Moving Forward.

America is a broken and divided nation. Trump is a symptom of these conditions.

Today I feel a great deal of fear and anger. I recognize that this is a result of the fear and anger of a great many Americans who feel dissatisfied because our economy and government have caused much anxiety over the past several years. How do we, as humans, often discharge our feelings of discomfort, uncertainty, and anxiety? By blaming others. By latching onto an oppressive system that lets you believe that there’s an easy solution to the deep complexities of contemporary life: “return” to simplicity; wall out the uncertain; retreat to the comfort of privilege; assign blame and relieve yourself of your fears.

So today, I will not blame. I will do my best to understand this environment and conditions, commit to my values, commit to a vision of an America where all people are full and equal participants in society, and commit to moving forward.

The current state of our society highlights the oppressive systems that are, and have been, thriving. It is all connected; all forms of oppression are connected. I believe that the political climate of this country will bring us dark times in the next few years. I am deeply, painfully concerned for the people I love, care about, and respect. It seems almost impossible to wake up, realize that everything you stand for, your values, your relationships, or your very existence, is under attack, and then to have to figure out a plan to fight back. But the political, social, and economic climate of our nation is not solely determined by one elected individual or elected body. We are not alone. We will not accept this as our fate, the fate of our nation, and the future for our children. We will not accept hatred and divisiveness as American values.

To my friends, family, students, and colleagues who feel lost, afraid, attacked, and dehumanized: I love, honor, and respect you. I encourage you to seek spaces of healing. And when you are ready, I invite you into dialogue and action. I am doing everything I can do to fan my own flame of hope and perseverance, and to not falter in the face of this environment. I am an active participant in shaping the future of this nation. We are all active participants in shaping each other’s lives and futures.

We must move forward in solidarity. We must discover new ways of being and connecting as communities to find paths of healing, resistance, and progress. The struggle continues.

Risk Without Reward

This morning, as I was walking across campus, my mind was racing with the events of the past few days. The murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, now counted among the continued, senseless murders of black and brown people; the swirling anger and vitriol that encompasses our national landscape–the blaming and finger pointing; the senseless killing in the line of action of Dallas police officers Lorne Ahrens, Michael Smith, Michael Krol, Patrick Zamarripa, and DART officer Brent Thompson; the violence that has occurred in Tennessee, south Georgia, and St. Louis. There is so much. There is too much. It is so clear that in a system of privilege and oppression, eventually, everyone starts to lose. 

But the thing is, at the same time that I can and should feel legitimate anger, fear, and sadness, the reality is, I still feel pretty damn safe. Because I am a highly educated, middle class white woman who lives in a predominantly white town, around a predominantly white university. My partner is white. My family members are white. So although there are plenty of things that I feel pretty awful about, the reality is that I still feel very secure for myself and the ones I love most.

The big issue that I’m dealing with this week is along the lines of “What do I say?” and “What should I do?” and, frankly “What about when I say/do the wrong thing and hurt/offend/piss off/oppress someone?” Never once in my life has it ever crossed my mind that I am going to be shot and killed by police while living my every day life. I don’t wake up in the morning or go to bed worried about what might happen if I get pulled over for speeding, or what might happen if my partner neglects to change a taillight and gets pulled over on the way to work at 4:30am, or if my sister might be walking down the street in Boston and might look a little “suspicious,” or if my Dad decides to have a bonfire in the backyard and the neighbors think it’s a problem. I never think about the result of my loved ones interacting with law enforcement being their sudden and tragic death. But people of color in America? They do have to worry about this. And the reason for this incredibly jarring disparity is white privilege.

And yet, against this stark reality check, I still struggle with questions about what to do and how to react to racism, oppression, and racial violence.  A lifetime of white privilege has made me feel that I’m almost always right, and if not, I gave it a darn good try and I should probably get a gold star for my efforts anyway, so it’s hard to admit that the root of the aforementioned struggle is the fear that I am going to potentially be utterly and completely wrong, shitty, and possibly racist in my thoughts and reactions. My friends, colleagues, and students of color are worried about getting killed and I’m worried about getting called out. The unjust absurdity of this is not lost on me, but that doesn’t change the fact that I need to deal with this to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem. This week is hardly the first time that I’ve reckoned with this, and if I know anything about the pervasiveness of white privilege and white supremacy, I doubt it will be the last.

Fears of being “wrong,” of being rebuked, of being accidentally racist, of not recognizing white supremacist attitudes and behaviors, of not having something good to contribute to the conversation…these can often deter white folks from entering into conversation and action as we start to understand and realize the impact of racism. Privilege tends to protect us from those fears, instilling in us that we have a “right”to be in charge, to be expert, and to be given a high-five for our contributions. (Side note: white privilege also often intersects with various forms of identity oppression, so I have plenty of fears of being heard and respected as a woman, but that’s a different blog for a different day).

It’s uncomfortable to start to realize things, to start to wake up to the fact that you thought you had life figured out but oh my goodness, you had no idea. To think that you’ve got the rationale and the logic and the explanation, but there are people looking back at you like you are just absolutely not even in the ballpark of objective reality. To be called out for any number of things. It feels like shit. But I’m a firm believer that sometimes we need to get up close and personal with shit because our world is so horribly messed up. The systems in place are so unjust, violent, and pervasive. And if you’re privileged, most of the time you get to float around and above it all, relatively unscathed. In some ways, experiencing that horrible feeling is an invitation into understanding, and if you are starting to experience that, I invite you to lean into it. Lean into it with some degree of self-care, forgiveness, and support and connection with other anti-racist white folks. I invite you to consider asking yourself how you can show up and take risks, be uncomfortable, be wrong, make mistakes, apologize authentically, seek understanding, and don’t expect any reward to come your way. Consider how you can do that in the pursuit of an equal and just society in which all individuals and groups are able to freely and equally participate without fear of being shot in broad daylight at a traffic stop.

 

 

 

In Defense of My Defense of Hillary

I’ve been thinking so much about how over the past few weeks, it feels icky, contentious, and uncomfortable to be a liberal democrat. We need a little bit of both/and attitude with regard to this primary. The undercurrent of sexist critiques of Hillary has worn me down, casting doubt in my own mind about my ability to critically examine the candidates for my party. Because it’s tiring to be surrounded by air that is full of sexism and to not breathe it in. Not all critiques of Hillary are sexist, many are completely legitimate, but it’s important to name the role that sexism is playing here. I think this article does that very well: A Feminist’s Guide to Critiquing Hillary Clinton.
I do support Hillary, with the full knowledge that she is a candidate who is best qualified to work within the existing political and economic system, and because she has been a role model to me for many years. I very much respect and appreciate Bernie Sanders; his ideas and passion are much needed. Hillary is not perfect by any means; she is a human who has grown, changed, and learned over her political career. Any president will make missteps, because being president is not about perfection, it’s about managing a system and leading that system.
Bernie as president perhaps leads to a political and economic revolution. Will it be sustainable? Will his ideas take hold? I don’t know; the country at large is very different than the population of Bernie supporters.
Hillary as president, though she may be one who inarguably does work within the current system (getting things done, by the way), is also a revolution. Because a woman president says something to women and girls that we rarely get messages of: you can be the greatest leader; you can aspire to anything. Hillary is not the epitome of intersectional feminism, but her mere presence pushes us all forward. And I care about more than just her mere presence. She has a wealth of experience, she is trustworthy, she is action-oriented, she has made it through years of incredible scrutiny and haters and still wants to serve the American people. She has not given up, not on herself or on this country.

Of Course It’s About Race

Last night, in Charleston, SC, there was an individual terrorist attack motivated by white supremacist ideology that left 9 people dead.

So of course, some people are all “Why do we have to make this about race?”

Because, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, IT’S ABOUT RACE. Most people can look back at things like lynchings in the Jim Crow South and say, “Yeah, that was about race.” But when something pretty much exactly on par with that happens now, there seems to be an awful lot of forgetfulness and confusion, particularly from White Americans.

Time for some consciousness-raising. So if you don’t think that this is a racially motivated terrorist hate crime, read on.

If any majority identified person commits an act of violence and hatred toward a group of marginalized people in a place that is historically and socially identified as being part of that marginalized identity group, it’s a hate crime. Pretty clear and simple. If someone shoots up a Pride Parade, that’s a hate crime. If someone blows up NOW headquarters: hate crime. If someone heads into an African Methodist Episcopal Church, a historically and socially Black and African-American institution and commits an act of violence: HATE CRIME.

And yet, people seem to be confused. Especially a lot of White people. Especially Fox News.

They declared this an “Attack on Faith” this morning. Let’s reevaluate that and see that it’s not an attack on faith, it’s an attack on Black people of faith. It’s an attack on Black people by a person who used the comfort and security provided by faith in a premeditated and strategic way to make his victims even more vulnerable. Elizabeth Hasselbeck wants to know “If we aren’t safe in our own churches, then where are we safe?” Elizabeth, you are safe in your church, don’t you worry. The problem we are facing here is not being safe while Christian, it’s being safe while Black. Fox News is so deep in denial about this being about race, that they think that maybe the police chief’s description of events as a “hate crime” is referring to it being a hate crime against Christians. Because we see an awful lot of widespread oppression of Christians in America these days… So again, time for some consciousness-raising.

I give you examples 1 through 4 of why this is a terrorist act that’s about race:

  1. Roof is not just your standard white person who is kind of racist. Roof is a straight up white supremacist. Facebook photos with patches symbolic of apartheid governments, confederate flag license plate, telling his roommate that “He said he wanted to start a civil war. He said he was going to do something like that and then kill himself.” Side note to roommates everywhere: if you are sitting on the couch playing xbox and drinking a beer and your roommate says he wants to start a civil war, kill a bunch of people, and then kill himself, you should probably DO SOMETHING. 
  2. This terrorism expert gives a very nice explanation of what terrorism is and why people aren’t seeing this as that.
  3. This happened in a historically Black place with huge cultural and social significance. That is no coincidence.
  4. Racism runs deep in our nation and in South Carolina, where they fly a confederate flag outside of the state house. If that’s not an institutionalized thumbs up to racism against Black people, I truly don’t know what is.

Black lives matter.

Racism kills.

Racism, Anger, and Not Going Away Quietly.

I wrote this post in response to the events in Ferguson, MO in November. And now, we see another death of a man of color in the hands of law enforcement and another community expressing their pain and anger, feelings which, in some cases, have been expressed as more violence.

I still do not condone or advocate for violence. But I can understand how the response to a lifetime of physical and psychological violence is violent. If you look around and see that your life, your body, your community is not fully valued, is not protected or respected, what choice do you feel like you have but to fight back and attack that system?

Ashley N. Robinson

I’ve heard that there is no excuse for violence in Ferguson.

I’ve heard that America needs to get together and “solve these issues”.

Which we are supposed to do peacefully, politely, and nicely.

To solve an issue, you first must look it in the face. You must name it, and know it, and critically examine it before you are able to build the resolve to undertake its destruction. The current state of anger, rage, and upset that is spreading across our country is unsettling. It is upsetting and, in some cases, has become destructive. As emotion pours into the streets of our nation’s cities, it is worth noting that it does not come from a place of random, unassigned destructiveness and disregard for the social contract. It comes from  a place of deep pain, developed over decades of sustaining a social condition of pervasive inequality in our nation. The rage…

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Racism, Anger, and Not Going Away Quietly.

I’ve heard that there is no excuse for violence in Ferguson.

I’ve heard that America needs to get together and “solve these issues”.

Which we are supposed to do peacefully, politely, and nicely.

To solve an issue, you first must look it in the face. You must name it, and know it, and critically examine it before you are able to build the resolve to undertake its destruction. The current state of anger, rage, and upset that is spreading across our country is unsettling. It is upsetting and, in some cases, has become destructive. As emotion pours into the streets of our nation’s cities, it is worth noting that it does not come from a place of random, unassigned destructiveness and disregard for the social contract. It comes from  a place of deep pain, developed over decades of sustaining a social condition of pervasive inequality in our nation. The rage of our nation is legitimate, founded, and demands attention.

I do not promote any type of violence, ever. Acts that cause physical, emotional, and psychological pain to others rob us of our own humanity and damage opportunities for connection and compassion. But resistance to the pervasive inequality in our society cannot be quiet, polite, or peaceful. Because the nature of oppression is that the oppressed are divested of their voices and the privileged get to go along without ever having to hear the cries of injustice and pain. So it seems that the cries must become louder. Those who know that what’s happening is unjust and who are not willing to accept the tired excuses of a self-serving system need to start yelling about it. Especially if you have privilege. If you are white, step up and start doing something and saying something. And if you are white and don’t think it’s your responsibility, or role, or whatever, take one tiny step out of the shroud of your privilege and get your shit together. Seriously.

Darren Wilson gave an interview tonight and said that his “conscience is clear.” This surely illustrates the pathology of privilege in this country. He shot an unarmed kid twelve times and he’s cool with it and doesn’t think that he could have done anything differently. Not a single conscience in this nation should be clear. Not a single one. Because we are embroiled in a system of privilege and oppression. We are existing every day in a system that gives value, opportunity, and safety to some while literally taking the lives of others. If you have found yourself justifying or explaining away the outcome of the grand jury proceedings in Ferguson, if you have found yourself saying “police officers are hardly ever indicted,” or “I don’t know what really happened, because I wasn’t there,” or “the justice system did its work and we just have to trust it,” stop letting those excuses exist and see what happens. Start listening to the radical voices. Start listening to the voices that say “I’m not sure that I trust our justice system,” or “I just can’t understand why a police officer would shoot an unarmed person twelve times,” or “I’m disturbed by police brutality in our nation,” or “I know that racism is a pervasive force that influences my thoughts and actions.” Listen to those thoughts, and then get angry.

If we want to get together and “solve our issues,” we need to let the fear, anger, and frustration about racial inequality have a voice and a space. We should all be profoundly uncomfortable and disturbed about what’s happening in our country now and what has happened in the past. So let’s start by believing that we have a big problem, making noise about it, and forcing the nation to listen.

What Not To Do: Online Dating

I’ve been trying my hand at online dating for quite a while now. Even after a couple of years (it’s obviously going REALLY well) I continue to be amazed by deal-breaking actions of potential mates. For a while, I thought I was being too picky or that my standards were too high, however my friends, family, and even a licensed family and marriage counselor have assured me that is not the case. So I offer up the following advice on online dating, to be considered for your entertainment, self-improvement, or otherwise.

  1. “Hi” is not a message. “Hi” is what you say to the cashier at the grocery store as you put your bananas down on the counter. In fact, it’s usually followed by “How are you?” One word messages don’t deserve responses. I spent a crapload of time writing interesting stuff about myself in this profile, and all you can come up with is “hi?” Try harder.
  2. Please spare me the microagressions (and not-so-micro-aggressions). I wrote a profile to provide information about myself, with the idea that you might comment on something other than my appearance. I wrote in my profile that I’m a feminist so that misogynistic, sexist pigs know better than to contact me. Don’t spend your time spewing hatred at me via message. I’m just going to report your profile. Maybe you should invest yourself in thinking about your irrational fear of strong women, instead (preferably through psychotherapy).
  3. Don’t talk about your other online dates. Obviously, everyone who is online dating is looking at plenty of fish, so to speak. Don’t bring it up, though! I’m sorry that someone else stood you up, bro. Oh, you have another online date tomorrow? Maybe you’ll like her more than you like me? Online dating is an experience that we share, but maybe we can find something else to talk about?
  4. Do not bring up your ex. Or exes. This is just a dating no-no in general. If a relationship progresses with someone, you are probably going to eventually get to talking about past relationships. But that is not first date (or pre-first date) conversation. What are you trying to tell me? That other people have actually dated you in the past? Okay…good for you? This doesn’t really come across as proof that you’re not a violent sociopath. It just makes it seem like you’ve got baggage and you’re not over your ex.
  5. No means no. Sometimes I don’t message people back. Don’t keep messaging me until I have to block you. That is stalkerish and absolutely guarantees that I’m never going to talk to you. And if I politely inform you that I’m not interested, I am not opening it up for bargaining or negotiation. Accept the rejection. Move on. I already decided the outcome, you don’t get to re-decide it for me.
  6. Don’t ever tell anyone that you are going to make a voodoo doll of them. This should go without saying, right?
  7. Don’t start by putting yourself down. Humility is a wonderful trait. Being self-deprecating is not. Do not start a message (or your profile) with “I’m not very good at this online dating thing” or “I’m not very good at writing messages” or “I hope I’m not too short, or too far away, or too [whatever].” I’m out here looking for the future father of my children, folks. If my first interaction with you suggests that you completely lack self-confidence, think you’re pathetic, or see yourself as a loser, you are not getting past square one.
  8. Don’t lie. Just don’t. I’m like an online dating ninja. I’ll discover the truth. Besides that, if you actually get to meet me/date me and I find out that you lied, I will unceremoniously excise you from my life.

The one upside of constantly dealing with these ridiculous online dating follies is that it provides endless entertainment for me and my friends. So, potential suitors, if you do commit any of these no-nos, know that I’m doing a dramatic reading of your messages over a glass of wine and sending screenshots to everyone. Thanks for the laughs. It’s not me; it’s you.