I am privileged to have some really smart friends who often write things I wish I had said myself, or from a perspective outside of mine. Today I exercise my privilege by posting a Guest Rant from a sharp, insightful and passionate woman with her permission of course.

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I’m sick and tired of the “lesser of two evils” narrative. I already voted for Hillary–proudly and with excitement. I don’t believe she is evil–and I’m pretty cynical about politicians.

If you hate Hillary–if you think she is corrupt and evil–I will gently suggest to you that you are as wrong as a wrong thing can be, and that you are buying a deliberate media narrative that I’ve been watching in horror for nearly 30 years.

Sexism is a helluva drug–and I can’t think of another American female political figure who has faced the degree of rank misogyny that HRC has for nearly 3 decades.

And yet…she’s still standing. Given what she’s endured in this campaign–and in all the years since Bill first decided to run for the presidency–that pretty much counts as a miracle in my book.

That is not to gloss over Hillary’s flaws. She is not perfect–and neither am I. The difference is that I’ve been able to live my life in relative privacy and I’ve never had thousands (millions?) of people’s lives in my hands. I wonder how well I would have done had I been in her place? How well do you think YOU would have done? And are you sure of your answer? Why?

We essentially ask our leaders to be perfect–but how can they be? They take on the responsibilities that the rest of us will not–CANNOT–even contemplate.

There is a reason the Emperor Constantine waited until he was on his deathbed to be baptized.

I once heard Jimmy Carter–a genuinely good, kind, FAITHFUL man–talking about the terrible decisions that he had to make while he was in office–and he’s the only president in my lifetime who did not lead us into war or preside over one that was in progress. He said there were times that he simply had to lay his faith aside when he was President in order to do his job.

I can only imagine the toll that took on him.

I also keep thinking about my favorite episode of “West Wing,” (“Take This Sabbath Day”) where President Jed Bartlett allows a federal prisoner to be put to death, even though his faith and his heart cry out against the evil of the death penalty. Watch that episode to see what it is like to be the most powerful elected leader in the world–and to have zero power to stop something you believe to be an offense against God and humanity.

The requirements of the job are superhuman. I would not want to have to make them–or to have to answer to God for the choices and outcomes.

But I believe–I might even go so far as to say that I KNOW–that Hillary is a person of faith, and I trust her to try her best to listen to what God is calling her to do–and to do it, even when it is hard and heartbreaking.

She is not perfect. She has made many mistakes–and will make more. Her mistakes will be so much more costly than any you or I will make–and she will be the one who has to look in the mirror, or lay her head on her pillow at night, and ask for God’s guidance and forgiveness.

So I will pray for her, because she is willing to take on a job that would destroy most of us. I believe she wants that job because she loves this country, and because she believes she can make life better for ALL of us–but especially the most vulnerable in our midst. I believe this because I have been watching her for almost 30 years.

No matter what you THINK you know about her–Whitewater, Bill, Benghazi, emails–*I* know this: She has spent her entire life fighting for the people that Jesus fought for–the poor, the marginalized, women and children. The record is all there if you only bother to look for it.

She will make mistakes–and I will hold her accountable for those. But she will also admit when she’s wrong, and ask forgiveness, which is something I rarely–if ever–see male politicians do.

She will push policies I don’t agree with–and I will push back when she does. But I learned a valuable lesson from the Tea Party (and from Bernie Sanders as well, TBQH)–intellectual/political purity is a recipe for disaster. Politics is the art of the possible–and that requires compromises and deal-making. My far-left heart finds this almost intolerable, but my brain–the one reluctantly trained in logic, statistics, and data analysis–knows the truth. We move forward an inch at a time–slowly and laboriously, but in the direction of justice and peace if we just keep trying.

And that’s why I’m With Her.  If you give her a chance, I believe she will lead us in the right direction. And if she doesn’t, I’ll be the first one in line to tell her she’s missed the mark–as I recall my own failings and pray for her, myself, you, this nation, and the world.

Kyrie eleison. GO VOTE. Amen.

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I live in a segregated neighborhood.

That may seem like an odd way to describe my corner of our racially and socio-economically diverse inner-ring suburb, but the truth is I live in the midst of a lot of folks who share my values and think like me. We chose this city because we wanted fellow citizen activists (as annoying as that can be at times), as well as good schools, a walkable neighborhood, and easy access to everything a major city has to offer.

A primitive human instinct to stay safe by sticking close to your tribe, also known as Self-Segregation.

But when I wake up everyday to alarming news that makes me wonder out loud – “Who are these people? How can they believe these things?” – I know I need to “Check my Bubble.”

We all have a Social & Cultural Bubble despite access to excessive amounts of information. It’s pretty normal to live in a Bubble near people with similar values, where dissent is reduced or limited through social politeness. And, because the Internet makes it easy we don’t examine this “information diet” that filters out news that conflicts with our beliefs. In other words, we live in a Bubble.

In my Bubble everyone is appalled and horrified at Trump’s efforts to undermine the legitimacy of the election, incite violence and encourage vigilante behavior in his followers.

I was thinking about that Bubble as I watched the third presidential debate and read the analysis.

Recently I participated in a diversity workshop where provocative questions are used to initiate deep, honest conversation and breakdown biases. The workshop was held in a rural area with participants from a mix of demographics (age, gender, race, professional status.)

The workshop questions were opportunities for people to share personal information about themselves beyond their surface presentation and disrupt their implicit biases about others. The dilemma for most participants is how to answer without leaving yourself too vulnerable.

Sometimes its tough to remember that we make choices like these every day about how we present ourselves to the world. For some people the stakes are always high. Depending on the situation, deciding to share the invisible parts that make us the complex people that we really are can be dangerous and/or exhausting.

We humans make assumptions about people based on their looks that we then call a “first impression”. In about a tenth of a second we form an opinion about a person based on the color of skin, (assumed) gender, class (clothing), and work ethic (their weight). And then we add to that impression with additional information. When people are selecting information to reinforce their assumptions (positive or negative) that’s bias.

The diversity workshop was an effort to help folks see and unravel their assumptions. After last nights debate (and the last three months!), I couldn’t help thinking we need similar workshops to bring people together around politics. That would mean Trump, Stein, Johnson, and Clinton supporters openly, respectfully, sharing information in an effort to disrupt bias.

Because we cannot afford to dismiss Trump supporters or third-party supporters as Wackos.

I agree that some people hold deplorable opinions and twisted world views, but the majority don’t. As I have written in this blog before, I know people who support all four of the candidates, but I don’t always understand why.

We owe it to ourselves to try and understand what is driving people to the level of fear and disillusionment that allows them to believe in large scale plots and conspiracies, dismiss evidence, and embrace a world view disconnected from accepted reality.

We are the sum of our parts, visible and invisible. When we choose to reveal our invisible parts that’s when it gets interesting. When we struggle to understand others invisible parts, that’s when it gets real.

Clinton’s closing statement at the third presidential debate,  “I’m reaching out to all Americans — Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. Because we need everybody to help make our country what it should be”, reminds us that the USA is what it is because “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

I’m with Her.

Jones Hand Sewing Machine Parts Diagram
Jones Hand Sewing Machine Parts Diagram

I survived watching the first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

The only moment that made me scream “What!?!” at the top of my lungs  came during post-debate analysis when syndicated columnist Mark Shields said that “Clinton is not likeable” and that she didn’t show herself to be the “kind of person you want in the carpool or on the PTA.”

Suddenly I felt like I was 13 years old again struggling to contain tears of frustration as I attempt to argue with my father and older brother that women are as good as men and deserve equal rights.

I didn’t have the language in 1978 to articulate the documented societal, cultural, and institutional obstacles that get in the way of women advancing and thriving in their careers.  What I did have all those years ago was a bone deep knowledge that I and other women were not getting a fair shake because of our gender.

By benefit of the world I grew up in and the family that raised me I learned quite a few lessons early:

  • Tears make you weak and only the strong get respect.
  • Strong women are angry and no one likes an angry woman.
  • If you don’t smile all the time you are angry.
  • Its OK for men to interrupt you and it’s rude of you to interrupt others.
  • You really don’t know what you are talking about if a mans opinion differs from yours.
  • If you complain about sexist behavior you are using gender as an excuse.
  • You only see sexist behavior because you are looking for it.
  • Other women may support your position, or tell you to stop making waves.

Watching the presidential debate last night, it appears that almost nothing has changed since I was 13.

One of the most accomplished women alive was accorded zero respect by an inexperienced man who blustered and shouted instead of answering questions. The post-debate judgement of performance was equally bizarre:

  • Her calm, composed presence was called “an icy stare.”
  • Her composed, thoughtful answers were called “a timid, hesitant start.”
  • Her thoughtful, detailed plans were called “an inability to give a short answer.”

Otherwise known as she can’t win for losing.

I recently had the pleasure of delivering a keynote at a women’s conference where I very lightly touched on some of the ways that gender bias can get in the way of women advancing and thriving in their careers. I say lightly because not everyone (women included) believes that gender bias is a thing.

Joan Williams does a brilliant job detailing four kinds of bias in her book “What Works for Women at Work.” Williams calls the balance women must strike between “likeability” and authority, “The Tightrope”.  This “Tightrope” is one Hillary Clinton has been walking for so long that she can probably now do blind-folded pirouettes at 10,000 feet.

But it doesn’t matter if her “likability” isn’t based on whether she’s the kind of woman you want sitting next to you at an important meeting, but whether she’s the kind of woman you want to rely on for your car pool.

While this sexist comment by Shields was meant to show how unlikable Hillary Clinton is I must say that if I had to choose someone to rely on to pick up my kid after practice I would stake my daughter’s LIFE on Clinton being there every time. Early. With freakin snacks.

In fact, I believe she is qualified for – and has excelled at – every position she has ever taken on from senior class president to senator to secretary of state.

So yes, Mark Shields, I am comfortable with Hillary Clinton running the PTA, the car pool and the United States of America.

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I have been increasingly silent on my blog during the last year.

Partially because I had a mistaken idea that I should only write about topics related to personal growth, coaching, and professional development.

And partially as self-protection from the astonishing levels of anger, hatred and viciousness we have witnessed in our society over the last year. There was so much written, spoken, shared and re-posted that I felt my voice didn’t matter in the white noise.

I changed my mind. Every voice matters.

Watch & listen to a message for today from 20 years ago.

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I Fit the description…

This is what I wore to work today. On my way to get a burrito before work, I was detained by the police. I noticed the police car in the public lot behind Centre Street.  As I was walking away from my car, the cruiser followed me.  I walked down Centre Street and was about…

http://artandeverythingafter.com/i-fit-the-description/

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While I was facilitating a discussion about race this week it came up that some people “didn’t want to get into it” because black people are “always so angry.”

There’s a lot to address in that statement.  I chose to see it as an open door and put aside any discussion of white privilege. Instead, I raised the concept of anger being a response to repeated pain. If the injury is familiar, if it happens over and over – sometimes every day – when it happens again, its possible the response is anger.

Or flame.

I always hesitate to respond too quickly to racial events in the news for two reasons: first, because I want to be thoughtful and not throw gasoline on any fire, and second, because current events take a few minutes to evolve even in our instant world.

I have my personal reaction to the actions of Baltimore mom Toya Graham, but I’m more concerned with the way the narrative about her is shaped to match the agenda of politicians and talking heads all over the political landscape.

How we get our information, what bubble we choose to live in, impacts our ability to process in the present, as well as in the future history books. And even Howard Zinn sometimes left things out.

I am still thinking. And watching. And reading. And processing.

In the meantime, I found Claire Potter’s perspective to be very worthwhile. On the heels of our daughter remarking today, “Why are you guys always talking about such depressing things every morning?” this sentence hit me hard – “because I grew up to study violence, and race, as historical phenomena, I have access to even better informed despair than I did as a child.”

I may have to buy her book Doing Recent History.

Read her blog post Teaching Baltimore, Teaching the History of American Violence.

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As Women’s History month drifts to a close I feel like we are running in place with once step forward, two steps back on improving gender equity.  And don’t get me started on intersectionality.

I read the article reposted below and agreed 100%. But I can’t count the number of times I have advised women clients on how to be more assertive without crossing the invisible line into being “a bitch.”

Saying ‘Stop interrupting me’ sounds like a good idea until you get called uncooperative and hostile. And saying ‘I just said that’ may feel good until you’re told you always try to take credit for everything.

It’s a dilemma, and a dance, and a lousy reality. So please don’t tell me that we don’t need these “special months,” or that we should have a “men’s history month if we are going to be equal.” I write a lot about gender and racial equity in this blog, so you can look up all my radical opinions that support my argument if you like.

Or you can ponder the fact a post tagged “Girly Things” gets double the click rate of a post tagged “Feminism.”

The post below is long. And true. And makes me wonder if teaching my daughter manners has hobbled her for life. Bad feminist. Bad mommy.


By Soraya Chemaly / alternet.org

“Stop interrupting me.”  “I just said that.” “No explanation needed.”

In fifth grade, I won the school courtesy prize. In other words, I won an award for being polite. My brother, on the other hand, was considered the class comedian. We were very typically socialized as a “young lady” and a “boy being a boy.” Globally, childhood politeness lessons are gender asymmetrical. We socialize girls to take turns, listen more carefully, not curse and resist interrupting in ways we do not expect boys to. Put another way, we generally teach girls subservient habits and boys to exercise dominance.

I routinely find myself in mixed-gender environments (life) where men interrupt me. Now that I’ve decided to try and keep track, just out of curiosity, it’s quite amazing how often it happens. It’s particularly pronounced when other men are around.

This irksome reality goes along with another — men who make no eye contact. For example, a waiter who only directs information and questions to men at a table, or the man last week who simply pretended I wasn’t part of a circle of five people (I was the only woman). We’d never met before and barely exchanged 10 words, so it couldn’t have been my not-so-shrinking-violet opinions.

These two ways of establishing dominance in conversation, frequently based on gender, go hand-in-hand with this last one: A woman, speaking clearly and out loud, can say something that no one appears to hear, only to have a man repeat it minutes, maybe seconds later, to accolades and group discussion.

After I wrote about the gender confidence gap recently, of the 10 items on a list, the one that resonated the most was the issue of whose speech is considered important. In sympathetic response to what I wrote, a person on Twitter sent me a cartoon in which one woman and five men sit around a conference table. The caption reads, “That’s an excellent suggestion, Miss Triggs. Perhaps one of the men here would like to make it.” I don’t think there is a woman alive who has not had this happen.

The cartoon may seem funny, until you realize exactly how often it seriously happens. And — as in the cases of Elizabeth Warren or say, Brooksley Born — how broadly consequential the impact can be. When you add race and class to the equation the incidence of this marginalization is even higher.

This suppressing of women’s voices, in case you are trying to figure out what Miss Triggs was wearing or drinking or might have said to provoke this response, is what sexism sounds like.

These behaviors, the interrupting and the over-talking, also happen as the result of difference in status, but gender rules. For example, male doctors invariably interrupt patients when they speak, especially female patients, but patients rarely interrupt doctors in return. Unless the doctor is a woman. When that is the case, she interrupts far less and is herself interrupted more. This is also true of senior managers in the workplace. Male bosses are not frequently talked over or stopped by those working for them, especially if they are women; however, female bosses are routinely interrupted by their male subordinates.

This preference for what men have to say, supported by men and women both, is a variant on “mansplaining.” The word came out of an article by writer Rebecca Solnit, who explained that the tendency some men have to grant their own speech greater import than a perfectly competent woman’s is not a universal male trait, but the “intersection between overconfidence and cluelessness where some portion of that gender gets stuck.”

Solnit’s tipping point experience really did take the cake. She was talking to a man at a cocktail party when he asked her what she did. She replied that she wrote books and she described her most recent one, River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild WestThe man interrupted her soon after she said the word Muybridge and asked, “And have you heard about the very important Muybridge book that came out this year?” He then waxed on, based on his reading of a review of the book, not even the book itself, until finally, a friend said, “That’s her book.” He ignored that friend (also a woman) and she had to say it more than three times before “he went ashen” and walked away. If you are not a woman, ask any woman you know what this is like, because it is not fun and happens to all of us.

In the wake of Larry Summers’ “women can’t do math” controversy several years ago, scientist Ben Barres wrote publicly about his experiences, first as a woman and later in life, as a male. As a female student at MIT, Barbara Barres was told by a professor after solving a particularly difficult math problem, “Your boyfriend must have solved it for you.” Several years after, as Ben Barres, he gave a well-received scientific speech and he overhead a member of the audience say, “His work is much better than his sister’s.”

Most notably, he concluded that one of the major benefits of being male was that he could now “even complete a whole sentence without being interrupted by a man.”

I’ve had teenage boys, irritatingly but hysterically, excuse what they think is “lack of understanding” to [my] “youthful indiscretion.” Last week as I sat in a cafe, a man in his 60s stopped to ask me what I was writing. I told him I was writing a book about gender and media and he said, “I went to a conference where someone talked about that a few years ago. I read a paper about it a few years ago. Did you know that car manufacturers use slightly denigrating images of women to sell cars? I’d be happy to help you.” After I suggested, smiling cheerily, that the images were beyond denigrating and definitively injurious to women’s dignity, free speech and parity in culture, he drifted off.

It’s not hard to fathom why so many men tend to assume they are great and that what they have to say is more legitimate. It starts in childhood and never ends. Parents interrupt girls twice as often and hold them to stricter politeness norms. Teachers engage boys, who correctly see disruptive speech as a marker of dominant masculinity, more often and more dynamically than girls.

As adults, women’s speech is granted less authority and credibility. We aren’t thought of as able critics or as funny. Men speak moremore often, and longer than women in mixed groups (classroomsboardroomslegislative bodiesexpert media commentary and, for obvious reasons religious institutions.) Indeed, in male-dominated problem solving groups including boards, committees and legislatures, men speak 75% more than women, with negative effects on decisions reached. That’s why, as researchers summed up, “Having a seat at the table is not the same as having a voice.”

Even in movies and television, male actors engage in more disruptive speech and garner twice as much speaking and screen time as their female peers. This is by no means limited by history or to old media but is replicated online. Listserve topics introduced by men have a much higher rate of response and on Twitter, people retweet men two times as often as women.

These linguistic patterns are consequential in many ways, not the least of which is the way that they result in unjust courtroom dynamics, where adversarial speech governs proceedings and gendered expression results in women’s testimonies being interrupted, discounted and portrayed as not credible according to masculinized speech norms. Courtrooms also show exactly how credibility and status, women’s being lower, are also doubly affected by race. If Black women testifying in court adopt what is often categorized as “[white] women’s language,” they are considered less credible. However, if they are more assertive, white jurors find them “rude, hostile, out of control, and, hence [again], less credible.” Silence might be an approach taken by women to adapt to the double bind, but silence doesn’t help when you’re testifying.

The best part though is that we are socialized to think women talk more. Listener bias results in most people thinking that women are hogging the floor when men are actually dominating. Linguists have concluded that much of what is popularly understood about women and men being from different planets, verbally, confuses “women’s language” with “powerless language.”

There are, of course, exceptions that illustrate the role that gender (and not biological sex) plays. For example, I have a very funny child who regularly engages in simultaneous speech, disruptively interrupts and randomly changes topics. If you read a script of one of our typical conversations, you would probably guess the child is a boy based on the fact that these speech habits are what we think of as “masculine.” The child is a girl, however. She’s more comfortable with overt displays of assertiveness and confidence than the average girl speaker. It’s hard to balance making sure she keeps her confidence with teaching her to be polite. However, excessive politeness norms for girls, expected to set an example for boys, have real impact on women who are, as we constantly hear, supposed to override their childhood socialization and learn to talk like men to succeed (learn to negotiate, demand higher pay, etc.).

The first time I ran this post, I kid you not, the first response I got was from a Twitter user, a man, who, without a shred of self-awareness, asked, “What would you say if a man said those things to you mid-conversation?”

Socialized male speech dominance is a significant issue, not just in school, but everywhere. If you doubt me, sit quietly and keep track of speech dynamics at your own dinner table, workplace, classroom. In the school bus, the sidelines of fields, in places of worship. It’s significant and consequential.

People often ask me what to teach girls or what they themselves can do to challenge sexism when they see it. “What can I do if I encounter sexism? It’s hard to say anything, especially at school.” In general, I’m loathe to take the approach that girls should be responsible for the world’s responses to them, but I say to them, practice these words, every day:

“Stop interrupting me,”

“I just said that,” and

“No explanation needed.”

It will do both boys and girls a world of good. And no small number of adults, as well.


Soraya L. Chemaly writes about feminism, gender and culture. She writes for the Huffington Post, Feminist Wire, BitchFlicks and Fem2.0 among others.

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The comment was “Anyone who doesn’t think we are living in a police state is deluding themselves.” It was made in response to the video of the public defender who was “arrested for resisting arrest” while trying to protect her clients rights.

I don’t think the person making the comment really meant a police state like the Stasi or Gestapo, it’s just insanely difficult to name the disbelief and outrage at police behavior that seems increasingly arbitrary.

What was especially useful about this incident was that the trumped charge was applied to a small, white female attorney. In a suit. With glasses.

Aside from the fact that the “perpetrator” was instructing her client about their rights and didn’t do anything to warrant arrest, it’s a powerful visual to watch a calm, professional woman trying to talk to police, inside a courthouse, and get immediately handcuffed and shuffled to jail.

What we are seeing, through the grace of smart phone cameras everywhere, is police autonomy taken to extreme. Police officers, good, bad or indifferent, appear to be increasingly operating from the assumption that they have the right to be right.

This means cops expect 100% compliance to requests (orders, commands) of citizens in all situations regardless of the level of danger or provocation. This is a new frontier for a majority of US citizens.

100% Compliance is the idea behind “The Talk” that African-American parents have with their children. The Talk, how to conduct yourself with the police, is a slightly more main stream topic since Trayvon Martin segued into Eric Garner, into John Crawford, into Michael Brown, and then Tamir Rice. And even more recently when Bill DiBlasio’s comments about talking to his bi-racial son about being careful around cops, was taken by NYC police as an insult requiring apology.

The drop of lemonade we can squeeze out of these lemons is that more people can now see what it looks like to have an encounter with cops who have 100% control and authority. And use it. It’s shocking because it’s NOT racial profiling, its police autonomy pushed to the extreme and used to ensure 100% compliance.

And the bright, beautiful lemons keep piling up as we see the privileges that once made people feel secure they were an “Us”, and not a “Them”, no longer protect anyone from the expectation of 100% compliance with police orders.

An attorney at a nightclub was arrested for obstructing official business. The “probable cause” was cause she was giving her friends the legal advice that they didn’t have to answer police questions without knowing if they were suspects. She got in the way so they got her out of the way.

It’s so easy for people to find a reason why that black guy deserved/caused/triggered a fearful cop’s over-reach. (No kidding – trolls and cop apologists were blaming Tamir Rice for not putting his hands up in the 1.5 seconds before he was shot.)

It’s harder to explain rights getting tramped on when the people look like nice, upstanding (white) citizens.

Remember Henry Louis Gates getting arrested on his front porch? The cop knew he lived there, he wasn’t arrested for breaking and entering, he was arrested for being “disorderly” and yelling at the officer. Professor Gates was mouthy. His age, his position at Harvard, his intellect and international celebrity did not give him the right to be angry at a police officer. So he went to jail.

Last summer a Cultural Studies professor in Arizona was charged with assault, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest after arguing with a police officer who stopped her for jaywalking. Watching the video you can hear her astonishment at the officers disrespect. Her rational responses, her nice clothes, her position as a professor at the university didn’t give her the right to refuse his orders, or keep her from being thrown to the ground like a criminal.

The examples go on and on. If the police have the absolute right to be right – always defended later as ” appropriate actions, with bounds” – then citizens have no rights.

How do we reclaim our rights to due process, to probable cause, to police as protectors rather than aggressors, if dialogue and de-escalation are off the table?

Profiling and arrogant, unfair treatment of citizens by cops is not just about black and brown people anymore, its all kinda folks. Maybe that will be the wakeup call. The disconnect between the police and citizens will continue to deepen and fester unless we do something about it. Before we end up in that “Police State” folks like to talk about.

9 Tips for Talking to Police Officers:

  1. If you are in a car, keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times.
  2. Do not reach for your wallet, in any bag, backpack or glove box.
  3. Keep your hands out of your pockets.
  4. Be polite (yes sir/no sir) and comply with orders. Do not argue.
  5. Do not struggle, resist or run.
  6. Do not lie.
  7. When possible, ask if you are free to leave.
  8. Be silent.
  9. Remember details, record what happened as soon as you can, and if your rights are violated, call the ACLU.

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There is a moment in every public discussion of race where the topic is no longer the justice or injustice of an action, the existence of structural discrimination, or lack thereof.

Comments explode beneath news stories, viscous and sticky, about what the personal appearance says about the people involved.

If the subject is a black woman they start with her hair, move on to her nails and end up with her clothes. If the subject is a black man the sequence is usually hoodie, sagging pants, and “gang related accessories”, meaning anything from his shoes to his tattoo’s to his jewelry.

Just how “white” does a black person have to look, dress or sound before their appearance isn’t a factor that caused what happened to them?

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Samaria Rice, mother of Tamir Rice

Samaria Rice, the mother of Tamir Rice, the 12 year old boy shot on Cleveland’s west side, was derided for her choice of hairstyle at the press conference where she talked about her son being killed by police. Followed by comments about her being a bad parent, her son being a “thug”, and how he deserved what he got because he didn’t follow police orders.

Maybe if Samaria Rice looked more like Condoleezza Rice (no relation), maybe the attacks on her character would lessen. Maybe not.

Now the brutal truth of Samaria’s description about her daughter’s treatment by the police when she ran to her little brother after he was shot is now on the video released by the city. As Samaria reported, her daughter was tackled by police, handcuffed, and placed in the patrol car. The police look so cold-blooded and heartless, and the girl looks so desperate to get to her brother, that it made me cry to watch it.

There is no sound with the video but her mother said when she arrived she could hear her daughter screaming for her from inside the patrol car. On the video its 15 minutes before any police officer even approaches the car to talk to the handcuffed sister. Its five minutes after that before they take the handcuffs off her. The video ends, her mother and brother are on the way to the hospital, and the girl is still sitting in the patrol car. In shock I would imagine.

Comments on the video say things like her treatment proves stupidity runs in the family as she did not comply with the cops either, and people need to teach their children better and so on.

I’m wondering what visual might get people to feel compassion for the little girl traumatized by seeing her brother shot and bleeding on the ground. Maybe if she were more light skinned? Wearing a school uniform instead of jeans and a hoodie (we’ll overlook the fact they were at a playground & rec center).

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Mary Ann Vecchio, a 14-year-old runaway kneeling over the body of Jeffrey Miller minutes after he was shot by the Ohio National Guard, Kent, Ohio, May 4, 1970. Photo: John Filo

How about this one?

I know I don’t have anything productive to contribute to the conversation at the moment. No solutions, no call to action, just observations and suppositions.

The world is complex outside the comfortable hegemonic box. Sometimes it can be made simpler for people with careful preparation, like Mrs Rosa Parks whose story helps school children understand what 15-year old, pushy Claudette Colvin started by shouting about her constitutional rights on that Montgomery Bus. Both were necessary for change to happen.

So who is the attractive, composed, light-skinned, well-educated, married African-American symbol of this civil rights revolution I wonder? Or maybe video and the internet will make that concept obsolete.

Watch the 30 minutes of the Tamir Rice video that was released and let me know what you think.

Video shows Tamir Rice shooting aftermath
Video shows Tamir Rice shooting aftermath

 

The neighborhood I grew up in appears desolate and broken. Ten miles from where I live, its at least ten years since I’ve driven down those streets.

I made the long trip back recently for a very specific reason. To participate in a protest for Tamir Rice, the 12-year old boy shot by police outside of Cudell Recreation Center on Cleveland’s westside.

The rec center next to my elementary school, two blocks from my childhood home. The rec center where my friends and I spent countless summers swimming, playing tennis and goofing around by the clock tower.

The protest was attended by people who had traveled by bus from Ferguson, Missouri to stand in solidarity with the Cleveland protestors. I thought if they could ride a bus all night I could at least drive 25 minutes across town.

It was a hard thing to witness in a place so familiar that now no longer belongs to me.

Afterward, on the way home, I drove past my mother’s house, and was struck by how very tiny it was. (Eight people in 900 sq. feet & one bathroom – no kidding.)  I was unprepared for the unrelenting poverty.

Used to be lots of homes like my moms with overly groomed miniscule yards, flower beds and American flags flying. Now there is very little evidence of that kind of effort.

Looking the past in the face makes me pay attention to what I’m doing in the present to make a better future. How am I acting in my daily life, what am I contributing in my community, what is in my head and coming out my mouth that reduces racial injustice? Some days probably not so much.

Tomorrow I am participating in a facilitator training for the YWCA “It’s Time To Talk: Forums on Race” series. If they choose to use me as a facilitator I can help myself and other people have safe, meaningful discussions about race. Even if they choose not to use me I call spending six hours in social justice training “checking my head” a good day.

How do you check your head?

Mavis will see you out.

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Cudell Rec Center has a beautiful glass wall on the front and a sliding glass wall on the pool patio. I loved to swim in the winter and watch it snow through the steamy windows.

 

 

 

 

UPDATE: November 25, 2019

Much remains the same since I wrote this post back in 2014, and some are actually worse. One thing that is better (and worse) is a new Tamir Rice Safety Handbook created by the ACLU of Ohio in collaboration with Samaria Rice, the mother of Tamir Rice.

The better is that Samaria Rice can help publicize a tool that may keep other children from being killed. The worse is that we need a guide for black and brown children to navigate interactions with law enforcement.

 

ORIGINAL POST: November 25, 2014

I knew the Ferguson grand jury would not indict officer Wilson. I’m not cynical, just familiar with history.

I knew I would feel like shit hearing the outcome, but I wouldn’t have predicted the sadness. I naturally lean toward anger & outrage in the face of our ongoing social & political injustice.

Closer to home, Tamir Rice, the 12 year old boy from my old neighborhood who was killed by a police officer on November 22 for having a toy gun, deepens my sadness and amplifies the questions.

  • How will we change the value we place on black lives in this country?
  • How will we change the perception that black skin is to be feared – the assumption that drives and justifies a violent response from police?
  • How will we grant black teenagers the benefit of youthful stupidity – a privilege widely enjoyed by white teenagers?

The biggest question, the one that is currently making me sad is – what do we do now?

I just taught a workshop the other day about dealing with difficult situations by recognizing your habitual responses and learning about different potential choices. Deciding how to respond rather than just reacting.

So how will we respond to our deeply flawed and biased society? What do we address first? The legal system? Gun culture? Institutional racism? The fact that citizens are brainwashed into thinking that they have no power to change the system?

If I had my druthers I’d start with eliminating folks feelings of collective helplessness so we can get to collective action.

We need to do more.

I need to do more.

Cudell Recreation Center where Tamir Rice was killed

I have been writing too much for the last month to write a blog post in case that’s an acceptable excuse. No time to rant, rave and pick apart the midterm elections, misguided legislation, or the multitude of other irritations that constitute my daily life in 2014.

I am making an exception today for those of you who missed #shirtstorm because it’s never a good idea to let sleeping pigs lie.

A re-post from Dame Magazine (for women who know better)

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that wearing a busty-babe-embellished top on a media tour was a bad idea.
Written by Jess Zimmerman
This week, the European Space Agency pulled off two extraordinary feats: a historic and exciting probe landing on a comet, and an act of bad taste so extreme that it manages to show up the worst of exclusionary science culture in one ugly garment.
ESA scientist Matt Taylor, perhaps emboldened by the viral success of mohawked NASA dreamboat Bobak Ferdowsi, made the dubious choice to do his media interviews in a shirt covered in bustiered cartoon ladies. This met with moderate outrage, as a number of science journalists pointed out that going on TV bedecked with the entire contents of a Heavy Metal magazine is maybe not the way to send the message “science is a respectful and supportive field for women.” That’s where the REAL outrage started.
With their usual immunity to irony, men on the internet got very, VERY angry about the “overreaction” to Taylor’s shirt. In particular, they latched onto a tweet by science writer and editor Rose Eveleth (full disclosure: a friend of mine and an awesome person). Rose’s “overreaction” featured mild sarcasm: “No no women are toooootally welcome in our community, just ask the dude in this shirt.” The Internet Men Collective’s entirely proportional response included “kill yourself,” “quit your bitching,” the inexplicable “sometimes try sex, you’ll be better,” and a sigh-inducing “get back in the kitchen” cliché.
But the “jump off a cliff” responses were larded with a huge portion of something even more insidious: a whole battalion of helpful men sniffing that Taylor obviously didn’t MEAN to offend. He just wanted to wear his funny fancy shirt! He didn’t intend to make a point about how science and scientists view women, or the role that women play! He wasn’t even thinking at ALL about how women might feel!
Well, yes. That’s actually the problem. Taylor’s shirt sends the message that women aren’t welcome in the science community not because he was intending to send that message, but because he didn’t care.
If you asked Taylor directly, he’d probably say he was a big supporter of women in STEM. Most advisers and lab directors and tenure committees would tell you the same. Overtly misogynist throwbacks certainly exist, but one of the paltry nice things about 2014 is that by now, very few male scientists would tell a woman “you’re not welcome here.” Not to her face.
But that’s not the only way sexism works. No, sexism in science doesn’t mean advisers take their students aside and say “don’t worry, you’ll pass your thesis defense, because I’ve noticed we both have a penis.” It doesn’t mean tenure committee meetings include the action item “DID YOU NOTICE SHE’S A WOMAN? INAPPROPRIATE? DISCUSS.” It doesn’t mean lab doors have signs saying “no open-toed shoes and no chicks.”
Here’s what male scientists and historically male-led departments do instead: Offer little or no maternity leave for graduate students. Evaluate women employees on their personalities rather than their competence. Make jokes that cause women colleagues to feel left out and belittled. Go on national television in a shirt that shows women as decorative, sexualized semi-nudes. Hire people who just seem to fit in with the culture that thinks all of this is okay.
These aren’t targeted, conscious, deliberate acts of discrimination. They’re a miasma, a stench that settles over the science building and tells women: “This place isn’t for you.” And it’s a stink that men can’t even smell—that’s what privilege means. They’re not trying to make a noxious cloud; they support women in STEM! They just aren’t equipped to notice it, not unless they’re looking. Not unless they get out their sensors and analyze everything like a Ghostbuster walking around the New York Public Library. Who has the time?
Well, if you don’t have the time, then congratulations: You do not support women in STEM. You don’t want them there. If you did, you’d make a micron of effort to detect and dispel the Man Only fumes settling over your lab. Instead, you’re sitting at your microscope in the middle of a dense fog of poison you’re immune to, telling women “come on into the gas cloud, I don’t see why you wouldn’t, it’s fine for me.” And the sensor is inches from your hand, but you’re too lazy to pick it up.
If you actually do want to support women in STEM—and I believe that many men believe they do—then yes, you have to pay attention, and think, and care about how your culture treats them and how it makes them feel. I know this is hard. It’s unfamiliar, and unfamiliar things are often uncomfortable. It doesn’t come naturally right away. It may not come naturally for a while.
But it sure isn’t rocket science.

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Anyone who reads this blog for more than five minutes knows I am a staunch supporter of reproductive rights. All of them. All forms of birth control, in vitro fertilization, surrogates, tubal ligation, vaginal birth, home birth, planned cesarean, and abortions.

I’m Pro-Abortion, no apologies, no restrictions. Abortion is a medical procedure.  To deny one women access to a medical procedure because another woman (or man) thinks that procedure is a sin is one of the most fucked up things we do as a society. Electoral power being used to promote religious beliefs is obscene.

Denying, limiting and restricting abortions does not make us a people who value life. Denying abortions makes us judgmental and cruel.

I am reposting this mans blog post about a tragic time when he and his wife should’ve been allowed access to the abortion they wanted. Read it and tell me you have any right to make decisions for this couple.

Abortion is a compassionate choice.

Denied.

In 2013, a bill was introduced in the Texas Congress that drastically changed the access and availability of abortion services in the state. Among requirements of hospital admitting privileges and outdated procedures for administering mifepristone, was a change in when an abortion could be performed, down from 28 weeks to 20 weeks. The logic in this change was that a woman has enough time in 20 weeks to make a decision on whether to terminate a pregnancy. More than enough time, the bill’s supporters said, to make that decision.

Throughout the debate on the floor of the house and senate, I saw an amazing example of how Texas politics can work: Wendy Davis filibustered, for 11 hours, Leticia Van De Putte put the senate in its place, asking “at what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over the male colleagues in the room,” hundreds of the bill’s opponents were in the gallery and the halls of the capitol building, chanting to delay the vote. Texas Republicans lied, claimed the vote happened, rescinded, and it was all a weird mixture of joy, confusion, and confoundedness that there was a group of mostly men attempting to making decisions about reproductive rights of women.

I attended the next voting session in the gallery. My mother gave testimony. We watched, and we waited, and hoped that reason would prevail. In the end, the damned thing passed. Currently Texas has eight clinics remaining.

Ever since I was a teenager, I wanted to be a father. Raising a child, watching someone grow into a being of personality, instilling values and love, to better shape a human and a generation is incredibly humbling, scary, exciting, and rewarding in ways unimaginable.

In late 2013, we found out our dream of becoming parents was coming true. We bought two pregnancy tests, they both were positive. We facetimed our parents, our friends, and were overcome with joy and planning and love for our unborn child. My wife, a prenatal yoga teacher and doula, made sure our preparation was immediate and immaculate.

At 8 weeks, we did our first ultrasound and saw our little gummi bear, its heart beating inside. I squeezed my wife’s hand, and cried with such joy. This was happening.

Just before 20 weeks, we had our anatomy ultrasound. We discovered we were having a boy. I kissed my wife, and cried with overwhelming happiness. He was happening. We did everything right that we could.

The day after our anatomy ultrasound, I get a text from my wife – she was having some spotting, and some cramping, and was headed to the midwives. She’d had periodic spotting throughout, due to a benign polyp, but this, it seemed was different.

It is my first day at a new job, but I (of course) drop everything and leave, to be with her. I’m on my bike, and have to find a cab or rental car to meet her. From her voice, I can tell she thinks it’s over already, but I hope and hope and hope.

I find a car, I scramble, I call my friend on the way to meet her, sobbing that I think it’s over already, but I hope and hope and hope. I arrive, and the midwife says she’s already dilated. From her face, I can tell that it’s over already. But I hope.

Through multiple ultrasounds, we find that there is a condition called (offensively) Incompetent Cervix, and we’re on our way to an inevitable early term birth. This is not a miscarriage. He is healthy inside. He is fine inside. He doesn’t know. He will just be born well before he should. The question is just: when?

We go to the hospital. We talk to specialists.

We have options – a cerclage (a stitch to keep the cervix closed), medicine to reduce contractions, waiting to see what will happen. Our fear and our wish is that we keep our child free from a life of pain. At 20 weeks, he will not survive. At 24 weeks, he will be a micro-preemy who may not live outside a hospital. There is a terrible window, and we are rapidly approaching it.

Any option that pushes us into giving our son a life of misery is one that terrifies us, not for us, but for him – we want him to live.

After what feels like an eternity in the hospital, going over every scenario, we find out we might be a good candidate for cerclage–only to find out hours later, that due to her cervix’s current dilation, a cerclage is likely to fail, to buy us only enough time to thrust us directly into that zone where he, due to even more laws and policies, would have to be resuscitated–and must live the life of pain from which we are desperately trying to save him.

A cerclage failure would force us beyond 20 weeks, and, due to the passage of the bill, into the time where we legally have no option but to give birth to a child who would likely not be able to live on his own, or would live with suffering we enabled by pushing him past that point. We would be forced into a time where our options had been stripped, as the legislature has told us “no more”, “this body, and this decision are no longer yours.”

We speak with our doctor, and are given the option that was previously unthinkable, completely out of bounds of possibility. Our doctor gives us the option — that if we feel this is over, if we have said goodbye, and we are ready to make the decision, that ending the pregnancy is a humane option. Our doctor, our medical doctor, tells us that it is a “reasonable decision”. Doctor speak, for “yes”.

We would have to make a decision that we never thought we would ever have to make. Whether to induce, and end a pregnancy that we both wanted so desperately, to save our child from suffering; to not inflict that agony on our unborn son.

The next day, still at the hospital, before we had been able to even begin to come to grips with such a final decision, we talk to another specialist, and we’re told they can’t do it. The bill had passed, and well, it’s just against the law. Sort of. Technically, it’s a a termination, and technically, we’re past the limit. Sort of.

The law itself says 20 weeks “from fertilization” (vs. “gestational age”), and we’re actually only 18 weeks from fertilization–my amazing wife tracked her cycle to a T. The hospital acknowledges it isn’t against the letter of the law, but it is a grey area their policies won’t let them touch. Too risky, too hot button a topic.

We are denied the opportunity to even make a humane and doctor sanctioned medical decision by a bill that we never thought would affect us. I was there at the capitol, fighting for the rights of women. It never crossed my mind I would be fighting for my own. Our last resort had become a no-man’s land.

We are sent home, to let things happen “naturally”. What this means, practically, was to spend days pacing the house, walking the neighborhood, waiting for our son to be born, so that he could die. We let him taste our favorite foods, we play him our favorite music, we show him Veronica Mars, we read to him, we tell him how much we love him. We wait for days, pace, wait, and wait, and we wait, so our son can be born, so that he can die.

The midwives come and see that our dilation is the same – maybe he can be saved? We go to an OB for a final ultrasound, who sees the amniotic sac bulging through the birth canal. The doctor describes the birth as “imminent and inevitable”. So we go back home, to wait for our son to be born, so that he can die.

Our midwife visits again and can feel our son’s foot hanging through the birth canal. Contractions begin, continue for hours and hours. Then stop. For a day.

We wait, for our son to be born, so that he can die.

The next day, contractions pick back up, my wonderful, beautiful, incredible wife labors for hours, breathing, heaving, so strong and powerful as only a woman can be in birth, so that our son could be born.

So that our son could die.

When some men think about abortion rights, they think about unwanted pregnancies. Some think about those victims of incest, rape, and terrible situations of abuse. Some think about those who may have a medical need for an abortion to save the life of the mother. Some think about access to medical services, the right for a woman to control her own body, the implications for women who live in remote locations, the impact on low income individuals.

Rarely, as a man–a man who wanted children more than anything in the world–did I ever think about how abortion rights would affect me.

In the end, we spent 3 days in the hospital, and another 7 days at home, waiting for our son to be born, and to die.

In the end, we had to force ourselves to will our son to be born, and to die, the physical, psychological and emotional trauma of which cannot be overstated.

In the end, the bill intended to save lives, didn’t save a life at all, but shattered two in half. Two that will heal, with friends, family, and time, but two hearts torn apart.

In the end, the bill did nothing but cause pain and anguish as our options narrowed and our decisions stolen.

In the end, our son felt our love for a few brief moments, and our son died.

In the end, our son was born, and our son died on April 10, 2014.

In the end, his name is William.

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Over dinner the other night we had one of those twisty turny conversations that kept us at the table an hour longer than it took to eat our food. During a discussion at school a bunch of my daughters classmates argued that there is no such thing as depression. It’s all in your head.

My daughter and her friends were furious. They know people personally who suffer from depression and know its no joke. In re-playing the argument for us the kid started rattling off statistics and data about how we know that depression is genetic, and when you stigmatize people they wont get help and it all gets worse.

All true unfortunately.

I asked if the teacher corrected the students when they were expressing opinions that were false and she said no, the teacher said she doesn’t want to push her opinions on anyone during discussions.

I have a problem with this kind of thinking. Correcting a FACT that someone has wrong is not “pushing your opinion.” Facts are objective and verifiable, opinions often judge facts, therefore opinions can sometimes change.

Beliefs are different. No evidence required for a belief which makes it inarguable. And this is exactly what makes it inadmissible as any part of a logical argument or defense of an opinion.

And then there’s bullshit, which is just prejudice hiding behind beliefs put forth as “my opinion.” People arguing from belief often try to say the facts are false and usually close with “we’ll have to agree to disagree.”

If I could wave a magic wand I would make deductive logic part of every K-12 curriculum in the US. And part of teacher training while we’re at it. I blame the creationists and the Koch Bros., but that’s a whole other discussion.

Anyway. We started digging into various social stigmas from the past like having acne, left-handedness or being Irish. Unfortunately it takes a couple of generations to reduce stigmas in society at large. There are still lots of stigmas in US society: mental illness, poverty, disability, abortion, HIV-AIDS, and of course obesity. I’m sure I missed a few.

It’s somewhat less common now for people to use words like “retard” and “fag” as pejoratives but few would hesitate to call someone fat. Or “fat bitch” – those two seem to just go together don’t they? Like peanut butter and jelly.

When we finally had to stop the conversation because homework was waiting, the kid was quite impressive tying together depression, stigma, gender bias, body image and the evils of Reddit in her closing remarks. I’m sure that wasn’t the final word on these topics.

Our talk reminded me of a book from the 1970’s that I once owned and foolishly lent out “Fat is a Feminist Issue”. And one recommended by a very thin friend that I read recently “Two Whole Cakes.”

Unfortunately being fat is something you can’t hide like mental illness, your abortion or your HIV status. It’s all out there and its an easy target. Fat is one stigma we will not overcome anytime soon. That statement is both a fact and an opinion.

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There are lots of ways to shut down women when they are speaking. For me the one that stings the most – even more than being called bossy, intimidating, strident or bitch – is the comment “Tell us what you really think.”

Not only does this remark effectively shut me up, it implies my strong opinion is laughable. Less valid because of how it’s expressed.

For good or ill I was born with strong opinions so I have been cut with this particular knife too many times to count. I take some responsibility because I know I do get going sometimes, hence the outlet of my Rant blog.

However, I’ve also spent the last umpteen years trying to squash my voice and style to fit someone else’s definition of acceptable. All that every got me was accusations of “cold and unemotional.” Can’t win for losing.

Just once I would like to hear someone acknowledge that when I am speaking strongly it’s because I care deeply.

If you use this expression, the next time someone around you is vehemently expressing their outrage rather than ridiculing, consider instead an observation that the topic is important to them. Or maybe ask why it’s a hot button issue for them, there is sure to be a reason – do you want to hear it?  Or share your perspective & your reasons.

Anything other than effectively saying “Shut up” would be appreciated by me and all the other loud-mouth, enthusiastic, outraged women out there.

And I will continue my struggle to moderate my emotions to a level that is more comfortable for the world.

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