle to be seen as humans instead of stereotypes. We owe it to the white people who have been coerced and polluted by a damaging ideology, and we owe it to our children to save them through the unnecessary torments that we all must suffer through regardless of our race. After all, we are all victims of the same corrupt system. Some of us have suffered more under that corrupt system, but we are all suffering.

Good Queer News: Symbols of Solidarity

Safety Pin Solidarity

I’m not really good at ranting. It just isn’t me. Very seldom do I actually get mad, and when I do, the last thing I am capable of doing is focusing that anger into anything coherent. Usually, when things bother me that I could rant about, I usually just feel sad. But while rants might not be my thing, there is something that I can do: spread happy news.

Immediately following the last Presidential election on November 8, 2016, I felt like completely crushed. In the process of trying to feel better — to do something more than I was already doing — I wore a safety pin. Despite thinking that demonstrating solidarity with others was a good idea, I didn’t wear the safety pin too long. Everywhere I turned I read articles about how wearing a safety pin was an insult.

After a few days, I quietly removed the safety pin from my shirt and tried not to cry. It seemed like even trying to feel solidarity with other people that were suffering was anathema.

While showing solidarity with other people that are suffering isn’t really anathema, too many people seemed to think that by wearing a safety pin to show solidarity, the person wearing the safety pin was trying to absolve themselves from actually having to do anything. That wasn’t the way that I looked at it. The way I viewed wearing a safety pin was that the person was actually doing something even more than they were already doing. And since so many people were doing such wonderful things over the last eight years, doing something more was going above and beyond the call of duty, so to speak.

It might actually be that there is no easy way to show solidarity with people that are suffering, but there are enough people that are fed up with the seeing others suffer that they are getting creative in showing their support.

Solidarity In Speech

On November 26, 2016, The New York Times posted an opinion piece by R. Derek Black that should warm the heart of anyone that is looking for allies.

Mr. Black was born into a “prominent white nationalist family” that included David Duke as his godfather and the founder of Stormfront as a father. Despite being socialized into such extreme white nationalism, Mr. Black overcame his background to stand by the people that he once stood against.

… For me, the conversations that led me to change my views started because I couldn’t understand why anyone would fear me. I thought I was only doing what was right and defending those I loved.

I think the “Hamilton” cast modeled well one way to make that same connection when they appealed to Vice President-elect Mike Pence from the stage: “We, sir — we — are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us.” …

The entire article is worth reading if you want to feel the power of what is possible.

But there is more to solidarity than a one-time enemy turning into an ally.

Solidarity in Symbols

In Ann Arbor, Michigan, a woman had been flying a rainbow American flag. Originally, it hadn’t brought much attention. That all changed after the previous election when she was left a note about someone’s disappointment with the flag she was flying.

In truth, after reading the original note, I can understand the point of view of the writer. While he didn’t seem to have any intention of being divisive, Ms Pearlman, who has a daughter that is lesbian, was hurt. Her neighbors, after finding out about the note, showed their solidarity with symbols.

Her neighbours reacted swiftly to the incident – with dozens of people also buying rainbow flags and flying them in solidarity.

Ms Pearlman continued: “How did my wonderful, loving neighbors respond? They built a wall of flags.

“As of today there are 20 flags flying and more are to come. Love will always trump hate.”

In this instance, you might be telling yourself that there was no need for a show of solidarity. After all, it is possible to argue that the man didn’t mean any harm with his note. He might have just been insensitive to the pain he caused. Even if that is true, there are enough people out there that are trying to hurt others that any show of solidarity should be welcome.

Solidarity in Lights

A woman that left the Mormon church was visited by another woman that still belonged to the church. The visiting woman didn’t realize that they weren’t of a similar mind on the question of LGBTQ issues. The story describes how the visitor proceeded to say things like this:

“Anyway, thinking that we were allies, she went on to tell us how horrified she was when her son got turned down for prom because the girl was already planning on going with her girlfriend.”

The neighbour’s anti-LGBT views just got more open as she told the ex-Mormon couple how they disagreed with the local school raising awareness about transgender issues.

“That, coupled with the school’s justification for letting lesbians attend the prom together and doing an assembly that taught kids the facts about being transgender were just too much for her,” Mrs Rosey Crotch writes.

“She said that she had to move away because she was so sick of the gays and transgenders and everyone making their ‘lifestyle’ okay.”

Her solution to show the visitor, and anyone else that was interested, where she stood on the issue of LGBTQ equality was to create a display with 10,000 rainbow colored Christmas lights.

Rainbow Colored Christmas Lights

So yes, symbols of solidarity are important. While I might have to find another way to show solidarity with those that are suffering, I will continue to praise anyone that takes a step — no matter how large or small — to show solidarity with those that need their support.

Mike Pence roadmap for the first 100 days of the Donald Trump administration

The Wall Street Journal has an article about an interview they did with Vice President elect Mike Pence over what the Donald Trump administration hopes to accomplish in the first 100 and 200 days.

The new administration’s first priorities would include curbing illegal immigration, abolishing and then replacing Mr. Obama’s signature health-care system, nominating a justice to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court, and strengthening the military, said Mr. Pence …

This is, indeed, and ambitious — but ultimately impractical — plan. While I don’t want to rule out any possibility, especially considering that Donald Trump actually won against all conventional wisdom, the Donald Trump administration has very little chance of actually getting these things accomplished.

Let’s look at repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Repeal should be fundamentally possible through the process of reconciliation. That would allow the effective repeal of Obamacare, but it would not allow for its replacement to be implemented. While I won’t argue that this is a likely strategy for the Republican House, Senate, and White House, there are already some Republicans worried about the consequences of repeal without a replacement.

Nominating a Supreme Court judge doesn’t seem to be too difficult either. And as long as the Supreme Court nominee isn’t too ideologically partisan, it doesn’t seem to be any great stretch that they would get Senate approval. If, on the other hand, they are too extreme, you can count on a Democratic filibuster.

The ideology of the Republicans also has to do with whether they can get anything passed with respect to immigration reform and military spending. Neither of these topics is anathema to the Democrats. As long as the Republicans are willing to work with the Democrats, then compromise — and therefore progress — can be made. If, on the other hand, the Republicans choose to attempt to implement the type of “reform” that Donald Trump was famous for in his campaign, then they can expect the Democrats to filibuster that type of extreme legislation for the sake of the country.

2016 Election – The Loyal Opposition

This was an incredibly close election. While the polls initially showed that Hillary Clinton would win, in the end it was Donald Trump that was victorious. Not only did Donald Trump win the White House, but Republicans also maintained control of the Senate and House of Representatives. Democrats have lost the reins of power in Washington. We are now the loyal opposition.
Continue reading 2016 Election – The Loyal Opposition

Still can’t process this election

Donald Trump has won the election.

One of the things that I have heard is about how Democrats are now in one of the five stages of grief. I don’t know if it is true for everyone, but it is true for me. But there are other emotions raging other than denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance; for me, there is also fear.

The road to the future has never been smooth. Often, the road to the future is bumpy and filled with U-turns. And it is in those U-turns that my fear lies. We as a nation had been making so much progress on various fronts. LGBTQ rights — while far from complete — were advancing, healthcare was becoming a reality for those at the lower end of the economic spectrum, people were beginning to believe that we were damaging our planet through the use of fossil fuel, and a plethora of other small steps toward progress. Now, I fear that all the progress that has been made will be undone.

But the thing that I fear the most is the people that brought this tragedy upon the United States. Donald Trump made no secret of whom he was when he was running for President. His sexism, narcissism, exclusionism, incompetence, and general hatred of others was right out in the open for everyone to see. His lies and falsehoods were so outrageous that even the fact checkers had trouble keeping up with them. And yet this is the person selected by the enough people to become the next President of the United States.

The realization that there are enough people to willing to hurt every non-white, non-straight, non-cis, non-rich, non-male has returned to me the fear that I used to feel around others.

Today I weep for myself, my country, my neighbors, and everyone else that suddenly wonders whether our country will continue to welcome us.