Out of Oklahoma fraternity, nine seconds of racism, hatred

Christina Nowacki:

What a well written analysis of the awful SAE fraternity video. I particularly appreciate the points made about how this is not something new to these students. And the tie in to the President’s speech this weekend. Nicely done Mr. Bookman!

Originally posted on Jay Bookman:

It’s just nine seconds of video. Nine seconds of self-destruction. Nine seconds of hate and remarkable stupidity, dragging us back into some of the darkest days of our country’s history.

The video captures members of a University of Oklahoma fraternity, dressed in formal wear and accompanied by their dates, riding on a bus either to or from an event. They are singing to the tune of “If You’re Happy And You Know It”. They do seem happy; they do seem to know it. But the lyrics have been changed.

Some news accounts have referred vaguely to those revised lyrics as a “racist chant,” but that strips it of its chilling power.

Put bluntly, because it ought to be put bluntly, the chant goes like this:

“There will never be a nigger at SAE. You can hang him from a tree, but he’ll never sign with me. There will never be…

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Please don’t wish your religious beliefs on me

So here goes – I don’t believe in God. There it is. When I’ve told a couple of other friends they were shocked. One was visibly appalled. So, of course, I don’t voice this all that much.However, I am not an atheist. I do believe there is more to this planet and universe than just US. I am not quite so self centered to think that humans are the highest consciousness there is.I believe there is a lot more out there. To me, specifically, it is a higher form of energy/vibration/intelligence. I do not believe it takes a single form or identity. It is fluid, and constantly changing. What I don’t like much at all is organized religion of ANY kind. Because they ALL rely on some form of monotheism. What sets me off the most? When someone says “Oh, if it is God’s will, so be it.” I say: GAH!!!!!!!!!!! You can imagine just how much I cringe when a sports figure thanks God & Jesus for letting them win. ARGH!

No. Never. Whatever is out there is NOT sitting on my shoulder minute by minute pulling my strings like some mindless puppet. I do not get to relinquish all responsibility for my life by simply laying it at the feet of this God so many worship.

You have free will. You make your destiny. Sometimes you fuck that up. And when you do, you know who gets you back on your feet? YOU DO! I believe that your strongest source of belief needs to be in YOU.

Now, that is not to say that You/I am an island. We surround ourselves with a community of support and love that, if we are wise, we stay connected to and ask for help/advice when needed. AND, we support THEM. So, first on the human level I believe in ME, I love ME and I approve of ME, and then I extend that love and empathy and nurturing to my community.

Then there is that higher source of energy. I believe it is always there buzzing around us and again, if you open your heart and mind, you can tap into it. It is the source of intuition and inspiration. THAT is what you tap into as you meditate, visualize or affirm the things you need. It is NOT one all knowing gender based human type being. It is not ONE *thing*.

At least, that is what *I* believe is true in MY life. What you believe is personal to YOU and I would *never* try to convince you otherwise or WISH that you believed anything that doesn’t work for YOU in YOUR heart and life. If you believe in God & Jesus and that makes you feel loving and kind towards yourself and others, then BRAVO! Do what you need to do.

I am in the Live and Let Live church of all religions and no religion as warranted :)

That is a LONG intro to say, while I feel as if I have to hide my lack of belief, I also read this piece by Ana Marie Cox with a ton of empathy & lots of nodding of my head: Why I Coming Out as a Christian. Even though my personal beliefs are completely different, I love *just about* every sentiment she expresses here and I do love to see how relaxed and happy and joyful that she is in her life. It does come across in her more recent TV appearances and it is lovely to see.

BUT…and you knew there was a but….I take issue with her very last line:

My hope is that His love is somewhere underneath the ego and grievances that inspired me to write this. I believe that it is. What I pray is that you can find it for yourself as well. 

Sigh….why? I don’t wish that Ana was not a Christian. I don’t wish that she did not believe in God. Implied in her final line is that she prays for all of us to find ‘His love.’ No thanks. I’m very happy, connected, loving, and joyful without believe in such a thing ma’am. What I wish for is that everyone find their own path towards the same whatever that may be.

Privilege, feminism, race & intersectionality.

Some thoughts that need to tumble out of my head as spurred on by the comments made by Patricia Arquette after she won her Oscar, and then the subsequent reactions on twitter. Whenever the idea of intersecitonality and privilege comes up, I think of this analogy I long ago read or heard somewhere that so perfectly illustrates the issue:

Imagine a footrace with various people at the starting line, the gun goes off:
Out of the blocks first is the white man
…15 seconds late the white woman
…15 seconds later the black man
…15 seconds late the Hispanic man
…10 seconds later the black woman
…10 seconds later the Hispanic woman
You get the picture, also include LGTBQ individuals, various citizenship class etc.

As racers they are going full force, panting, running as fast they can.

As a straight, white woman I recognize I am disadvantaged relative to the white man, but in a place of advantage compared to the other groups. I’m hard working, putting in as much work but because of that time delay the odds are staggered. That 15 second delay between me and the white man could be wage discrimination, sexism. Think of the other gaps as racism, housing discrimination. It doesn’t matter how hard I work the RACE is rigged. I am still hardworking and smart and fast but the system has created a hierarchy in which I benefit quicker than those who start behind me.

It’s why I often say that people of color have to be TWICE as good at something to get the same validation that whites get in half the time.

White privilege allows you to drive down a highway in (for example) a BMW without cops assuming you are a drug dealer. White privilege allows you to visit Arizona without the sheriff assuming you are undocumented. These are just examples, how this shows up in your real life may be different.

So, recognizing that there is, indeed, privilege built into our society, I was then educated on the idea of the intersection of those groups. For instance, the words Arquette chose to use on stage right away were a little problematic because she stated “Think about all the women who have given birth!” OK…sure…but I immediately thought about my friend who couldn’t have children of her own and is an adoptive mom. Or another friend who is gay and (finally!) married, but she and her wife chose not to have children. Do those women not also deserve equal pay? So to me it was an odd choice of words for Arquette to use because right away they *excluded* a whole segment of the female population.

Then, once she went backstage, it got worse.

So the truth is even though we sort of feel like we have equal rights in America right under the surface there are huge issues at play that really do affect women. It’s time for all the women in America, and all the men that love women and all the gay people and all the people of color that we’ve all fought for to fight for us now.

(emphasis mine)

It starts off well enough with “all the women in America”.  Then there’s “all the men that love women” which…well, depends on the type of love you are talking about here but the default is usually romantic and so this excludes gay men….BUT…I get that it most likely means men, in general, who love women (such as their moms, sisters, friends etc).

But then it spirals downwards and gets harder to excuse…”all the day people”…. (some of whom are women) and “all the people of color” …(more women!) What happened in that isolation of those groups is that she implies that there are no impacted women who need equality in those two groups. No gay women, no people of color who are women. (and how about the black, lesbian for instance?!) So many variations of INTERSECTION with the gender she is trying to pull up and the other minority groups she is calling out to boost her cause.

Then she refers to how “we’ve all fought for to fight for us now.” As if women were always allies to gays and people of color and that the fight for THEIR cause is OVER now? First of all, when women won the right to vote let’s be clear it was WHITE WOMEN only, (just one example of the history being missed) and there is NO WAY that you can declare the battles for equal rights for gays or people of color to be over!

And again, by singling out the other two groups, she is IMPLYING “white women”.

The better statement should have been to stop at  “So the truth is even though we sort of feel like we have equal rights in America right under the surface there are huge issues at play that really do affect women.”

She just should not even have called out any other groups.

Now, I know there was no intent behind her words to erase the women in those groups as she did. I believe completely that she’s just never been told how that language comes across. I know that even 5 short years ago for instance, I probably would have made the same errors out of ignorance and my own privilege. But I’ve since been exposed to reasonable explanations from people of color and gay people and just folks more educated on the history of all these interactions. And now I see it. I read those words and immediately cringed and saw what was happening.

But, I was also NOT completely stubborn about clinging to my ignorance once I was taught.And that is where many white feminists have a problem. Attempts to draw their attention to another viewpoint, another way of thinking about things brings up this huge wall. They cannot, or do not, accept their position of privilege. Not only do they shut down their ability to learn, they go on the attack and accuse the people trying to educate them of tearing them down. Ah, it’s exhausting!

I’ve watch so many truly reasonable folks try to crack open those doorways in the minds of some self described progressives and it’s just mind boggling how threatened they feel.

I have no thrilling conclusion here – just a hope that as a few folks step back from the heat of the arguments over the coming days, that some of this slides through their closed minds. Man, just get the concept of that foot race analogy in your heads at least! We gotta start somewhere…and yeah, some of us get to start a little further ahead than others. We didn’t make up the rules of the game, but we can try to change them.

One Way to Save Economy According to GOP Deep Thinkers: Have More Kids!

Oh, this is rich. In a manifesto entitled Room to Grow: Conservative Reforms for a Limited Government and a Thriving Middle Class published by the YG Network, outline a justification and means towards making cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

First of all, it’s interesting to note who the YG network is. This stands for the “Young Guns” of the GOP and consisting of Congressmen Paul Ryan, Kevin McCarthy and Eric Cantor. The latter having just been primaried out of his seat. The editors and writers include some slightly longer in the tooth members of conservative think tanks such as the Manhattan Institute, as well as editors and writers for the National Review and National Affairs. Seriously thinkers and, one would assume, educated in economic policies.

Or not.

There is not a lot new offered up. Tax cuts, tax credits for health care and education, deregulation, vouchers and, naturally, cuts to social supports as well as this not so new idea to help the long-term unemployed: temporarily *reduce* the minimum wage.

OK, so you’ve heard all that before and are still waiting to see those proposals or policies actually WORK as intended. Well, maybe they DO work as intended since those policies historically have only created a LARGER gap between the haves and have nots and we all know that politicians, especially conservatives, work primarily for the haves.

However, even if you disagree with liberals like me and truly believe those policies WILL work to make ALL citizen’s lives better…..I find it hard to believe that you can support this one:

In support of a specific set of social insurance cuts, the authors write:

Social Security and Medicare have ‘crowded out’ the traditional incentive to raise children as a protection against poverty in old age. Today, most workers can reasonably foresee getting enough support from the public retirement system to stay out of poverty when they get older, making it less likely that they will have to call on direct aid – either in cash or in kind – from their own children

Now, I may be viewing this all wrong, but doesn’t that basically state that if only folks would have more kids, then we could stop relying so much on public retirement support? Because then those kids (who magically must be doing quite well themselves in this economy somehow?) would be able to house and support their retired family members, right? Given that the average Social Security check is only $14,000/year it sure seems like adult children can handle replacing that! Forget that most young adults are currently in a downward mobility spiral – or the cost of raising kids and getting them through college (because they would HAVE to go to college to earn enough in their lifetimes to support multiple generations you know!) – just HAVE MORE KIDS!

Can you see the eye-roll I am giving to this suggestion?

Can you see why it is really difficult to take this entire manifesto seriously when *that* is one of their deeply thought out arguments?

I mean, aren’t conservatives supposed to stay out of our personal lives?

Oh, right…they want to remove a woman’s right to choose and they sure as heck don’t want us to safely and easily obtain the health care and birth control that we want so that we can have the same opportunities for a career and upward mobility without relying on a man. It’s like they want us to go back to being barefoot and pregnant and….hey now! FINALLY, it ALL MAKES SENSE! MORE BABIES!

Sigh…..I’d suggest those Young Guns go back to drawing board.


Hat tip to the American Prospect’s Robert Kuttner (link to his online articles here) There will be a write up on this manifesto by him in the next issue (July/Aug) of the print version of the magazine. Attendees at NN14 got a copy in our swag bags :)

Netroots Nation 14 – My First Protest!

On Friday the 18th in Detroit, the Netroots Nation attendees added their voices to a planned protest against the water shut offs in Detroit. I joined in to what was my first ever march or protest. I didn’t carry a sign because I wanted to take pictures, but I did chant “Fight! Fight! Fight! Water is a Human Right!” Here’s some of my pictures:


This was also the first protest march for my buddy Bill – he was INTO it!


Hey, when The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) tells you to march, you MARCH! Also, yes, I was that close and yes, he was looking right at me (swoon!) :)


The atmosphere was really fun.



We wound up at the base of this obelisk in Hart Plaza – there was supposed to be a stage but the police took it away – so the organizers improvised.


Some of my NN family – Vicki, Pam & Norm.




The best part is that the protest made a difference. Because so many of us went out there, the march got much more widespread media coverage and the water official who had previously refused to meet with the leaders of the movement promised a meeting the following Monday. And then they put a 15 day hold on water shut offs! Apparently they conceded that the programs available to low income households were not well known so they stopped the process to allow the folks in danger of losing their water to make payment arrangements. Basically they were shutting off water without properly offering up any other options. In the meantime a really cool thing happened on twitter when two folks wondered if they could find a way to connect generous donors with needy households – yes, they could (more protest information & photos at that link)! Click here to help out!

I get that services need to be paid. But, I also believe that water is perhaps more basic than anything to people and one would hope that a balance between need and sustainability can be found. It’s pretty disgraceful when the UN declares a humanitarian crisis in one of the largest cities in the wealthiest country in the world.

NN13 Day Two – Moms and Storytelling

Reference links – Mother Talkers and MomsRising (session 1) and Kate Stayman-London (session 2)

Friday dawned with a schedule that promised to be more about socializing than sessions. I’ll write a separate post just on the parties and Pub Quiz :)

Session 1 – Parenting Caucus hosted by MomsRising

When I go to Netroots (originally Yearly Kos), I always attend the Parenting Caucus. Run by Elisa Batista who is a founder of the Mother Talkers blog which I joined when it first launched, the parenting group is a small but active group of progressive minded parents. No, it’s not just moms – in fact once year Elisa insisted that her husband participate too (Markos of Daily Kos) along with a bunch of other dads. We’ve had a few “off campus” gatherings but recently it’s been a regular session, and she’s been inviting some great speakers to join in. Now she works for Moms Rising so this was technically their event, but it was still relaxed and fun. Elisa always hands out some great swag such as a sweet MomsRising supermom t-shirt! Oh, plus they fed us what was probably the healthiest food I had the whole weekend! A fabulous array of fresh fruits and vegetables and Naked Juice to drink. I always go in saying I am just going to be there to listen and support Elisa (and eat of course!) and then I always end up joining the conversation no matter what :) We do tend to focus heavily on education of course, but also on issues like women’s access to health care – which allows us to control how many kids (if any!) we have – and also family and sick leave time for working parents. It really does boggle my mind that in a country supposedly as “wealthy” as we are that we have the *least* amount of paid family leave. Whether it’s to be home when a new baby is born or adopted, or to care for an elderly parent, working people struggle trying to balance those needs and remain financially stable in the U.S.

Session 2 – Why Screenwriters Make the Best Organizers: Using Storytelling to Build Empathy

I targeted this session because I thought it would help me with my developing writing skills and I must say I took some awesome notes!

The speaker was Kate Stayman-London – here is snippet from her NN13 bio:

You may know her writing from that one video with the cast of The West Wing, that other video with Cher and Kathy Griffin, or all those emails you get from Change.org (among other organizations). Kate worked for many organizations in the progressive movement (AFL-CIO, CREDO, etc.) before heading to Hollywood to get her MFA in screenwriting from USC.

Kate opened up by making us cry. Lovely! But really, when you watch that 6 minute silent montage at the beginning of Pixar’s UP, you probably start sobbing like a small child too. Why? Because great storytellers know how to build up empathy between characters and an audience. Here is the one sentence Kate told us all to write down to sum up that premise:

“Somebody wants something badly and is having difficulty getting it.”

The idea is to create a character people can relate to who is trying to achieve a goal or solve a problem. There are stakes involved of course. Either the high of reaching the goal or the drama and foreboding of what could happen if they fail. In that opener for UP, the initial sense you are left with is failure. The characters who you want to achieve their dreams are thwarted. First, it is the loss of their dream of having a child, then it is their inability to go on the dream adventure trip (which replaces the dreams of a baby) before Ellie dies. (dear gawd how I both HATE that movie for pulling on my heartstrings so much and also ADMIRE it for what it accomplished)


After she ripped us apart with that video, she went on to show how storytelling like that can translate into activism. When you are trying to motivate people to organize and support a cause, you definitely want to tell real life stories that pull people in like a movie, but the difference is you want to end the video with a sense of hope – your target audience needs to believe that they can change the ending. That their efforts will pay off to make life better for themselves and/or the people in the tale.

And that makes total sense doesn’t it? Given that the way you grab the attention of people right now is through images and, particularly, video, you can see how this screenwriter’s strategy would work. Six minutes is all it could take to move you deeply enough to say “I’ve got to DO something about this!”

Huh – look at that – 3 weeks removed from that session and just glancing at my notes brought all those thoughts/feelings/ideas back to me. Well done Kate!

More to come….including a picture of me with…a hip hop artist? Yep. Seriously.