MLK, Jr. Day Thoughts

Before I muse, here are some important social justice reads I’ve been thinking about:

Calling IN: A Less Disposable Way of Holding Each Other Accountable by Ngọc Loan Trần

The Case for Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Listening to the Living and the Dead: Ruminations on #JusticeForLeelahAlcorn by b. binaohan

Special Prostitution Courts and the Myth of “Rescuing” Sex Workers by Molly Crabapple

And if you’re on Twitter, these have been some of my favorite writers and activists to follow:

@rgay
@harikondabolu
@IjeomaOluo
@tanehisicoates
@kima_jones
@Lavernecox

I’m going to write a little bit about cultural/institutional bias here. I’ll use the term “racism” because, as a white American, my race is one of my main privileges, but I think these thoughts may apply to any other: class, ability, size, orientation, sex, gender, etc. Feel free to transpose for relevance.

For a lot of people in the world, including me, it’s easy to be racist. We grow up hearing and observing jokes, headlines and microaggressions. They’re never directed toward us, so we don’t have to think about them too much, but we absorb them. They calcify in our minds and become assumptions; the assumptions become fears. In especially dangerous cases, the fears become anger, or manifest in words or actions.

Part of me is excited about this time in our history, because, thanks to the seemingly tireless work of activists of color, I feel like progress is being made, and that more and more people of privilege have opportunities to become aware of it. We can begin to chip away at those assumptions we have stuck in our heads, pulverize them and expel them. All that cultural gunk that’s been around for generations always tries to get back in, but with time and listening, we can get better and better at addressing it, taking it apart, and dismissing it. When we carry guilt (which can be powerfully constructive), we can counterbalance it with action and gratitude.

Listening to people of color is the only way to progress away from societal racism, and combating internalized racism is empowering for everyone. It’s exhilarating to realize that humor, creativity and personal power thrive when not relying on bias. Our deepest, untouched, true selves have no need for bias.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Justice is love correcting that which revolts against love.”

Helpful Links on This Week’s Horrible News

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I’m still not over all of this week’s terrible events. Rolling Stone retracted their article about rape at the University of Virginia, blaming a victim instead of their own journalistic integrity. My despair over police brutality was exacerbated when I saw a heated thread on a family member’s Facebook page fizzle out when someone wrote that the events “[affect] none of us personally.”

I’m really sad.

Here are some links about all of these topics, though I know I’m forgetting many. They are helpful. Share them. Content warning for all.

On Institutional Racism:

The Stages of What Happens When There’s Injustice Against Black People by Luvvie

My Vassar College Faculty ID Makes Everything OK by Kiese Laymon

The New Rules for Black People in America by Carvell Wallace

This photograph by Josh Davis

Ijeoma Oluo’s tweets following the grand jury announcement. Her handle is @IjeomaOluo.

#AliveWhileBlack

On Rape:

Our Stories by Roxane Gay

Checklist. by Genevieve Valentine

What to do when your partner is sexually assaulted

Lindy West believes Shia LaBeouf.

This infographic from Vox

A rebuttal to UVA Phi Psi’s rebuttal from Sam Biddle

. . .

My only goal right now is to be here for victims/survivors.

Christian/Spiritual/Yogic/Angry

(Note: I’m going to talk about church/Jesus in this post.)

I go to church. It’s something that I did every Sunday for much of my life. Then, for several years, I stopped, but I started up again a year ago. I go to a very large Episcopal church, and I go by myself. The church I attend could stand to be a little more inclusive, insofar as liberalism could stand to be more inclusive, but they welcome everyone, use historical/figurative scripture interpretations, and play beautiful music, so I’m usually very happy to go there and be still.

After church last Sunday, Father Greg Boyle came and had a public talk with our rector. Father Boyle founded Homeboy Industries, one of the world’s largest gang intervention programs, which you can read about on their website. He’s known for doing very good things in L.A., and he is, by all accounts, next-level compassionate. At Sunday’s discussion, Father Boyle said some profoundly lovely things, particularly with regard to Michael Brown, which I wrote down and will probably share another day. However, he said something I’ve been thinking about ever since that just doesn’t sit right with me: “I don’t do disappointment because God doesn’t do disappointment…God is too busy loving us to get around to disappointment.”

Hm.

These words aren’t computing for me in the wake of the Ferguson and Eric Garner grand jury decisions. I’m not sure pure love for love’s sake is enough anymore. I’ve struggled with the same thing in my yoga teacher training: at one point, I asked how practicing the niyama (observance) of santosha (contentment) aids yoga practitioners in achieving social justice (my belief in yoga as a therapeutic social justice aid is a primary reason for my becoming a teacher). One of my classmates pointed out a quote in a book she’d brought in, which stated that “achieving inner peace is a more political act than overthrowing any empire.” Though I do understand and appreciate the necessity of self-care for activists, I wasn’t swayed by that idea.

I attended a Ferguson solidarity rally last week, where many of those gathered demanded body cameras for police forces in the U.S. Today, a grand jury in New York City declined to indict the policeman who strangled Eric Garner to death on camera. Garner was unarmed. His last words were, “I can’t breathe”. He was denied CPR for seven minutes after losing consciousness. He was ruled dead by homicide. His murder was recorded and seen by millions. His murderer is free, without trial.

I can’t practice contentment here. And unlike God, I can’t withhold disappointment here. I’m exhausted and angry about people in power caring so little about the people they’re supposed to represent and protect. People in our police force disproportionately injure and kill people of color. Our justice system perpetuates rape culture. Our government disregards the concerns of people of color, the poor, women, the LGBTQ+ community, and students. I’m not content with it. I’m not going to say that I am, or try to be.

So, right now, my spiritual mind is with Jesus. Perhaps God doesn’t do disappointment, but Jesus did. He got really rude with the people he was disappointed with. Jesus called people out. And he didn’t get disappointed about abortion or gender expression. He got disappointed in greed, exploitation, prejudice, racism and oppression. I hope he can remind spiritually-minded people, particularly those of privilege, that you shouldn’t stand for injustice because you’re chasing peace.

A WriteGirl Giving Tuesday Plug!

WriteGirl alum Janel, from WriteGirl's Facebook page

WriteGirl alum Janel, from WriteGirl’s Facebook page

igive2writegirl

Why I give to WriteGirl!

It’s officially The Holidays, you guys!

Even though the weather can be iffy (even in SoCal!), there’s a bit of a financial pinch, and family gatherings/memories bring up complicated feelings for most of us, the time between American Thanksgiving and January 6th is still my favorite time of the year. A few reasons why:

  • As a child, I was always fortunate to have fun Christmases with delicious food, beautiful music, loud family, and surprises under the tree. The holidays bring up happy memories and make me excited to start my own traditions with my baby family.
  • The holidays are full of ritual, a thing which I’ve always loved and I think is very important. American society really wants for ritual.
  • People get to be giving and kind to each other, even people who are not normally into being giving and kind.

Regarding the latter bullet point: this year, there is a thing called Giving Tuesday, as an afterthought to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The fact that Americans need a special day to remind them to be charitable and giving is problematic, but regardless–I’ve seen a lot of people on my news feeds asking which organizations are worth their donations. It’s good that so many people want to give, and this post is to put in a good word for WriteGirl.

WriteGirl is a creative writing mentoring organization for Los Angeles teen girls. Girls are paired up with professional women writers, and they meet one-on-one just to chat and write. It’s not about grammar, spelling, grades or tutoring–it’s just a way to connect girls with their own creative energy, and with another female role model. WriteGirl also hosts monthly workshops that tackle each a different genre, so girls get to explore all kinds of fun writing styles (journalism! songwriting!) that they’d never get to experience in school. At the end of each school year, the girls’ work is published in an anthology, and girls also have the opportunity to give public readings throughout the year. Throughout their time in the program, mentees receive specialized college information and  application help, and 100% of alumnae from the WriteGirl core program enroll in college. WriteGirl also has an in-schools program for incarcerated, pregnant and parenting teens.

When I first learned about WriteGirl, I was suspicious. I wondered how I hadn’t heard of the organization before, if it was so great and was sending all these girls to college year after year after year. Now I know: It’s because WriteGirl does not waste a dollar. They have a teensy-weensy staff, a volunteer army, and a tight mission statement from which they never deviate: “Within a community of women writers, WriteGirl promotes creativity and self-expression to empower girls.” That’s it! And it really is one of the greatest feminist organizations I know. Both the mentor and mentee populations are truly diverse, and the workshops are pretty strictly all-female spaces. I never feel like I’m giving charity to Underprivileged Youths at a WriteGirl workshop–I feel like I’m part of the revolution, because a couple hundred women and girls are in a room together, speaking out, and nobody is telling them to be quiet.

You can donate at WriteGirl.org. Happy holidays.

Things I Have Always Found Unsettling & Appear Prominently in Foxcatcher

schmoesknow.com

schmoesknow.com

1. A Very Rich Person who invites a struggling stranger to hang out.

2. Cauliflower ear.

3. Frosted tips.

4. Lifting someone using the back instead of the legs.

5. Birdwatching.

6. Cocaine use emphasizing a prosthetic nose.

7. Bros of all kinds.

8. Someone at a party requesting that David Bowie’s “Fame” be turned off.

9. The sport of wrestling.

10. Use of the word “dynasty” to describe an American family.

11. A non-indigenous American identifying with a spirit animal.

12. Unitards.

13. A middle-aged man discussing a train set with his elderly mother.

14. The International Olympic Committee.

Friday Things.

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  • In a move that would have totes freaked out my mom 10 years ago, I purchased a deck of tarot cards. I’ve been reading Beth Maiden‘s tarot column on Autostraddle for a little while, and I couldn’t resist those pretty, mysterious pictures anymore! I’m casually learning the meanings of the different cards, but right now my favorite thing to do with them is use them as writing prompts. I’ve been drawing a card each morning and just journaling about it. The pictures are super evocative and detailed, so it’s fantastic to fill in the stories yourself. Also, there’s this thing called a birth card, and mine is the Empress and Zac’s is the Emperor!

    bagelsforbreakfast.org

    bagelsforbreakfast.org

  • I still have “Too Many Cooks” in my head, and each time it dies down, I think “Maybe it would be fun to watch ‘Too Many Cooks’ again. It’s never as good an idea as I think it is. “Interesting Ball”, on the other hand.   
  • In terrible things: Rehtaeh Parsons’ death remains unavenged, while a misguided revenge porn law in Arizona makes it illegal for “…a mother [to share] with her sister, in the privacy of her home, a nude image of her infant child.” Cultural attitudes toward gendered sexuality and consent: still the worst.
  • I would like to see thisthis and this!
  • This piece by Tova Benjamin at Rookie, about using friends as therapists, is very lovely and hit close to home.