The Folly of Hope

Trump exposed all our fault lines due to systemic racism, class exploitation and greed. His initial election and very close re-election should act as a clarion call for us to enact sweeping and lasting social change.

“We can disagree and still love each other. Unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.” –James Baldwin.

Now that the election is over and it becomes more and more clear that Trump’s feigned concern about ‘voter fraud’ is simply the preview episode of his new reality show featuring nepotism, greed, grift and corruption, I vow to stop paying attention to this very small person who has occupied my blogspace for the last four years. At some point in my process, I had turned my ire away from Trump and toward his enablers.

Trump is not the all-powerful, baby-King that the media (including the Liberal media) has puffed him up to be. Is Trump racist? Perhaps, but in my opinion, Trump has no organizing principle or long-term, sustained goal. His level of extreme narcissism makes him only concerned with himself. Case in point, his brother died while he was in office and nothing. His wife and two of his sons have Covid-19, no response. The lyrics of one Arrested Development song put it this way,

Most of the persons follow the serpent
Cause the serpent preaches all for self
But why follow someone in search of something
When you’ll get nothing
Serpent’s all for self

Trump is all for himself. One of his lasting legacies is our willingness to lean into this selfishness and lack of concern for others at the time when beating Covid-19 involves a collective sense of responsibility.

Trump has no agenda, but his Puppet Masters do. And even when he is gone, they will still be around. This election exposed in a raw and unrelenting way, how many people in positions of power feel like people of color simply do not have the right to vote. Old-timey voter suppression was subversive and coded in flowery language; this year, the GOP pulled out every trick in the book and at the end of the day just blatantly advocated for throwing out all of the votes in largely minority counties (or at least remained quiet while others said the quiet part out loud).

Trump exposed all our fault lines due to systemic racism, class exploitation and greed. His initial election and very close re-election should act as a clarion call for us to enact sweeping and lasting social change.

As a Progressive, I find Joe Biden significantly inadequate for the task at hand – so I’m going to be hard on him for a moment. [Before you get at me understand this – Whereas, Republicans are a party of lockstep; Democrats are and have always been a ne’er-do-well, rag-tag collective of street fighters. Joe knows that.] I do not like this stance of ‘forgive and forget’ – aka “bringing the country back together.” Nor do I think we should have spent so much energy trying to win back the hearts and minds of those who held their noses through all of Trump’s rhetoric, policies, law-bending actions and broken promises. The Democratic Party walked past so many better qualified presidential candidates, with creative ideas – who were inspiring to our base – to elect a man whose platform is centrist and apologetic. At the end of the day, I may be wrong. Maybe something palatable enough for rogue Republicans was the only path to victory. Time will tell where all of this compromise and acquiescence will lead us.

As far as I am concerned, Trump-ism needs to be destroyed at the root so it won’t have a chance to regroup and come back stronger in 2024.

I was bent out of shape by the idea that a good portion of our country still enjoys “The Trump Show” and wants him to do this for four more years. And then we won! And, magically that thought didn’t bother me as much. I like that our political pendulum swings from Republican to Democrat and back. If everyone gets a chance to vote – I respect the outcome (even if I really don’t like it). I have been saying for four years – this situation is beyond racism and beyond political “sides” – Trump is a lunatic, who is only concerned with himself. He was a dangerous and reckless president. My only hope is that many of those who did vote for Trump again did so more out of a support for the Republican Party than for this insanity. Truly, their lives are going to be much improved in short order.

They’ll see it!

Songwriters: Todd Thomas / Todd A. ThomasWashed Away lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Be safe out there – G.A.

#MeToo and the Tightrope of the Joe Biden Candidacy

I have said it before, and I stand on my principles. I believe all victim/survivors of sexual assault. I believe Tara Reade and all current and future people, who will emerge to tell us more that we don’t want to know about the character of Joe Biden. We are given a false choice in a #Metoo era to vilify and discard immediately anyone who is accused of being a perpetrator or accusing victim/survivors of being liars or opportunistic saboteurs. (We’re Liberals, so we won’t directly accuse her of lying, we’ll just ignore the double standards and “evaluate” Tara Reade’s claims before deciding that they are not credible. Perhaps adding that this #MeToo thing has gone too far.)

This situation with Joe Biden has made me face an ugly reality within myself. I believe that Joe Biden has sexually assaulted women, and I will vote for him anyway.

I can wiggle out of this terrible feeling by using the same ‘Whattaboutism’ of Fox News fame. I can say, well what about all the women who have accused of Donald Trump of sexual assault and harassment. I can try to convince myself that Biden’s indiscretions aren’t as bad. I also really would like to blame our media and the Democratic Party for passing over all those wonderful, qualified and diverse candidates for the job; and leaving us with only one way to go. We all knew “Uncle Joe” had some issues; but so many were convinced that only a white, straight, middle-of-the-road, sort of man could win the election in a fatigued nation. And, here we are. As convenient as those arguments could be at this time, I think it would be better for me to face my truth. We’re in a desperate situation, and I am willing to swallow some ugly stuff for our survival. I’ll admit, though, I wish I felt better about the Democratic candidate.

I want you to read this excerpt  from a book Eve Ensler wrote about the importance of an apology. Men who are accused of sexual assault have to choose one of two responses –  “she is lying”, or “she is crazy (misinterpreted what I did)”, and in addition have to claim that they have never done anything wrong. Other women are usually the first in line to absolve the accused of ever being inappropriate in any way, stopping short of apologizing to them for any emotions the accusation may have brought up. In the meantime, it is estimated that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men experience sexual assault. Are we all lying? Or, all we all insane? The reason I like Eve Ensler’s book is that it allows victim/survivors to construct the apology they wish they had received. The process creates a space for us to say this was not my fault and to give the responsibility for the abuse back to the abuser.

How refreshing would it be for someone, anyone to say, “Yes, I did this!” “I hurt women, girls and boys.” “When I was in a position of power, I inappropriately touched, harassed and humiliated the women who worked for me.”? Maybe, with help, they could talk about the deep insecurity and unhealed pain that caused them to hurt others. But just some answer other than accusing people of lying would be a good start.

Stay well.

Surviving ‘Surviving R. Kelly’

The truth is that when you actually believe that black women and girls matter, life in America can seem pretty dark.

* According to a WebMD article published in the spring of 2019, the suicide rate for black teen girls went up 182% in the past decade.

* An organization called Black and Missing, found in 2014 that 64,000 black women and girls have gone missing.

* Black transgender women continue to be assaulted and murdered in our cities.

Black girls and women matter to me. Having watched the powerful documentary on Lifetime called Surviving R.Kelly, I realize that black girls and women do not matter to R. Kelly. They also did not matter to all the people surrounding this guy (before and after he became famous), who enabled him to hurt and abuse young girls and women. So many people interviewed admitted to following Kelly’s orders to go “get him some girls” like they were just objects that he had the right to use how he saw fit. How is he alone a monster, if the people around him brought girls and women to the slaughter, looked the other way and participated? Shame on us, too. We are also complicit as a society when we rally around someone with talent and dismiss their behavior when they abuse women and children. If we didn’t know better before, we know better now.

Those who know me know that I once conducted research on the childhood sexual abuse of black boys. At the time, it was a strange departure from my focus on women and girl issues. However, I began to see a connection between “women’s issues” like sexual assault and domestic violence and what I believed to be an emptiness within perpetrators. When you work on behalf of victims,  you often do not want to concern yourself with perpetrators. But, I started to believe that an exploration of men’s behavior might be warranted. Surviving R. Kelly did a great job of drawing a line between the childhood sexual abuse of Kelly and his abuse of victims as an adult. The filmmakers addressed the issue without taking away his culpability. Watching the documentary felt like affirmation of what I had come to believe. As an adult, Kelly seemed to on at least one occasion ask for help. Unfortunately, no one helped him. They just all participated in and covered up his crimes.

I would later spend time reading and writing about domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST). In DMST, perpetrators would send out scouts – usually young adult men who were often abused or neglected themselves – to find vulnerable young people (mostly girls and lgbt teens) runaways or those who had been kicked out of the home. The perpetrator (or pimp) would provide the teen with attention, or compassion, or a ride or housing to gain their trust. The process of “grooming” or “seasoning” a person into a prostitute starts with something that for most victims feels like the honeymoon of a romantic relationship. There is a combination of increasing control, threats and actual violence with a cycle of pleas for forgiveness (not unlike what happens in domestic violence) along with sexual manipulation. Finally a girl is coerced to do a “favor” for the man she wants to please by sleeping with other people. The financial transaction in DMST is usually between the pimp and the john – with a victim being used as a piece of property being rented temporarily. The process is insidious and strips away at the soul so that the victim feels complicit in his or her own victimization. “Rescue” is often not about a physical removal of a person from a pimp, but something more psychological.

Everything that happened to R. Kelly’s estimated 47 victims followed this exact pattern – down to having them all refer to him as “Daddy”, with the exception of his selling them for money. Interestingly enough, R. Kelly seems to be convicted of similar crimes faced by pimps and traffickers. The only reason we understand anything about DMST is because whole lot of brave survivors – some of whom have started their own organizations to help victims – came forward to tell their stories. We now have the tools to prevent DMST – survivors and grassroots organizations just need our help and resources. In the case of R. Kelly, movements like Mute R. Kelly, MeToo, TimesUp and this amazing docuseries on Lifetime also created the amazing culture shift we see in the world today.

Finally, what moved me was the dedication of parents who risked their lives to get their daughters back. They never gave up! Having explored, for a brief time, the stories of young women who made it out of sex trafficking alive, I was left with the impression that – the ones we are looking for, survive! It is imperative that we form communities of care so that our young people do not fall through the cracks. It is estimated that within 72 hours of a runaway being on the street she/he is being recruited for sex work. Once a person gets caught in this violent and dark world, it is very, very difficult to get back out.

Surviving R. Kelly is a story about a society where black girls and women are not valued. However, it is also a story about the constant drumbeat of survivors, activists, lawyers and family members who would not let up for three decades until this man was finally stopped and held accountable for his actions. Surviving R. Kelly gave us a unique opportunity to sit, listen to and hold the pain in the stories of young women, survivors … without turning away. I had to breathe through it at times, but I am grateful for the project. I have been inspired to action.

The lives of black women and girls matter to me!




‘Mother and daughter.’ PIXABAY

Great resources:
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
Black and Missing Foundation

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Too Much, Too Little, Too Late

This week, Christianity Today published an editorial supporting the impeachment and removal of Pres. Trump from office. <article>

Sitting here, at the end of the semester, with a bottle of Merlot on deck, I find myself needing to vent about all of the veiled (and not so veiled) assertions by certain members of the Republican Party that Pres. Trump is Jesus Christ!


Where to begin my rant …

In our hyper-Capitalist moment of our MAGA times, the Christmas season is centered around purchasing diamonds, Volkswagens, high tech gadgets and very expensive watches for the people in your life. Lifetime Channel has been playing romantic movies 24 hours a day since Halloween to remind us of the true meaning of the season, sex with someone you once viewed as a rival. By forcing us to say “Merry Christmas” again, we are being asked to supersede all other religious and cultural traditions celebrated during this time of year and bask in the glow of white supremacy.

Increasingly, we float further and further away from the true meaning of Christmas. Religion and education are the silly practices of “Snowflakes”, and the celebration of the birth, the arrival of this prophet/savior – Jesus Christ – is lost in a fog of vague notions of transactional gift giving and forced happiness.

Really, however, with all of that set aside, it is what Dr. William Barber would call “heresy” to compare Donald Trump to Jesus Christ, and not because of his many, many, many flaws. Well maybe a few flaws: his selfishness, his greed and his propensity for abusing vulnerable people. Donald Trump is only concerned with Donald Trump. He represents the worst of our culture’s worship of money and power. As President, he is – for the time being – directly aligned with an exorbitant amount of power. During a talk by Ibram X. Kendi, we were reminded that the U.S. has military bases in almost all of the countries of the world. Because of the military and economic position of the U.S., Trump can go on the world stage and bully everyone. Bored with those efforts, Trump can return to the U.S. and can with the help of his administration, terrorize vulnerable groups from immigrants receiving life-saving medical treatment in the U.S. to the homeless. He has left no stone unturned.

Many people are not in to reading the Bible. I get it! However, trust me when I tell you, Donald Trump is not Jesus Christ. In many ways, Donald Trump is the antithesis of Jesus Christ. In my opinion, he’s not even slick enough or savvy enough to be the devil or the anti-Christ. If we have to include him in the story, maybe he can be Herod or the Roman Empire. Sorry, I may be getting ahead of myself.

My point is that you don’t have to read the whole Bible or go to seminary, but I think it is important to understand a handful of very important basic things about Jesus.

In the Gospels, Jesus’s arrival meant “good news for the poor”. Jesus was not part of the power structure. He was aligned with the poor and the oppressed. His message encourages us to serve “the least of these” not to spend our lives figuring out ways to beat at low hanging fruit, to steal and to cheat.

Jesus’s arrival was a sacrifice. From divine to human, Jesus arrived to experience compassion for us (to …”passion” = suffer, “com“= with … us). And his death, was the ultimate sacrifice, to take with him all the sins of the world. The resurrection symbolizes victory over death. (I know that’s Easter, but still.) Jesus Christ arrived to as hope in a time of darkness, as a fulfillment of God’s promises and to reconcile any divisions that remained between humankind and God, so we wouldn’t need an intermediary to access God’s love.

In the Gospels, there are two of the disciples, brothers, who want to sit at the right and left hand of Jesus. Jesus tells them, “you do not know what you are asking”. In order to be first, they would have to be last. You win by serving and helping others. And The One with the crown – had to sacrifice it all!

Does any of that sound like Donald Trump to you? Do YOU think there is any part of this very flawed man capable of even being concerned about others? Shame on the so-called Evangelical Christians for allowing this comparison. They, of all people, know better. And Christianity Today Editorial Board – quoting the 70’s love song by Deniece Williams and Johnny Mathis “too much, too little, too late”. How can you wait over three years to proclaim that Donald Trump is “grossly immoral” and should be removed from office. Seriously!

So damage has already been done!

Everything is relative right now, in the time of Pres. Donald Trump. The truth and a lie can be the same thing and victories won by cheating still count. Now more than ever, if you are Christian, there is a need to wrestle our religion back from these lunatics who have co-opted our Jesus to bully religious and racial minorities and to lift a white Nationalist, megalomaniac into a position of great power. It’s cheesy, but, now might be the right time to “put Christ back into Christmas”. We need the love, compassion and mercy of Jesus’s message … Now more than ever!

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A dog that chases its tail will be dizzy …

People, we have a situation. It is time for the representatives we sent to Congress to hold President Donald Trump accountable for his actions. It is time to impeach.

Speaker Pelosi and her supporters seem to be waiting for the majority of America to get on board. When Pelosi speaks, she says that she doesn’t even have the support of the House Democrats. I wonder if, whether out of loyalty or respect, many House Democrats are not speaking out about their desire to impeach because she asked them to be in solidarity with her opinion. Why don’t we put everyone on the record in a public way?  What is the risk in that?

What is the risk in moving this process forward? Speaker Pelosi feels that there will be some sort of backlash if the president is impeached but not eventually removed from office. I took a look at the most recent polls asking about impeachment. Fewer than half of the people polled think Trump should not be impeached. This means that over half either really would like to see this happen (like me) or don’t really care. I do not believe that Trump supporters will be swayed by much and I don’t imagine more people will become Trump supporters after impeachment. In fact, perhaps having the whole story presented without spin might be what we need to chip away at the edges of Trump’s support. It is worth the risk.

Democrats keep saying that most Americans will not read the Mueller Report and don’t understand that impeachment does not automatically mean removal; and yet, there does not seem to be much of an effort to educate us so that we can understand. Shouldn’t educating Democrats about what impeachment would and would not do be a priority? If more of us understood, would more of us be on board?

I would not have thought it was possible, but Pres. Trump and his administration are becoming more emboldened and more brazen in their disrespect for the law. Because they have framed the results of the Mueller Report as “total exoneration” they have decided not to honor subpoenas and this weekend Pres. Trump basically welcomed foreign participation in the 2020 election. Impeachment is not just about setting a precedent for future presidents, it is about sending a message to the one we have now.


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The Walk

Racism is simply tragic.

A dispatcher told a story about an old woman who called the police every day. Each morning, at the same time, this woman would call the police to say that she saw a black man walking down the street. She was really scared, because he had something in his hand … maybe a weapon. Every day, the police would go to the scene and question an older black man. The same black man who lived in a house in the same neighborhood, who got up everyday to exercise, by walking around his own block. The “weapon” he held,  his cane. Eventually, he simply stopped walking by that woman’s house. The dispatcher dispassionately explained that the calls stopped coming in. She imagined that perhaps the man took another route on his walk.

Shame on that old woman for her inability to see things as they are. And, shame on the dispatcher and the police for participating in the harassment of this poor, black man. Sure. However, in addition to feeling so angry about the situation, this story also made me feel a deep sadness for that old woman which I can’t fully explain. I began to believe that this woman, who probably lived her whole life feeling so much fear and loathing for black people, was also overcome by a sense of unresolved longing. I would bet that what that woman really wanted to do, more than anything, was to burst out her front door and get to know that black man. She wanted connection. She wanted to be seen and loved by that black man, maybe invite him into her home. She wanted desperately to break free from the prison of racism, which kept her peering through the blinds at a world changing around her. But in our society, there is no way out, no path to love. We only have violence, separation and pain.

If the police could remove this man, maybe she could calm the storm he had elicited within her heart. So, she called the police every day to get them to stop a black man from walking in front of her house. And with persistence, it worked.


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Why White Republican Women May Be Our Only Hope

The day after President Trump’s Inauguration, millions of women and our allies around the world poured out into the streets to protest the election of a man we thought was grossly unqualified for office, dangerous and simply, gross! We came to these conclusions based on candidate Trump’s behavior and words on the campaign trail, his past behavior and the strange friends he seemed to be making – like David Duke and Steve Bannon. Later, by the time Democrats started to ask us to be patient and wait for the results of the Mueller Report, Pres. Trump had proven himself to be the nightmare we all feared. His successes in rolling back the progress of the last 50 years was accompanied by a barrage of lies and a serious case of foot-in-mouth disease. The Mueller Report added that he may also be a criminal and a puppet of a foreign (or more than one) government. So, here we are post Mueller Report continuing to look for a way out.

The midterm elections brought a point home for me as a feminist, when I learned that in the very close races of Beto O’Rourke, Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum, white women as a class, could have made the difference. White women in Alabama also overwhelmingly supported Roy Moore after serious accusations came out about his sexually abusive behavior towards young girls. And this should not have surprised me, I guess, because white women overwhelmingly voted for Pres. Trump.

Democrats are impotent, because we are hamstrung by principles. And principles aren’t going to save us from this monster. White Republican men have sold their souls to Pres. Trump and do not feel they they can speak out about any thing or admit that he is doing anything wrong. One day someone will explain why that is the case to me, because I don’t quite understand it. Therefore, I believe it is up to white Republican women to save our democracy. I am picking on white Republican women, because white Progressive women and women of color in general favor impeachment.

White Republican women have the same “kitchen table ” issues as the rest of us. They have an issue with the Trump Administration’s take on education, pay equity and health care. They are concerned about jobs and farms and increased prices due to tariffs. They may not like immigrants, but they might think it’s too far to separate children from their parents or put them in cages. They may be Pro-Life, but they might believe that there should be exceptions for women and girls who are victims of sexual assault and incest. They may really be Evangelical Christians who do not agree with the immoral behavior of this man who holds the office. They may not wholeheartedly believe, as do the men, that giving up civil and human rights is worth lining the courts with conservative judges.

I may be naive, but I believe that women across the political spectrum can come together on some of these different issues and work together on those parts where we agree. Political women’s organizations need to work with Republican women who aspire to hold office, because women are seriously underrepresented in the leadership of the Republican Party. We should all work to put more Republican women into office, and in the meantime, we can help white, Republican women understand their power as voters.

I get that what I am suggesting would involve serious cultural change. White Republican women would have to vote for Democrats in 2020 or at least support the handful of Republicans who stand up against Pres. Trump. Cultural change is never easy, but I think it may be our only hope to save the Republican Party and to course correct after this dark moment in our history.

–  GJA

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The Land of the False Equivalencies

The Blue Lives Matter movement really says that black people’s assertion that our lives matter is an affront to white life. defines a “false equivalence” as “an argument that two things are much the same when in fact they are not”. In the work of social justice false equivalencies can be very damaging.

The backlash to the #BlackLivesMatter Movement is perhaps one of the best examples of false equivalencies gumming up the works of progress. It should go without saying, but just in case I need to say it, black people in America are victimized regularly by white American racism. Sometimes the racism is interpersonal and blatant and sometimes more systemic or covert, but it is a real part of our daily lives. One of the most difficult things to stomach as a black person is and has been lynching – someone who is powerless being murdered by a person or group of people who do hold power. When black people are murdered by the police, or by random men “standing their ground”, it creates a fear akin to terrorism within our communities. Emmett Till was lynched. Trayvon Martin was lynched. And, Eric Garner was lynched. Lynching of the past was a community spectacle … now we have videos on social media.

When over and over and over again no one is held accountable for the deaths of black people – even in cases when there is video footage of the murder – we get the message that our lives do not matter. Not to the people who take the lives of our loved one. Not to the criminal justice system. Not to the people on the jury. And, not to well meaning white liberals who act confused when we talk about our pain.

The peaceful response to contemporary lynching is #BlackLivesMatter. We are saying, we matter, our lives matter to us. #BlackLivesMatter offers a way for white allies to say, your lives matter to us as well. We could meet and look each other in the eyes and affirm life. When white liberals see us, we seem angry. And we are angry, but we are also hurt, betrayed and very fearful. Fearful for our brothers, our sons and fathers especially.

A false equivalency is the counter protest to #BlackLivesMatter that is the Blue Lives Matter movement. Many communities, like the one I live in now, have adopted a blue version of the American flag as a symbol of support for police. The banner of Blue Lives Matter says that police lives are as threatened by black people as black lives are threatened by police – which is not true by any measure. But more importantly, the false equivalency belies the discrepancy in power between these two groups. The argument is ahistorical and fantastical and provides a premeditated defense for unrestrained use of force. It is beyond a slap in the face. It is a message that says to black people, not only do we have the right to kill you, but you also do not have the right to complain about it. Your effort to assert your very life is an affront to me and my family.

The missing piece of the puzzle of the false equivalency is power. In our communities, especially impoverished communities, the police have the power to take away your freedom or your life. Police are slow to respond to interpersonal violence within communities of color but quick to respond in a lethal way to the theft of a car, for example. Everyone who grows up poor, understands this too early. We don’t hate police because of some personal grudge, they are a militia, literally and figuratively controlling and restricting our movement and quality of life. 

A more subtle but no less misguided form of the false equivalency is the effort to build connections between police and communities of color through “special programs” designed to help the community see another side of individual police officers. These efforts are nice, but they tend to focus on a false narrative that police have just gotten a “bad rep” and that children should trust the police. These kinds of programs spread the idea that if you just respond the right way when pulled over, the police officer can refrain from killing you. People in the community are being asked to deescalate volatile situations and change their behavior in order to save their own lives. That is insane! Police are perfectly capable of doing their jobs without perpetrators behaving kindly. We are choosing to blame the victims of police brutality instead of demanding that they, as professionals, be held accountable. Also, it perpetuates an idea that “bad cops” are the ones who harm people. The truth is that the problem is deeply embedded in the racism of our culture. There is too much emphasis placed on the communities of color to rebuild bridges – when the police departments were the ones who burned them down.

Power can be wielded to abuse, or it can lead to increased responsibility to aid and protect those who are less powerful. The changes I would like to see would start with community policing. Put police officers on the ground. If you are too scared to walk around the neighborhoods you police, then being a police officer may not be the right profession for you. Some cities will not allow teachers to work where they do not live. Can we do that for police?  There needs to be oversight into police departments  from the government, whenever someone who was unarmed is murdered. And, police officers who act differently from how they have been trained need to be fired and never allowed to possess a firearm again. I believe that if we cannot ever hold police officers accountable in our courts of law, maybe police should have their own courts – like the military has – and maybe other police officers can shut down the corruption and abuse. In the meantime, so called “good cops” need to be more vocal about the abuse they see going on. Mostly something rather than nothing needs to happen.

Unfortunately for the “All Lives Matter” and “Blue Lives Matter” segment of the American populous, #BlackLivesMatter is not going away. A spirit of resistance was born in the bowels of slave ships and it will never die!


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Photo Credit –  King Walker stands in front of police officers and their supporters at the conclusion of a “Blue Lives Matter” rally in Baltimore, Maryland, on May 30, 2015. (Reuters / Jim Bourg) The Nation

Not Just Window Dressing

On Wednesday, May 22nd, Illinois Congresswoman Lauren Underwood challenged Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan in an exchange that went like this,

Rep. Lauren Underwood: “At this point, with five kids that have died, 5,000 separated from their families, I feel like—and the evidence is really clear—that this is intentional. It’s intentional. It’s a policy choice being made on purpose by this administration, and it’s cruel and inhumane. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.”

Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan: “That’s an appalling accusation, and our men and women fight hard to protect people in our custody every single day.” (Democracy Now!)

In addition to Sec’y McAleenan’s outrage, Republicans on the Homeland Security Committee then voted to admonish Rep. Underwood, had her remarks stricken from the record and barred her from speaking for the rest of the session. That’s okay. Rep. Underwood said what she came to say, and in the brave new world of social media, we all had an opportunity to hear it. We can set aside for now, that no one seems to be appalled that five (and by now we’ve learned that it is six) children have died in our custody. We are only appalled that we believe someone should be held accountable. I have witnessed a host of appalling behavior from Republicans in committees – including crying, shouting, bringing in special posters and women of color staffers as props – however, it is only black women Rep. Underwood and Rep. Pressley who are having their words erased and their voices silenced. [Oh, and props to Senator Warren who had her “nevertheless she persisted” moment in the Senate. Different context I know, but just saying.]

What bothers me more so than the behavior of the Republicans is the silence of the Democrats. When the blue wave hit DC, there was so much excitement about having all of these great women of color in the Congress. And then, shortly after the advantageous photo ops ended, I believe many of the older Democrats imagined these women would quietly fade into the background and at the very least conform to the way things work. Unfortunately, women of color, who have ascended to political power have faced much scarier adversaries than anything that you’ve got going on in DC – including a tweet from Donald Trump. In other words, ‘they ain’t never scared’. Secondly, the broad and diverse constituencies who elected them want them to make change. Why would you try to change the change-agents into the status-quo, when progress is where we are headed?

As strong as women of color are, I still believe they should be supported by their colleagues … and they are not being supported. I am watching AOC, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar being hung out to dry by visible leaders of the Democratic Party. There’s all this pearl clutching and tut-tuting on the part of old-heads in the party and different versions of “oh, they are new, they’ll learn” – an idea that Speaker Nancy Pelosi will reign this new, wild, Progressive-leaning group of people in. We better all hope not. Women of color are often charged with the role of speaking truth to power, fine, but they shouldn’t have to stand alone while they fight to make things better for everyone.

If anything, I am looking for more ‘profiles in courage’ from people who have very little (if nothing) to lose by standing up for what is right!


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When is it a good time to fall in love?

“We see things as we are, not as they are.” Anais Nin

And you have a person in your life whose hand
you like to hold?
“Yes, I do.”

It must surely, then, be very happy down there
in your heart.
“Yes,” I said. “It is.” – from Mary Oliver “A Voice from I Don’t Know Where”

I am challenging myself to write every day. I have tons of topics to choose from – Donald Trump, white supremacy, racism – and I’ll get back to all that. But, today, I woke up wanting to write about something else. So, I thought I’ll try to write about love. Many years ago, Iyanla Vanzant or someone like Iyanla Vanzant said that you draw to you, who you are. How terrifying! I took to heart what she said. And upon reflection, I realize that I do fall in love when my life is in transition. And, I have drawn to me – not just for romantic love, but also for the love you find in activism and community – companion wayfarers. It may be that we just hang out in the same spaces – graduate schools, coffee places, facilitated support groups, and etc. I’m not sure. I do, however, enjoy the idea of serendipity running the show. Now that it is Spring, I find myself wanting to be pulled in that direction your heart goes in when you fall in love. I want that distraction, the awkward phone conversations, the anticipation and the like. Then, I remember Iyanla’s concept. Who am I now? Is it an okay time to draw who I am to me right now? There is a way in which who I am right now is more stable and grounded than I have ever been before. Part of it is maturity and the other is about being too tired to run from whatever I have been running from for all these years. Calm waters are the uncharted territory of my experience. (Did I mix my metaphors?) So, maybe this would be a good time to draw love to myself. We’ll see! Any way, back to the grind!


Photo by Anton Darius | @theSollers on Unsplash

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