Adoption Interrupted

The news that Rosie O’Donnell’s adopted daughter Chelsea O’Donnell has chosen to move back with her birth mother on the morning that she turned 18 must be gut wrenching for Rosie O’Donnell. It opens the little discussed and taboo topic of adoption issues or adoption gone wrong. It’s been the aim in America to conduct adoptions where it considers the feelings all the parties involved, birth mother, adoptive parents and most importantly the child itself, therefore there are all sorts of adoption types: closed adoption, open adoption, semi-open adoption, an ad hoc arrangement where the adoptive parents release photos and details of the children when they see fit. However, often with the best of the intentions, it all goes horribly wrong.

Adoption at a large scale has been going on in America for almost 3 generations now, most prominently starting with mass adoptions of Korean war orphans. Then followed by adoption of children from Guatemala, Somalia, Ethiopia, countries in which were torn apart by civil war, poverty, political instability and general internal conflict, which caused a lot of displaced people and orphaned children in need of loving homes. China, since it’s one-child rule came into effect, baby girls (and disabled baby boys) were dumped in orphanages in alarming numbers as most families preferred to have a healthy boy to carry on their family name. Most of these foreign non-white children were adopted by white American families or White Western European families, whom may be well meaning but have no clue how to parent a child who isn’t white. They do not know how to address the ‘race’ issue with their non-white children. And just by saying ‘I don’t see color, you are the same as me’ doesn’t cut it as we know it doesn’t work that way in society. Society sees color. A  non-white person is not treated the ‘same’ as a white person.

The intention of the large scale exodus of children from foreign countries to the West was from a good place, to give displaced and orphaned children a second chance at life and a proper childhood only the affluent West can provide. Family, after all, is not always dictated by blood relations. Love can transcend genetics, biology, culture, ethnicity and country of origin and all children deserve a loving home with doting parent(s). While all true, this is a very pollyanna-ish view of international adoptions, which do not take into account the all too human need and longing for familial and biological connections. This urge will be even stronger if the adoption was not ultimately ‘not successful’ in which the adopted child’s emotional needs were not fully met.

A valid and legitimate argument could be made that some biological families treat each other so horribly that the word ‘family’ needs to be redefined. I have a close friend whose biological family was so horrendous that she honestly and truly hand on heart believes that she would have been better off a) an orphan or b) been adopted by someone else. She did not say this as an over reactive or over emotional teenager, she says this as an mature and fully lucid adult woman, who is happily married and has been in therapy for many years to work on her childhood trauma issues. And she is also fully aware of the plight of abandoned children even in the affluent west and even in an adoption situation, there are no guarantees that her life would have turned out for the better, still, she feels adoption or complete physical and emotional abandonment by her birth mother would have been better than the years of untold trauma and abuse suffered at the hands of her biological family.

I have another close friend who grew up in an upper middle class family, her parents divorced acrimoniously, they both displayed narcissistic tendencies and did not offer her the love, stability and emotional support every child needs. The neglect that resulted from that, she says, now as an adult, she felt like an orphan growing up, except worse, because her parents were actually alive but not present. Things became so unbearable that she is unable to maintain regular contact with her parents as their behavior towards her as a child and through her adulthood and resulted her being diagnosed complex PTSD. In order to focus on her mental and emotional well being and recovery, she has made the difficult decision to cease regular contact with her parents and her only sibling. She feels very much alone in this world but it’s the only way forward.

Many years ago, I worked with a woman who was a Korean adoptee, adopted by a white couple from Oregon. She had two older brothers who were the biological child of her adoptive father but her adoptive mother (second wife of her father) could not bear children so they adopted her from a Korean orphanage. She suffered terrible abuse at the hands of her adoptive mother and her adoptive father though didn’t participate in the abuse, was too timid to stop his evil wife. She was taunted by her mother of being sent back to Korea if she didn’t behave. When she acted out, her mother said she could of died as an orphan in Korea, all of which she preferred over this abuse. She moved out at 18 and has been self sufficient since. She suffered many bouts of depression and was suicidal at one point but her beloved cat stopped her. Her story broke my heart, she was literally alone in the world, no family, biological or otherwise to care for her. I was happy to learn that she has two or three really good girlfriends who are like sisters to her. When she moved out, she still maintained cordial phone contact with her parents, but one time, her parents wanted to attend a Christian revival event in Southern California and they asked to stay with her during the event, she told me at that point she snapped. She screamed at them on the phone and told them what horrible parents they were for abusing her and the gall they have to think they can just come ‘stay with her’ and pretend that they were a normal family to attend a Christian revival event, talk about hypocrisy at its highest form. Her mother, her main tormentor and abuser said that God forgave her so what’s her problem. She slammed down the phone and never spoke to them again. She had fond memories of her father as he was a sweet man and when her mother wasn’t around, he spent quality time with her, but the fact that he didn’t stop the abuse or didn’t even raise an objection once, it was not something she could get over.

China notwithstanding (due to their one child policy), many wonder at the abundance of adoptive children in countries like Korea, Somalia, Ethiopia and Guatemala but the lack of foster or adoptive parents; internal problems such as war, disease and famine aside, it is simply not the custom in many cultures around the world to ‘adopt’ a child in which the family is not somewhat biologically related to. Specifically with Chinese culture, it’s customary to perhaps adopt an orphaned nephew or niece or even a cousin if the family is financially capable, but it’s not so much the norm to adopt a child that isn’t biologically related to the adoptive family.

In countries such as Somalia, Ethiopia and Guatemala where it is plagued by many years of civil war, disease and famine, the only option for many orphaned children are temporary foster homes or orphanages. Hence, many kind hearted Western families chose to adopt these children and seek to give them a better life. Forming families with adopted children in a large scale, is a new phenomenon, mostly occurring in the affluent West. The belief that whatever circumstances the children came from, it can all be healed with enough medical attention (if necessary) and tender loving care, after all, children thrive on love and security, it doesn’t matter who provides it.

Parenting (biological or adoptive) is a risky proposition, more so than marriage. We already know there’s a 50% divorce rate so half the people who get married can count on getting divorced. There is no way to know how children will turn out or how they will feel about you as a parent. You can do everything ‘right’ by them, be the best parent you know how to be and they could still grow up to resent you, blame you for their failures in life and decide that you were the ‘wrong’ parent for them. Especially in the liberalized West where the feelings and perceptions of children are more important than their parents. Children always get the last say on how they choose to feel about their childhood and upbringing and usually their version is accepted as fact because they are in a more vulnerable position. Conversely, you also see children who come from abusive or addicted parents, yet they are still loyal to their parents and see their parents in a sympathetic light and are willing to make excuses for their poor parenting.

There is a legitimate question to be asked if white parents are best suited to raise non-white children in a predominately white society. Most white people don’t ‘see’ race, because they’ve never experienced racism. Racism is foreign to a white person, so they cannot be expected to prepare their non-white adoptive children to combat racism or even have a constructive conversation about it. This was the main charge against adoptive white parents in a piece done by the New York Times Magazine about Korean adoptees: Why a Generation of Adoptees is Returning to South Korea. Many of the subjects interviewed felt this hole in the depth of their soul because there were taken from their homeland to be raised in an unfamiliar place, smells and sounds. Laura Klunder, a Korean adoptee says,

“I don’t think it’s normal adopting a child from another country, of another race and paying a lot of money. I don’t think it’s normal to put a child on a plane away from all its kin and different smells. It’s a very modern phenomenon.”

Klunder was adopted at 9 months old and was brought to live in Wisconsin with her adoptive parents, she has cut off contact with her parents for the past 9 years, she concedes that they were loving and kind and provided well for her but she grew up in a white suburb in Wisconsin and her parents couldn’t engage with her on the racism she experienced, giving her the oft repeated phrase of not seeing ‘color’. It caused a lot of frustration between her and her parents but he parents chalked it up to she was ‘angry’ at being adopted, it wasn’t really about the racial slurs and micro-aggressions she was experiencing.

When Klunder’s mother was contacted for this story, she said the following:

I could see how upsetting certain things were to Laura. But I said, ‘You can’t let these things bother you so much; there will also be people like that in the world.’ ” When the issue of adoption came up, Klunder’s mother told her that her birth mother loved her very much but that God had a different plan for her. As a teenager, furious that her parents didn’t understand her feelings and experiences, Klunder repeatedly lashed out at them. They were angry, too. When she was in high school, Klunder told me, her father would say: “I didn’t sign up for this. Send her back.” (He says he remembers saying something like that only once.)

It’s very easy to tell an adopted child to be grateful, especially if that child was adopted into an affluent and loving home but the truth is unless one has been abandoned by one’s mother, regardless of the reason or circumstance that led her to abandon her baby, one cannot tell how an adoptee should ‘feel’. It’s very insulting and it diminishes their experience. Especially if a child is adopted by parents of a different race and you don’t see any part of yourself, even something so basic as skin complexion reflected in the faces of your parents, siblings or extended family and combined with experiences of racism and micro-aggressions inflicted on non-whites, it can create an identity crisis in which the parents do not know how to address. They are not prepared for the racism they face and the parents aren’t sensitive and articulate enough on the issue of race and cultural difference and raise their children as though they are ‘white’ when society do not see them as such. This is a perfect storm for identity crisis. It is unfair to raise and socialize a child to be ‘white’ when she isn’t and that is the point Laura Klunder couldn’t get through to her parents, but to her parents dismay, how else were they supposed to raise her? They are a white couple from middle America, Wisconsin to be exact,  they don’t know how to not be white.

Lastly, there is still a stigma attached to being adopted. I distinctly recall in the second grade, where one of my classmates wanted to taunt me said to me ‘you are adopted‘ in a very nasty tone, which was confusing to me, because I am not. I never told anyone I was adopted why would anyone think that? I realized then that it was an insult, to be adopted means to be unwanted by your mother and whoever said that to me didn’t like me so he tried to make me feel bad. However, the whole thing went over my head at that time. To be adopted means for one reason or another, your mother couldn’t keep and raise you. You were abandoned and not enough effort was made to keep you. The reasons can be vast and varied: death, drug or alcohol addiction, abandonment, forced separation, social stigma from single motherhood as was the case with many Korean adoptees (though if the child born out of wedlock is a healthy baby boy, the family will find some way to incorporate him into the family), poverty, physically incapable of caring for a child and lack of family support. The reasons are many but the result is the same, a hole is left in the child that was given up and it’s a hole that cannot be easily repaired.

Especially in the West, and I’d say America is its worst offender and I am guilty of it as well, is the rise of the ‘Cult of Children’. Children are treated as precious jewels in this country, to the exclusion of everything and everyone else, anything they do or say is fascinating. Their feelings must be considered above everyone else’s at all times. Women today treat motherhood in the same way they approach their careers, with dedication, precision and no room for failure. Prior to delivery, millions of words are devoured about what’s best for baby, breast feeding or not, which kind of organic food is best, should I make my own organic food, what is the safest travel gear, and the clothes, organic cotton or not, making sure to buy only the purest of ingredients for our little darlings, whereas in most parts of the world, mother and baby are lucky to survive the ordeal that is labor. Then comes toddlerhood, which games are most stimulating, to teach them their ABCs before they can even walk, teaching them to read before pre-school so they can get a leg up on the educational ladder, and the list is endless.

This type of shrine-like parenting of children can make adopted children feel even worse about their plight. Children are so coddled that if I were an adopted child, I’d wonder what was wrong with me that my mother couldn’t keep me.

It’s not known what issues Rosie O’Donnell had with her eldest daughter Chelsea, she rarely speaks about them but when she does has nothing but glowing things to say about her children. Whatever one thinks about her comedic skills or acting skills, one can’t deny that she’s been a devoted mother and made all her children a priority in her life. ‘Reports‘ suggested that Chelsea O’Donnell didn’t like that everyone knew she was adopted because her mother is famous, it made her uncomfortable. Whatever the case may be, the result is tragic and Rosie O’Donnell’s private life is now public fodder, since the birth mother of Chelsea has come forward to say that she was ‘stolen’ from her because when she signed away her parental rights while she was high on drugs and not in a place to consent.

Whatever the ‘truth’ is, Rosie O’Donnell is Chelsea’s mother, whether her birth mother agrees with it or not. Chelsea is 18, a very difficult age and still finding her way in life, it would be completely understandable for her to have conflict with her mother Rosie. For her birth mother to swan in at this moment to save the day is intruding upon another family. She didn’t raise Chelsea, she gave birth to Chelsea, she didn’t experience the up and downs of raising that particular child (the birth mother has 4 other children), if fact, she doesn’t even know the daughter she gave up. If she thinks she can come in now, when her daughter is fully grown and be a mother to her again, she’s mistaken. And on the part of Chelsea O’Donnell, I don’t know what her life’s struggles are, and she’s too young to know this, but running away is never the answer to your problems. She’s running from one problem to another. If she thinks the biological or genetic connection to her birth mother and her 4 half siblings will cure whatever emptiness or connection she is seeking, she may be in for further disappointment.

There are no easy answers for adoptions, there are no ‘rules’ that apply as we are dealing with very fragile people with very fragile emotions. People like Laura Klunder advocate a total ban on international adoptions, through the group she works with, Adoptee Solidarity Korea (ASK) believing that it’s a bad idea to take a child out of its country of birth, its culture, put it on a plane to America or Europe to start a life with a family that do not resemble them or share in their culture. They advocate providing support networks within Korea to help unwed mothers cope with caring for a baby and to reform society where having a child out of wedlock is no longer such a big taboo. They do not discuss the possibility of Korean-American parents adopting Korean children as possible solution but they are resolute in a ban against international adoptions.

Since there are more white adoptive parents but most of the children available for adoption are not white (internationally), it wouldn’t make sense to institute a ban on international adoption, it would potentially deny many children of loving parents and homes. But the mass exodus of children from one country to another without much vetting of birth families for their desire to give up their child for adoption and the vetting of adoptive parents is a concern. There are many more people leaning towards the idea that it’s best to keep displaced and orphaned children in their country of birth but build safe orphanages with proper adult care and supervision and adequate education to live in until they reach adulthood, rather than to take them out of their countries to live in a foreign land with foreign people whom they call ‘mom and dad’.

#MyAsianAmericanStory Jebby Does It Again. He Ran His Mouth.

With this little off the cuff comment, in an outrageous effort to court Latino voters, Jeb Bush says this:

“What I was talking about was the specific case of fraud being committed, where there’s organized efforts — and frankly it’s more related to Asian people coming into our country — having children in that organized effort, taking advantage of a noble concept, which is birthright citizenship,” Bush said Monday in McAllen, Texas.

He was referring to the now derogatory term ‘anchor babies’, which means undocumented people come to this country, have babies, and those babies ‘anchor’ them in the United States because children born in the United States are automatically US citizens, regardless the citizenship of the parents. It is believed that many undocumented immigrants have used this method to gain legal status for themselves in the United States.

But Jebby is confused. What he’s talking about is ‘maternity tourism’, which by the way isn’t illegal. And yes, many people (not just Asians), usually people of some means abroad, use this unique American constitutional right to their benefit. A scenario for maternity tourism would be, a pregnant woman who is still able to travel, applies for a visa to enter the United States legally, whether it’s a tourist visa (most common), a visa to visit relatives living in the United States, or a visa to attend business related activities, visas that are issued by the local US Consulate, which would then allow her (and her unborn child) to legally, enter the United States via an international airport (not at dodgy border crossings). She comes here, has her baby in the United States, so her child is a US Citizen due to birthright citizenship. She would recuperate here for a few months, do some shopping (good for the economy) and take her baby home (country of origin). In order to bring the baby home, a US birth certificate and passport must be issued, and viola, she has an American citizen as a child. If they so wish, 18 years later, the child can then petition the parents for legal status in the US, or when the child reaches school age, he or she will be eligible to attend US public schools and access the ‘benefits’ that comes with being an US citizen. All of this isn’t illegal.

Next, let’s cut the bullshit and call a spade a spade. US citizenship or residency (green card) is a highly valued commodity. It’s something that many people want and are pretty much willing to do anything to get. It’s no secret, it’s not a big deal, it just is, so don’t let’s all get bent out of shape about it. And it’s no use being sanctimonious about it. People pursue US citizenship for many reasons but they usually boil down to economics and personal freedoms that are afforded to US Citizens. It’s something that one cannot put a price on, the ability to earn a living and the right to live and express oneself as one pleases. We Americans take these rights for granted. So, naturally, the enterprising people of the world will find a way to get this access, this ‘benefit’, especially rich people from other countries who despite all their wealth do not have these rights. China is a good example. Chinese are becoming richer, but people still cannot own real estate outright in China. All the land in China technically belongs to the state, the Communist party, and people are allowed to ‘lease’ land from the government for a finite period of time but during the time of the lease, it can be taken away from you for no apparent reason and you will not be compensated for your losses. If there is political unrest, or some abrupt regime change, all that in which you put your life’s savings, your home can all be in jeopardy with no remedy. This is not the case in the United States. And this is just a simple land ownership right, this doesn’t even begin to cover more complicated rights like political freedom, freedom of speech, religion, expression et al, which few countries outside of the advanced Western world enjoy.

Next, birthright citizenship isn’t some ‘noble’ concept in the Constitution. According to Robert Tracinski of The Federalist, birthright citizenship actually dates back to an old English common law:

What we call “birthright citizenship” is an ancient principle of English common law called jus soli. This principle was so widely accepted at the time of America’s founding that it was never explicitly affirmed, even as it was followed in practice (with one huge exception, which I will get to in a moment). America at its founding was a nation eager to grow and expand. Not only did it place no limits on immigration, but the Declaration of Independence had included such limits among the grievances against King George III: “He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither.” (For those who think that the Founders only wanted to encourage British immigration, note that British subjects would not have been described as “foreigners” since the colonies were, up until that point, British.)

The 14th Amendment wasn’t ratified until July 9, 1868, almost 100 years after US Independence. This amendment was added to specifically include slaves and freed people (whether they were born here or not) as full US Citizens, which would then grant the the rights of due process as would for any citizen. As pointed out by Robert Tracinski:

It was specifically to redress this injustice that birthright citizenship was explicitly written into the Constitution in the 14th Amendment. The very first sentence of the 14th Amendment declares, “All persons born…in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States.” When you think about it, everything else in the 14th Amendment is kind of redundant. If former slaves are citizens, then they automatically have all the rights of citizens.

A concept that was ‘widely accepted’ and assumed became the law of the land, written in black and white, in the form of the 14th Amendment.

On a side note, should any of the Republican candidates want to repeal this law of the land, it would require two-thirds ratification from 50 states plus District of Columbia, good luck doing that. Even the almighty Supreme Court can’t overturn a Constitutional amendment.

Something amazing happened in the light of all this, a hashtag trend #MyAsianAmericanStory was started by a 15 year old Asian boy from Redondo Beach, California, urging all Asians to tell their stories on twitter. The reaction was amazing, I made so many new ‘friends’, like minded people and how the struggle of our parents and grandparents sounded so similar. Many spoke of the loneliness they felt at being Asian in America, the rude questions they are asked, their aptitude and grasp of the English language questioned, even though some were born and raised here. I was touched. It made me feel better for my children, who are more Asian than I.

I am rarely very active on twitter, I am not very good at narrowing my thoughts into 140 characters or less (including emojis) and I am not good at creating pithy one liners where it would cause people to ‘favor’ or ‘retweet’. I normally feel stupid after a tweet and would then go back and delete it. If I tweet, I normally tweet articles I like, retweet others I like, that sort. But today, I found solidarity of Asian-Americans of all ethnicities on twitter. It felt nice and I was on fire. I felt truly ‘connected’ in a social media platform for the first time. There are millions of us out there. Though Asian-Americans are still more quiet on the political front, still waters run deep. 

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It is my hope that this monumental gaffe by Jebby is the impetus for Asian-Americans to become more politically involved. Asian-Americans is the voting bloc in which politicians reach out to the least. ‘Don’t wake a sleeping tiger’ – it’s one of my tweets for #MyAsianAmericanStory, they want Asian-American ‘participation’? I think they just got it.

One last note on Jeb Bush. He seems to think he’s got the Latino vote locked in should he become the Republican candidate for president. He tries to pretend that he’s a ‘Latino candidate’. The reason being his personal story, his soppy ‘love story’ with his wife (which Politico Magazine devoted many column inches to), who is a Mexican national, he speaks fluent Spanish and even converted to Catholicism for her. Their three children are bilingual and bi-cultural, they are Latino. If he thinks all of this will guarantee him the Latino vote, then he needs to think again. In fact, he’s just another WASP in a suit. He’s a Bush, the epitome of WASPy clannishness out of Kennebunkport, Maine – a WASP stomping ground. When he felt the support of Latinos waver, he chose to throw Asian-Americans under the bus. Bad move Jebby.

Book Review: Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates

I was brought up in the ‘color blind’ era of racial politics, and by color blind, it means race was not discussed, not so much because it doesn’t exist but because it’s unpleasant and uncomfortable. Being ‘white’ presenting and sheltered by white privilege, we just went along with whatever the ‘status quo’ was out there with regards to racial politics. I also naively thought that racism in any form was not my personal fight, since I am not black and have no idea what black people go through everyday, as long as I don’t contribute to racism in any significant manner, I am ‘good’, in the clear. But I realized institutionalized racism is so entrenched in our everyday lives that any person who is not black, who exists in this society, while accessing the goods and services that benefit almost everyone except black (and Latinos), one was indirectly contributing to institutionalized racism. It’s a sobering realization of which there are no quick solutions or answers. Since the racism is ‘institutionalized’, by definition it means that it affects every single aspect of our lives, all the institutions that exist for the benefit Americans are biased towards minorities, especially blacks.

It is with this mindset I decided to read ‘Between the World and Me’. I rarely cave into publishing houses publicity of ‘must read’ list. Even Toni Morrison’s endorsement didn’t sway me much, I read books at my own time. It has been my experience whenever I read the next ‘must read’ book when it’s hot off the presses, I find myself bitterly disappointed, disappointed at myself for buying into the hype (and paying full price for the book). However, I knew Ta-Nehisi Coates isn’t that type of author and this was a book he wrote with purpose and meaning.

The book is one long epistle to his son, how is future as a black man in this country will play out and how the Dreamers are out to plunder his body and to always be vigilant, to fight the good fight, for himself, for his ancestors  and his race. It gave a correct diagnosis of the problem of institutionalized racism in America but like so many before him, gives no answers or any attempt at a solution, political or otherwise. One irony I will point out is Coates has often criticized anyone who ask black people to be personally accountable (even President Obama), especially black men, citing centuries of oppression has eroded that sense of basic morality, especially when it comes to responsible parenting, but Coates himself has become the embodiment of American upward mobility. Due to his gift for writing, his hard work and honing his craft and personal responsibility, especially his commitment to his son, he’s now a fully paid up member of the American upper middle class.

Coates doesn’t tell his son that everything is going to be alright, it will all work out and things will be different for him. He offers no words of comfort for his son, it is his belief that America, will forever remain a white supremacist system. It’s a very dystopian view of American society and how little hope he has towards our future as one cohesive nation. I find this concerning because our country has progressed, even if at glacial pace, and it’s a disservice to all the civil rights activists who endured real torture to gain rights for all minorities (not just blacks).

Next to impart the message of hopelessness for his future as an equal member of American society is a bit heavy for a teenage boy to digest. Young people, as a function of being young are hopeful and optimistic, even young people who live in dire circumstances can see rays of hope in their awful situation and his attempt to put that light out, especially at a time of where new civil rights movements, such as Black Lives Matter are coming up is dispiriting to say the least.

It’s one thing to make aware to your child the dangers of society, the personal dangers he faces due to racism and discrimination, but another to eradicate the hope that is present in young people. I had a very hard time reconciling that. I do see it from his point of view and from his upbringing, but to put that same emotional baggage on his child, when his son, due to he and his wife’s hard work, did not have to endure a childhood in the ghettos, I cannot see the reasoning for this very pessimistic message.

I liked the book but I really wanted to love it. I can’t say I loved it. The comparison to James Baldwin is premature. His writing style, in a lyrical storytelling manner is similar to James Baldwin, but Baldwin, having suffered through so much more, has more depth and takes a more complicated view of the world, even in the messy race relations of America.

It is grossly oversimplifying the deep complexities of our multi-racial, multi-ethnic diverse society by breaking everything down to only black and white, Dreamers and non-Dreamers, bad police with no trace of humanity toward their victims. Police brutality is a huge problem, as is with institutionalized racism, white supremacy and white privilege but to zero in only on the problem and offer no solutions besides keep fighting the good fight is a counterproductive message.

Lastly, about the matter of personal responsibility or accountability, this is where I was told that my belief is racist, though I am not, by someone on Facebook, for suggesting that even victims of historical crimes of monstrosity such as slavery. Every single person can have some control over one’s lives, no matter how small. With personal responsibility comes pride, comes achievement, comes exceeding one’s expectations. It’s not a “scold” as Coates calls it, it’s what people need to do to get ahead, like what Coates has done for himself and his family. Why would he think it’s not appropriate to give that same advice to people his son’s age?

How I’m learning to break my silence and fight racism

This is how we move our country forward in terms of racial politics. Small, seemingly insignificant conversations like these to break the conversation wide open. And she is absolutely right, had the kid been a white kid in his 20s, there would have been no cause for ‘concern’.
This is a clear case of institutionalized racism. If by coincidence a real burglary occurred in that same neighborhood and the suspect was a young thin black male in his 20s, this kid could have ‘become’ that suspect.

Cute Girl With A Banjo

King-Martin-Luther-slience

“If they aren’t doing anything unlawful, then they shouldn’t have anything to worry about.” 

It’s a common refrain used by defensive white people who would like to pretend that minorities, specifically black people, are not targeted by law enforcement. I’m sorry to say there was an ignorant time in my life when I believed this too.

For much of my teens and twenties, even as I consumed black culture, co-opted and appropriated it because it was “oh-so-cool-and-different,” I bought in to boot-strapping black respectability politics. I thought if black people would just “act right” then they wouldn’t get into trouble. I thought that being “colorblind” meant not being racist; that if we willed the differences away, they’d slink to the furthest reaches of the earth, never to be seen again.

I am embarrassed about my past ignorance (and am still learning), but it also makes sense. I was privileged, grew up…

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Dreams

A good observation about Americans being the most ‘excitable’ people on earth. I was told that by Russians I met too. We, as Americans are too easily excited, too optimistic and as a result never ready for what life throws at you. The Russians are right up my alley. Like Russians, I have a thoroughly misanthropic view of life, though I do give way to being too excited for no reason at times too.

Writing With an Accent

UntitledSince my book came out, everybody I know says, “How exciting!”

This, of course, is a very typical American reaction. You tell somebody that you’re going for a bike ride on the weekend, and they say, “How exciting!”  Or you ask someone how they feel about starting a new job, and they tell you, “I’m excited!”

When I first came to this country, I thought that Americans must be the most excitable people on earth. Even now, after having lived in the country for twenty-four years, this inexplicable American enthusiasm never ceases to amaze me. You see, I’m from Russia. We never got excited. We got drunk. Or, when we felt something “exciting” come over us, we got into fights. That was it.

Of course, I personally don’t drink much, and I don’t fight either (well, only rarely, usually with my husband:)). But every time I hear “How exciting!” I…

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What is Race? Nature or Nurture?

With Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King’s race brought into question, it begs the question, what is race? Is it nature or nurture? Biology or social conditioning? Could someone be born of one race but claim to belong another if he were raised with a different culture that is not of the race that he was born to?

To be clear, Shaun King has hit out strongly about the people that wish to smear him and his family but someone Breitbart Report claims to have dug up photos of people who purport to be his biological parents and a sibling, all of whom appear to be white. Breitbart, while no friend of the progressive movement and is right of the Tea Party, made a convincing argument of Shaun King misrepresenting his race. Shaun King has come out strongly refuting those claims and said that he was being setup white supremacists who are trying to destroy the Black Lives Matter movement. 

King further explained that his family tree is complicated and that no two siblings have the same set of parents and sometimes the names of the biological father on the birth certificates is not the actual father, he also has no idea how many siblings he’s got. As a result of this expose, he was forced to lay bare his complicated family tree and many unedifying secrets. In short, he looks the way he does is because his mother is white and his father is a very light skinned black man, with whom his mother had an affair with, from his writing, it appears that his mother was or is married to a white man but had a child with a man who is not her husband. His family, though complicated, to the point of incredulity, it’s clear that he is no Rachel Dolezal, a true race impostor. Though Shaun King is a very fair skinned interracial black man who could almost pass as white should he feel inclined to, his life’s experiences is one of a black man, due to the heinous one-drop rule that the collective society has embraced. What’s important is he identifies himself as a black man and he’s experienced life as a black man and now he’s heavily engaged in activism to help the plight black people.

In another case of complicated race/parentage, I just watched the documentary ‘Little White Lie’ by Lacey Schwartz, she was raised as a white Jewish girl in Woodstock, New York, it was an overwhelmingly white town, though very liberal. The white people there, due to its homogeny, had the unique privilege of never having to think about race in their daily lives and interactions. So Lacey grew up as a white Jewish girl with all the rites of passage of a Jewish childhood such as Shabbat dinners and Bat Mitzvahs. One nagging thing that people couldn’t ignore was here corkscrew curls and her darker shade of white than the rest of her family. It was conveniently explained away by her great-grandfather who was Sicilian Jew with very curly hair and dark skin (a photo of him was presented). She essentially grew up as a white upper-middle class Jewish girl. From what she portrays in the film, she is a Jewish girl not just in name but her religious beliefs as well. Even after her coming out as black, she still participates in Shabbat dinners and her wedding was a Jewish ceremony.

But as she got older, the nagging voice in her head became a scream she couldn’t ignore. At the encouragement of her high school boyfriend who is also black-caucasian biracial, told her to get the truth from her mother and that the Sicilian grandfather story was a just that, a story to explain away the obvious. When she was 16, her parents divorced and the reason became clear. She was not her father’s biological daughter, her biological father was a black man from Queens and he was a family friend.

If there is anything white people do well is denial. White people have mastered the power of denial to any problem: drinking problems, drug taking, unhealthy codependent marriages, having a child in which that doesn’t belong to your husband but passing it off as his, these are the master trade of the white race. Even her high school boyfriend said so, he said he’s been around white people a lot (his family presumably), and they are ‘crazy’ and will ‘believe anything’ if they must, I got a good laugh from that. In other words, white people (especially those of a certain social class) will do anything to maintain that respectability and sweep all the ‘ick’ that is part of being human under the rug as Lacey’s mother had done.

Lacey Schwartz ‘outed’ herself as black when she applied to Georgetown University and instead of checking a box for her race, she just provided a photo. Based on that photo, she was accepted as a black student. And that was that, there was no going back. Georgetown University said she was black, therefore she’s black. However, if the audience thought this was her ‘moment’ of freedom to be herself, the audience is wrong. She loved being black and identified as a black woman but when she tried to get to know and get close with her biological father and half siblings, the connection wasn’t there. Even her half sister whom she most resembled, she felt no connection. She didn’t say it, but it’s her upper class Jewish upbringing getting in the way. She, simply, due to the conditioning of her upbringing, could not reconcile her family’s background to those of her biological father’s family. She is Jewish, they are Christian, she went to Georgetown and later to Harvard Law School, because her father (the one that raised her) could provide for her. It is unclear which life path her half siblings took. She benefited from white privilege growing up, despite not being white. When she asked each of her white relatives what they thought of her and her appearance growing up. They all said they felt something was off, but she was just ‘Lacey’ to them and they loved her. And true to the tenants of white privilege, they never thought about Lacey in terms of her race. She was just Lacey, their cousin or niece or grandchild.

Lacey Schwartz growing up in a liberal white town like Woodstock was largely shielded from the cruel aspects of being biracial in white America. She had a few instances where kids at school asked about her race, like the kid in kindergarden asked to see her gums because if she were black, her gums would be black too. She had white friends most of which she’s still friends with today. Her one white childhood friend said she felt she looked black but because she knew both of her parents, therefore she couldn’t have been black and didn’t think much about it. Was Lacey Schwartz shielded from the cruelties of  society because of her close knit and open minded Jewish family and their social class or was she a special case of being in the right family at the right time in history?

Shaun King is of similar age to Lacey Schwartz, and he has a far different experience growing up. Both the King and Schwartz family was dysfunctional, full of lies, cheating, denials and deflection but the Schwartz family was a well-to-do family and for all the dysfunction between her parents, Lacey enjoyed an affluent, carefree and happy childhood. She was included in all of the many activities that goes on in Jewish families. Her father, Robert Schwartz, whatever his personal feelings about his ex-wife’s betrayal is, raised Lacey as his own and even walked her down the aisle at her wedding. He loved the little girl that wasn’t his blood. Blood is not always thicker than water. Though he had difficulty talking about Lacey being ‘black’, it does not  change his feelings for his daughter. He of course had his own issues in the aftermath of his divorce and finding out his whole family was a lie, but he never walked away from his only ‘child’. I don’t think that Lacey gave her father enough credit for that.

So what is race? What if I grew up in Norway instead of the United States, and really love Norway, love it more than Norwegians love their culture, speak perfect Norwegian, identify with Norwegian values, eat Norwegian food, do Norwegian things, can I call myself Norwegian? More importantly, will other not so fervent ethnic Norwegians consider me a Norwegian or some biracial American girl trying to pass herself off as a Norwegian? We in America have complicated the race issue so much that we couldn’t even begin to make distinction in the gray areas. The insidious one drop rule has prevented black and white people to reconcile our differences. It made black people cling to their blackness and white people cling to their whiteness without any room for gray when life itself is full of grays. It leaves biracial children of all stripes and persuasions confused and angry at their plight of simply being biracial. What race should they identify with? When presented with an application form, which one should they check? Would it be opportunistic if they checked one and not the other if they felt it would suit them? Would omitting a race be seen as self-hating or opportunistic?

The actress Raven-Symone calls herself an ‘American’ refusing to address her sexuality or race because she loves ‘humans’, the reason she gave is she doesn’t want to place labels on herself. Tiger Woods calls himself ‘calblinasian’, a word he invented because he didn’t want to only identify as black. It’s fine if society calls him black but he wanted to be calblinasian, which includes all of his ancestry. These public figures have rubbed people, especially other black people the wrong way when they refuse to simply identify as ‘black’. But does it occur to people that perhaps these biracial or multi-ethnic people love all members of their family and not just the black ones, and perhaps they don’t want to cause offense or hurt feelings to their non-black family members? This one drop rule mentality has got to be changed in order for the country to move forward on race relations.

Ashley Madison…Shhhhh

On to a less serious subject today, the database of Ashley Madison was hacked and the identities of 32-40 million subscribers of Ashley Madison has been made public. Depending on where you sit, this is either something hilariously gleeful to laugh at or you might be worried your dirty little secret will be found out by your spouse. I belong to the former camp but not for reasons one might think, and no, I am not on Ashley Madison. Let’s get that cleared up.

At the very least, there is a sense of poetic justice for the cheaters and ‘aint’ karma a bitch’ type of schadenfreude. I love it all. Seeing unfaithful spouses quaking in their boots, it’s got to bring a smile to someone’s face, especially someone like me, with a misanthropic view of life and people.

The icing on top has got to be that Joshua Duggar of THE Duggar family has had several subscriptions to Ashley Madison requesting for all kinds of kinky stuff that isn’t allowed in his Christian upbringing. So add to the list of his ‘sins’, he’s also an adulterer or an attempted adulterer.

Ashley Madison is a website where married people go if they want to engage in an affair that is fleeting and no strings attached. This is to prevent ‘bunny boiler’ situations that could arise should someone decide to take the risk and go out and find their own third parties for affairs. It is explicit for members of Ashley Madison that everyone subscriber is aware that this is a discreet, hush-hush, no strings attached situation and the founders of this service setup this website so that ‘like-minded’ people can meet in a discreet manner with minimal disruption to their marriages.

When the website was first launched, it incited outrage from all sides, the Christian fundamentalists, scorned girlfriends and wives, self-appointed do gooders all say that this is the beginning of the real moral decline of American. It’s encouraging people to have affairs and it’s available at their fingertips. The founder, Noel Biderman, who, ironically is happily married, disagreed, he said he was just being entrepreneurial in the digital age and providing a service. People engage in affairs anyways, he didn’t invent infidelity, it’s the oldest sin in the world, he just provided a safe discreet environment for people to carry out their affairs and alleviate the boredom and ennui that eventually comes with marital bliss. Statistics show very few people actually leave their spouses for their lovers, so why not do it with minimal disruption.

Depending on one’s life experiences, it dictates how one views cheating and extramarital affairs. I never suffered the ignominy of being the scorned wife or girlfriend and I have never been in the unfortunate position of being jilted for someone else. Perhaps I was cheated on by college boyfriends (rumor mill), but I didn’t care about the person or relationship enough to have a severe emotional reaction. I had always been quite confident about myself in the relationship department and if someone were to leave me for another, it’s more of his loss than mine and I would wish them well. Jealousy and envy are debasing emotions for me and even if I were to feel them, I’d do my best job at being nonchalant about it all. Me and the green eyed monster do not get along at all and I avoid that green eyed monster like the plague.

Many TV shows, talk shows, books, magazine articles, scientific essays have written about infidelity and cheating, why do people cheat? Why do people in seemingly happy marriages cheat? Why am I not good enough? How to affair proof your marriage/relationship? Blah Blah. To me, the answer is simple, because they want to and they can, most think they can get away with it and many do. And also because people suck. The ones that get caught or found out are usually bad at hiding their tracks. Some decide to ‘unburden’ themselves to ease their conscience and then they find out it was so not worth the confession, especially when the affair was over and done with.

There are also some people who won’t cheat regardless of how miserable their marriage is because it’s undignified behavior and they hold themselves to a higher standard. It doesn’t mean they don’t think about it, but thinking and doing are two totally different things. And those that don’t cheat aren’t morally better either, it’s simply, in this circumstance, cheating isn’t an option but everything else may be. Not cheating doesn’t mean they won’t behave badly in other ways. They could be emotionally withdrawn, abrasive, behaving in passive aggressive or aggressive ways, nit-picking their spouse to death, bitch and moan about every little thing, every other kind of shitty behavior besides cheating. Is that better than going out and having an affair? That depends on the person. I like to be left the hell alone, so if you are unhappy and I don’t do it for you anymore, by all means.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am married. I was married in the Catholic church with full Catholic rites. It was our choice. I took my wedding vows seriously and we did all the things the Catholic church requires of us in order to be married in the church. My husband and I are not naive people, I was 29 when I married him and he was older than me, we both knew it wasn’t going to be a cakewalk. We both have strong personality types and many personality traits that leave a lot be desired. So, to make this work, we needed Divine guidance, at least I did. It was an ‘as God is my witness’ moment.

We were and are totally in love, but we are also pragmatic. Within a marriage shit happens, people change, priorities change, children change the relationship dynamics and a whole host of things can go wrong, in fact, very little can go right. And love does not conquer all. I knew that ‘forever’ doesn’t always mean forever. We also decided early on in our relationship that cheating is not an option and that the marriage is over if anyone cheated. This is not to say we are more ‘in love’ than the next couple but that this was our commitment to each other. If our marriage is to end, it would end in a dignified and respectful manner.

Divorce isn’t completely off the table either, and it’s been considered during rough times. My husband would say it out loud and I’d quietly agree wishing we were divorced right then and there so that this god-awful conversation would end, then it would blow over and life goes on. But I wonder how many times we can do this, and I don’t know if each time divorce is discussed I am mentally preparing myself more should it actually happen. This may run contrary to our church’s teachings and intention for marriage as being a lifelong endeavor, but again, our pragmatism informs us that there is no need to squeeze a square peg in a round hole and cause ourselves a lifetime of misery just because we are Catholic and got married in the church.

Marriage and relationships are mysterious things, there are people that met when they were 16, took one look at each other, got married and stayed married for 50 years. When people ask couples who’ve marked their silver or golden anniversary on what their ‘secret’ is, it invariably sounds like this: ‘don’t go to bed angry, be a good friend to your spouse, compromise’ and from the guys ‘listen to what she (his wife) says’ and it’ll work out. These sound deceptively simple, but each item is loaded with its own difficulties and I am not one to put on a happy face when I am not. I stopped that shit a long time ago.

To be cheated on holds its own stigma and shame. It means that one is not good enough in some way and for every person it’s different but the feeling of hurt, rejection and pain is the same.

Dan Savage, a relationship columnist and expert has some good advice for those who wish to check on the released list of Ashley Madison database to see if their spouse’s names are on there, he has this to say: An Open Letter to People Thinking About Checking to See if Their Husbands or Wives Were On Ashley Madison, my favorite advice is advice #2 – the fakes and flakes. It should put the minds of many spouses at ease.

Guest Post by Frances Rae – Parenting With Trauma

I love this post. Though my blog is not a parenting blog, I sometimes touch on subjects that coincide with parenting.

I am a great proponent of physical boundaries between children, adults, family members, friends, acquaintances and it has to be taught by parents. I have been chided for not encouraging excessive physical or rough play with my children just because children don’t have the tools to know appropriate physical boundaries and it can easily get out of hand and someone could get hurt.

The Belle Jar

by Frances Rae

In the five and a half years that she’s been alive, I’ve been saying that the older my daughter gets, the easier it is to parent her. She’s constantly developing more cognitive abilities to rationalize and socialize and become more independent. Aside from things like the fact that now she can fix herself a snack or a simple meal, dress herself, and play alone for short periods of time, we can also have much more calm and respectful conversations when we disagree on things like bedtime, how much candy to eat, how long we can stay at the park, etc.

Naturally, with her being five, we still encounter our share of unresolvable disagreements and strong emotions. Hell, I think those are fair things to expect from people of any age. But since she is five, she doesn’t have all the skills yet to deal with those things…

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A Matter of Words – Losing a Customer and Opening a Conversation

White privilege is really permission to be ordinary.” – Well said by the partner of Jarek Steele, Kris.

The myopia of the ‘privileged’ can be truly galling. I hope Jarek Steele’s bookstore survives. There are so few small independent bookstores these days and this is a bookstore that is trying to make a difference with its platform. Thank you for writing this.

jareksteele

Yesterday, we received an anonymous letter in response to this window display commemorating the one year anniversary of Michael Brown’s shooting:

blmThere was no return address, and it wasn’t signed.  It was a very short message on a note card telling us that we had lost a customer.  In it, the person said we stoked the flames of enmity between races and promoted division.  The person asked us why we insisted upon doing that.

It’s hard to know how to respond.  What I want to do is call up the customer and chat.  I want to take him or her out for coffee and talk about what those three words mean and why I and our store feel compelled to repeat them in a window along a busy street in what seems to some to be an act of ill will.

There is no way to do that in this case so…

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Calling for Personal Responsibility Does Not Mean the Crime of Slavery is Absolved

There is a new trend where supporters of Black Live Matter and other civil rights movements have decided to roll back on the call to ‘personal responsibility’ for black people, especially young black men, citing that it’s unfair to ask people who are disadvantaged in every way when compared to whites to be personally responsible for oneself. Some writers like Ta-Nehisi Coates believe that it’s unfair to ask one of the most underprivileged populations in America, a population due to institutionalized racism has been denied access to adequate housing, good education, good infrastructure, easy access to good jobs and subjected to indiscriminate police harassment and brutality to show ‘personal responsibility’ when there are so many obstacles against them since birth.

Coates, in particular took an objection to the speech President Obama gave to the graduating class of Morehouse College, an excerpt below:

We know that too many young men in our community continue to make bad choices. Growing up, I made a few myself. And I have to confess, sometimes I wrote off my own failings as just another example of the world trying to keep a black man down. But one of the things you’ve learned over the last four years is that there’s no longer any room for excuses. I understand that there’s a common fraternity creed here at Morehouse: “Excuses are tools of the incompetent, used to build bridges to nowhere and monuments of nothingness.”

We’ve got no time for excuses—not because the bitter legacies of slavery and segregation have vanished entirely; they haven’t. Not because racism and discrimination no longer exist; that’s still out there. It’s just that in today’s hyper-connected, hyper-competitive world, with a billion young people from China and India and Brazil entering the global workforce alongside you, nobody is going to give you anything you haven’t earned. And whatever hardships you may experience because of your race, they pale in comparison to the hardships previous generations endured—and overcame.

There is nothing wrong with what the president said here. As a black man addressing black graduates, what he said was true, on point and appropriate. There are a billion young people from China, Brazil and India ready to compete with the best and brightest of this country and are willing to work for less and longer hours. Competition is worldwide now, not just the 50 states. Commerce is global now, someone in Brazil can work for a company in America, on a computer and Skype. Ta-Nehisi Coates also strongly objects to the fact that in order for black people to succeed, they have to be twice as good as everyone else and by definition is racist and unfair. Coates goes on to say:

Taking the full measure of the Obama presidency thus far, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that this White House has one way of addressing the social ills that afflict black people—and particularly black youth—and another way of addressing everyone else. I would have a hard time imagining the president telling the women of Barnard that “there’s no longer room for any excuses”—as though they were in the business of making them. Barack Obama is, indeed, the president of “all America,” but he also is singularly the scold of “black America.”

He views Obama’s comments as scolding, but many others see it as a wake up call, an encouragement to the black youth of America. Obama while speaking to these students as their president, but also as a man who had an absent, less than a good example of a father himself and he felt that hole keenly as a young man, he is telling the young graduates that they can do better, aspire to be better and achieve more. As for the reference to Barnard College, this is confusing. Barnard College is a college for women, the issues women face are different than from issues black youth face in this country. Women’s challenges are different so if the president would give a commencement speech to the graduates of Barnard, of course it would be a different speech. And to Coates’s point of unfairness to expect more from blacks and minorities than whites to succeed, there’s no argument with that, women in business face the same thing, but it’s one of those things in life we have to accept to get to where we need to go. And when enough women and minorities succeed to the top of any profession, real equality where equal amounts of effort is put in to succeed is realized.

It is my fear that in this new energized push for Black Lives Matter and calling for all to end institutionalized racism and white supremacy, the also very important personal responsibility is lost in that message. Everyone needs to hold themselves accountable, not just black people. The police, all branches of law enforcement, schools all need to be held personally responsible for their deeds. On a individual level, in order for anyone to achieve personal growth and progress (leaving external factors of racism and discrimination aside), personal responsibility is vitally important.

More importantly, Obama calling for personal responsibility in black youth does not mitigate what black people have to go through just to get somewhere, the extra obstacles they face due to institutionalized racism, it does not diminish the crimes of slavery, Jim Crow, separate but equal, housing discrimination and all other forms of discrimination that have shut black people out of achieving prosperity. From hearing various interviews and speeches the president gave on race issues, he did not imply that black people were ‘in the business’ of making excuses and he fully understands the implication of mass incarceration of young black men leaving behind fatherless children, and how unfair the justice system is towards brown and black people. Obama also understands that he could have easily been one of those black youths stuck in the school to prison pipeline if it were not early childhood intervention on the part of his mother and her family. Obama is also correct in saying ‘when a child opens fire on another child, there is a hole in that child’s heart that government can’t fill. Only community and parents and teachers and clergy can fill that hole.’ So to say that Obama uses his presidency pulpit to ‘scold’ young black men is cherry picking his messages. The president, along with the horrified masses is saddened and shocked by the spate of killings done by white police to black people, and in light of that he has balanced his rhetoric the other way, which is to tell law enforcement to hold their police departments accountable.

Ta-Nehisi Coates: A Different Narrative on the Civil Rights Movement

One of the ‘required reading’ of the summer, ‘Between the World and Me’ by Ta-Nehisi Coates, is a long epistle to his son about the realities of being black in America, specifically, being a black man in America and how America (Dreamers) seek to destroy his physical body. And the picture isn’t pretty. It is a rather short read, only 163 pages long, but it packs a strong punch (no pun intended). It’s a sobering read, unlike most letters from parents to children, it doesn’t end with ‘but it will all work out for you son’. Coates doesn’t say that, in fact he says the opposite, that none of it may work out for the black man as far as his personal safety is concerned and that he really had no answers for his son, except to be vigilant and assertive.

I became familiar with Coates’s writing through his work with ‘The Atlantic’. He writes long, thoughtful pieces about racial injustice in America, in particular, the injustices inflicted upon the black and Native American peoples. The ‘plunder’ (his favorite word) of their bodies, their land and souls, and even when there is nothing left anymore, the ‘Dreamers’ still won’t let up and is out to suck them dry and inhale the fumes of their souls.

The piece he wrote for The Atlantic, ‘The Case for Reparations: Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy. Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole’ is a compelling and arguably the most well thought out, most nuanced best argument for reparations against black people (and by extension would apply to any peoples who have suffered at the hands of a white supremacist government ante or post bellum America) anyone has ever written. Many people have argued the case for reparations for descendants of former slaves before but they went about it all wrong. They focused on the pain, abuse and robbing a group of people their humanity over 150 years ago, it’s very easy (and reasonable) to argue that the sins of the father 150 years ago is not to be visited upon his sons. But Coates went beyond that as his title suggests, slavery, Jim Crow, separate but equal and finally racist housing policy which he quotes from Melvin L. Oliver and Thomas M. Shapiro in their 1995 book, Black Wealth/White Wealth:

Locked out of the greatest mass-based opportunity for wealth accumulation in American history, African Americans who desired and were able to afford home ownership found themselves consigned to central-city communities where their investments were affected by the “self-fulfilling prophecies” of the FHA appraisers: cut off from sources of new investment[,] their homes and communities deteriorated and lost value in comparison to those homes and communities that FHA appraisers deemed desirable.

And I would add to the above, during the subprime mortgage boom, when more black people could afford homes, many of the subprime mortgages were marketed to black and latinos, even when they had good credit and could qualify for an A or Alt-A paper loans. Of course, when the subprime bubble burst, the heaviest losses again went to black and latinos. In one fell swoop, they lost the single most important asset to the American family, their home.

Coates change the reparations argument from physical and emotional pain and suffering (which is harder to fix a dollar amount on) but no less painful or deserving of compensation, to real estate, land, dollars and cents, the dinero, something that is tangible, something that everyone understands, real estate and the value of real estate and the number one slogan in real estate sales ‘location, location, location’. Especially since the wealth of middle America in the 1950s and 1960s was built on homeownership and the equity in a family’s home was their ‘wealth’.

Coates is an intelligent man, he and every other black activist knows that getting reparations for descendants of slaves is an unlikely proposition. There is a lack of political will and capital to raise this issue and even established civil rights organizations like NAACP, Rainbow Coalition and others do not have the political willpower to push this through their legislative lobbies.

‘Between the World and Me’ veers from touching in a sentimental way to almost historical clinical coldness. The book is also a personal manifesto of Coates’s views on America as an white supremacy entity, how black and other minorities exist in that space and his total rejection for ‘mainstream’ thoughts, beliefs and analysis of anything white America has to offer. Due to his father’s influence and the doctrine of the Black Panthers, the Coates family do not believe in God, Christ, celebrate Christmas, Easter or any other holiday that was promulgated by white people and white culture. His father sought to educate black Americans about African culture and the beauty and awesomeness of black people and black culture.

Coates readily admits that he was not ‘street smart’ in the sense that he knows how to not get himself killed in the rough streets of West Baltimore, he had no sense of how to protect himself from the local gangs and drug dealers nor the police who were not there to protect them but to kill them. And because of this deficiency in him, his father Paul Coates, for lack of a better description, beat the crap out of him when he done wrong. He justified this as his father preparing for the cruel world out there, rather convoluted. Precisely because the world is a cruel place, in his case, the minute he steps outside his front door, the home environment should be loving and nurturing. It’s also telling that Ta-Nehisi Coates chose to not impose this sort of punishment (the belt) on his own son. He protected his dear boy’s life like it was the most precious thing in the world as a father should. He didn’t nor did he allow another to lay a hand on his boy. So by his own parenting choices, he has repudiated his father’s method of parenting.

Though he was book smart, he rejected American public education, since he saw no reflection of his African culture or roots in mainstream American education. On his own admission he was a mediocre student by design. He got into Howard University for free because his father worked as a librarian there and so his children got to attend Howard University for free but he dropped out to become a freelance journalist and writer. He had a gift of writing, a sense of acute curiosity and investigative and interrogative fervor, so he carved out a career as a journalist for himself. He also has the unique distinction of the only person in his family who didn’t graduate from college. I admire his self-confidence to not follow the herd and what was preached to him. Perhaps that’s the real lesson to his son, no matter your circumstances of birth you can achieve your goals.

Coates does not accept the narrative of Dr. Martin Luther King’s version of civil rights movement, he was a Malcolm X devotee, Malcolm X’s declaration of black power, black is beautiful and open opposition to integrate with whites spoke to Coates more than the King version of doing civil rights, which is consistent with his Christian beliefs: civil disobedience, organized protests and ultimately forgiving your perpetrator did not sit well in the Coates household. In fact Dr. King was only briefly mentioned once in his whole book, in a rather derogatory tone “And all the time the Dreamers are pillaging Ferguson for municipal governance. And they are torturing Muslims, and their drones are bombing wedding parties (by accident!), and the Dreamers are quoting Martin Luther King and exulting nonviolence for the weak and the biggest guns for the strong.” (p. 130-131 Kindle version)

It is refreshing to read that not every black activist hangs on to every word of Dr. Martin Luther King. Dr. King, in Coates’s view, was too mild mannered, he was too easy on the perpetrators and in the process sold the black people short of what was due to them for centuries of abuse, theft, pillaging and plunder.

It is as if Coates does not view himself as ‘American’, he is black or ‘African’ but because of the criminal history of America, he and his ancestors were chained to a ship and brought here against their will to North America. He would have never chosen to be here. He explicitly wrote that he felt no sadness or sorrow for the police officers (he does not differentiate between white and black cops, all cops were complicit in the destruction of the black body) that died in the Twin Towers on 9-11, on first glance one could accuse him of extreme unpatriotism, but in his view, this country has done nothing but harass, marginalize and harm his physical body and kill his black brethren so he feels no obligation to feel any sense of loss for the law enforcement lives lost on 9-11.

There is also a bizarre quixotic nostalgia of ‘what could have been’ if the victors of history were Africans and not Europeans. Meaning, if Africans were the ones that came to prominence in history and not the European race, the world would have been much different. There wouldn’t be the plunder of Africa for its resources (still ongoing today), there wouldn’t be the transatlantic slave trade, no middle-passage, Africans would treat the conquered nicer, if they even ventured out to conquer (a very big if). It is a great fallacy to hypothesize events of history, one has no where to begin the supposition on how Africans would have treated their conquered, would they have been fairer, more humane, showed clemency? The recent and past history of Africa doesn’t point to this conclusion. While he was busy detailing the crimes of the European race, all of which are legitimate, he failed to recognize that people, any peoples, when given the power to plunder, pillage and abuse, will do so without mercy, especially if the victims are powerless. It’s not only specific to the white race, but perhaps the white race has mastered how to conquer, plunder, pillage, destroy and kill over millennia of practice.

White Cop recorded describing how to murder a Black suspect

I am disgusted to read this. And I am not totally surprised that it happened in Alabama. This cop needs to named, shamed and then terminated from his job and be barred from having any job that has remotely to do with law enforcement.

Ask Cara

Office Troy Millbrooks is allowed to keep his job after describing how he would kill a Black suspect and manipulate the evidence to make it look like self-defense.  Millbrooks is an officer with the Alexander City Police Department in Alabama.  The police department paid the man $35,000 not to sue.  Millbrooks even called the man a “n*gger.”  To read the whole article click here.

Why is this man allowed to keep his job?  He should at least be fired and not allowed to be a cop again.  At the most, he should be charged with a crime.  Why would a police department want a cop on their team who thinks that way?  The chief of the police department defended him!  What!?!  How can you defend that?  Why isn’t the chief disturbed by Millbrooks behavior?  How many times has this occurred without anyone knowing?  These are questions that people need…

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White People Arguing on How to do Activism ‘Correctly’ – Sigh.

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This popped up on my twitter feed yesterday. Two white people arguing about how to let Black Lives Matter (BLM) activists do their activism and not attempt ‘colonize’ that too and whether interrupting a presidential candidate’s speech constitutes ‘childish’ behavior or ‘bratty’ behavior.

Joanna Schroeder a feminist and social activist and Ben Cohen, editor and founder of  TheDailyBanter.com got into a twitter spat about Cohen’s assertion that the activist’s behavior was childish and bratty. He said this during a Huffpost Live segment (full video below), and continued to emphasize that it may not be wise for the Black Lives Matter movement at large to attack and disparage one of their only allies Bernie Sanders and disrupting at a big event like that is ‘childish’. Joanna Schroeder and her followers fell short calling Cohen a racist, but the sentiment was there. Ben Cohen was ‘problem[matic]’ and at best ignorant of America’s history with race.

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In one of the tweets by Joanna Schroeder “Maybe being British you don’t have the cultural context needed here: infantilizing Black people is not new”. I retweeted this not because I agree with the ridiculous twitter spat but because Schroeder hit the mark when she said it’s ‘cultural’.

Depending on where one stands culturally, it will inform the reaction to the actions of the BLM activists. Just like with the OJ Simpson verdict, people’s reactions were dictated by their race. It’s no different here. So if the columnists, opinionators, and self appointed know-it-alls recognize that it’s a fundamental disagreement rooted in culture and race, it would pretty much end the conversation and focus on the real topic, which is to dismantle institutionalized racism.

If one is white or subscribes to white culture and values, the actions of the BLM activists were not so much ‘childish’ or ‘brat[ty], but rude, speaking out of turn is considered rude. One of the first rules one learns growing up is to not interrupt people when they are speaking and that you wait your turn. It is out of order and out of line to storm a stage and interrupt someone’s event without prior approval. It sounds horribly WASPy-ish (and white supremacy-ish) but there it is.

If one does not subscribe to white culture or is not white, they will view the BLM activists actions as totally just and appropriate. Black people, after all, have waited long enough for their ‘turn’ and their pleas and anguish were ignored over and over, and now they won’t be anymore. And to be fair, they gave warning that they will be storming Democratic presidential candidate’s events unannounced and they’ve done just that. They kept their promise. All grassroots campaigns have their growing pains as how to organize and get their message across effectively. Perhaps the BLM movement is still working that out.

Ben Cohen’s assertion that it is unwise for BLM activist to alienate one of their strongest allies by pushing him to the side and taking over the stage. The people after all, came to hear Bernie Sanders speak not the BLM activists, hence the pugilistic reaction of the crowd. If it is the intention of the BLM activists to address the Seattle crowd, they could have easily petitioned the Sanders campaign for stage time, and they could have addressed the crowd at a scheduled time. If the Sanders campaign refuse their request then they can storm the stage to make their message heard. But this is my ‘white’ opinion so it doesn’t count here.

In the aftermath, some BLM activists and allies admitted that their tactics leave some to be desired but the open display of activism isn’t personal to Bernie Sanders himself, they realize that he’s an ally but that they were just using his campaign platform to make their voice heard. This is semantics and splitting hairs. It was Bernie Sander’s person that was pushed aside, his campaign rally was interrupted, which he ended up abandoning at the behest of his organizers. How is any of this not personal to him?

If this is the choice of delivery for BLM activists, that’s their prerogative, they are free to run their organization as they please. However, for every action they seek to provoke, there will be an equally strong reaction. Specific to the Bernie Sanders campaign event in Seattle, the crowd came to hear Bernie Sanders, and with all due respect to the brave and courageous BLM activists, the crowd wasn’t aware that they were to speak. The interruption was perhaps supposed to only be a few moments, but the event organizer decided to shut the whole thing down, so the crowd didn’t get what they came for, which can anger some people regardless of race. Some of the slogans shouted by the audience were inappropriate but it wouldn’t be a stretch to understand their anger and frustration.

Back to Ben Cohen’s point, presumably, the target audience of BLM and other black activists is the white audience, it may behoove them to communicate with white people in the manner in which they are accustomed to and this is not white supremacy talking. There are many instances in history where the message of a movement gets lost in the method of delivery. I know some will accuse me of exercising my white privilege, but I am not speaking from the perspective of race. I am speaking from my business instincts, when I want something from someone to make a deal happen, I try to speak their language and deliver my demands in a way that is understood by my opponent, whatever form that takes.

All told, it would be a huge shame if the Black Lives Matter movement was reduced to talking points such as this. The movement is important, if it takes hold, it could be a better and stronger successor to the NAACP. The Black Lives Matter movement is the social conscience of America right now, when a nation ignores its conscience and does not do what’s right and redress the wrong, it could signal the beginning of the decline of America (a real decline, not the one Republicans are scaremongering about).

About White Privilege

So I’ve just been made aware of this thing called ‘white privilege’ (I know, very late to the game), which apparently I have benefited from my whole life without realizing it. This idea is fascinating to me because I am a rather latecomer to issues about racial identity, racial appearance and how I fit into all that as a white-presenting biracial woman in America.

I have explained in previous posts my awareness, knowledge and general ‘education’ about race was scant at best. Race was not discussed in my household, not by my mother who is Chinese nor by my father who is Anglo-Irish. Both of my parents were aware racism exists, but they felt it was not something they could not control so there’s no point discussing it ad nauseum, as long as we were not racist, we’ve done our part.

Because of my white-presentation, I didn’t experience the overt or covert racism, crude stereotyping and micro-aggressions that minorities in this country routinely experience. I went through my childhood, adolescence and adulthood without fully comprehending what it was like to be a non-white person in America. It is not to say my life was charmed, far from it, I had plenty of problems of my own, but none of it had to do with my race.

To fully explore the part white privilege has played in my life, I thought about my father’s life and how none of it turned out as it should for him, though I think it was for the better. My father and his siblings were supposed to have a charmed life, a life full of privilege, connections in high places and their futures handed to them on a silver platter, all they needed was sufficient ambition to want it for themselves and take it to the next level. But due to my grandfather’s alcoholism, and the divorce of my grandparents that ensued, my father and his siblings lives were changed forever. They went from a life of upper-middle class respectability to rural poverty.

My grandfather was a West Point graduate and had an eye on a career in the army. But after his West Point graduation, the army drinking culture caught up with him and he was discharged. He never fulfilled the army officer’s career that he dreamed of. My grandparents then purchased a farm in New Hampshire and tried to rebuild their lives there. But his alcoholism became so unmanageable that he became violent towards others including his children when drunk, which by now had become a daily occurrence, my grandmother had no choice but to divorce him and kick him out of the home. This was 1941, in the middle of the Great Depression and World War II. My father’s life sank into poverty very quickly.

My grandmother remarried several times more as it was near impossible during the 1940s to keep a household going for a single woman with children. During the times when she had a husband, times were better on the farm. When my grandmother was in between husbands, my father had to step in. He, like all children who grew up on farms in those days had to work on the farm. His childhood was effectively over. He didn’t have any play time, he didn’t ‘hang out’ with his friends, he did not have the leisure time that children today have and take for granted. He told me when the work on the farm was finished, he had to get a job in town. His first job was at 12 years old, pumping gas for a quarter an hour. When he got older, he got a job a restaurant, and he did everything, he cooked, he bused, he waited tables, he counted the cash and kept the books. His formal education at the local parochial school ended in the 9th grade. My grandmother needed him on the farm, she didn’t want him to stop his education but there was no choice. At 15 years old, my father was negotiating the mortgage on the farm on my grandmother’s behalf with the local bank. He took care of his younger half-siblings. Ironically, he made sure they got to school and came home safely. If one wandered off in the large farm or in the woods, it was his job to go look for them and bring them home safely, with my grandmother waiting by the door until all of her children are safely home.

When my grandmother finally sold the farm when she married her last husband, who finally provided well for her, my dad left the rural farm life too. But he had no education and no vocational skills to his name. He had a lot of skills, he can fix almost anything, and after his formal education ended, my father, ever the natural autodidact, taught himself everything that he needed to know, accountancy, mechanical skills, later on he taught himself the ins and outs of the garment trade, computer programming, there was nothing he couldn’t teach himself to do. But none of that mattered if you’ve no high school diploma and college degree. He told me at 18 he made his way to New York City, he was a cook at a diner, then he bought a camera and became a ‘stringer’ or freelance photographer for local newspapers. But he realized all these were ‘jobs’ and not careers. He wanted a career in business.

My father knew from early on that he had to rely on himself, there would be no one (namely his father) to give him a leg up. He became totally independent, emotionally and financially at an early age. As he recounted his life story to me, in a matter-of-fact tone as he took me on a trip to his childhood farm, he told it without any self-pity or wallowing, the lesson I learned from his life’s story was not that he had a tough life, it was that we are ultimately responsible for ourselves, we cannot succumb to our own tragedies, we cannot become victims of our own lives. When tragedy and setbacks occur, you dust yourself off, get back up and start again. He was not a sentimental person, he was not overly affectionate or loving, he was always pragmatic to a fault, and at times distant as a result of his upbringing.

My father came of age in the 1960s but the whole counter culture and cultural revolution of sex, drugs and rock and roll totally blew by him. He said he was busy hustling. He had no time for that. He couldn’t understand why people would spend their days smoking pot and ‘dropping out’. Until the day he died, he resembled someone from the 1950s.

In the end, he did achieve his business success in Asia, he was his own boss and he was great at what he did. He did all of that on a 9th grade education. When I think back on his story, I see it as a story of perseverance over circumstance, of not giving up and never giving in, always striving for the next goal and never ever make excuses for yourself. Ever. I never think back on his story and feel sad that he lost his childhood, because he never projected his story that way to me. And I never thought about his story from the perspective of how his race had to do with his ultimate success.

When I think of my father, I think ‘white’ but I don’t think ‘privilege’, his life was the opposite of privilege, which was why when I first heard the term ‘white privilege’ it was totally ludicrous to me. It’s another ‘blanket’ term invented by someone to describe a race as though that race is a monolithic entity. I had no time for over generalizations. And if you told him he had white privilege, he just might punch you in the face.

However, when I think deeper about it now, because my father was white, and though he grew up in poverty, my grandmother still imparted the proud WASPy values of her childhood to her children, she imparted her Anglo heritage (she was from a prominent family back in the day) to all her children; to be proud, my father and his siblings carried themselves not as poor country kids but as proud WASPs down on their luck. No matter how desperate things got for my grandmother, she held on to her trove of family silver to show her children whom they really were in her mind. They were never white trash, they were the genteel poor. It only dawned on me now that he used this privilege, this unspoken but ever present white privilege, the pride of white ancestry to get ahead in life. When I was visiting my grandmother in her small but cozy Cape Cod style home in New England, filled with expensive antique furniture in every room and her family’s trove of monogrammed silver on full display, one would never have thought she lived in such dire poverty once.

Inadvertently, throughout my upbringing, my father imparted the same WASPy-ish values to me too, don’t complain, don’t whine, dust yourself off and try again, over and over until you succeed and be proud. That was his life’s creed. But he was able to do this because he was a white person. He had the multitude of opportunities to try over and over again because he wasn’t harassed by the police at every turn. He wasn’t a black man living in the Jim Crow South or in the ghettos of the North. He, as a white man, was left alone to do his thing, to succeed and fail on his own terms and minorities are not afforded this privilege, just to be left the hell alone by law enforcement and other government institutions.

When I think of my failures to date, I can honestly hand on heart say it was mostly my fault, whether it was because I acted impulsively, I was unthinking, I didn’t deliberate enough, I didn’t try hard enough, whatever it was I own it. I cannot in good conscience say it was due to racism or sexism any other -ism. I refuse to become a victim. In situations where I am a ‘legitimate’ victim, I allow myself a time period to wallow and get those ‘poor me’ feelings out of the way and then I move on. I inherited all of this from my father and my mother, they were both similar in that way. But this is white privilege. This is the best example of white privilege. This type of thinking is only afforded to people who have the opportunity to dust themselves off and start over again and again unharassed by outside forces.

For black people, every stumble is marked with an arrest and jail time or court fines, it makes it very hard for them to start over. Every time you get incarcerated or more municipal fines get piled onto your record, it gets ever much harder to start over. Heck, if you are always being pulled over by just trying to get from point A to point B, it makes you not want to leave the house.

So, yes, though I struggle to acknowledge it at times, I do benefit from white privilege, because of my racial appearance and because of my heritage. I was taught white privilege by my father, though he was unaware of it and I most certainly was unaware of it.

Many biracial children I’ve met seek to racially and culturally identify with the minority side of their family (non-white side), I was not one of those children. In fact, I found this trend to be troubling. It’s very hard to suppress half of your genetic history (nor should anyone have to) and all the traits that come with that history, whether it’s good or bad. I have no trouble expressing white ‘viewpoints’ and ‘Chinese’ viewpoints interchangeably, sometimes in the same situation. I feel no conflict there. To disregard my white side would be very disrespectful to my father, he overcame so much, he gave me so much.

To acknowledge a privilege you have just by your racial appearance and not a privilege you earned is uncomfortable and at times jarring. But in my case, to not acknowledge it would be disingenuous and self-serving. So, yes, I own it. I benefit from white privilege. It is my hope in the very near future, this term ‘white privilege’ will no longer be relevant because all races are afforded the same privileges.

To Protect and Serve Who?

‘To Protect and Serve’ – the often used motto to describe the multitude of police and sheriff’s departments across the country. But nowadays one wonders exactly who they are serving and protecting. The narrative law enforcement agencies have fed the public is that most police officers are good, they uphold the law and serve their communities valiantly and proudly and the few rotten apples should not be used to measure against the good cops. The public bought this narrative for the longest time. After all, the citizens of this country don’t want to think our tax dollars are funding corrupt and racist police departments. But no more.

This narrative is no longer true and is no longer representative of what a good police force is supposed to be. The new narrative should be, each cop should be measured individually on his or her own efforts. Just because he or she is a cop, we, the public, are not to assume that they are decent and good cops committed to serve his or her community until he or she proves it.

This past year, as black children and men were killed by white cops, some as young as 12, it became impossible to ignore the obvious, that being ‘black’ itself is a crime. Being black automatically makes you a suspect, being black makes you a target, without any benefit of the doubt or presumption of innocence until proven guilty. Being black is equated with being a natural born criminal.

Police brutality against blacks (and other minorities) is not a new thing. It’s been an ongoing cancer since the brutal Jim Crow days, the only thing that has changed is the 24 hour news cycle and proliferation of recording devices, in the form of smartphones. Any person with a smartphone can record anything that is happening at any given time and upload to Youtube or send it to the local news station and has the potential to go viral. One need not wait until the 5 am morning news or the morning paper to get delivered to receive breaking news.

Many proposals have been put forth by law enforcement experts and President Obama on how to curb police brutality and enforce accountability on the part of police officers. The most obvious solution is the bodycam, which will record every single interaction including audio when a police officer interacts with the public. Bodycams can only address the accountability issue, maybe having a bodycam on the person of a police officer will deter him or her from getting out of hand when dealing with a suspect and eliminate the he said/he said scenario, which usually the version by the cop will be believed, but it doesn’t address the root cause of police brutality and unaccountability.

To address the root cause of police brutality, society at large needs to remove the power from the badge. As a society, we need to realize anyone who can pass the police academy courses (which are not that difficult) can wear that uniform, get assigned a badge and firearm. And that person, regardless if he or she is qualified or how much experience on the police force can use that uniform, badge and firearm to bully civilians into submission by just flashing it and pointing it.

The United States is one of the few advanced nations that arms all of its police officers. By arming all police officers, police departments have neglected to train police recruits the real art of policing: assessing danger, assessing the mental state of suspects, making quick but sound decisions, using good judgement to de-escalate dangerous situations and using a weapon is the absolutely last resort when all others have failed. All of the above mentioned qualities in good police training is costly and time consuming and more importantly, many of those skills can’t really be ‘taught’, they have to be ‘learned’ with trial and error.

The screening and recruiting process for some police departments, as reported by Jake Halpern for The New Yorker, leaves a lot to be desired. Darren Wilson, Mike Brown’s murderer, said he joined the police force because he thought it was a ‘recession proof’ job. He didn’t really exhibit the qualities that would make him a good police officer. Darren Wilson didn’t even have a strong desire or passion for being in law enforcement, he just needed a job that had good benefits.

To be a cop that is good at walking the ‘beat’ requires streetsmarts (for the officer’s own protection), emotional intelligence (the ability to connect with people you don’t know at a human level), empathy for others at and a knack for deciphering what’s real and what’s bullshit. It’s definitely not for people who are robotic and inflexible in nature, who only know how to follow orders and do what’s told and little else.

The current police force as it stands attracts one main group of people. Poorly educated, disgruntled white men who are unhappy with the way things are and the direction society is evolving. White men who believe that society as they know it is ending due to shifting demographics and the election of a black president. They see as their way of life, the way they call the shots coming to an end. So, the only way they have any control over their lives is to become a police officer and reinforce institutionalized racism, to be given a badge to bully and intimidate people with and a gun to point it at people, legally, due to the powers afforded to those two objects.

Depending on your race and background, you are told either one of two things about the police: if you are white, you are told that the police are there to protect you and should you get yourself into any trouble, call the cops, they’ll come and save you and bring you to safety. If you are non-white, the police are a source of intimidation, fear, oppression and brutality. Both of these narratives originate from the opposite sides of the same coin and that is the time honored ‘badge’. When the police flash that badge, as a citizen you sit up and pay attention and give it the respect the authority of the badge demands (not necessarily the person holding it). We need to change that narrative. The badge is no longer all powerful. It’s no longer something that every citizen has to kowtow to once it’s whipped out.

The few people awaking to the fact that the badge is not all powerful, and the few that dare question it, such as Sandra Bland, do so at their own peril. She was given a $5000 bond for questioning why she was being pulled over for not signaling, she dared question the police officer, he trumped up her charges, issued a $5000 bond and she committed suicide in jail.

Also, who make it acceptable to be a so rude and belligerent when pulling over someone over and telling them their tail light is out or some other trifle matter? And who made it a law that you are not allowed to ‘talk-back’ to a police officer? On what authority do they have to charge anyone with ‘resist of arrest’ by just asking questions and asserting one’s rights? Every person, regardless of race, ethnicity or legal status has an absolute right to ask why they are being pulled over if the reason initially given by the police officer is insufficient, especially as Jake Halpern pointed out in his piece for the New New Yorker, cops in the North County of St. Louis don’t even have a basic grasp of their local laws and violations. They are arresting people for laws that don’t exist and would not hold up under probable cause.

Even if a cop pulls someone over due to justified suspicious behavior, what gives a cop the right to be bellicose and verbally assault the suspect? Do they not teach basic manners at the police academy? If they don’t, they ought to start. And what is up with throwing people to the ground or on the hood of the squad car or severing someone’s spine during transport after a routine arrest?

The consciousness of America has been awaked by the Black Lives Matter movement. People of all races will not sit by idly while police abuse and brutalize the most disadvantaged citizens because they can get away with it. The police, just like the people they arrest, need to be held accountable for their actions. And the age old crutch ‘I didn’t know he was not armed’, ‘His large size scared me’, ‘I didn’t know he was only ____ (insert age)’, all of these excuses will no longer fly. If law enforcement and the courts do not hold aggressive police officers accountable, we will.

Depression is Beautiful

Depression is beautiful. It’s amazing.

People who battle depression are strong, beautiful and amazing. I am strong, beautiful and amazing. I have never said those things about myself before. It’s against my nature to lavish praise and attention on myself. It’s against my Chinese and WASP culture to do so, to draw attention to oneself. It’s almost a cardinal sin to do such an unedifying thing. I prefered to fade into the background, even at my own detriment. I never spoke up for what I needed, liked or disliked. I disliked being the center of attention.

But now I will acknowledge myself as a strong beautiful person because I battled depression for most of my life, without help or guidance from anyone. On really bad days, I white knuckled it. I forced myself to get out of bed and go about my day. And the only thought I had was  ‘When can I go back to bed?’

I am also a mother, which means on most days I have no choice but to get out of bed and do what I must do. Some days are more difficult than others. Some days I am withdrawn and I am just going through the motions so that their physical needs are taken care of. Some days I am irritable, but most days I am amazing. I power through to be the best parent to my children. I got well for them.

When one is young, it’s easy to white knuckle everything. A young person has the strength of will of the mind to overlook the abhorrent, which is why children are resilient, even children of abuse when given the opportunity and environment can revert to happy carefree kids playing in the park, but the effects of abuse still rears its ugly head when they head into teenagehood and young adulthood, when they realize the full weight of what has happened to them.

When I was much younger, I was able to power through my depression and anxiety with very little effort. But as I got older, and as the adversities and blows came more frequent and harder, and as I got more mentally tired and weary of people, life and the world in general. My depressive episodes lasted longer each time and it was more painful each time. The pain was physically manifested into headaches, backaches and other body aches. Little disappointments became an insurmountable source of anguish, anger, frustration and bitterness and it took longer to dig myself out that black hole.

I knew why I was getting depressed, I knew instinctively what caused it but I was afraid to do much about it for fear of rocking the boat and causing upset to others. I put everyone else’s feelings above my own and I couldn’t change it.

But this year, I had my own Table Flip moment. I was going to take care of me first, mentally and physically. I will speak my truth, my unvarnished version of the truth as I know it. I became empowered for the first time in my life. I took ownership of my feelings and unafraid to expressed them. I have ‘warned’ my nearest and closest to apply Law School 101, if you don’t already know the answer to the question, then don’t ask it or you better be prepared for what comes. I will not be shamed, blamed and guilted into tempering my feelings so that others feel better. No More. Not ever again.

Depression is beautiful. It made me strong. It made me discover myself. It made me discover my truth. I am grateful to it.

The New Union Organization is at the Ballot Box

Yesterday, a Facebook user Jens Rushing’s post about the minimum wage in of New York City being $15 per hour went viral and was shared over 40,000 times by other Facebook users and here is the text in full:

Fast food workers in NY just won a $15/hr wage.

I’m a paramedic. My job requires a broad set of skills: interpersonal, medical, and technical skills, as well as the crucial skill of performing under pressure. I often make decisions on my own, in seconds, under chaotic circumstances, that impact people’s health and lives. I make $15/hr.

And these burger flippers think they deserve as much as me?

Good for them.

Look, if any job is going to take up someone’s life, it deserves a living wage. If a job exists and you have to hire someone to do it, they deserve a living wage. End of story. There’s a lot of talk going around my workplace along the lines of, “These guys with no education and no skills think they deserve as much as us? Fuck those guys.” And elsewhere on FB: “I’m a licensed electrician, I make $13/hr, fuck these burger flippers.”

And that’s exactly what the bosses want! They want us fighting over who has the bigger pile of crumbs so we don’t realize they made off with almost the whole damn cake. Why are you angry about fast food workers making two bucks more an hour when your CEO makes four hundred TIMES what you do? It’s in the bosses’ interests to keep your anger directed downward, at the poor people who are just trying to get by, like you, rather than at the rich assholes who consume almost everything we produce and give next to nothing for it.

My company, as they’re so fond of telling us in boosterist emails, cleared 1.3 billion dollars last year. They expect guys supporting families on 26-27k/year to applaud that. And that’s to say nothing of the techs and janitors and cashiers and bed pushers who make even less than us, but are as absolutely crucial to making a hospital work as the fucking CEO or the neurosurgeons. Can they pay us more? Absolutely. But why would they? No one’s making them.

The workers in NY *made* them. They fought for and won a living wage. So how incredibly petty and counterproductive is it to fuss that their pile of crumbs is bigger than ours? Put that energy elsewhere. Organize. Fight. Win.

His post touched a nerve by saying corporate bosses – they would love nothing more for their workers to fight over the ‘crumbs’. In fact, as other low wage but high skills required workers are bitching and griping about burger flippers making $15 an hour, their CEOs are sitting comfortably in their office suite overlooking the Manhattan skyline somewhere laughing, smugly telling themselves that they knew this would happen, the guys making $13 an hour unclogging someone’s toilet in different city is going to get pissed that someone who flips burgers at McDonald’s is making more than they, and the little crumb fighters will fight against each other and this whole $15 per hour minimum wage social movement will quietly go away.

Well, not so fast. The ballot box is the new union. Since unions organizing and politics can be costly, prohibitive and counterproductive, the ballot box isn’t. Once an initiative or law is passed, it will get enacted and it has to be followed. Big corporations have big money and their tentacles are in everything that they believe will benefit them, but the few corporate million and billionaires are still outnumbered by the workers. Like Jens Rushing said, the New York City’s minimum wage was made because the workers made them by going to the ballot box.

There are several metropolitan areas where the $15 minimum wage has been adopted, Seattle, San Francisco and the City of Los Angeles will have minimum wage at $15 per hour within 5 years, with slow increment increases. Washington DC is the next big city considering minimum wage increase to $15 per hour, which will be voted on next year.

Depending on where you stand and what your politics are, this is either progressive’s ideal come true or a nightmares for businesses. In the case of fast food workers in New York City, McDonald’s and its ilk will not lose money over paying their workers a living wage, McDonald’s and other fast food companies are losing money and profit share due to their crappy food that is processed and sodium and chemical laden where they use the worst cuts of meats and poultry to make their chicken nuggets and big macs. You don’t even know what you are eating.

Also, the ‘burger flippers’ that people so derisively refer to, people who work at fast food joints no longer just flip burgers, they are cashiers, janitors, customer service reps, everything. The amount of wage theft in fast food chains is alarming. Supervisors or shift managers asks their employees to stay after closing to help clean up and it’s implied that if they do, they will be recommended for raise or promotion, but they rarely do and most importantly, they don’t get paid for the hours they work after the restaurant closes (can you call McDonald’s a restaurant? That’s almost insulting to a real restaurant), the same is true for retail stores. Those are all stolen wages and that is why Burger King reported a 37% profit last year. It’s not because their burgers are 37% healthier or better.

Huffington Post, an advocate of the living wage did a heartrending series called ‘All Work and No Pay’ about what it’s like to be the working poor, working, living and hiding in plain sight, and these are not just people who work in the fast food industry, these are people have been laid off in the Great Recession and was not able to get back to what their former wage was and they feel they may never get their old life back.

Wages are slowing inching back up, inflation rate is holding, unemployment rate is dropping but it’s not due to new jobs being created but people dropping out of the workforce altogether so they are not counted as ‘unemployed’ anymore. Big corporations, who are sitting on trillions in cash smelled the desperation of American workers, willing to take any job at any wage just to have a job so that they don’t go from being poor to being in abject poverty. And they took advantage of it, deliberately offering workers hours just below the number of hours required to give them health insurance benefits (Walmart is the worst offender of this tactic), making sure most of their staff are part time so that they are not entitled to benefits of full time staff like sick pay and other PTO. On top of not providing enough hours for their employees, they give them erratic and work schedules so that it makes it impossible for the employee to find a second job elsewhere to supplement his or her income. For some companies, if they find out that you are working part time elsewhere and your schedules coincide, that’s grounds for termination.

Since 2008 to now, big corporations have abused their employees enough, while they see corporate profits soar, their employee’s barely get a 0.25 per hour raise and are being nickeled and dimed for it. People in big metropolitan areas are organizing in big numbers at the ballot box. The idea of traditional union organization is obsolete. Union structures are too complicated and too costly and often don’t deliver the results necessary to its workers who dutifully pay their union dues. Also, when you work for a company that belongs to a union, many workers feel extreme pressure to join the union or else they are afraid that they will be retaliated against or be shut out of promotions and raises.

This is the first sign in many years that the tide is turning against big corporations and the hoarding of big corporate profits. I do not begrudge CEOs or ‘brain surgeons’ their compensation, far from it, I want to be the CEO of my own company one day, they work hard for their jobs just like the rest of us work hard for ours. What the people want is fairness and a living wage. Cost of living has consistently gone up for the last 30 years but real wages have hardly budged except for those on top.

The scaremongering for increase in minimum wage has begun long before any initiative or law has passed, but they mostly fell on deaf years. The supposed ‘fallout’ from the wage hike is minimal and negligible. In the case of McDonald’s, to pay its workers $15 per hour, they would have to increase the price of Big Macs by around 50 cents, which is negligible. Like the author of the post said:

Look, if any job is going to take up someone’s life, it deserves a living wage. If a job exists and you have to hire someone to do it, they deserve a living wage. End of story.

Even if it’s scrubbing toilets, someone’s got to do it, and if the CEO and his cronies aren’t going to come down and scrub toilets and is going to hire the high school dropout to do it, then the high school dropout deserves to have a living wage. End of Story.

Portrait of a Modern White Police Officer: Monosyllabic, Emotionally Deficient, Unable to Empathize with Poor Communication Skills

Darren Wilson, the police officer that shot Michael Brown recently gave an interview to The New Yorker magazine. It was meant to be a detailed, in depth article about who Darren Wilson is and how his race, occupation and the way he carried out his duties as a cop has affected the larger macro environment of the Greater St. Louis area. Specifically, in Ferguson, Missouri where Mike Brown was shot and killed in broad daylight for stealing a few cigarillos and allegedly threatening the life of a police officer, even though he was unarmed.

Jake Halpern, the writer for this piece, attempted (without much success) to understand Darren Wilson as a person not just as cop. Where was he from? What was his upbringing like? Did he experience poverty, instability and gang violence etc.? To try to paint a picture of a person behind the cop who shot an unarmed black kid.

After reading the whole article carefully, I was unsure as what the ‘goal’ of this article was, was it to make Darren Wilson appear more human, more likable (if that’s ever possible), or to portray him as even worse than he appears now? It was an article that was done in Wilson’s home, so Jake Halpern was obviously invited to do this interview. The article does not state if his attorney was present during this article, but from the answers he gave, the attorney most likely was.

During his days as a police officer, Darren Wilson came across as very eager to learn to how to do proper and good policing as confirmed by his training officer Mike McCarthy, he readily admitted his shortcomings and was willing to rectify them through rigorous training and practice, but aside from this quality, he was otherwise unremarkable. Wilson comes across as monosyllabic, emotionally detached, unable to empathize with people he policed and watched over and a very much ‘follow the protocol’ type where thinking on his feet and outside of the box isn’t his strong suit. Heck, I’ll say it, he isn’t that smart, he’s not book smart nor is he streetsmart, not what a good cop makes. The kind of cop that could easily become trigger happy if he doesn’t know what else to do.

His childhood was rough, his mother was a thief who stole money by stealing the identity of others and writing bad checks. It got so bad that Wilson had to open a fake bank account as a decoy and keep his real earnings in separate account in which his mom doesn’t know about. Despite being in trouble with the law many times, she never went to jail. She died mysteriously in 2002 (some suspected by suicide), she was on her last legs with the law and if she committed one more theft she’d be headed to jail. Wilson was still only in high school. He graduated from high school made his way to St. Louis area and begun working in construction jobs. He had no plans to go to college, then the recession hit and property markets crashed, he was out of work as construction jobs evaporated. In 2008 he decided to apply to Eastern Missouri Police Academy, thinking that being a cop is a recession proof job. He got in, passed the requirements and was assigned a post. Just like that.

Jake Halpern also reported that in the Greater St. Louis area, there were a perfect storm of circumstances: the police departments were awash with poorly trained, substandard cops, where some cops were paid as little as $10 an hour. Wilson’s TO Mike McCarthy said ‘you get what you pay for’. Many cops did not know that the charges they were arresting the suspect for will not hold up under any probable cause scrutiny, they were just arresting suspicious looking people left and right and if they weren’t doing that, they were writing traffic tickets. Cops who didn’t write enough traffic tickets were reprimanded by the police departments. Their training consisted of, arrest then ask questions later, shoot first then ask questions later. Many were not trained to assess danger and whether to escalate, call for backup or discharge their own weapons.

In order to raise revenue for the city, police officers write a lot of tickets to residents, many of whom were unemployed, surviving on government benefits or homeless. If they didn’t pay the ticket on time, more fines and fees were added until it got sent to collections. If you didn’t pay it before you renew your driver’s license or car registration, your license and registration renewal will be held up until those fines are paid. And if you are pulled over for having an expired license or registration, that’s another ticket. So it’s a never ending cycle that is punishing the poor and mostly black residents of St. Louis and Ferguson areas. All of this is happening before a single white cop lays a hand on a black suspect.

When Mike Brown was murdered and the whole city of St. Louis and its nearby suburbs erupted, and when the riots continued weeks later, it became clear that it’s not just about Mike Brown being killed in broad daylight by a white cop and then his body lay there in the scorching sun for four hours before the coroner’s office sent someone over, but the city’s residents was in revolt of what amounts to decades of institutionalized racism and exploitation of the poor (mostly black) residents of St. Louis and they were fed up. Mike Brown’s death was a lightening rod for all the injustice the residents of Ferguson and Greater St. Louis area endured.

Darren Wilson instead of using this opportunity to redeem himself, he dug in deeper, he was only doing his job, he was executing his training and Mike Brown died as a result. He often referred to Mike Brown’s size as a source of his fear but Darren himself is six feet four and weighs 215 lbs, hardly someone with a small stature, but he referred to Mike Brown’s face like a ‘demon’ determined to kill him so he protected himself by shooting him.

Though Wilson was twice cleared of any wrongdoing by separate investigations, the public will never forgive him. Wilson is the face of what is wrong with the police today: White, racist, trigger happy, reactionary, unsympathetic, unable to empathize with delinquent suspects in high poverty high crime areas and all they do is arrest and write traffic tickets. The Justice Department, after a thorough investigation of the Ferguson police department, found that institutionalized racism was rampant and that the department itself is ‘racist’ and if need be they will dismantle the whole department. It was a damning indictment of institutionalized racism in a police department and the report didn’t mince words or try to put a positive spin on it:

The Justice Department also released a broader assessment of the police and the courts in Ferguson, and it was scathing. The town, it concluded, was characterized by deep-seated racism. Local authorities targeted black residents, arresting them disproportionately and fining them excessively. Together, the two reports frustrated attempts to arrive at a clean moral conclusion. Wilson had violated no protocol in his deadly interaction with Brown, yet he was part of a corrupt and racist system.

To point to Wilson’s general lack of emotional depth or sensitivity, when asked by Jake Halpern if he’s read the report by Department of Justice:

“I don’t have any desire, I’m not going to keep living in the past about what Ferguson did. It’s out of my control.”

When asked if he felt that residents of North County (where Ferguson is located) is using past racist incidents as an excuse to riot, Wilson answered ‘I think so.’ So, again, racially and emotionally insensitive.

After that, he further elaborated, the most words he spoke consecutively:

“I am really simple in the way that I look at life,” Wilson said. “What happened to my great-grandfather is not happening to me. I can’t base my actions off what happened to him.” Wilson said that police officers didn’t have the luxury of dwelling on the past. “We can’t fix in thirty minutes what happened thirty years ago,” he said. “We have to fix what’s happening now. That’s my job as a police officer. I’m not going to delve into people’s life-long history and figure out why they’re feeling a certain way, in a certain moment.” He added, “I’m not a psychologist.”

How charming, isn’t he full of insight? (Sarcasm)

When asked if he felt Ferguson is the way it is is due to lack of jobs, his response?

“There’s a lack of jobs everywhere,” he replied, brusquely. “But there’s also lack of initiative to get a job. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” He acknowledged that the jobs available in Ferguson often paid poorly, but added, “That’s how I started. You’ve got to start somewhere.”

He fails to recognize that he is white and probably owns a vehicle that is properly registered and a license that is current and he doesn’t have a bunch of unpaid tickets as long as his arm. Any crappy jobs that are left over in Ferguson would probably go to a white person with no college education rather than a black person with work experience. His total lack of awareness of who and what he is talking about despite living in the area since he was a teen speaks to his appalling lack of emotional intelligence, empathy and arrogance. Though never explicitly stated, Wilson’s point of view is, ‘look, I came from a poor background too, my mother was a criminal, and I managed to stay on the straight and narrow and make a life for myself so why can’t you?’ It’s also worthy to note that though his mother was a perpetual criminal and inveterate thief, she was never jailed, she was given chance after chance to reform herself, had she been black, Darren Wilson wouldn’t have had a mother growing up. If his mother were black, she’d be locked up.

The fact that Wilson could not see himself in the delinquent youths who ran amok in the streets of Ferguson and how easily that could have been him speaks to his feelings of superiority. Wilson also referred to another family of habitual offenders, a group of teenagers that ran wild in the streets, their mother was a single mother and was blind, these kids were criminals, they dealt drugs, stole, broke into cars, a real menace to their neighbors, hence the cops were always called, Wilson described them to be as people who didn’t come from a good home with good values and the cherry on top was this: “They’re so wrapped up in a different culture than—what I’m trying to say is, the right culture, the better one to pick from.” Let me help him clarify, if they chose the ‘white’ culture of law abiding citizenship and if their mother could keep a man around the house longer than 10 minutes, this wouldn’t be happening.

Jake Halpern sniffed out the racially coded language and pressed Wilson for clarification:

Wilson struggled to respond. He said that he meant “pre-gang culture, where you are just running in the streets—not worried about working in the morning, just worried about your immediate gratification.” He added, “It is the same younger culture that is everywhere in the inner cities.”

When Jake Halpern asked Wilson if ever thought about Mike Brown’s parents and what they are going through, his answer is charming as usual:

“You do realize that his parents are suing me?” he said. “So I have to think about him.” He went on, “Do I think about who he was as a person? Not really, because it doesn’t matter at this point. Do I think he had the best upbringing? No. Not at all.” His tone was striking, given Wilson’s own turbulent childhood.

He went on to elaborate that besides the 45 seconds interaction which ‘he (Mike Brown) tried to shoot me’, he hasn’t really thought about him as a person since.

After reading this interview, which I felt was fair and presented all sides evenly, due to Wilson’s emotional and personality deficiencies, he couldn’t even come across as a remotely decent human being. He’s just thinking about himself, his own safety, the safety of his wife and children (fair enough on this point) and what’s going to happen with the civil lawsuit that Mike Brown’s parents filed against him. Is he going to lose everything?

Darren Wilson’s freedom is extremely restricted, which he imposed on himself and his family for their own safety, the few times they do go out and the few places they do go are according to Wilson, “with like-minded individuals,” he said. “You know. Where it’s not a mixing pot.” Basically a place where all the other scared white cops congregate, not mixing with the black and brown folks.

Lastly, to enrage the readers further, the home that Darren Wilson, his wife and their children are living in now is in a quiet suburb of St. Louis, paid for in cash by the people who donated to the Wilson family on a GoFundMe page. This is the final nail of injustice in Mike Brown’s coffin.

Rape is Rape, is Rape, is Rape. Period. No If Ands or Buts.

This is written in support all rape and sexual assault victims, which include sex crimes of any kind. I am sick and tired of the supposed ‘ambiguity’ that is being introduced into what is ‘rape’ and what constitutes ‘rape’ by the mainstream media, law enforcement, legal community, all to minimize the crime and shift the blame to the victims. Enough of that.

In the year 2015, there seems to be people out there who are confused about exactly what constitutes a rape. It’s baffling really. According to the online dictionary, dictionary.com, the definition of rape is as follows:

Unlawful sexual intercourse or any other sexual penetration of the vagina, anus, or mouth of another person, with or without force, by asex organ, other body part, or foreign object, without the consent of the victim.
The definition is pretty crystal clear and unambiguous to me, but apparently that’s not the case as now there are cases of rape not being ‘rape rape’ to quote Whoopi Goldberg because the woman was too drunk, too high from drugs, out of her mind on some other mind altering substance so if a woman consents to sex under those circumstances, it’s really not rape because she said yes even though she was out of it. So, I will attempt to clarify what is rape, in all conceivable circumstances so that there is no more confusion:
  • Bill Cosby, what you did was rape, it was disgusting. You drugged women so they would lose their inhibitions and you took advantage of them, but you were smart, you only drugged them enough so that they lose their inhibitions but not consciousness, so that if it ever came to light you can say they consented because they were awake. You used your star status and your moral standing in your community to abuse women. You are the worst kind. You stand there in your bully pulpit, wagging your finger at the African-American community, telling them what to do, how to behave, how to conduct their lives, but you are a moral cesspit. You are the biggest and the worst kind of hypocrite there is. And I don’t know what’s more sad, you or your African-American fans and friends such as Whoopi Goldberg defending you until it was indefensible, much to her detriment because they don’t want to see their hero, a pioneer in television, educator and uplifter of the Black community go down in flames in his twilight years, they wanted to preserve your dignity and you let them knowing what a disgusting piece of trash you are.
  • Roman Polanski, drugging a 13 year old (non-virgin as he pointed out – real classy to slut shame a 13 year old by the way) with champagne and quaaludes and then proceed to have sex and anal sex with her is rape. And Whoopi, this is ‘rape rape’, in the full definition of the word. I know that it is well known that you have a penchant for very young girls and it may be exotic and acceptable where you are from, but not here, not in the U.S. It’s not acceptable for a man in his 40s to have sex with a 13 year old. You are a criminal, you escaped charges in the U.S., your victim forgave you to save her own sanity, consider yourself lucky. Next time should you be so dumb to travel to another country that has extradition treaties with the U.S. and you get arrested and detained, quit bitching and complaining and man up and face your charges, or else, just stay in your chalet in France.
  • A random stranger invading your home raping you is rape, but the fact that you left a window or door open doesn’t mean you invited it or deserved it.
  • A random stranger jumping out of the bushes and assaults you is rape, but the fact that you walked by alone, in the dark by that area doesn’t make you responsible for your rape.
  • Getting attacked at a high crime neighborhood by delinquent youths and adults is rape, but just because you went there doesn’t mean you deserved it.
  • Getting sexually assaulted anywhere by anyone, under any circumstance is rape. Period. No, ifs, ands or buts.
  • Wearing revealing clothing is not an invitation for unconsented touching or rape.
  • Flirting with a man all night at a nightclub isn’t an automatic invitation to have sex.
  • Taking advantage of women who are too drunk to consent, too much under the influence of drugs or controlled substances to consent doesn’t just make you a rapist, it also makes you a monster.
  • Joining a sorority isn’t an invitation for frat boys and his friends to violate you, photograph or videotape the violation and then share it on social media for the world to see as you lay there unconscious being assaulted by pimply frat boys.
  • Being a prostitute doesn’t mean you get to be sexually assaulted by a john if you don’t want to do what he asks for and even after giving him his money back he still rapes and beats you black and blue. Being a prostitute doesn’t mean you are open season for sexual attacks.
  • Being a pole dancer doesn’t mean you are open for anything, including prostitution or escorting and it doesn’t mean you are ripe for a sexual assault either. Any person attempting touch or assault a pole dancer without her invitation or consent is assault and rape. Her giving you a lap dance with her hoohah directed right in your face doesn’t give you the permission to force yourself on her without her consent.
  • Being a married woman doesn’t mean your husband can rape you, and I don’t care what cultural custom or what cave from Afghanistan these people crawl out of (I mean the Taliban), but ‘raping’ your wife is not ok. No God would condone that.
  • And just because a girl had casual sex with a guy on a casual encounter it doesn’t mean she wants to have sex with his friend or friends. The friend or friends have no right to help himself to her if she doesn’t consent. That’s rape. It makes no difference that she slept with your friend just 30 minutes ago. It doesn’t mean she wants to sleep with you.
  • A large group of men and women partying together doesn’t automatically mean that some of the men will get lucky and any forcible action that causes him to get ‘lucky’ is rape. It makes no difference that everyone was just laughing and drinking and doing drugs together just a few minutes ago. And it makes no difference that perhaps touching, groping or petting was involved.
  • Just because a woman was a former prostitute or escort, it doesn’t mean any random man she meets can force himself on her, leave $100 on the nightstand and leave. That’s rape.
  • Forcing yourself on transgendered male or female, gay or lesbian or any other member to the LGBTQ community for the purpose of ‘setting them straight’ is rape and an act of monstrosity and human depravity.
  • Molesting, sexually violating or raping an elderly woman in a nursing home is rape, even if she’s past her sexual prime, it’s rape.
  • Molesting and raping children and minors, goes without saying, but I just want to throw that in there to clarify.
  • A woman walking down the street totally naked (assuming that it’s allowed and she’s not arrested) doesn’t invite you to grope, touch or attempt to sleep with her if she doesn’t consent to it.
  • Black and other minority women who are in police detention do not deserve to be physically, sexually and emotionally assaulted because of the power of the badge. That doesn’t make him the community’s finest, it makes him an insecure piece of shit who uses the power of his badge to control and abuse people because that’s how he gets anyone to listen to him, especially one of the opposite sex.
  • For men and women serving prison sentences long or short, do not deserve to be raped or be someone’s ‘bitch’ in prison or the ‘bitch’ of the prison guards or prison warden when your number is called. You do not automatically get to be sexually abused because you are serving a sentence for a crime. That’s an assault on the prisoner’s humanity and even they deserve some dignity.

For the likes of Bill Cosby, they should know that their massive wealth and fame won’t cover up their crimes anymore. No amount of hush money already paid out will stop women from speaking out about your crimes. Any court document, deposition and records can be easily unsealed under the Patriot Act, Freedom of Information Act or a wikileaks hacker, so don’t count on your powerful high dollar attorneys to seal your misdeeds. There’s no such thing anymore.

And Whoopi Goldberg, stop defending rapists, I understand that you hold these people in high regard for their talent and dedication to their craft and the are probably good friends of yours, but to defend rapists is a betrayal to women.

Representative Todd Akin, all of the rape scenarios I described above are all ‘legitimate’ rapes, I just wanted to loop you in as you seemed to be quite confused.

For the red blooded gentlemen out there, here are some tips to stay out of trouble. If a girl looks too good even for 18 years old, she’s probably not, get some ID verification of her age or don’t sleep with her, because when her parents find out, you will land in hot water, and parents always find out.

If a woman is too drunk, too drugged out of her mind, don’t sleep with her because she doesn’t know what she’s consenting to, and yes, you are a rapist if you sleep with a woman who can’t consent.

If a woman sleeps with your friend, it doesn’t mean she wants to sleep with you, so get over it. And don’t ever film or photograph a woman when she unconscious while you and your disgusting horde of friends are having your way with her. You wouldn’t treat a dog this way.

Lastly, no means no. Regardless of how the ‘no’ is said or intoned, with a smile, with a flirt. No means no. Besides, if a girl really wants to sleep with you, she’ll let you know it, you won’t have to guess. So, if you need to ask or wonder about it, it’s not a yes. Order an extra beer to nurse your hurt pride and ego, you’ll forget all about it the next day.

People who falsely accuse another of rape are are just as evil as the rapists themselves. To make a false rape claim not only destroys the reputation of a man, which he doesn’t deserve if he didn’t do it, but you are doing a huge disservice to the real rape victims who are desperately trying to get justice, to move past the stigma of being a rape victim. By crying false rape, you silence other real rape victims and shame on you.

Sexual assault is one of the least reported crimes with an even lesser conviction and punishment rate. Since the acquittal of William Kennedy Smith, where his attorney Roy Black successfully destroyed the credibility and testimony of his accuser, convinced the judge to disallow 3 other women who have accused William Kennedy Smith of sexual assault prior to ever take the stand, women are ever under a finer microscope when they accuse someone of rape. Their whole sexual history, every man they’ve ever spoken with, flirted with, kissed, fondled, allowed to fondle and slept with will be picked apart and analyzed in court to prove she doesn’t have a ‘pattern’ of behavior that makes her a slut. The victim of William Kennedy Smith, Patricia Bowman was the first case of slut shaming on a national level and it was allowed, in a Palm Beach courtroom, in one of the most wealthiest districts in America, in the year 1992, this actually happened.

While it is true our legal system lays the burden of proof on the prosecution when charging a defendant with a crime, it’s not on the victim to meet that proof. The rape victim doesn’t have to ‘prove’ that she is a ‘worthy’ victim because or in spite of sexual history. Her sexual history prior to the alleged rape incident doesn’t factor one bit into the charge.

Wealthy, powerful and influential men like to convince people that they don’t need to ‘force’ a woman to sleep with him, he has excesses of women throwing themselves at him, so the accuse him of rape or sexual assault is ridiculous and unfounded. This arrogant thinking and behavior has gone unchecked since antiquity until now, with the likes Bill Cosby, William Kennedy Smith and Mike Tyson. But we got their number, just like all those women Bill Cosby assaulted, they were not lying, he paid millions in hush money, so his wife wouldn’t find out, so the public doesn’t find out so that he can continue to be the anointed godfather and inspiration to millions of families. His 50 year marriage is a total sham not because he was unfaithful but because he was a predator.

Women’s rights are being attacked from every direction right now. The U.S. Senate is debating a bill to defund Planned Parenthood, it failed, thank goodness, it’s another assault on the dignity of women and their health. Women should be mad as hell about this, that some crusty old men in Washington, who’ve haven’t had to do anything for themselves in years, have a good salary, their pensions fully funded and paid for, their health insurance fully covered until their death, would try to cut a vital medical lifeline to women. Each and every single one of them should be outed and shamed. 

If I have missed anymore possible rape ‘scenarios’, please include them in comments.

A Socialist Experiment Gone Awry: Gravity Payments

The small credit card processing company Gravity Payments based in Seattle, Washington announced three months ago that the base salary for any employee will be $70,000. So, in essence, the girl answering their phones and fetches coffee for the CEO Dan Price will be earning $70,000. Gravity Payments is a company of 120 employees, a small company in the startup hub of the country, the city of Seattle and also a very liberal part of the country, where the city’s minimum wage has just been increased from $11 to $15 per hour.

The CEO Dan Price, after talking with a friend who earned about $40,000 per year, said he had a hard time paying rent, keeping up with bills and paying off his student loans. Though $40,000 is not a bad salary, it was hardly enough to keep up with the high living expenses. So, four months ago in April of 2015, he decided to increase the base salary of his company’s employees to $70,000 per year. He did this without considering if all the people getting a $20,000 to $30,000 raise at one time really deserved such a raise, if their skill set, education and training, dedication and motivation garnered these huge raises. Dan Price’s point of view is if his employees are paid better and can afford better housing and pay their bills with money left over each month, they would be less stressed at work and would work harder and the raise alone would motivate them to work harder.

Price was accused by people in the business community of having a political agenda or political ‘aspirations’ and conservative radio hosts such as Rush Limbaugh outright called him a socialist. Some of his existing clients quit in disgust believing that he had turned communist. In all, the good publicity honeymoon was short. Price is a natural entrepreneur and risk taker, he knew this was a risk but he wanted to shake things up and address the income inequality issue that is plaguing America right now and so he decided to put the money where his mouth is. He also took a substantial pay cut to make this happen.

Price claims that he drew no inspiration from Karl Marx or any other socialist advocates, but from one Russell Conwell:

Russell Conwell, the Baptist minister and Temple University founder, whose famed “Acres of Diamonds” speech fused Christianity and capitalism. “To make money honestly is to preach the Gospel,” Mr. Conwell exhorted his listeners. To get rich “is our Christian and godly duty.”

Regardless, his actions smack of socialist ideals. On paper, socialism is a great idea, it’s a great way to address the chronic poverty and uneven distribution of wealth and resources that has plagued human history from the very beginning, which is also the cause of untold suffering and untold deaths. Many scholars, economists, philosophers and social scientists have spent years studying the causes of poverty and how to solve it. Various governments in rich and developing countries have tried numerous anti-poverty schemes but the results are at best mixed. There’s not really one country that’s ‘solved’ the poverty problem when taken all factors into consideration.

The Scandinavian countries are democratic socialist havens which have worked well and by that I mean, it’s achieved it’s outcome of alleviating extreme poverty and everyone given an equal chance at getting a good education and moving ahead should they choose to apply themselves. But they are only able to do this is due to a unique set of circumstances, small homogenous populations (schools do not have to deal too much with people from too many different cultural backgrounds), equal contribution by all people (i.e. few tax cheats) and secure borders, they don’t have many people who are illegally benefiting from the generous welfare state. These circumstances are unique and not applicable to the rest of the world. It’s definetly not applicable here in the United States.

Many extreme liberals also fail to recognize that no matter what, Americans (regardless of party affiliation or political identification) do not believe in a large welfare nanny state (Many right-wingers say that we already have a bloated nanny state, they have no clue what bloated is, they want bloated, they should go to Europe and see what bloated is) where citizens are required to handover large chunks of hard earned income to the state to fund all of these lavish benefits. The fundamental creed of America is for one to work for what one wants, it’s not handed over on a silver platter. Otherwise, why bother working for it? The hallmark of Americanism is dedication to hard work and that hard work will one day pay off for you. Even though there was rarely a time in history where this was true (hard work paying off), the idea of hard work is very much ingrained in the American psyche. It’s character building to work hard, to earn your keep.

The fatal flaw in Karl Marx’s prolific life’s work ‘Das Kapital’ (Doomsday of Capitalism) is that he failed to factor into his theories that most ‘proletariats’ are fundamentally upwardly mobile or aspirational. Meaning, given a chance, the proletariats who are decrying unfair treatment and wages and are striking and picketing their place of employment demanding to be treated fairly: those same people if given an opportunity to earn more than their other fellow proletariats by working longer hours, doing work that requires higher set of skills, taking on extra training to fulfill a more important role in the factory, they will. All that proletarian solidarity will evaporate in a New York minute. This is also why despite Marx’s correct diagnosis of the problems of the Industrial Revolution and the income inequality that resulted, his ‘predictions’ never came true, which was there would be a major revolt by the proletariats in major industrial hubs of the 19th century like England, Germany and America and those countries would then adopt Socialism and then Communism as their form of government. And the communist government is the ‘utopia’ for mankind according to Karl Marx.

Most people do not want to just earn the same as the guy they are working next to for their whole working lives. Everyone is always looking for that raise or promotion wherever they can. Humans by nature are aspirational. Aspiration is how civilizations are built, it is how impossible feats of architecture was created, to stymie aspiration would be the death of innovation. Most people aspire to do more, to be better than they were last year or 5 years ago. So the idea that everyone should earn the same wage, regardless if you are a nuclear scientist or if you scrub toilets at the lab, why would people want to become nuclear scientists? To endure all those years of discipline of study, testing, getting qualifications so that you can earn the same as the guy scrubbing toilets? What’s the motivation in that? Even in the ‘halcyon’ days of Soviet communism, it was not all ‘equal’ as they like their people to believe. Certain Communist Party members had perks. People who made and built nuclear bombs got better accomodations, their children got better education than the local children whose parents worked at the shoe factory.

For Gravity Payments, the repercussions (good and bad) was swift. The CEO made his announcement 3 months ago, two weeks after his announcement his older brother who is 30% owner of the company sued him and is asking for damages and pay out, of which he can’t right now because he just promised everyone raises, effective immediately. He’s renting out his own house right now so that his company can be kept afloat. Perhaps, most regrettably, two of his best employees resigned because they felt that this policy was flawed and was unfair to people who have stronger skill sets who got a smaller raise than those who didn’t.

Maisey McMaster who was the financial manager for Gravity Payments, was the one that crunched the numbers for this new raise and she was supportive of it at first but over time she said:

“He gave raises to people who have the least skills and are the least equipped to do the job, and the ones who were taking on the most didn’t get much of a bump,” she said. To her, a fairer proposal would have been to give smaller increases with the opportunity to earn a future raise with more experience.

And when she brought it up to her boss about it:

“He treated me as if I was being selfish and only thinking about myself,” she said. “That really hurt me. I was talking about not only me, but about everyone in my position.”

She took this experience as it’s her time to go and so she resigned.

What Dan Price doesn’t realize is that by giving your receptionist a $70,000 per annum salary, he has just capped her salary as an administrative assistant for in perpetuity unless she decides to change job titles. And perhaps what’s obvious but not explicitly stated is that the folks who just got a $20,000 – $30,000 raise, they will not see any bonuses or raises for a long time to come. Which means, ten years from now, they could still be making $70,000 but they can’t switch jobs either because no other company in their right mind would pay a receptionist $70,000 or any other position in which the salary is overinflated.

There is a tricky balance between paying appropriate salary which commensurates with an employee’s skill sets, dedication and motivation but also covers living expenses then plus some but that salary is not so overinflated when compared with what the ‘market’ salary is for the same position. The painful and uncomfortable truth is as Roger Reynolds, owner of a wealth management company in Seattle said, “Everyone may have equal rights, but not equal talent or motivation.” And to reward people who are not as talented or motivated is demoralizing to those that are. Not everyone is built the same, there are those with far more ambition than others, some are content with punching in and out of a job as long as the pay is decent. There is nothing wrong with either scenario, but what is wrong is if the person who is punching the clock is getting the same salary as the person working towards his next goal or promotion within the company.

Salaries and benefits for employees are usually the biggest costs a company has, but employees are also a company’s best assets. The biggest challenge for a business owner has always been of how to make a company profitable and keep costs down. The whole labor versus capital is still being debated almost 200 years after the Industrial Revolution.

Gravity Payments is a good case study on implementing the ideals of ‘socialism’ even though that wasn’t the motivation of Dan Price. But for all intents and purposes, his decision to make the base salary of his company at $70,000 is a socialist one. The jury is still out on how all this will work out. He’s gotten over 350 new clients for the month of June, which will more than cover the ones he lost but he won’t be seeing profit on these clients for another 12-18 months. Besides his new overhead of salary raises, he also has the lawsuit with his brother to contend with and lawyer fees aren’t cheap. Any profit the company makes will go right to the lawyer’s pockets. Dan Price’s decision may have been misguided and one not rooted in economic reality or principle but his determination to see this through should be applauded.