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:


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


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.


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.


(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.”


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.