Shared Suffering

Anyone who took the time to read my last post, may be a little surprised at what I say next.

Beneath all of the sadness and hiding behind all of the outrage…was pride.  Yes, you heard me, Pride!

Why?  What on Earth was there to be proud of??

martin 1

US!!

Not just the above us, but…

martin 5

THIS US!!

The us that stood together –  shoulder to shoulder, our voices mingling – to protest our displeasure.  Displeasure with a culture that hasn’t yet gotten over its biases.  Displeasure at how cases, involving our children, are handled.  Displeasure at how our laws are written.  Displeasure at how our justice system works.

A large number of Americans – all across the nation – came together for a common cause.   No matter our respective “colors”.  How’s that for tasting the rainbow?  You’re proud, too, right?

(Feel the but coming?)

But with that being said, many of us know that we are not headed for the pot of gold.  We know that our (individual) voices are often marginalized, if not silenced.

And as much pride as I have in what we did above, I fear that we won’t use that momentum going forward. 

That is because each of us is guilty.  We are guilty of paying especially rapt attention to the hot-button issues that touch us on a personal level.  And..we are ALL guilty of not paying (as much) attention to the suffering of others.  Sure, we are quick to jump to the defense of someone who has been blatantly wronged and gets enough media coverage (which seems to be up to fate).  But, then what?  We have a tendency to return to our respective corner, lick our wounds, and rest up for the next assault against our rights.

I, as a non-wealthy, cisgendered, black woman, have my own problems.  (You do, too.  Am I right?)  Sometimes it is difficult to step out of my shoes and into someone else’s.  Further, it is extremely easy to focus on what matters to me, to the exclusion of all else. 

I was as guilty as anyone else.  I spoke out against an injustice, here or there.  I volunteered for a campaign or two.  And I was proud of it.  But, I have come to realize that is not enough.  Not by a country mile.

Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable…Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.  – MLK

We must combine our grievances to fight for the common good.  We can not afford to become so encapsulated in our little bubbles, that we forget about the gay couple who asks only the freedom to marry.  We can not focus all of our energy on the plight of the woman when our oceans are becoming more acidic by the day.  It would be a mistake to disregard the plight of the immigrant, in favor of the black struggle.

Let’s be perfectly honest.  Any politician who does not believe that a woman is a fully cognitive being, capable of making her own decisions..probably won’t believe that poor people are not making a concerted effort to remain in poverty.  If any politician is able to look in your face and deny climate change, that politician is equally likely to think ‘drill, baby, drill” has no impact on the environment and that “education mills” have got it all wrong.  Any politician that doesn’t recognize the ingrained cultural biases in society..probably won’t understand why “the gays” are making such a fuss.  A future leader who will snatch your right to vote..will snatch your right to marry.  If he or she wants to pay for prisons and not schools..chances are he or she will not be too worried about the uninsured.  If a politician can’t value the unions..how much does he value the worker?

Consider this…

Those who have no problem stepping all over our rights have a plan.  They have a view of the world that we do not share.  Say what you will about them, they are tenacious.  They are determined and they are fighting with all they have.  They are investing millions and millions of dollars into their efforts.  They are buying the kind of country they want.  And have absolutely no guilt over it.  In fact, when we are hesitant to get with their program, we are labeled as lazy.  Or takers.  Or, sometimes, traitors.

And what are we doing?  We’re waiting..

Well, we can not afford to rest up for the next assault on our rights any longer.  We simply can not.  When we fight for the rights of the poor, the worker, the children –  we are fighting for our rights.  When we battle for the rights of our fellow citizens, we win the battle for ourselves.

As long as justice and injustice exist, human beings must be willing to do battle for the one against the other.

 – John Stuart Mill

Advertisements

Southern Style: Tar Heel Turnaround

Friends, it has been a while since our last stop on the Southern Express.  And, honey-chile, this one will be a real treat.  One you surely don’t want to miss.  So, go on, grab your sweet tea, immerse yourself in insect repellant, and…

NC2

North Carolina.  Majestic mountains.  Beautiful beaches.

One of the more progressive southern states prior to the..

Tar Heel Turnaround?

The North Carolina that we are seeing today is at odds with the trajectory the state has been on in recent years.  The southern states may seem as though they are vehemently opposed to ideals like change and progress.  In my view, North Carolina has always been different.

A little history….

Even during our nation’s ugliest time, the Civil War, this state was a bit progressive.  “The second to last (technically the last) state to secede from the Union” did so reluctantly in 1861, and wasn’t as sold on slavery as the rest of the south.  They – along with Virginia, Tennessee, and Arkansas – initially chose to remain with the Union, after Lincoln was elected.  Confederate forces in South Carolina (Boy-oh-boy, our stop there will be fun!) fired on the Union, forcing the hold-out states to fight for the federal government or their neighbors.

The above facts, in no way, justify the actions taken statewide during Reconstruction.  The state did, however, make great strides once it became clear that they couldn’t put skeletons back in the closet.

The eat-ins and sit-ins led to incremental integration.  Education became a priority, and was heavily invested in.  Tobacco was replaced with textiles, then technology.

There was…progress.

North Carolina attempted to rise above the title of “confederate sympathizer”.  Instead, it focused on its memories of the Wright brothers and Kitty Hawk.  Those majestic mountains and beautiful beaches were boons for tourism.  I, myself, thoroughly enjoy time spent at Atlantic Beach each year.

Many have grooved to Thelonious Monk, Pink Floyd, and Roberta Flack. We were touched that James Taylor had Carolina in his mind.  The Andy Griffith show was mandatory viewing in many households.  And everybody wished they could jump like Mike!

North Carolina gave us Duke University, a pioneer in the medical field.  It gave us Shaw University, the first HBC,  as well as Salem College, the first school for young women.  The state’s Research Triangle brought in major industries – such as IBM, GlaxoKlineSmith, and LabCorp – providing jobs and careers for residents.

moral monday

 What a difference a (voting) day makes!

This is not progressive.

North Carolina’s Republicans took simultaneous control of the legislature and governor’s mansion in January for the first time in more than a century. The current session has been marked by sweeping conservative measures in what has long been counted as among the South’s most progressive states.

Arrests?  Of nearly 675 people since these peaceful protests began?  Because they do not approve of your policies, and are exercising their right to protest, they are “morons” who deserve to be arrested?  To further marginalize them, they are called “outsiders”.  Never mind the fact that arrest records show that nearly all are from within the state and the fact that slashing unemployment benefits for over 100,000 residents and decreasing benefits for the rest might be seen as irresponsible.

We can’t call this progressive either.

As legislators enter the final phase of closed-door state budget negotiations, young children could wind up being the biggest losers.

Children with special needs will lose much-needed services, like speech and developmental therapy.  Ten thousand Pre-K slots will be lost over a two-year period.  Prenatal care will be unaffordable for many.  The Child Fatality Task Force will be eliminated, even though child death rate has dropped 46%.  Healthier, more well-adjusted children is a smart investment that residents support.

Need more?

Repealing the Racial Injustice Act?  Not progress.  Because racial discrimination has never been the best option for a state, or the nation.

Quietly imposing “the biggest overhaul of the state’s tax system in more than a decade.”  … not progressive.  Decisions that impact a state should be discussed, no, especially when you’re favoring one segment of the population at the expense of another.  FTA:  Supported by Gov. Pat McCrory, the bill adds a sales tax to numerous exempt services, such as car repairs and appliance installations, to pay for moderate cuts in personal and corporate income taxes. 

The necessity for stealth doesn’t usually indicate progress.  I know we women can be freedom riders, but seriously?  One of the most basic human rights is full and complete dominion over one’s body.  Why not just ban women and be done with it?

Does anyone, especially college students, find this progressive?  I think not.  Because didn’t we already determine this was not the way forward?

In retrospect, perhaps we ALL should have been worried when this hit the news.  Because Church of North Carolina meet the Constitution, already!

So, yeah, I would say the Tar Heels got turned around.  Wouldn’t you?

What to do..what to do..

mm protest

THIS!!!

Protest.  And protest some more.  Transform “Moral Mondays” into “We, the people Week”.. “Month of Marches”.. straight to the voting booth!

Because this is not about conservative and liberal.  It is about right and wrong.

Once you were a progressive state.  You can be again.

Battle for the Ballot

America has celebrated another birthday.  Americans, all over the country, hung up flags and fired up grills.  We drunk ice-cold beer, ate, and laughed with friends and family.  We enjoyed parades and fireworks.  Pride in our country was evident, and rightly so.  I hope the day was enjoyed by all.

independence day

While Independence Day is over, the fight for those founding ideals rages on.  We are left to deal with this.  The Supreme Court of the United States, in a 5-4 decision, dismantled the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  This will now allow problem states, mostly southern, to alter voter laws without obtaining advanced federal approval.

The majority (Justices Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito) held that Section 4 is unconstitutional, as the formula used is out-dated.

Regardless of how one looks at that record, no one can fairly say that it shows anything approaching the “pervasive,” “flagrant,” “widespread,” and “rampant”discrimination that clearly distinguished the covered jurisdictions from the rest of the Nation in 1965.

The minority (Justices Ginsberg, Breyer, Sotomayer, and Kagan) held that while there has been improvement, the legislation is still necessary.

Early attempts to cope with this vile infection resembled battling the Hydra.  Whenever one form of voting discrimination was identified
and prohibited, others sprang up in its place.

vra1

Technically, both the majority and dissenting opinions have some validity.  The majority is correct.  There is no longer blatant violence keeping minorities from the polls.  The intelligence tests and poll taxes are a thing of the past.  The dissenting opinion, which I strongly suggest reading, is also correct.  Atrocious methods of the past gave way to all-white primary attempts and racial gerrymandering.

Think Voter ID.  Since last year, 41 states have introduced some form of restrictive voting legislation, and of those 18 passed laws. Among the most popular are those that require voters to show a photo ID in order to vote, which proponents say helps to counter fraud — a phenomenon that almost never happens, analysts say.

Both opinions clearly state that it falls to Congress to legislate a formula that discourages this type of strategy.

Optimistic?  Anyone?

While it is up to Congress to  come up with a formula that takes into account the types of racial voter discrimination we face today, it is up to us how we react to the Court’s decision.  One thing we can do is to contact our representatives.  We can let them know that we expect them to get off their asses and do something.  We can send letters and emails.  We can pick up the telephone and voice our demands.

That being said, if you have been paying attention the past few years, you know that train will be slow to leave the station.  I am not convinced that Congress can decide what to have for lunch.  I don’t hold out much hope that they can come to an agreement here.  Do you?

The best way to combat what we know to be disenfranchisement attempts is to…

vra2

Vote when you are inspired by a particular candidate.  Vote when you are not.  Vote when you have a much-needed day off from work.  Vote when it takes your entire lunch break.  Stand in line, proudly, when the sun is shining.  Stand, defiantly, when it is raining.  Exercise your right, whether it takes fifteen minutes or five hours.

No matter which hydra head comes at you,…Stand and be counted.

vra4

I am committed because of scenes like the one above.  My ancestors, and their freedom-loving allies, fought, bled, and died so that I could vote.

vra3

Water hoses didn’t work.  Biting dogs didn’t stop them.  Baton beatings didn’t deter them.  Jail cells could only hold them for so long.

Burning homes and lynchings…Did. Not. Stop. Them.

I am not about to let a little redistricting stop me.  Nor am I about to wait around for Congress to pull its head out of its ass.

Voting is my right, my duty, and my privilege.

I will go to the polls because our power is in the ballot.  But, I will also go for my fellow citizens.

My thoughts will be with my children, and all children, who we encourage to participate in our democracy.  My thoughts will be with the working poor, who risk their jobs to cast their ballots.  And, with those who wait hour after hour to have their say.  I will stand in solidarity with immigrants, who have also been subject to discrimination and intimidation.

Inequality for one is inequality for all.

vra5

I will stand and be counted, or the sacrifices made on my behalf were in vain.

Will you?

Evergreen Up Late: No, You’re Chicken!

MORE THAN 3,000 additional people have been killed by guns in this country since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

Yet gun NUTS continue to block any kind of legislation that could even potentially curb proliferation. Yes, I said NUTS. Self-proclaimed ‘Patriots’ who refuse any and all sensible bills that just might possibly restrict any access to any gun by anybody. Stay with me here. This may not be the place for a Freudian analysis of what makes ‘gun lovers’ tick, but a few assertions are in order.

Responsible guns owners support universal background checks.
Hell, the NRA used to support universal background checks until it looked like it might actually become a law. Why they changed their position is most perplexing. Was it an inherent NEED to oppose Obama on EVERYTHING? Perhaps just Ye Olde Fashioned Paranoia?

Here is a brief history of the need for guns in America!

But seriously, gun control advocates have no issue with guns for hunting and self-protection. But Military weaponry should be limited to Military use. An automatic rifle will not help in the hunting of a Moose or Squirrel.

I’m no gun lover, but I’m also not a gun hater. To me it’s just a tool. I have relatives who enjoy hunting and friends who enjoy target practice. And That’s Fine. But if you want a machine designed solely to mow down people like grass, well sir, I have a problem with that. There is no sport that requires such mega-cannisters of bullets. Using such weapons on wildlife classified as ‘Game’ is … well it’s just not sporting, is it?

One nice little feature of the US Constitution is that the 2nd Amendment (like all of the others) can be re-interpreted by the Supreme Court to fit the times. It is NOT the 2nd Commandment. But it does look like guns are, in fact, being idolized in this country in ways that are detrimental to our future. To my mind, at least. The Assault Weapons Ban bill that was ON THE BOOKS for a decade, but allowed to expire by GW Bush, is somehow now considered too radical to even consider in the Senate? The Country hasn’t gone Radical Left, the Congressmen who are blocking it have either gone Radical Right or sold their souls to the NRA.

You may ask, “And what would you know, you tree-hugging liberal?”
First: Trees are good, M’kay?
Second: Psst, I OWN a .22 rifle. My father was a cop. I grew up with a gun in the house.

That’s what I know.

As for those who feel they must hoard a cache of guns and are AFRAID that the Gub’mint is gonna take them all away? You’ve got to know: You’re not a ‘Patriot.’ You’ve got to know: You’re Chicken.

May you always be in tune with The Music of the Spheres.

If “Loving” you is wrong,…

Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents.  And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages.  The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix"Judge Leon M. Bazile

“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix”
Judge Leon M. Bazile

Mildred Jeter, a black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, were married in June of 1958.  Both parties were residents of Virginia, yet their union took place in Washington, D.C.  Why?  Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924.  Miscegenation – the mixing of different racial groups through marriage, cohabitation, sexual relations, or procreation – was illegal.  It was a federal crime punishable by a prison sentence of one to five years.

**In 1924, SB 219 (Racial Integrity Act)  passed in the Virginia Assembly.  The Racial Integrity Act essentially divided society into two categories:  white and colored.  Colored, naturally, included any person…not white.  Race was classified under the “one-drop rule”.  This rule stated that one was to be classified as colored if they had “one drop of Negro blood”.  That same year, SB 281 (“Sterilization Act”) also passed the Virginia Assembly.  It is pretty self-evident what the “Sterilization Act” was designed for.  Forced sterilization.  According to this ACLU of Virginia article; “It is estimated that between 7,200 and 8,300 people were sterilized in Virginia from 1927 to 1979 because they were deemed by society at the time to be unworthy or unfit to procreate.”  Of those sterilized, approximately 22% were black, 2/3 were women, and many were not even informed that they were being sterilized.  Both Acts were a part of a grand scheme to “preserve America as a white nation”.

Upon returning to their home in Central Point, Virginia; the couple’s residence was raided in the middle of the night.  They were arrested and charged with cohabitation as man and wife.  The sentence was suspended, with the condition that the couple leave Virginia.  In 1964, the frustrated wife petitioned Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, who referred her to the American Civil Liberties Union.  The ACLU filed a series of motions on the Loving’s behalf, which placed them squarely on a path that ended at the doors of the Supreme Court.

The Lovings, themselves, did not attend the hearings.  Bernard S. Cohen, attorney for the couple, relayed a heart-felt message to the court.  “Mr. Cohen, tell the court that I love my wife, and it is unfair that I can’t live with her in Virginia.”

The Loving case was finally heard by the High Court.   The unanimous decision (dated June 12, 1967), overturned the convictions.  The Court ruled that Virginia’s anti-miscegenation laws violated the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

***Why does this matter now, after forty-six years?***

Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival…. To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discrimination. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State”

Chief Justice Earl Warren

Basic civil rights.  Basic civil rights are freedoms that are not contingent upon one’s race, or gender, or sexual orientation.  It is not acceptable to deny anyone the basic right of love and marriage simply because you disagree with their choices.  It is not American.  It is not equality.

It Is Wrong!

I, personally, relate to Mildred Jeter Loving.  That’s because I am Mildred Jeter Loving.  Same state.  Same situation.  My life, my husband, my family…that I love more than breathing…was at one point illegal.  I would have been a felon.  And for what?  For falling in love, like all humans do?  For wanting to marry and raise a family, like all humans do?

For “Loving” someone not of my race?

Same-sex couples are no less human.  They are no less loving.  They are no less American.  They, as free citizens, have the right to choose to marry whomever they wish.  These choices – in no way, shape, form, or fashion – negate our country’s obligation to treat them equally under the law.

Of course, I could go into some long, drawn out explanation of why same-sex couples should be “granted” equality under the law.  I could wax on, poetically, about why we need to “give in” and allow them the rights of any other married couple.  But I won’t.  It’s not necessary.  The only reason a same-sex couple needs is this:  it is their basic civil right.

The end.

Up Late: You can call me in the morning, I’ll tell you what to do

Good evening, Evergreeners!

It’s my pleasure to host tonight’s up late edition, brought to you by . . . limes, coconuts and Mr. Harry Nilsson! (Are limes and coconuts mixed together kosher for Passover?)

Southern Style: The Quiet War

Another week has passed.  I don’t know about yours; but my own was an emotional, event-filled one.  My father passed away.  And, as often when death makes an appearance at our door, it got me thinking.

As one might expect; there was plenty of sadness, anger, and grief to fill a battle field.

Then, a funny thing happened.  Another emotion stepped from behind the brush, and took command.  It issued few orders, at first.  But, once it gained it voice, it became so loud…that it drowned out almost everything else.  Pride.  Although my dad was the one gone, my heart was filled with pride for my mother.  For myself.  For women.

Young, dumb, and in love.  We’ve all seen the Lifetime movie, right?  Beautiful young lady meets handsome young man…..they fall madly in love…..they plan for the future…..and, you guessed it, girl becomes pregnant.  In a perfect world, the happy couple marry and raise their family.  They live happily ever after.  In the real world, probably not.

My father was, in no way, shiftless.  He went on to enlist in the United States military.  He remained there for fourteen years before retiring.  He served in Persian Gulf, along with many other brave men and women.  Afterwards, he was gainfully employed by the United States Postal Service until about three years ago.  In a perfect world, my mother and father would have been equal partner in life and child rearing.  In the real world, not so much.

Last week, for the first time in many years, I thought hard about my life.  I thought hard about my mom, and the millions of women like her.  Their lives and struggles are whittled down to a few sound bites on the evening news.  What people don’t seem to realize is that women’s issues are American issues.  They are civil rights issues.  Most importantly, they are legitimate issues.  Our rights, as citizens of this country, are not meant to be handed out to us like Halloween candy.  They are our birthright, just as much as any man’s.

As of 2010, 58.6 percent of women 16 and up were labor force participants—working or looking for work.  Women may still be cooking the bacon.  But only after they have brought it home.  Ensuring equal opportunity and equal pay is critical to the growth of our country.
And we don’t have equal pay for equal work. In the long term, that hurts women (retirement) and our loved ones. Not to mention it’s just unethical and wrong. 

What we wear and how much we drink…does not determine if we are rape-able.  Our culture spends a ridiculous amount of time worrying about how a young rapist came to be a rapist.  Yet, little time is spent worrying over how such a tragedy can change the trajectory of the victim’s life.

Contrary to what some out there believe, our bodies do not have ways of shutting that whole thing down. Take time to read this, this, this, and this. 

Women are perfectly capable of deciding if, and when, they start a family.  Individual liberty can not be aborted simply because it is not universally agreed upon.  Period.  Besides..isn’t it kind of comical to stand guard with your AR-15, debating me over whether my body is my domain?  Of course, it is!

I suppose all this is to say…my feminist soldier was bandaged up and sent back to the battlefield.

As long as women are not paid equally for the same work….RELOAD!

As long as a woman’s value is contingent upon whether she makes what society has deemed to be “good use” of her uterus….RELOAD!

As long as a martini and a skirt make a lady fair-game….RELOAD!

As long as society grants testicles more weight than ovaries….RELOAD!

Pride is a powerful thing.  My mother, like millions of others men and women, worked hard.  While raising me, she was able to work both a full-time and part-time job.  She was simultaneously taking classes to get her degree in early childhood education.  She hated every minute of it, but she used our country’s welfare system as a stepping stone.  Without the help of a nation, I may not have had health insurance.  She swallowed her pride so that I would have food in my belly.

My mother is an unsung American success story.  She is my hero.

My father may have served in the military, but my mom battled every day of her life in America’s “Quiet War”, the one against women.

Some have attempted to marginalize the War on Women, but it is real.  Discriminatory policies and laws stand in for guns and ammunition.  Our policy makers are trying their best to hold the line.  But women are advancing contrary to the culture that attempts to hold us down.  Our work is exhausting.

Women come home to their children everyday stressed and frustrated.  They are passed over for promotions.  They are wounded and battle weary.  But they soldier on–what else are we to do?

We soldier on.

Law makers… Be Warned.  Women will not surrender.   We are millions strong.  We will fight you every step of the way.  We may not win every battle, but will win the war.

So, give us liberty and trust us. We’ve been quietly holding down the forts and soldiering on for centuries–and that’s not changing.