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I’ve been watching the story unfold and the events that have taken place in Ferguson have made it evident that black and brown bodies have no worth in America. I’ve gone from apathy, to deep sadness, and now I am angry. I am fed up. I am sick and tired of hearing another name, another victim of police brutality or a racially charged murder. I am tired of fearing for my little brother’s life.

The people who are supposed to be protecting our young black and brown youth are instead, murdering them. Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Ezell Ford. Rekia Boyd, Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, John Crawford, Kimani Gray, and the names unfortunately go on.

My heart breaks for the people of Ferguson. I am disgusted by the war zone that was created by the police. I’m saddened by the blatant disregard for our babies. (Trigger Warning) I saw a photo of a young black girl being maced and I felt sick to my stomach. Michael Brown was only 18. Unarmed, but Black. Eric Garner said, as he gasped for air, “I can’t breathe.” Unarmed, but Black, when white suspects of greater offenses have been escorted into police vehicles. 

As I’ve heard many say, the police need to be held accountable for their actions. We need to have more open and honest dialogues about these incidents with our youth, let them know they’re loved. Black and brown bodies are precious.

Categories: Racism
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Over the past week, people have been discussing Avril Lavigne’s racist new music video for her song “Hello Kitty.” It premiered on her YouTube channel last Tuesday and was taken down temporarily due to the backlash. The video features Avril rapping in Japanese, wearing a cupcake tutu, dancing with four expressionless Japanese women, and generally bastardizing Japanese culture.

Using other cultures, and particularly women of color, as props is unfortunately not new to Western entertainment. Lavigne is now one of several white female artists to appropriate other cultures in the past few years. Her companions include Katy Perry, Gwen Stefani, Lana DelRay, Miley Cyrus, and Madonna.

Given that it’s happened before and that it seems to be common practice, what struck me most about this particular instance was Lavigne’s response to being called out and what it means for the way white people are utterly failing to recognize modern day racism and the problems associated with cultural appropriation.

Wednesday night, Lavigne tweeted the following:

She gives no weight to what people have been telling her, completely brushing aside even the idea that people had anything to criticize in the first place. She finds the suggestion hilarious. Especially as a white person, when someone tells you that something you have done is racist, laughing in their face isn’t the best response. Not only have you offended them, but you have devalued their ability to identify the factors of their own oppression. When someone tells you you have wronged them, you owe it to them to hear them out.

Lavigne then gives what amounts to an amped-up version of, “No, it’s cool; I have Japanese friends.” As if any of that negates the fact that she appropriated Japanese culture for her own personal gain and used Japanese women as props. All of that is still true, regardless of where the video was shot, who she worked with, or any personal fondness for Japan and its culture. It is possible to like something and take advantage of it at the same time.

This is where the disconnect comes in. Lavigne cannot understand how it is possible for her to do something racist against a culture that she knows she loves. But as much as she may genuinely enjoy the culture, she is not a part of it. She created a childish, cupcake version of it and surrounded herself with mannequin-like women who didn’t seem to be enjoying themselves at all. But hey, she totally loves Japanese culture, so it’s okay.

Excpet it’s really not. White people seem to think they have the right to take anything they want from any culture and use it as their own and for their own benefit without ever having to assume any of the oppression or degradation that a culture faces for the use, practice, or belief of what has been taken. This is cultural appropriation.

White people do not own everything, nor are we entitled to own everything. This is particularly true for Americans. We have to start respecting that non-white people from non-Western cultures make and produce things of value. Their value comes from the cultures which produced them- not from white Westerners appropriating them or modifying them to fit their pleasure or marketability. Avril Lavigne did not respect Japanese culture. She used her own version of it.

Modern day racism looks and sounds different than it did during the days that most of us view as a racism reference point- the 1960s. For anyone under 60, that decade has been the example of how racism is thought of in modern time. In the 50 years since, a lot has changed. This means that our understanding of what racism is must evolve also. The problem is that that’s not happening fast enough. This lag is responsible for the kind of disconnect that results in cultural appropriation.

White people don’t understand that things other than lynching or segregated schools “qualify” as being racist. Today, being racist is not as often overt or explicit. As in Lavigne’s “Hello Kitty” video, the racism doesn’t smack you in the face. With an understanding of how racism manifests today, though, the racism becomes more clear. This doesn’t mean that the racism is less harmful; only that it has been modified to exist within Western culture in a way that it can deliver a similar message without being thought of as oppressive or exploitative to those not as closely effected by its reach.

This is how a person with no outward animosity toward Japanese culture ended up making a racist music video. This is how someone could be accused of racism and respond with “LOLOLOL!!!” This is why the excuse of “But I have black friends” or “But I have gay friends” is such bull****.

This is why we have to change.

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I have seen people change and at the same vein witnessed a retrograde in youths. I have been around areas where there\’s no hope for light and peace, but in this same situation some people still survive.

I have been around youths – Boys and Girls, that have made life difficult for themselves due to lack of knowledge. And my countenance has dwindled, because I have witnessed a holocaust of ruined lives in the past, even now.

I love peace and the prospect it brings. I love sanctuary – a foundation laid on the rocks of simplicity and the Arm of Justice.
I stand against the illegal acts displayed by the so-called Governmental body. I stand against rape, child abuse and its associated acts. I stand against the malfunctioning of child rights and value – I stand for a change, as an \”Advocate\”.

I stand as a Youth, Not a man, alone. But with men – the colony of change.
\”A man cannot be a faculty, men can. The necessity of change begins with not one man, but with the uniformity of all\”.
(Victor Omovbude Brown)

I stand against – Child punishment, Tribalism, criticism, Discrimination, and Queer visions. I stand for change, which is my first goal. As a youth, I stand for Unity, Peace and Progress.

I stand for a free and transparent Health service attributed to (children,youths and adults) – I stand against unequal rights and segregation in roles.
I stand for Quality Education – Void of preferential treatment, equal for all.
I stand against poor governance.

I am an \”Advocate For Youth\”.

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I have seen people change and at the same vein witnessed a retrograde in youths. I have been around areas where there’s no hope for light and peace, but in this same situation some people still survive.

I have been around youths – Boys and Girls, that have made life difficult for themselves due to lack of knowledge. And my countenance has dwindled, because I have witnessed a holocaust of ruined lives in the past, even now.

I love peace and the prospect it brings. I love sanctuary – a foundation laid on the rocks of simplicity and the Arm of Justice.
I stand against the illegal acts displayed by the so-called Governmental body. I stand against rape, child abuse and its associated acts. I stand against the malfunctioning of child rights and value – I stand for a change, as an “Advocate”.

I stand as a Youth, Not a man, alone. But with men – the colony of change.
“A man cannot be a faculty, men can. The necessity of change begins with not one man, but with the uniformity of all”.
(Victor Omovbude Brown)

I stand against – Child punishment, Tribalism, criticism, Discrimination, and Queer visions. I stand for change, which is my first goal. As a youth, I stand for Unity, Peace and Progress.

I stand for a free and transparent Health service attributed to (children,youths and adults) – I stand against unequal rights and segregation in roles.
I stand for Quality Education – Void of preferential treatment, equal for all.
I stand against poor governance.

I am an “Advocate For Youth”.

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WMM-Flier

Until an hour ago I was unaware that yesterday, March 15, 2014, was intended to be “White Man March” as intended by one Kyle Hunt of Massachusetts. I am glad to report that it was an epic fail. Hopefully, it will remain that way.

This article from Salon summarizes the purpose of the march and shares a few hilarious tweets mocking the event. None of what these tweeters say is a lie. The entire notion of diversity equaling “white genocide” is absurd. This is most definitely a case where certain individuals have decided to disregard the evidence in favor of their own delusional truth. How can there still be this much stupidity in the world?

A quick glance at the White Man March website yields even more ridiculous compilations of “facts”, including a video “spreading awareness” about “white genocide” and a video with clips of POC talking about how they hate the white race. In regards to that whole mess, there is a great difference between a white person claiming the need for segregation and POC spaces not advertising for diversity.

Anyone with a well-functioning, good sized brain knows that the rest of us have been the minority for the longest time. We have been wronged in a thousand ways and are now barely managing to exercise the same rights as white people. How can anyone say that there is any such thing as “white genocide” when the lives of black people are constantly undervalued? When was the last time a white person was gunned down by a black person and got away with it? The Dunn trial wasn’t so long ago, look at that. The man is responsible for the death of a young black man but was only sentenced for endangering the lives of said young man’s companions. Does that make any sense?

If a white person says they want to marry only within their race or only want all-white neighborhoods, it’s because of stereotyping and racial prejudice leveled against POC. There is  such an inequality that diversity is introduced so that everyone else has a fighting chance. People claim that POC neighborhoods have never been asked to diversify? If a person wants to live in a POC neighborhood, the only thing stopping them is their fear of said POC because of preconceived notions they have about people of those races.

This whole thing screams of white entitlement and anyone should be able to see that. Why is is a bad thing that black politicians have admitted to working solely for the good of their own people? White politicians never did that for those people because they never identified with them. And when one of their own has a little bit of power and can speak on their behalf, it’s a good thing. I doubt that someone who is working to change things for the betterment of his or her own people is as deeply invested in working against white people just for spite’s sake. If you have evidence that I am wrong, present it.

It’s sickening to see so many people laboring under the same falseness.

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While everyone’s gasping in shock, I would like to state that it is a well-known fact that Piers Morgan was never hugged as a child. And that is why he’s such an insensitive d*ckbag.

Jesse Williams spoke about the Michael Dunn trial and it was perfect. Seriously, I got chills from all the truth he was handing out.

 

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I discovered that TED and TEDWomen have never featured a talk on abortion.

…When I asked around, the consensus was that the omission was simply an oversight. But it turns out TED is deliberately keeping abortion off the agenda. When asked for comment, TED content director and TEDWomen co-host Kelly Stoetzel said that abortion did not fit into their focus on “wider issues of justice, inequality and human rights.”

“Abortion is more of a topical issue we wouldn’t take a position on, any more than we’d take a position on a state tax bill,” Stoetzel explained. She pointed me to a few talks on women’s health and birth control, but this made the refusal to discuss abortion only more glaring. In the last three years, the United States has seen more abortion restrictions enacted than in the entire previous decade; the United Nations has classified the lack of access to abortion as torture; and Savita Halappanavar died in Ireland because a Catholic hospital refused to end her doomed pregnancy. Just how is abortion not an issue of “justice, inequality and human rights”?

  • OPPRESSED MAJORITY (Majorité Opprimée English), by Eleonore Pourriat

“On what seems to be just another ordinary day, a man is exposed to sexism and sexual violence in a society ruled by women.”

What they say: “People are just people.”  ”I don’t see color.”  ”We’re all just human.”   “Character, not color, is what counts with me.”

Response: “Colorblindness” negates the cultural values, norms, expectations and life experiences of people of color. Even if an individual white person can ignore a person’s skin color, society does not.

For all you Americans, lad mags are pornographic men’s magazines. Y’know Hustler, King, Penthouse etc.

This article by Jezebel features a study done by the University of Surrey, on the very thin line between derogatory statements in these magazines, and actual quotes from rapists.

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A week ago, I was fortunate enough to attend Creating Change 2014, organized by the Gay and Lesbian Task Force in Houston, Texas. Although this was my second time attending this conference, my excitement was surprisingly higher than last year’s, thanks to this year’s keynote speaker being Laverne Cox. I have become a huge fan of Cox the moment I saw her on Netflix’s Orange is the New Black (if you haven’t seen it yet, you’re missing out big time). Ever since, I started following her on social media and kept up with all of her appearances on TV and in other media outlets. The qualities I admire the most about Cox are her high level of intelligence, exceptional eloquence and fierce poise. I was so lucky to listen to her live during Creating Change’s opening plenary where she delivered a speech that was out of this world. She did not leave a single issue facing the transgender community without mentioning it, especially when it comes to transgender women of color, whom she represents so well. I especially loved the point she raised, saying, “The conversation about trans people in mainstream media has centered on transition and surgery.” Cox explained that limiting our trans conversations to transition and surgery objectifies trans women and does not leave us room to discuss the myriad of pressing issues that face the trans community today. This is exactly what happened on CNN with Piers Morgan a few days ago when he interviewed Janet Mock, who is another incredible trans activist. Instead of focusing on Mock’s newly released memoire “Redefining Realness,” Morgan bombarded her with questions about her physical transition and romance life. The next day, Mock came to his show again to explain how his show attempted to sensationalize her story instead of focusing on the real issues at hand. In her speech at Creating Change, Laverne Cox talked in length about the many injustices trans people, especially trans women of color, face nowadays, including violence, discrimination in the workplace and lack of healthcare access. In Cox’s words, “Healthcare for trans people is a necessity. It is not elective, it is not cosmetic, it is life-saving… But we are more than our bodies.” I remember the entire audience standing up and clapping after she articulated these powerful words.

I truly loved how this year’s Creating Change gave more space for the conference attendees to discuss the issues facing transgender people and learn more about this marginalized community. I personally attended the screening of “TransVisible: Bamby Salcedo’s Story,” which is a documentary film about Los Angeles-based trans Latina activist Bamby Salcedo. The film is very touching and eye opening to the serious struggles of trans women of color. I also attended a workshop entitled “Transgender People Unite Against Hate and Violence” in which Bamby was one of the panelists. The panel was very informative about the various forms of violence that transgender people experience, not only on the streets and in the workplace, but also at home and from the police. This workshop made me realize that there is not enough data available to us in order to reflect trans people’s struggles, thus making trans activism especially hard. According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, “of the 25 documented anti-LGBTQ homicides in 2012, 53.8% of the victims were transgender women. [Moreover], transgender people were 1.67 times as likely to experience threats and intimidation, 3.32 times as likely to experience police violence, and transgender people of color were 2.46 times as likely to experience physical violence by the police.” The reality is very sad for trans people, especially trans women of color. But I am so happy that Creating Changed highlighted this community’s struggles and made room for us to share solutions and success stories. There is a lot more we can do, but visibility is a great step in the right direction.

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Many of you might not be familiar with the reality show train wreck known as The Real L Word. It’s also created by Ilene Chaiken, which might explain its problematic nature. The entire series, reality show included, has a HUGE biphobia problem.

This article by Autostraddle discusses the issue, which is both internalized by a bisexual cast member and perpetuated by a few other lesbians. I find it so ironic that a community which is supposed to be known for its openness discriminates against others so savagely.

There are so many people on TV and the internet these days talking about how everything a white person does or says to a black person can be called racism. Well you know what? It’s Friday and I’m not about to give myself another headache by thinking about all the people who refuse to educate themselves. Let’s face it. Unless you’re part of a group that claims to be facing discrimination, you do not have a right to tell said group that they are wrong because you will NEVER see things from their perspective.

That aside, I think Richard Sherman is right to say that “Thug” is the new n-word. A lot of people care more about being viewed as PC instead of caring about their actual words and actions. They see others suffer the consequences of using the n-word and then come up with creative ways to say what they actually mean.

It’s 2014 people. How about becoming decent human beings?

Usually I have a problem with non-Nigerians bashing Nigeria because I think that the country’s citizens and residents are the only ones who understand what’s going on. And by that I’m referring to situations where people lump us all into a group of bum-scratching ignorants or try to prescribe a cure without a thorough diagnosis. In this case however, I whole heartedly agree. It is shameful that the Nigerian government has chose to focus on an issue that does not require their attention AT ALL, instead of fixing the million other countries. Two words Goodluck Jonathan – Boko Haram.

In the clips above, Katie interviews Carmen Carrera and keeps trying to talk about Carmen’s genitals even though she expresses her desire not to and steers the conversation towards topics she feels are more appropriate, such as her career and life goals. Couric does not stop until Laverne Cox steps in, informing Couric that, “the preoccupation with transition and with surgery objectifies trans people.” Yay Laverne! Can’t wait for season 2 of OINTNB.

It is quite clear that Couric’s motive for inviting Carmen on the show was to sensationalize her transition. She did not seem to have a genuine interest in her as a person.

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zhukova

By now, many of us have seen this photo; it was published on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in an online magazine called Buro 24/7. The photo features “Russian socialite” Dasha Zhukova, who is sitting on a chair made in the likeness of a partially nude black woman. The image has sparked much controversy and spurred Zhukova to issue an apology through the Moscow Times, saying, “This photograph, which has been published completely out of context, is of an art work [sic] intended specifically as a commentary on gender and racial politics. I utterly abhor racism, and would like to apologize to anyone who has been offended by this image.” However, some are still confused as to whether or not the image is actually racist: Jonathan Jones (writer for The Guardian), argues that the work is intended to “question power and representation”, and comments from Cosmopolitan’s Facebook page show a general disagreement with the descriptor “racist”. The intention of the artist versus its impact on the public seems to be a point of contention, so let’s clear things up.

The chair is a copy of artist Allen Jones’ Chair (1969), which was accompanied by Table and Hat Stand. All three are pictured below:

The structures were originally created in the likeness of white women and feature them in BDSM-esque attire and positions. Allen Jones himself says that he, “had an interest in the female figure and the sexual charge that comes from it…” but then goes on to say, “I was reflecting on and commenting on exactly the same situation that was the source of the feminist movement. It was unfortunate for me that I produced the perfect image for them to show how women were being objectified.” In this quote, the self-proclaimed feminist acknowledges the difference between his intentions and the impact of his work, and seems to have no problem with feminists interpretations (which spurred massive protests and caused The Guardian to muse that it should be removed).

Approximately 45 years later, Buro 24/7 borrows Chair and deliberately chooses to re-make it in the likeness of a black woman. Although Zhukova says that it is intended to be a comment on “gender and racial politics”, the photo leaves an important question unanswered: What, exactly, are they trying to say? This photo underscores something that anyone who understands intersectionality knows to be true: white women continuously have the ability to subjugate black women. However, the photo lacks any judgement of the fact–does the artist find this good or bad? It is not until Zhukova released her apology that we realize that she did not mean to offend anyone. Still, the damage is already done.

Racism is a structural and institutional bias based on racial identity and/or appearance. The key to this definition is the qualifier “structural”; it means that racism is perpetuated through and supported by societal organizers such as the government, the education system, families, religious institutions, and so on. Structures are much larger than individuals–they are organizers of individuals. When a particular structure upholds an ideology that subjugates a group based on race through an action, then that action is, indeed, racist. Art is a structure because artists are organized by principles of sensory performance (even down to what is and is not considered art). Thus, artists are subject to racial critiques of their work. So yes, this work upholds racist ideologies, even if by accident.

The question arises: how does one critique racial insensitivity without being racially insensitive? The answer lies in clarity from the messenger. As a white woman, Zhukova represents the very structure that she purports to be tackling. This blatant portrayal of the oppressive structure without commentary on why it is problematic is automatically thrown into the same garbage pile as all other exercises of privilege–a white woman telling black women that they are beneath white women (and not necessarily saying that it is wrong) is just another day in the life of a black woman. It is infuriating, but it is also a regular occurrence. For a member of a dominant group to successfully critique its own privilege, it is essential that they say what is wrong and why it is wrong. In Zhukova’s case, it was simply too little, too late. Hopefully, the art world can learn from Zhukova and Jones’ mistakes and move on to creating thought-provoking and privilege-challenging works in the future.

Categories: Racism
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Adrian Nava (18 years old) and Scarlett Jimenez (18 years old)

Colorado Youth CREATE Council Members

As educators, advocates, and allies of sexual health, we often ask ourselves why we are still having conversations about the implementation and support of comprehensive sexuality education for young people across the nation. For a lot of us, the issue of reproductive rights and justice is one that hits very close to home. As advocates, our stories and personal experiences hold immense power in our work. They allow us to break down barriers when interacting with others, and to create room for meaningful human connections and a space to share why we are so passionate about the work we do.

We share our stories with the hope that we will create awareness and support for comprehensive sex education. Having personal stories that reflect a lack of inclusion of all sexual orientations, or lack of information about healthy relationships and self–esteem, we – Scarlett and Adrian – understand and are optimal examples of why sexual health education is essential for all youth. During our years in advocacy, we have both been exposed to a world of possibilities, and have actively participated in various levels of advocacy.

From local to national participation, both of us have had the opportunity to express ourselves as young people. During the 2013 legislative session at Colorado’s State Capitol, we were actively involved in advocating for the passage of House Bill 1081, what has become known as Colorado’s “updated sex ed law.” We wanted to make sure that young people’s voices and concerns were included throughout the process. As part of CREATE, a youth advocacy council sponsored by Colorado Youth Matter and Advocates for Youth, we testified in favor of the bill during committee hearings and organized a youth advocacy day, which brought more than 230 youth to the capitol to speak to their legislators about the importance of passing laws that increase access to comprehensive sex education.

Adrian’s Story

Adrian NavaI consider myself an advocate not only for programs and policies that promote youth sexual health, but for change founded on social justice principles. As an advocate, a person of color, and someone who identifies as gay, I remember sitting in a crowded 7th grade health class during my glorious awkward pre-pubescent years, asking myself what the ladies at the front of the room were talking about. It turns out that these women were teaching the girls how to say “NO” to males who would only want to have sex with females. I then realized that this uncomfortable discussion was actually part of a “sexual health” class. Yikes! This situation was uncomfortable not only because I did not know what sexual health education looked like, but because I was being targeted as a male. I was expected to insist on having sexual intercourse with women. I was ultimately astonished and speechless at the sexist, and judgmental tone that was being set within a classroom environment.

As a student, I was genuinely eager to learn about what was going on inside of my body and mind. But after much talk about “male and female relationships,” I asked the teachers if it was possible for two boys to be together, and the teachers ignored my question and moved on to talk about the importance of abstaining from having sex.

I began to feel like it was wrong to ask that question – which meant that something about me was wrong, since I was attracted to people of the same gender as me. The following day, my peers and I participated in an activity in which one person was assigned to be a person with “AIDS.” To my surprise, that person was me. I learned later that gay men are stereotyped as having HIV, which only deteriorated my self-esteem and self-love because I was not exposed to positive messages about LGBT people.

My negative experience of feeling ignored and stigmatized in the classroom is the reason I became actively involved in advocacy work for increased access to comprehensive sex education. I was made to feel ashamed of being gay, which harmed my emotional health for a long period of time. I wish I could have received comprehensive, inclusive, medically accurate, age-appropriate information about my body and mind – but I didn’t.

However, just because my school did not provide me with that education, it does not mean that future generations should not have access. I am completely in love with my advocacy work and impacting my generation, for the better. I find empowerment through making my voice heard and mobilizing young people to speak about and advocate for their sexual health.

Scarlett’s Story

Scarlett JimenezI am an advocate for comprehensive sex education and reproductive rights and justice for young people, because I believe that the issues at hand should be considered as part of our basic human rights. I believe that young people should have the right to have access to accurate information about their bodies. Furthermore, youth deserve the opportunity to develop the life skills that are included in comprehensive sexuality education. I believe that my high school experience would have been a much happier and more successful time had that been included as part of my education.

On a daily basis, young women are bombarded with highly sexualized messages from the media that dictate the social norms. I think that it is absolutely essential for young women to learn that these messages are disempowering and are not actual expectations of women. All youth, regardless of their gender, deserve to hear that they are much more valuable than the media depicts them. High school is such a hectic and overwhelming stage for teens. Oftentimes, teens do not receive much needed positive and empowering messages about themselves or young people in general. I know that for myself, low sense of self-worth and a lack of basic sexual health information and the ability to communicate with my partner led me into an unsafe relationship and a very hard time in my life.

I am an advocate for comprehensive sexuality education, and all that it entails, because now I have a vision for future generations. Creating access to comprehensive sex education can inform and support youth to be empowered, inclusive, educated, compassionate, communicative, strong, and driven by their identified passions and goals.

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As I transitioned from high school to college, I thought that my student outreach efforts on behalf of Colorado Youth CREATE would get easier. With a bigger campus, more people, and more freedom, I reasoned that I would easily be able to reach more people to join our youth activist network and support our cause of increasing the availability of comprehensive sex education on local and state levels. However, I soon realized that the climate of students at my private university was very conservative and not very supportive of sexual health education. This was something that I found to be completely ironic because people are definitely “doing it,” and people are definitely gossiping about it. But no one wants to discuss safe sex, healthy relationships, or sexual assault.

The first few times that I tried to talking to some people I met in college about my work with CREATE it did not go well. They stopped me mid-sentence and told me that I was wasting my breath because they had conservative values. In another instance, someone physically put their hand over my mouth and told me, “Stop. Just tell me if you’re from an abortion clinic because I don’t want to hear it!” Even when I was able to get through my one minute spiel about being an advocate for comprehensive sexual health education, I was often met with very judgmental stares and gaping mouths, as if I had just confessed that I was drug lord. People at my school felt uncomfortable with my messages and I was beginning to be labeled and dismissed as the “raging liberal.”

I realized that I needed to change my approach. I knew that the issues I was talking about are things that we all face, both as young people at this university and in this world. To me, the issues that I advocate for are about human rights—the right to identify however we choose to identify and love whoever we may love. The right that we, as citizens, have to access to affordable health care and services. And the right that we, as young people, have to receive truthful, medically accurate and culturally inclusive education. I realized that I needed to frame my message in a way that was not received as a partisan issue, and instead illustrate how comprehensive sex education truly affects and concerns us all.

I was received much better when I used a more holistic and rights-based approach with my audience. Below are a few strategies that I developed in order to reframe my advocacy message about the need for comprehensive sex education:

1. Cultural Competency/ Sensitivity- Always Walk Your Talk!
It is important to keep in mind that people may come from different backgrounds or have different ideologies from your own when you’re doing outreach. Just like in a comprehensive sex education class, your conversation should recognize what the other person values! For example, if the person you are talking to has chosen to abstain until marriage, note that that’s great for them- abstinence is the only way to prevent unplanned pregnancies and STIs. However, you will both be able to agree that not everyone will share that decision. You can point to the national rate of teen pregnancy and talk about how comprehensive sex education not only can help reduce that number but also includes a strong abstinence message.

2. Personalize Your Message!
If you feel comfortable and safe enough, share a story as to why you do the work that you do. This helps transform the issues into something very human and relatable. Through storytelling, your message is framed in a way that shows the effect that sexual health has on everyday people.

3. Keep The Door Open For Conversation
No issue is easy or black and white. Allow for discussion about the issues, as long as it remains respectful and non-intrusive to you and your personal space. I have found that in some situations it is very important to draw this line, like when I felt disrespected for just defending myself. Openly discussing your issue creates an opportunity to learn about what is valuable and important to the other individual while also sharing what is important and valuable to you. Both parties can end up a little more enlightened about different perspectives from even a short exchange of ideas. You may not always agree, but you may find that they, and others alike, will be more willing to approach you later about the issue. Look for common ground in some aspect of sexual health and go from there!

In the past few weeks that I have adopted these ideas, I have found that the people I talk to are a lot more receptive and the conversations I have are a lot more meaningful. Even though we as advocates often find ourselves in communities that are not supportive of our issues, this is the place where change happens. Being in this tough environment these last few months has reminded me about the importance of my work, and I see every new day as an opportunity to further our cause. CREATE is working on developing tools to support young people and their advocacy efforts in the community, so stay tuned!

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Here is a series of images created by Tumblr user jamietheignorantamerican. It explains and discusses privilege, and explains why a person who isn’t racist can still benefit from institutionalized racism.

Here are some resources also curated by jamietheignorantamerican:

I’d also highly recommend watching the Jane Elliot Brown-eye/Blue-eye experiments, which can be found here:

Categories: Racism
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The Righteous Retreat that was going to be held at Nottoway Plantation, a place full of triggering thoughts and connections to slavery used to host a feminist singer-songwriter event, was thankfully canceled by Ani DiFranco.  What has transpired this last few weeks was another display of racism from white feminists failing to check their privilege.  It was a clear obliviousness of the essential need for intersectionality.  Since the official announcement of the venue, justifiable outrage from women of color feminists were heard but were also dismissed with the usual claims that lacked understanding and critical thinking: “You’re perpetuating racism!/We can reclaim this piece of history!”  Women of color feminists, specifically black feminists and women, were told to “get over it. Slavery’s done with.”

The venue for the Righteous Retreat and Twitter gave birth to another great satirical hashtag, #AniDiFrancoRetreatIdeas, where many progressive individuals shared their witty and snarky jabs at such a clueless slip up.

Call outs were found in the comments of the Facebook event page, and as a response to the criticism, there was one person in particular named Mandi Harrington who took the extra step to maintain supremacy and dismiss the words of black women.  She created a black woman persona, stealing some black woman’s photo and created her own name to defend her comments.  But what she thought was a vernacular black women used was actually her own racist projections.

And what has been Ani Difranco’s response to all of this?  Well, it was certainly a long one–almost too long for what should have been a simple and succinct, “I’m sorry.  I messed up.”  What should have been an apology ended up being explanation without any responsibility or blame from her part and feeling more grieved by this lost opportunity rather than true empathy for those who have been truly hurt from this incident.  Her full explanation can be read here.

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After Michigan House and Senate’s shameful support of a law that would force burial and cremation costs on those who sought abortions, they decided the next step would be to establish a “rape insurance” for people who have the ability to get pregnant earlier this month. The bill is infamously known as Michigan’s Rape Insurance bill, the actual name being The Abortion Insurance Opt-Out Act.  It places a ban on private insurance companies from covering abortion.  This forces women into buying extra coverage for their abortion care on top of their paid plans.  What’s more is that this legislation has no exceptions for rape or incest.  And the coverage can’t be purchased during a pregnancy, it has to be bought prior to one–because those who have the ability to become pregnant are in a constant state of being pre-pregnant.

The Guttmacher Institute’s research in payment for abortion shows that almost 70% of women pay out of their own pockets for this medical procedure, and almost 52% of those women found it difficult to pay.  So, what’s to become of that 52%?  What’s to become of those who already can’t pay for the treatment they need?  We already live in a system that routinely and unapologetically ignore the needs of the people.  It’s not just a limiting of our right to the health care we need.  It’s one more step to further marginalizing those who are already feeling the burden of an oppressive, unfree economy.

Not all are sitting idly while outside groups and politicians pushed for this.  Michigan Senator Gretchen Whitmer shared her own thoughts in a Huffington Post blog:

“I shared my story of being sexually assaulted because even if it wouldn’t give my Republican colleagues pause to reconsider the vote they were about to take, I at least wanted them to, for the first time, have to directly consider the consequences of their actions and see that those being hurt by it aren’t anonymous faces, but friends, family and, yes, even their colleagues on the Senate floor.

What’s too easily dismissed in these types of discussions is that this issue is not simply about pro-choice or pro-life, it is about interfering with contracts between women and our health care providers. This new law forbids private insurance companies from covering abortions unless a woman buys additional and preemptive coverage, even in the case of rape, incest, or even medically necessary dilation and curettage (D & C) procedures for planned pregnancies that went wrong.

This measure is extreme, ignorant and insultingly misogynistic. I’m disgusted to say that it is now the law of the land in Michigan, but how it became law is just as offensive as the law itself.

Right to Life of Michigan, an extremist special-interest group with significant financial backing from a select few secretive donors, has pushed for this law twice before. Both times they failed, as two different Republican Governors stood up to them and vetoed it. In fact, in explaining his veto of this measure earlier this year, Governor Rick Snyder, someone I don’t often agree with, rightly stated, “I don’t believe it is appropriate to tell a woman who becomes pregnant due to a rape that she needed to select elective insurance coverage.”

But instead of admitting defeat, Right to Life took their crusade even further. They exploited an obscure loophole in Michigan’s Constitution that allowed them to bypass the governor’s veto entirely, as well as the will of the people, by securing the signatures of only four percent of Michigan’s population to bring a so-called “citizens’ initiative” before the legislature and then flexed their political muscle over the Republican majority, forcing them to immediately vote it into law.”

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I did not envision myself to be someone who finds so much enjoyment out of preparing a homemade dinner for when a significant other comes home from work.  But more than that, I’m finding happiness with my cooking.  Part of my journey to reconnect with my culture is making the meals that are inspired by my ancestors.  It’s not enough to re-learn the language and symbols and meanings that were mostly erased in my assimilation to the white culture I sought because of internalized racism.  I want to know the taste of my parents’ country and history.

Tonight’s dinner is banh cuon (Vietnamese steamed rice crepes) with pan seared salmon, all lightly dressed with a homemade sweet soy sauce.

I originally posted this on my personal Tumblr blog: hannahology.

I’m contemplating doing a Vietnamese food blog as a way of recording my journey towards a reconnection with my culture.  For now, just re-learning everything I’ve lost is the main goal.  Positive and healing thoughts and actions with a yummy bonus.

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Things White Activists say to Activists of Color from thatangryblackgrrrl on Vimeo.

We are People of Color. We didn’t choose to be, but we love our cultures. Because of our skin, we have added struggles. In our safe spaces, we have every right to feel welcomed and not tokenized, harassed or ignored. We ask for you to listen to us when we speak about racism because we are being effected by it daily. This video is a compilation of things actually said to POC involved in activism and social justice.

We want to be heard, listen to us.

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In my early adolescence, I spent a lot of time at rehearsals. Dance rehearsals, vocal rehearsals, theatre rehearsals, the list goes on. I spent most of my preteen and teenage years in dance studios and on stages, being picked at and prodded. So, of course, when I watched the video “Pretty Hurts” on Beyoncé’s new self-titled visual album (short freak-out- YES!! PERFFFF), I related on a seriously deep level.

The entire song and video, “Pretty Hurts” is a take-down of beauty standards our society has and how they can be detrimental to our women. The ‘perfect’ woman is often seen as having straight blonde hair, tall, slim, fair, and dainty. This is  Eurocentric, and these standards and expectations can lead to assimilation, self-hatred, and just nasty stuff.

In my own personal experience, I never really looked much like my friends. I was always the first one to be pointed out, and I was often addressed by physical characteristics rather than my name. I wasn’t white, I wasn’t tall, I wasn’t petite, the list goes on.4501_1075007470560_3380138_n

Being in an entertainment industry, I was often reminded of this. I lost out on roles that again and again went to the more stereotypical ‘pretty’ girl. I remember I was in a winter musical; I got an old costume that used to be one of my friend’s, and when I tried it on, it didn’t even fit over my bum. My theatre instructor told me I needed to eat a little less and shed some pounds, because I needed to fit into that skirt like my friend did before the show date.

In the video for “Pretty Hurts”, Beyoncé portrays a pageant woman (as she was in the past) that struggles throughout the video with trying to fit the script of ‘pretty’ by taking pills, exercising excessively, getting botox, and vomiting in a bathroom. The entire video she is trying to fit into a set of beauty standards that are suffocating her, quite literally, and then she still loses (to one of her more fair-skinned counterparts, may I note).  We see her wreck a room of her trophies and crowns, scream and break her level-headed demeanor, and basically lose her sh#$. It’s only after this at the very end of the video that we see her wash off all of the makeup, take out her hair, look in the mirror, and give the most authentic smile of the video yet.

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When I was younger, I tried everything to look ‘pretty’. I wanted to look more like my friends that got the lead roles; I wanted to fit in when I went out with them. So, one summer, I decided to do everything I could to become more fair-skinned. I didn’t go out during the day unless absolutely necessary (covered in pounds of sunblock and clothing), I covered myself in lighter colored foundations and powders, I did everything within reach of my little thirteen-year-old hands. I became depressed, I developed an eating disorder, and I truly hated myself. I was told again and again that I would never make it in the industry, could never be a ballerina because I was too dark and too fat, could never be a singer because my nose drew too much attention. Only when I pulled myself out of that environment and took a long couple of months to myself (and counseling) did I realize that beautiful is not just one thing. It can’t be.

Beyoncé does a wonderful job of ripping these notions to shreds while admitting her own struggle with trying to adhere to them. I saw myself in so many different parts of this video and song, it felt like she read my diary. This song is a beautifully written critique of the unrealistic Eurocentric beauty standards that are ever present in entertainment industries and elsewhere. Queen Bey ends the song with this phrase, “When you’re alone all by yourself and you’re lying in your bed, reflection stares right into you; Are you happy with yourself?”
Beyoncé is unafraid, strong, flawed, and she is starting dialogue and leading us in the right direction.

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Yes, Beyoncé. I’m happy with myself – most days – but I wasn’t always. It’s a struggle, and it will continue to be, but the more artists in the spotlight that are diverse and beautiful in everything they do and are (just like you), the easier it will get.

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Examine My Depth:

 

Examine this depth because it hasn’t sprung from nowhere – my rage is not a fire hydrant that opens with a tap and strikes everyone close by.

 

My ache has been rooted and carefully harvested for centuries.

 
My rage is Mandela, King, Malcolm X, Corky Gonzales, Susan B. Anthony, and Dennis Goldberg.

 
Please tell me why my presence seems to be scrutinized by the public eye.

 
My misery lies within the hard cold walls of the daunting penitentiaries in which my people lie.

 
Open me up and dissect my pain. Tell me that my mother deserves better than minimum wage while working at a hotel – tell me that we didn’t cross el rio Bravo: monstrous and alive, ready to take our lives, only to live a white, superficial hell.

 
That my aunt wasn’t sexually assaulted on the border, only to find herself lost and lone in the land of the free, in fear of a deportation order.

 
Let me know that the “New Jim Crow” does not exist. I want to hear that Michelle Alexander is wrong when she says “Jarvious Cotton cannot vote….His great-grandfather was beaten to death by the Ku Klux Klan for attempting to vote. His grandfather was prevented from voting by Klan intimidation. His father was barred from voting by poll taxes and literacy tests. Today, Jarvious Cotton cannot vote because he, like many black men in the United States, has been labeled a felon and is currently on parole.”

 
Take a closer look at my disgust when I say that five Middle Eastern men had the police called on them at my university for looking like they did not belong: they were students.
They were no more than 18 year old humans.

 

Tell me that my father did not hold on to the rails of a train for 24 hours in order to be here – only to drive in fear of deportation. What good is the free land if we are closed off and barred in our box of a home in isolation?

 
I wish Alexander was wrong when she tells us “A black man was on his knees in the gutter, hands cuffed behind his back, as several police officers stood around him talking, joking, and ignoring his human existence.” – This or course, on Election Day: As we introduce the first black president of the United States

 
I yearn for the day when statements like these are not true – when black and brown people are not just labeled as a form of “resistance.”

 
Examine my anger. Look deep into my soul. Take a look at the land you’ve settled and grounded your beliefs on – notice that my angst was not born this morning, or last night, or a week ago, or 10 years ago. Notice that I have been destined to fail and crumble for centuries – see my pain and then take a look at the Anglo reign.

 
Examine this depth.

 

__________________________________

Once entering College, I found myself being the only queer youth of color in most if not all of my classes – and also found myself angry at people with privilege because they made sure to make me feel less than human every single day. However, I keep on doing advocacy work and telling people my story, in hopes of changing mindsets and perspectives.

I wrote this poem about youth of color, and people of color in general because we are often no more than a statistic: a reaction to the dominant culture – and we are often left out on conversations that deal with health care, LGBTQ issues, or sexual health.

Latin@ people of color matter.

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Recently, three students filed a discrimination complaint against their teacher because her lecture on structural racism made them uncomfortable. They felt, as white men, they were being attacked. In fact, they thought many of their classes where re-hashing the same thing, where white, heterosexual males were made out to be the bad guys or at least were being unfairly singled out.

When I read that story, I immediately thought of times in my academic career where I was uncomfortable. One in particular stuck out in my head:

One of the few High School Honors papers I remember preparing for in detail is the one where my teacher challenged us to write an argumentative paper on whether or not the South had to lose the Civil War (clarification: I lived in Mississippi).

Two students attempted to say, “No, they did not”, just to take the more academically challenging route, but soon conceded that for economic reasons the South needed to lose. Most students wrote from this angle: In order for the South to adapt to the more economically forward traditions of that era, it was necessary for the South to lose the Civil War.

We also briefly discussed how the Civil War was about states rights.

I remember this paper because it was one of the most blatant times where I vehemently disagreed with everything being said in a classroom.

The Civil War was about the states rights to own slaves. They had to lose the Civil War because owning people wasn’t something that could just go on being tolerated for economic gain. In fact, Reconstruction was a blatant failure because of compromises made to the South in order to placate them for a war THEY LOST. If anything, the Civil War was a power-play between a divided nation, that unintentionally had humanitarian undertones, undertones that were soon vanquished in the following times of “peace”.

Granted, I didn’t know all that then. All I knew was that I was surrounded by friends and respected collogues whom, to me, sounded like they were arguing that slavery wasn’t that important. Who suggested that it was, in fact, necessary in the early building of America.

I wanted to scream. I wanted to yell. There is something really traumatizing about being in place where the institution that has always been the most terrifying thing you could ever imagine is discounted as simply unfortunate. Especially since you have encountered and witnessed countless terrifying acts that are a result of the mindset of those times. Instead of doing anything, I sat quietly and said nothing. I was literally the only black student in that classroom. There were three other students in the program, but we didn’t have history together. I assume they held their tongues too.

Every time I think about that paper, I literally want to hurl. I remember how I felt during that class.

Uncomfortable doesn’t quite cover it.

I wrote my paper on how European colonists systematically dehumanized a specific group of peoples in order to justify the inhumane treatment of those peoples without violating their Christian beliefs.

Later, I came to see how this massive and calculated brainwashing could be likened to the brainwashing seen in Nazis Germany. Both resulted in Genocide. Both required wars to stop them.

The only difference, is no one says that the Holocaust was merely unfortunate.

Within my paper, I went on to talk about how the South would have been ruined economically if they had remained dependent on an agricultural economy. I didn’t want to fail.

My teacher did briefly discuss how horrible slavery was during the course. I don’t want to say it was completely discounted.

But there was this idea that it was terrible, but necessary. For some reason, we, as a culture, still believe that slavery was necessary. Worse, we believe that there were no after-effects.

Worse still, so many of us don’t want to hear about it. We don’t want to know how we were Nazis Germany. So many white people, even well meaning white people, don’t want to know that people who look like them are capable of evil. It makes them uncomfortable.

To all of those people: If you are a good person, it has nothing to do with your race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, nationality, shoe size, whatever. You were not born inherently evil. No one is saying that.

So learning about the faults of our culture, about the faults of your ancestors, says nothing about you. How you react to it, says EVERYTHING about you.

Of course I have poem here (Warning, I was a lot more upset when I wrote this poem than when I wrote the article):

 

Dear white guys who filed a discrimination complaint against their teacher because her lecture about structural racism made you uncomfortable,

 

I use to think my father was paranoid

handcuffed to past assaults

Suffering PTSD

The after-effects of racism had left him untrusting

Cause it was over

 

I use to think my mother was delusional

her warnings of white men, warnings of fictional ghosts

They were pale, but harmless

the after-effects of racism had left her seeing things

it was over

 

I use to think I was hyper-sensitive

Overthinking everything

So what if my friends were impressed by my English

I mean I was the only black girl in my AP class

The after-effects of racism had simply left them ignorant

But it was over

Right?

Right?

 

If you really want know what uncomfortable feels like

 

Spend a lifetime wanting to peel back skin to prove you’re human

Spend a lifetime being the exception to made up rules

Spend a lifetime where your history begins with dehumanization

So you have always been nothing

Even before you were born

And every fear that crawls through your nerve-endings

Is really just paranoia

Cause its over, its over, its over, its over , its over

Do you know that the way our economy is set up,

You’re likely to die in the economic class you were born in?

Do you know that the way our economy is set up,

We wouldn’t have an economy without my ancestors?

Once a girl told me that “slavery was really sad

But I should take pride in knowing that without my ancestors America wouldn’t be America”

Exactly

And yet how much of the one percent looks like me?

 

But that sounds like a conspiracy

Maybe it’s a conspiracy

Maybe I’m just paranoid

Cause its over right?

It’soverit’soverit’soverit\’sover

Do you know what beautiful looks like?

Not me

Do you know what smart looks like?

Not me

Hardworking? Dedicated? Angels? GOD?

But that’s all a coincidence,

I’m reading too much into it,

I’m being paranoid

We’re all paranoid

We’re all delusional

We’re all so sensitive

 

The first time I learned about structural racism

was the first time I wasn’t uncomfortable

It was assuring whisper in padded room

It was long lost witness in never-ending trial

So tell me,

what bothered you the most?

Feeling like people were side-eying you like you were the only black girl in the middle of a class review of the Civil Rights era?

Or the fear people were judging you like you were a black boy walking down the street?

 

Well think of it this way:

If your ancestors hadn’t been multi-genocidal terrorists

America wouldn’t be America

 

And I’m not saying my ancestors were perfect

But gosh

It was nice to learn we weren’t the only ones

 

So tell me, what bothered you the most?

Being the villains?

Well take heart

Cause in almost every other story

White men are the heroes

Are the saviors,

Are the humans.

 

Everyday you have the blessed privilege of sitting comfortable in the fact that you are human

That you have potential

And you don’t even had to prove it

 

So stop whining

At the first piece of evidence

That your humanity

Has nothing to do with your skin

 

You really have a problem with lectures on structural racism?

Help us end structural racism.

Cause it’s not over.

 

 

Categories: Racism
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When will people learn not to put ridiculous statements on Twitter?

In this edition of FAIL BLOG, the GOP recently shared this lie of an image via their Twitter account…

…and were met with the following response…

 

It’s so beautiful I could cry.

Categories: Racism
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I am a nineteen year old African American female and the murder of Renisha McBride is yet another reminder that I am not safe.

In what is fast becoming the newest trope, Renisha McBride is yet another young black life lost to a white man “standing his ground”. It is safe to assume Renisha was disoriented when she entered Dearborn Heights, a suburb in Detroit, Michigan. Her cell phone had died and it is generally believed she was looking for help. What she found was the home of Theodore Wafer, a fifty-four year old Caucasian man, who has stated that he believed Renisha was trying to break into his home and he feared for his life. He claims that he accidently misfired his shotgun. He has been charged, as of Friday, November 15, with second-degree murder and manslaughter.

Reports have indicated that Dearborn Heights is an ethnically diverse area. However, in Dream Hampton’s short film, WE DEMAND JUSTICE FOR RENISHA MCBRIDE (which initiated the social media frenzy that brought this murder to the public), Hampton indicated Dearborn Heights is a “Sunset Town”, a term historically used for places where it was unsafe for African Americans and other people of color after dark. Dearborn Heights is 86.7% white, and Hampton suggests that much of this population is concentrated in suburbs, like the one where Theodore Wafer resides. The prosecutor in the case, Kym Worthy, has stated that “The charging decision has absolutely nothing to do with the race of the parties.” But race has a lot to do with public opinion of the murder, as many herald this as yet more proof that African American life is not valued in America. I have many problems with this incident but here are the two that are the most pressing:

This idea that property is more important than life seems to dominate Stand Your Ground law redirect. We see this law upheld in cases like Zimmerman, where Zimmerman following Trayvon prior to their encounter was justified because it was out of fear that Trayvon was a threat to his and his neighbors property. However that same law isn’t upheld in a case like Marissa Alexander’s, where she shot a warning shot during an altercation with her abusive husband that left her in fear of her life. I fear, that once again, this law will be used to justify an unjustifiable murder. Though I understand the intent of the law and even somewhat agree with it, I do not think that the law does it job. If the it is truly supposed to protect those who are in fear of their lives, then why are we seeing this law only upheld when it comes to certain kinds of life? Which leads me to my other big problem:

There is an overwhelming redirect that black women are incapable of being helpless and undeserving of protection. This has created a culture where the fact that Renisha was searching for help may have never even occurred to Wafer. She could have only been there to cause him harm. This is racism in its most insidious form: A society where all people of color are dangerous until proven trust-worthy and when they find themselves in situations where they cannot or do not do so in a satisfactory manner, they are killed, regardless of whether or not they were a true threat.

She was unarmed.

She was nineteen.

She was non-threatening.

And now, she is dead.

I wrote the following poem when I first found out about Renisha. It is the simplest way I can explain how this case affected me and how truly tired I am of this being the reality we live in.

I am directionally challenged

Winding roads lose their landmarks

Maps lose their meaning

And bam, I’m lost

And I could see myself looking down at Google GPS

Cell phone battery draining, draining, dead

And I’m baffled beyond belief when

Bam I’m hit

Some car Didn’t see me Maybe they’re lost too

Not a big accident, you know

No concussion or broken bones

But big enough where my car is out of commission

And I have to make a decision

The other car is gone (Jerks)

My phone is finished

My transportation terminated

All I have is hope

And I think

Maybe I can trust in mankind today

The thing about Renisha McBride

Is that I don’t have to stretch my imagination

To see her devastation

When plea for help turned murder

I don’t have to close my eyes

To see hers widen when she realized

Just how different a shotgun

Is From a telephone

I can practically hear what might have gone through her head

Besides the steel cold bullet

I can practically feel what might have gone through her head

Steel.

Cold.

Bullet.

I can practically hear her regret

That she for even a moment thought

The welcome mat on that homeowner’s porch was meant for her

That she could be considered anything other than intruder

That there would ever be a day where she could trust mankind

I’m so tired

Of not having to stretch my imagination

Of not struggling to picture it

Of knowing all too well

It could have been me

Renisha McBride by Briana Dixon

Categories: Racism
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Why ’12 Years A Slave’ Is

Different From ‘The Help’

And ‘Django Unchained’–

And Why It Matters

[originally posted on ThinkProgress by Alyssa Rosenberg]

[TW: racial slurs, movie spoilers, rape]

This post discusses plot details of 12 Years A Slave in depth.

“Forgive me,” Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) tells his wife Anne (Kelsey Scott) when he returns to Saratoga and to freedom after more than a decade of enslavement in Southern states. “There is nothing to forgive,” Anne tells him. And of course, Solomon is in no way responsible for being kidnapped into servitude and for being out of his touch with his family for twelve years, except for the errors of judgement he made in trusting the men who deceived and sold him. But the exchange between the reunited spouses reveals, in plain language, what makes Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave so strikingly different from many of the movies about slavery, race, and the South in recent years. 12 Years A Slave is concerned with Solomon’s character arc, rather than the moral development of a white woman like Skeeter Phelan (Emma Stone), the misfit socialite who becomes a reporter and goes to work for a publisher in The Help, or Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), the bounty hunter-turned-hater-of-slavery in Django Unchained. And the movie treats whiteness not as a neutral thing, but as a complex construct that, in its intersections with class and gender, creates a landscape more unstable and risky than any Palmetto swamp.

Unlike Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis), the housekeeper in The Help, who goes from quiet acceptance of her lot to speaking her mind, or Django (Jamie Foxx), who begins Django Unchained in irons and ends it galloping off towards freedom with his wife, Solomon spends much of 12 Years A Slave traveling an opposite trajectory. At the beginning of the film, his freedom has granted him the privilege of being trusting when two men, Brown (Scoot McNairy) and Hamilton (Taran Killam) offer him a job playing his violin at an exorbitant salary with a circus. “Your generosity is extraordinary,” Solomon tells them over a rich dinner in Washington, DC, where he’s traveled for what he believes will be a two-week engagement. Even after he wakes up in irons, Solomon refuses to believe that Brown and Hamilton have betrayed him, protesting that “They were not kidnappers, they were artists.” And even more tellingly, he believes that some sort of justice is within reach. “I promise you, upon my liberation, I will have satisfaction for this wrong,” Solomon declares to one of his jailers.

For much of the next twelve years, Solomon spends his time being disabused of the notion that fellow artists are trustworthy, that his talent will save him, and that decency and fellow-feeling trumps race. And he comes into uncomfortably close acquaintance with he’ll do to survive, and to be free again.

Solomon’s education takes place in three acts, the first, and swiftest in a form of violent gaslighting designed to swiftly transition him from thinking of himself as a free man to accepting an identity as a slave. “You ain’t no free man. And you ain’t from Saratoga, you’re from Georgia…You ain’t nothing but a runaway nigger,” his jailer in Washington, DC tells Solomon as he beats his new identity into him. “You’re a slave. Your’e a Georgia slave.” That man’s partner teaches Solomon the other part of the essential lesson of servitude, that he’s meant to be surprised by any generosity show him, rather than feeling entitled to it. “Got no gratitude?” the man tells him, when he comes to offer Solomon a replacement for the shirt that’s been shredded and irreparably bloodied by his beating. And when Solomon arrives at his destination, the custody of a slaver named Freeman (Paul Giamatti), he’s punished when he doesn’t answer to the new name bestowed on him, Platt. “You fit the description. Why didn’t you answer when called?” Freeman demands of Solomon, making sure that his latest commodity will behave as expected before he’s sold off.

If Solomon becomes convinced of the value of docility to his survival in the first stage of his journey South, it’s in his second that he learns that his talents and intelligence need to be deployed carefully, and the extent to which race trumps class for Southern whites. The man who purchases him is a plantation owner named Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch) who fancies himself a benevolent owner. Ford’s first attracted to Solomon in Freeman’s establishment when the slaver tells Ford that “This is a nigger of considerable talent,” and Ford hears Solomon’s playing. That respect extends beyond Solomon’s music. Ford is willing to accept Solmon’s advice on transporting lumber through the swamps around his estate. Tibeats (Paul Dano), a foreman who’s taken an instant dislike to Solomon on the grounds that he doesn’t know his place, asks Solomon “Are you an engineer or a nigger?” when Solomon volunteers his experience working on a canal crew as proof of his plan. “I’ll admit to being impressed even if you won’t,” Ford tells Tibeats and Solomon, giving Solomon a chance to prove his idea viable.

But Eliza (Adepero Oduye), who like Solmon was kidnapped in Washington, and has been sold to Ford along with him but away from her children, sees what Solomon cannot in these gestures of respect. “Ford is your opportunity?” she asks Solomon, recognizing that Solomon’s displays of his talents only make him more valuable to Ford, rather than convincing Ford of his humanity. Solomon’s first inkling of this comes when Ford gives him a violin, telling Solomon “I hope it brings us both much joy over the years,” envisioning a placid, and permanent, coexistence with the slave he’s come to enjoy.

Even if Solmon accepts that might be his lot, he fails to recognize that the means by which he expresses his usefulness may someday erode the risks Ford is willing to take for him. His error is in continuing to challenge Tibeats, treating the white man as if he’s foolish, telling him “I simply ask that you use all your senses before rendering judgement,” and when Tibeats criticizes his work, declaring “If there’s something wrong, it’s wrong with the instructions.” When their repeated confrontations finally become violent, Solomon acts as if his skills outrank the whiteness of Tibeats’ skin, beating him rather than allowing himself to be physically abused. When Tibeats declares after the fight that “You will not live to see another day…I will have flesh and I will have all of it,” it’s another layer of the instruction that Solomon first received when he was kidnapped: he’s in a place where reason matters very little, and race and class are everything.

In one of the most intellectually complex and visually harrowing sequences in12 Years A Slave, Tibeats rounds up a lynch mob, only to be interrupted by Ford’s overseer, who informs Tibeats that “You have no claim to his life.” This doesn’t, of course, mean that Solmon’s life is his own. And to remind him of it, the overseer leave Solomon hanging just low enough that he can relieve the pressure on his neck by pointing his toes in decidedly unstable mud. The slaves around him, better-trained in the art of self-preservation, largely go about their work as Solomon languishes there. Children play near the tree from which he’s hung. Mrs. Ford watches Solomon struggle, then strolls away from her viewpoint on the porch. A woman sneaks him a drink of water, but she can only ease his comfort, not relieve him of it. The one person who can do that is Ford, who ultimately cuts Solomon down with a machete. But that assertion of ownership comes paired with an acknowledgement that Solomon himself has transgressed so far in his beating of Tibeats that Ford cannot–or will not–assert his class privilege over the poorer man’s racist outrage in order to save a slave, even one he’s grown fond of. “You are an exceptional nigger, Platt,” Ford tells Solomon as he prepares to sell him to Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender). “But I fear no good can come of it.”

It’s on Epps’ plantation that Solomon learns submission and compromise, which, paradoxically, are the qualities that will allow him to save his own life at the end of the film. On the Epps plantation, Solomon’s skills are turned against him. Far from being able to win Epps’ respect with any knowledge he might possess, Solomon proves poor at the one thing Epps wants of him, picking cotton. His musical skills, once a source of consolation, become part of Epps’ macabre entertainments, as Epps forces Solomon to play for grotesque dances he forces his slaves to hold in the middle of the night.

And amidst the brutality of the Epps plantation, Solomon learns to do what the people who saw him being hanged and did nothing did on that day: to ignore what he sees, and to keep quiet. When he contemplates running away when Mrs. Epps (Sarah Paulson) orders him to run her errands at a store, his flight through the woods brings Solomon upon a lynching party. Solomon effectively promises the white men in the group that he will forget what he saw. He tells Mrs. Epps that “No m’am. [He encountered] No trouble,” on his route, erasing the experience from his official account of the trip. And Solomon and Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o), a slave Epps describes as “Queen of the Fields,” and who Epps rapes regularly, warning his wife that “I will rid myself of you before I do away with her,” are lectured on the value of patience and submission in Christian terms by Mistress Shaw (Alfre Woodward), a slave who accepted the role of mistress to another white man. “Where once I served, I have others serving me,” Mistress Shaw counsels the two younger people. “In good time, the Lord’ll manage ‘em all…The sorrow of the pharaohs is no match for what awaits the plantation class.”

This education saves Solomon when he is caught in a dangerous ploy, trying to convince a former overseer-turned-cotton-picker named Armsby (Garret Dillahunt) to deliver a letter to his family. “Well, Platt. I understand I got a learned nigger writes letters, tries to get white fellows to mail ‘em,” a drunk Epps tells Solomon, clearly eager to use this knowledge against a slave who’s irritated him, but not quite given him the excuse Epps needs to dispatch him by violence. Solmon, by this point, knows enough to play Epps’ class suspicions against Armsby. “He made the story out of whole cloth because he wants a situation,” Solomon insists, and Epps believes him.

But submission also means that Solomon is pulled deeper into complicity with Epps’ cruelties, nowhere more so than in the case of Patsey. At one point, Patsey begs Solomon to kill her and to make her body disappear, telling him “I ain’t got no comfort in this life. If I can’t buy mercy from you, I’ll beg it.” But Solomon declines, even as he becomes witness to her escalating suffering. When he returns from a stint on another plantation, where he was allowed to play his violin and earn money for himself, Solmon sees all the blood vessels in one of Patsey’s eyes broken, whether as the result of abuse from Mrs. Epps, or as an assertion of authority from Epps himself. Later, when Patsey is not available to Epps on a Sunday, a day she’s traditionally been free to go visiting, his wrath is dreadful. And it escalates when she explains that she was visiting Mistress Shaw to get some soap because Mrs. Epps has denied it to her. “500 pounds of cotton a day, more than any man. And for that I will be clean. That’s all I ask,” Patsey begs for her dignity. And Epps, telling her “You’re doing this to yourself, Pats,” orders Solomon to whip her, and then to whip her harder when he makes a show of the beating rather than administering it properly.

And when Mr. Parker (Rob Steinberg), Solomon’s white friend, comes to Epps’ plantation with evidence of Solomon’s freedom, 12 Years A Slave makes wrenchingly clear that Solomon’s freedom depends on his willingness to simply accept it and go. “Get away from him, Pats,” Epps warns Patsey as she insists on saying goodbye to Solomon. The price of her minor act of dignity is likely to be severe, and during her whipping and the treatment of her flayed back afterwards, we’ve seen what that cost looks like. And the price of Solomon’s freedom is his willingness to turn his back on her, as he looked away from her injured eye, as he refused to risk Epps’ wrath or his soul to kill her before she suffered more.

None of this is to say that the decisions Solomon makes are wrong, or to argue that he should have martyred himself on Epps’ plantation and died forgotten, rather than living to tell his story and to become an abolitionist activist, a chapter of his life that’s left out of the film. But 12 Years A Slave is a remarkable film because it examines the ways in which slavery coarsened the moral sensibilities not just of the white people who practiced it, but of the black people who were held in bondage. And unlike Aibileen Clark, who is a saint, or Django, who is an action hero, Solomon can be damaged by slavery, he can do terrible things to survive, and the movie extends to him the privilege of never sacrificing his claim on our immense admiration and respect. When Solomon tells his family “I apologize for my appearance, but I have had a difficult time these past several years,” he is speaking not only physically and emotionally, but with a veiled honesty about the terrible compromises he has made to return home to them. In between 12 Years A Slave and Fruitvale Station, Ryan Coogler’s remarkable debut film about the last day in the life of Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan), who was shot to death on a BART platform in 20009, 2013 may prove a waster-shed year for cinema in the long-overdue assertion that black men don’t need to earn the value of their lives or their dignity, that they simply possess them.

12 Years A Slave is also admirably corrective for sidelining the moral development or degradation of the white people in Solomon’s journey. This is not to say that the characters are poorly sketched. With the exception of a badly miscast Brad Pitt as Bass, a white Canadian who eventually delivers news of Solomon’s fate to his friends and family in Saratoga, McQueen has gotten remarkably rich psychological portraits from his cast. Fassbender seems likely to be a strong Best Supporting Actor contender for his performance of the louche, self-loathing Epps. And it’ll be a shame if his work overshadows Sarah Paulson’s enraged, humiliated plantation wife.

But for once, we have a film about the South where the highest concern is not whether Skeeter Phelan turns on her racist friends and finds fulfillment in the world of publishing, leaving the black women who gave her the material for her first book behind in Mississippi, or whether Dr. King Schultz acts in accordance with his newly-awakened conscience and dies in a blaze of spectacularly impractical glory that puts Django and his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) in greater danger than a show of deference to violent planter Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) might have done. To 12 Years A Slave, whether individual white people are good or bad, compromised or virtuous, cowardly or courageous is simply less important than their collective impact on black men like Solomon Northup, who must navigate their whims and class prejudices to survive. Really, what does the small kindness of a Mr. Ford matter when men like Epps live and bear lashes? 12 Years A Slave dismisses the moral myopia that governs movies like The Help and Django Unchained, which reduce the experiences of black people down to the importance those experiences play in white people’s moral educations.

Those learning experiences are not unnecessary to social progress. But the movies have often given the impression that this is a one-sided process, in which white people of good will must learn to recognize the ills that they have unconsciously done and benefitted from, and find some small way to renounce them. 12 Years a Slave is a powerful corrective in its illustration that racism in America is a matter of mutual, continual and detrimental education, in which all parties learn to read privilege and respond to their position relative to it, rather a monolithic and impersonal institution.

Excellent review, analysis, and description of this film I watched a couple weeks ago by Alyssa Rosenberg.  Though I would have ventured more in depth about Ford’s character and how even though he is much kinder than your typical slave owner, he is still a slave owner and in the film it was clear that his compliments and actions were still dehumanizing.  He represented another face of racism and oppression.  And that would be it, because I choose not to speak on a character whose role was only less than ten minutes.

And I say this as a response to the overwhelming amount of praises for Benedict Cumberbatch who played as Master Ford.  Admittedly, Benedict Cumberbatch did very well in his less than ten minutes on the screen.  Of course with personal perspective, I did not find it spectacular.  Not even close.

I see no reason to extend more than a few kind words for Benedict Cumberbatch’s role when the movie was not even about a somewhat kind, but very cowardly and oppressive white slave owner.

Chiwetel Ejiofor (Solomon) and Lupita Nyong’O (Patsey) were the real stars of the movie.

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To all the White Women who took #WhiteGirlsRock seriously:

Look. I get it. Women are conditioned very early on that other women are our competition. We are taught to evaluate and judge each other and to constantly jostle for eyeballs like we’re living advertisements and the world is a never-ending Super Bowl Game. Under these conditions, you may have been brainwashed into thinking that #BlackGirlRocks is a threat to your domination of the patriarchal male gaze you mistakenly believe is admiration.

I understand.

But let’s get one thing straight: African American women are marginalized in mainstream media, in dominant culture, in the labor force, in the classroom, etc. etc. This is not to be questioned. This is not to be argued. We are marginalized.

We are so incredibly subjugated that instead of summing it up, I’m just going to suggest you Google “bell hooks”, and “Maya Angelou” and “Toni Morrison” and “Shirley Chisholm” and “African American Women Suffrage” and “Black women in America for Dummies”, just to get you started. I’m going to challenge you to name five leading African American ladies on Prime Time T.V. off the top of your head and I’ll even let you include Kerry Washington. Or name five black female singers that aren’t Hip Hop or R&B artists (and if you think that’s unfair, I go to an all female, majority black institution where we have many trained African American female classical singers, so if you can’t think of any IT’S NOT BECAUSE THEY DON’T EXIST.) Or think of 5 magazines that have featured a spread on MULTIPLE black women simultaneously in the past year. I’ll get you started: Ebony, Essence, Jet…. you got the rest, right?

No?

Maybe it’s because Black women rarely get to see how amazing we are in dominant culture. Which is exactly why, after centuries of being told we’re not human, then sub-human, then “human, yeah, sure, just stop mentioning racism”, we are no longer consulting dominant culture for clarification that we do, indeed, rock.

You rock too. That wasn’t the point.

THIS WASN’T ABOUT YOU.

And I’m beyond disappointed that a Hashtag that was initially full of wonderful inspiring tweets of loveliness had to be put on hold to explain that to you.

 

 

To the Black Men who took #WhiteGirlsRock seriously and possibly even started the hashtag:

I have no idea what woman so scarred you to the point where you can’t let the women of your race have their moment, but I suggest therapy. Lots and lots of therapy.

 

To the White Men who jumped on the #WhiteGirlsRock bandwagon with malicious intent:

I am not surprised. Take that, as you will.

 

To the POCS who did not chime in on the foolishness:

 

Thank you. Some people felt the need to add #yellowgirlsrock #browngirlsrock #allgirlsrock, but those people were usually white men, white woman, and black men. You all seemed to either know that wasn’t the point or not care enough to tweet. Either way, you let us have our moment.

 

Which is all we ask.

 

To the White Women, Black Men, and White Men who didn’t chime in and/or called out their foolish brethren:

 

Thank you.

 

To anyone who thinks #BlackGirlsRock is Racist:

Go back to elementary school and re-learn what racism is.

Find the highest cliff and jump off it.

You make me want to cry.

Black Girls Rock was created for black women by a black woman. It was created to inspire little girls who never get to see women who look like them on their television screens. It was meant to remind young women that we have people to aspire to. It was meant to rejuvenate grown women who may have forgotten the exact amount of wonderful their peers have stored within their souls.

This was not about who is MORE awesome. This was not about trending on Twitter (although that was a nice bonus until you TRIED to ruin it). This was not just some award show that had no purpose or whose only purpose was to grab attention.

What is racist, is not taking the time to recognize why this show is necessary. What is ridiculous is assuming that if someone had a #whitegirlsrock show, “Black people would riot!”

 

Riot? Really? You think we just riot on whim? Or do you think you’re that special?

This was not a Black Girls takeover. This was not Black Girls for World Domination. This was not the secret calling of arms for our black sisters to over-throw EVERYONE and become the master overlord race/gender. If that day comes, we will not be wearing formal wear and heels, I PROMISE YOU.

This was the Black Girls celebration. It was a rare moment where right there, in the open, we could say unequivocally: “You know what? Despite what EVERYTHING IN MAINSTREAM MEDIA WANTS US TO BELIEVE…we’re awesome.”

So let us be awesome, okay? Let us uplift, and praise, and sing, and be happy. For FIVE SECONDS let us rock.

For REAL.

Categories: Racism
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Blatant racism is a no-tolerance issue for me. If I read it through a history textbook or watch it on a documentary it has the same impact on me. I absolutely can’t stand it because it just shows how ignorant some people in the world are. Even people in America are ignorant when everyone knows that we have a strong respect for human rights as a country. This just shows that people haven’t been paying attention to history because the world learns from mistake in the past through history. I personally haven’t seen blatant racism taking place in person but you best believe I will stand up and stop it if I experience that situation. I would hope you will do the same.

Categories: Racism
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(Image reposted from Amplify Facebook – click here for more)

Urban Retreat 2013 was truly an experience beyond any tier.  Never have I ever been surrounded by so many like-minded individuals–as much of an oxymoron as that might sound.  We were all individuals because we all had our own story to share.  We came from many different walks of life and parts of the world.  All of us had to overcome some type of unique trauma and oppression that we were facing in our own separate lives.  But we celebrated our diversity.  And we were all there in unison trying to contribute to the vision we shared for the world.

I might have been a tiny bit apprehensive about making the trip to Washington, D.C. at first.  I wasn’t really enthusiastic about being away from my girlfriend.  It was a place I had never been to on my own.  I would be surrounded by strangers.  But these strangers quickly became my friends.  And these friends were all activists and advocates for social progress in their own communities from all over the world, so I had a lot to learn from them.  And I found, to my surprise, that I had things I could share with them as well.  Together we received training to become more effective activists and leaders.  And after the inspiring trainings and workshops, we headed to Capitol Hill together to share our stories and insight with our representatives.  It was a self-affirming and inspiring experience.

I even got to meet Janet Mock!  We talked and had dinner.  She even tweeted me and followed me on Twitter!

It’s thanks to Urban Retreat that I’ve gained new tools, resources, and concepts that would empower me and inspire me to be more involved in activism and advocacy for social justice.  And it’s thanks to Urban Retreat that I’ve gained a new family with YouthResource.  Today I woke up this morning and found myself in my own bed in Michigan.  I wasn’t in Washington, D.C. with my fellow advocates anymore.  The realization was bittersweet.  But I know I’ll see these faces soon enough with stories to share.

 

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Miss America

I don’t watch beauty pageants. I have no idea what happened last night and I don’t have time to YouTube it. What I do know I’ve learned from the Internet.

We all know what that means.

Welcome to yet another edition of “The Internet Explodes” lovelies! Can’t say I’m happy about it, but here we are.

Yesterday Miss New York, Nina Davuluri, was crowned Miss America. Nina is of Indian descent.

Yes, ma’am, Miss America is brown. The woman we have deemed most beautiful in all the land is BROWN people and her talent was a Bollywood fusion dance number. Suck on that!

Of course with this feat, there is the usual backlash. So let’s talk:

First of all, can we decide on an ignorant stereotype, Racist America? Some of you seem to think she is an Arab:

 Melting Pot 1

1. She is isn’t an Arab woman. She is Indo-American. 2. Even if she was Arab, it wouldn’t matter. She is American. Miss America in fact. So what is wrong with you?

Some of you seem to believe she is an immigrant and therefore not a TRUE American:

Melting Pot 2

Sorry to inform you, but the sequel to the birther moment is just as full of malarkey as the original: Nina was BORN in Syracuse, New York. But even if she WAS an immigrant (she’s not), can you really talk Racist America?

 

Melting Pot 3

Perhaps, Racist America, you are just happy she isn’t Puerto Rican?

Melting Pot 4

At least Nina speaks English! I don’t know what that has to do with anything, since America does not have a national official language.  I don’t know what that has to do with anything, since Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of America, meaning they use our money, serve in our Army, and wave our flag. But at least you approve, Racist America. That’s all that matters. *snort of derision*

And can we talk about how hypocritical the Miss Kansas supporters have been?

Melting Pot 5

You were screaming “DIVERSITY!” till your lungs were hoarse for the blond woman with tattoos, a military history, and a knack for archery.  But the Indo-American is just un-American huh?

Right.

And please don’t get me started on the 9/11 comments. I can’t. I CANNOT.

 Melting Pot 6

My girl Eshani explains how FOOLISH this FOOLISHNESS is better than I ever could: http://amplifyyourvoice.org/u/eshani_ywoclc/2013/9/16/congratulations-nina-davuluri

Melting Pot 7

I would love to agree with you, @JacobKluth but it is during times like these that I like to reflect on what “American” truly means.

We are a country that has never in our history realized the full potential of the creed we wrote hundreds of years ago. Democracy, liberty, the idea that all men are created equal, the very foundation of what it means to be AMERICAN, are things we uphold as our high standard. But though we are all undoubtedly CREATED equal, when have we ever been TREATED equally?

When people say America is a melting pot, I think we all have different visual images. Some think of it as cute commercial where every race is smiling back at you holding hands. Some people think of it as blonde, blue-eyed America smiling in the foreground while every other race smiles in the background.

I am personally starting to see it as a history of European-Americans dragging People of Color into a pot with them (whether it be through slavery, cheap labor, etc,) melting them against their will, and then, years later, getting irrationally angry when they find us in their pot.

Not to mention that they stole the pot to begin with.

Just to clarify, this is not an attack on all European Americans. I wouldn’t dare judge an individual based on the actions of an extremist sect of their race.

And yes, there are many People of Color, especially now, that enter the pot of their own violation. But isn’t that an accomplishment? So many people are proud to be part of the Great Melting Pot: They are proud to be American. They are willing to dismiss a history of racism and prejudice and broken promises and see America for what it could be: A true land of opportunity.

So, let’s just make this clear, Racist America: No matter what you tweet, People of Color have always been and always will continue to be in this pot. We are here, we are AMERICAN, and we are winning your beauty pageants.

Deal with it.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Racism
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As you’ve probably heard by now, Nina Davuluri of New York was crowned Miss America last night. And that means you’ve probably also heard the hysterical joy-crying of every South Asian-American person you know. (We get real excited whenever another South-Asian person does something. I was 10 and had no idea what White Castle was when Harold and Kumar came out and I was still excited.)

 

But, of course, no brown-skinned person’s success is complete without the hoards of racist white people showing up. Twitter included such gems as “How the fuck does a foreigner win Miss America? She is a Arab! #idiots”, “Miss New York is an Indian.. With all do respect, this is America”, and “I swear I’m not racist but this is America.” And then of course, there were these ones:

 

You bring up an excellent point, Twitter users @LukeBrasili, @wnfraser, and @anthonytkr. The twelfth anniversary of the September 11th attacks in New York, Washington DC, and Shanksville, PA was just four days ago. Now, I don’t remember a whole lot about that day; I remember a silence in my second grade classroom, the panic in my teachers’ voices. But mostly I remember the way my parents reacted. In the twelve years since those events, I’ve never seen them as afraid as I did then.

 

And they had every right to be. In the week following 9/11 alone, South Asian Americans Leading Together documented media coverage of 645 bias incidents against people of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent. Mosques and mandirs were firebombed and vandalized. Sikh men were repeatedly targeted, harassed, and assaulted for wearing the turbans that ignorant, frightened racists associate with Islam, but actually belong to another faith altogether. Eleven years later, six people peacefully practicing their faith were shot and killed in a Sikh gurudwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Last spring, I called my mom frantically in the days after the Boston Marathon bombings, terrified that the internet was pointing the blame at an innocent South Asian-American man and that another wave of violence and prejudice was impending. And I remember at least once, as an 8-year-old girl in suburban New Jersey in 2001, having to defend myself by saying “But I’m not a Muslim!”

 

Hundreds (thousands, if you count the War on Terror) of Afghans, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans, and Indians paid and are still paying the price for an act of terrorism that we not only didn’t commit, but also had friends and family members that were killed as a result of it. So yes, let’s not forget that four days after the anniversary of 9/11, an Indian-American woman was crowned Miss America. I don’t know if Nina Davuluri grew up anything like I did. I don’t know which mandir her family goes to or which Bollywood movie is her favorite. But I’m almost certain that her parents felt the same hurt and fear that mine did in the days following 9/11. I’ve never had much affinity for beauty pageants, but congrats, Nina. You deserve it.

Categories: Racism
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“I love how anytime a black person points out anti-black racism, the issue always gets derailed to focus on racism towards whites. Yes, for far too long, black people have had the heel of their boots on the necks of white people. When will this reign of black terror end? Will white people ever be safe from black supremacy creeping into their lives daily? The microagressions must be driving them crazy. Think of the poor, white people!” - Atane Ofiaja (http://atane.tumblr.com)

If you’ve been keeping up with the discourse around the #FeminismIsForWhiteWomen tag on twitter and other conversations before and beyond it, you know that one big issue PoC have with non-PoC people is the fact that almost every instance of a call-out ends in claims of reverse racism; laughable because there is no such thing. Say it with me now, “There is no such thing as reverse racism”. 

The comment above was made in response to accusations made by several individuals towards Franchesca Ramsey’s commentary on the story about the Tulsa girl who was sent home from school because her dreadlocks violate the school dress code.

“The natural hair that grows out of our heads is “distracting” and “faddish”? Wearing the hair you’re born with…is a trend? I already know that whiteness hates our skin tone, our hair, our bodies, how we speak, how we dance and how we wear our clothes (until some white person does it and makes it cute) but it’s really sad seeing black people enforcing this mess. Out here teaching black children their God given hair texture isn’t acceptable meanwhile rocking a synthetic wig made to look like a natural hairstyle? That makes…no sense.” – Franchesca Ramsey

What makes black hair so political? Why is it considered radical for black women to wear their hair the way it grows out of their heads? There is already so much hurt, so much internalized hate to be undone. So imagine the frustration when there is an attempt at a productive discussion about this, and someone comes in and tries to make it about the oppression of white people.

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*Raucous laughter as tears stream down my face as I fall to the ground clutching my sides*

How am I supposed to take this person seriously? Not only is it inaccurate to assume that same-sex couples do not have sex while looking each other in the eye, but how is that any excuse for denying people the right to marriage?

 

Oh look! More proof of racial discrimination!

 

Why? Just why?

  •  Here’s a photo of Robin Thicke being the slimy piece of schtako that he is. Suprised? I’m not!

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“And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.” Fifty years ago, on August 28th, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr.’s spoke these words of hope and optimism during his famous “I have a dream speech”. These words rang true for me during the March on Washington. On August 24th, thousands of people came out to march in remembrance and reverence of Martin Luther King Jr. Not only did we march for one of the apostles of the Civil Rights Movement, but also in remembrance of a young teenage boy, Trayvon Martin.

          As I was marching, I couldn’t control the feeling of ambivalence I was experiencing. On one hand, I was completely grateful for the paths and door ways that Martin Luther King created for the generations to come after. However, I couldn’t help but wonder how far did we really come? Yes, African Americans are able to attend the same schools and have the same occupations compared to their white counterparts. However, did Dr.King’s dream really come true? After the murder of Trayvon Martin, it became blatantly and unequivocally clear that his dream has yet to be fulfilled. I must admit that even during this joyous occasion, I still had some residual anger from the murder of 17 year old Trayvon Martin and the subsequent acquittal of his attacker George Zimmerman. What exactly what are we celebrating? Have we truly reached equality? Has segregation ended or is it just masked in covert ways?

          Dr.King’s visioned included integration and equal paying jobs for all races just to name a few. And his dreams were seemingly achieved. Segregation still exists, covertly. Minorities are still separated from their white counterparts. This is apparent in multiple institutions and factions. Consider the institution of education. The majority of black students attend schools where the majority of students within the school are black. This means, that black students typically attend schools in which there is little to almost no integration of other races and ethnicities. Conversely, white students typically attend schools in which the majority of students within the school are white as well. What causes this modern day segregation? A simple answer is money.

Studies show that African Americans typically have a significantly lower income compared to its white counterparts. Money allows for people to live in nicer neighborhoods. Those well esteemed neighborhoods have prestigious schools. As a result, the children living in those nicer neighborhoods attend the nicer schools. Conversely, if a person has limited financial means, they most likely live in the poorer neighborhoods. The children in those neighborhoods attend the lower ranked schools. Therefore, the question is postulated, has Dr.King’s dream of integration and equality truly been achieved.

          My answer to the question would be absolutely not. As I marched throughout Washington DC this past Saturday and as I listened to the speeches today acknowledging the strides of Dr.Martin Luther King Jr. in the civil rights movement, I gained a sense of renewed hope. It occurred to me that Dr.King simply carried the torch lit by his predecessors a little farther. It is up to me, my generation, and the generations after us to continue his work until his dream and our dream is completely and wholeheartedly fulfilled.  As of now, we are only half way there. Over the past 50 years, things have changed, but only on the surface level. Racism still exits, modern day segregation still exists, and there are still gaps in the socioeconomic status between races. The 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech brought to light how far we have come and how far we still have left to go before his and our dreams are fulfilled.

Categories: Racism
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I am two. Two of these three categories I fit neatly into. I don’t believe I self-identify as either, but I have been called a Liberal and Democrat more times than I can count. Today, I would realize that while “I’m fighting the good fight” I am also not White. I’ve always known this mattered but never as much as I did today. I believe that we as a country should produce more milk, because we are all about homogenization. Just listen you’ll hear: The Left, Those Liberals, the Democrats think as if we represent some homogenous group of people. While we obviously agree on most things, there is this common assumption that our identities (race, sexual orientation, class, gender, age, etc) have no effect on how we may view “the issues” differently. More importantly there’s also a paucity in the discourse around who gets to speak on these issues.

As a millennial, I can tell you that people are polling and reporting on us everyday. But how many of this reporting is coming from the mouths of actual millennials? Today, I had the opportunity to join 13 other millennials on a national conservative talk show to speak about “the issues”—from  the economy to the legalization of gay marriage. I was very hesitant about doing this show initially because I belonged to the groups mentioned above. Upon reaching the set, I would find that there would be six other liberal democrats joining me. I breathed a sigh of relief. When the show began, questions were thrown at us, which we were all more than eager to answer. My initial nervousness had left and I was prepared to tell 9 million people exactly how I felt about “the issues.”

Sadly, this was not the case. While I did get to comment on two or three things, I found that at times my hand had been raised for minutes at a time, with no microphone offered inviting me to speak. The democrats definitely held it down, though. Those who did not mind cutting other people off, getting out of their seat for the microphone, and speaking without one, definitely got heard.  Again, sadly I knew better. Despite the fact that many of the things being said I would have definitely concurred with, there was no entry point (or at least microphone) for me.

I love ‘politicking’! I’ve lobbied in the House and Senate; worked as a congressional health policy fellow; spoke at congressional briefings and I advocate for policy changes on the ground everyday. I would say I’m no newcomer to this. But today was a harsh reality, that although I can do all these things, and that the Dream9 can self-deport and lead hunger strikes in dentition centers to bring attention to the injustices of the immigration system in America; that young people of color can march into their Ivy League and predominately white institution’s with their hoods high for justice for Trayvon, that even though we packed the courtroom until Stop & Frisk was ruled unconstitutional, we must realize that even amongst us liberal-social justice seeking millennials, there are a few voices that still speak for us.

I sat sandwiched between two kind, brilliant, over-enthusiastic millennials who had so much to say that they took no minute to realize that perhaps we should allow the voices of those most marginalized to speak. The same folks who had immigration and racial politics on lock though. While I will never wait for anyone to make room for my voice, I also know that I would quickly become a YouTube sensation if I snatched a microphone out of a white girl’s hand. So I sat thinking about this some what dichotomous relationship forming between my identity and my politics.

When I finally answered a question, it was about race. Coincidence? The question asked, “Do you think Americans are racist?” And while I had a host of things I could have said,  I was reflecting on the last forty five minutes. I responded that I while didn’t think that all Americans were racist, I do feel that people fail to recognize privilege, all privilege. Able-bodied, cis-gendered, heterosexual, class, age, and of course given the situation –white privilege. I was sitting in my feelings about literally be silenced in two ways. By a group of your peers who while they stand in solidarity with you, make little to no room for you at the table. Silenced, by a media institution who still relies heavily on controlling images like the Angry Black Woman despite your academic accomplishments, and the fact that your views parallel those of your peers.

I speak on this as a millennial of color, in the trenches everyday fighting for the rights of young people—all young people. I assert that we all must make room. We live in a society that still places our existence and knowledge in the future, we are the now. As we are marginalized by our age we must also see that there are intersections within our identities that place us in positions of power. We must check those, respect those, and correct those who have yet to see it that way. I believe that all the young people on today’s show, liberal and conservative are all brilliant and powerful. Let’s be powerful together, in voice, love and solidarity. Let us make room!

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 1.   Must-See: Gabrielle Union’s Black Women in Hollywood Speech

“It’s easy to pretend ‘to be fierce and fearless because living your truth takes real courage. Real fearless and fierce women admit mistakes and they work to correct them. We stand up and we use our voices for things other than self promotion. We don’t stand by and let racism and sexism and homophobia run rapid on our watch. Real fearless and fierce women complement other women and we recognize and embrace that their shine in no way diminishes our light and that it actually makes our light shine brighter.”

 

2.   Jay-Z And Azealia Banks Call Out Miley Cyrus On Cultural Appropriation; She Doesn’t Get It

When I saw the way that Miley Cyrus was shedding her Hannah Montana persona and moving forward regardless of what people thought of her new image, I was excited for what was to come. I liked a number of tracks on Can’t Be Tamed and I was really looking forward to seeing what the product of working with Pharell would be. I thought her cover of “Lilac Wine” was an indication of where she was headed but apparently I was very wrong.

I never made it through the first 2 minutes of “We Can’t Stop” and every time I hear that song now I cringe. The fact that it’s so high up on the billboard charts is a testament to the ugly society that we live in.

 

3.   Did you hear about the #ThankMiley tag on Twitter? It’s hilarious.

I died laughing and my spirit went wherever spirits are supposed to go. Some of my favorites include, “Miley helped Craig beat Debo on Friday” and “Cyrus v. Board of Education led to the integration of schools”. This stuff is gold I tell you!

 

4.   Five ways that “staying safe” costs women

How about people stop telling women how not to get raped and teach men not to rape instead?

 

5.   Pantless Wonder

This Clutch Magazine piece offers up hilarious writing and an insightful discussion of the many ways that women are continuously encouraged to find something to dislike about our bodies; in this case, our vaginas.

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Originally posted at Choice USA: Choice Words:

India just banned the use/exploitation of dolphins as entertainment, as they are now considered “non-human persons”Blackfish, a documentary about the psychological realities other animals face when confined in captivity, has just opened in theaters (at the distress of SeaWorld). Bird brain mapping has recently revealed that birds are “remarkably intelligent in a similar way to mammals such as humans and monkeys,” but ‘bird brain’ is still an insult. And the U.S. State Department and President Obama have decided to push ahead with building the Keystone XL Pipeline’s southern half amongst numerous questionable building practices, even though the previous Keystone I Pipeline has leaked fourteen different times. But isn’t this the Choice USA blog? What does this have to do with reproductive justice? Everything.

feminist cat

Having grown up with cats my whole life and having a vegetarian mother, I guess you could sayI was predisposed: at age 10 I chose to become a vegetarian and at age 19 I chose to begin living a vegan lifestyle. Somewhere in between there I also became a sexual health peer educator and have dedicated all of my time and effort to the reproductive justice movement ever since— including my eating habits.

 I, like many of you, am pro-choice because I believe in each individual’s autonomy concerning their own body, lifestyle, and choices. I am pro-choice because I challenge any attempt to infringe on each individual’s freedom to control their own bodies and minds. I am pro-choice because it is not my place to coerce or use another being’s body as a means to any reproductive end she did not choose. And I am vegan for the exact same reasons.

(more…)

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I really hate when people respond to others with “first world problems.” I know that to some, it’s a great and easy way of addressing the privilege of living in a “first world” country.  But the meme, despite its emergence being seemingly well intentioned at first, is really just seeping with ethnocentrism.  Ethnocentrism in its simplest definition is the judging of another’s culture using one’s own standards.  It’s not something you’d expect from a culturally competent person.  The usage of this meme expresses people’s inability to see others as actual people who are more complicated than what our white savior complex induced perspectives would have us believe.

To make it really simple: it’s racist.

When the ever popular hashtag first appeared on Twitter maybe in the late 2009, early 2010–even then I had a bad feeling about it.  I know “first world/third world” indicates if a country is industrialized and developed or not.  But even those terms just come off as problematic and ethnocentric for reasons I won’t take the time to get into.  It’s the language we have though, however questionable the origins of those particular words may be.  And I don’t really know what I can do about that except talk about it and hope that you understand.

Yes, my accidental lagging out of my online match of The Last of Us and my tea latte being a little too hot this morning might seem really trivial.  But hey, guess what?  Things like that happen to my cousins in Vietnam and other developing countries too.  I’m not pretending or ignoring that other countries don’t have terrible issues like civil wars, riots in the streets, famine, etc.  But those countries don’t need pity.  And they certainly don’t need people buying Toms.  They need people, especially people in the United States and other supposedly wealthy white-dominated countries, to stop making everyone from “third world” countries into a faceless,

one-dimensional, and monolithic group of suffering and despair.  And one of the really easy ways of what you can do to avoid doing that is to stop responding to people’s issues as “first world problems.”

My voice isn’t alone in this.  Feel free to check out the following links:

 

Teju Cole’s Tweets on “First World Problems”

What’s Wrong with #FirstWorldProblems? – Alexis C. Madrigal

The White Savior Industrial Complex – Teju Cole

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When we hear about politicians making unqualified and uneducated statements about abortion and reproductive/sexual health, we just shake our heads, asking ourselves and our peers, “How does someone like that get into office?”

Not to diminish your faith in humanity, but less than a couple weeks ago, Brian Nieves, a Republican state senator of Missouri, commented in a Facebook argument to a pro-choice priest, “‘Life of the Mother?’ Your own argument proves it is a matter of convenience!”  State senator Brian Nieves later denied that he said this.  But the denial wouldn’t do him any good since his comments have been screencapped and the comment is still on the Facebook page.

There are people who treat this like it’s an isolated incident.  Like it’s nothing to worry about, but you’d have to imagine the kind of culture it takes to condition people to be able to say these things.  You don’t even have to imagine because that’s the culture we’re living in.  It’s not just one old, white male politician.  It’s several.  And they’re not necessarily always white men.

Brace yourself.  This is pretty triggering.

“These Planned Parenthood women, the Code Pink women, and all of these women have been neutering American men and bringing us to the point of this incredible weakness…We are not going to have our men become subservient.”

— Florida Rep. Allen West expresses a clear understanding of how oppression and privilege works.

“In the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits where a woman can get cleaned out.”

— Texas state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, discussing why there shouldn’t be a rape or incest exception in bills restricting reproductive health care because clearly she understands how health care works.

“I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something God intended to happen.”  —Richard Mourdock, an Indiana state senator candidate who fortunately did not win.

“Understand though, that when we talk about exceptions, we talk about rape, incest, health of a woman, life of a woman. Life of the woman is not an exception.”

—Joe Walsh, former Illinois congressman revealing just how “pro-life” he really is.

“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

—Missouri Representative Todd Akin basically sharing how much he doesn’t know about a female body in one terrible sentence.

“The facts show that people who are raped —who are truly raped—the juices don’t flow, the body functions don’t work and they don’t get pregnant. Medical authorities agree that this is a rarity, if ever.”

—former North Carolina Rep. Henry Aldridge using imaginary doctors as his sources.

“As long as it’s inevitable, you might as well lie back and enjoy it.”

—Clayton Williams regarding rape, he was a former Texas Republican gubernatorial contender and a past fundraiser for John McCain.

This is one of the many reasons why I’m in total support of Advocates for Youth.  The politicians I’ve listed are the kind of people who have been supporting legislation that not only hurts people who need abortions, but rape victims and teens in desperate need of comprehensive sex education.  It hurts people who need access to contraception, affordable health care, and everything else a person would need to live a quality life.  And it’s not going to stop until we change the culture and institutions that allows it to happen.  So, we advocate for the youth.  We have a responsibility to them to ensure that they have their rights and are to be respected.

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Young sexual and reproductive rights advocates continue to push for the full integration of a rights-based approach in relation to advancing population and development goals. That was the overarching message of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) Regional Youth Summit.

Earlier this summer, I had the opportunity to travel to Istanbul, Turkey, where activists representing over 40 international organizations gathered and developed a Call to Action, ensuring young people sexual and reproductive rights continue to be integrated in development agendas.

The summit brought together a diverse group of 40 young people from Eastern Europe, North America, Central Asia and Israel (EECARO region), to discuss and develop priority goals. During the summit, we organized ourselves into three sessions based on interest and expertise

  1. Population Dynamics and Sustainable Development,
  2. Families, Sexual and Reproductive Health over the Life Course,
  3. Inequalities, Social Inclusion and Rights.

After lengthy conversations, each group came up with a number of recommendations to share with the entire forum for us all to debate and finalize. The culmination of our work was translated into a solid document that represents what the youth from the EECARO region want elected officials and  leaders to take into consideration. You can access the full document here.

The outcome of the summit embodied the youth vision and development priorities for the region over the next decade and was presented at the Regional Conference in Geneva. Fifteen delegates from our group (bearing in mind equal representation) attended the Geneva Conference and shared our declaration (Youth Call to Action). The speech, delivered by Grace Wilentz from YouAct (European Youth Network on Sexual and Reproductive Rights) and Jakub Skrzypczyk from Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights can be found here.

On a personal note, I had a great time interacting with all the youth participants at the Regional Youth Forum and learning more about the EECARO region. It became clearer to me that the same sexual and reproductive health and rights issues we are advocating for in the US are found in other parts of the world. I was happy to discover that we are not alone in this battle. Young people from all over the world are rising up to the challenge, demanding greater youth representation in world affairs and better human rights conditions for all.

 

 

About United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA)

Tasked with the mission of delivering “a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person’s potential is fulfilled,” UNFPA is a UN organization whose efforts are guided by two main frameworks, 1) the Program of Action adopted at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and 2) the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), which are eight targets to reduce extreme poverty by 2015.

With the date for achieving these goals fast approaching, UNFPA and its partners, such as the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), have been working together to ramp up their efforts. UNFPA and UNECE have been involved in the Beyond 2014 Review, an effort to engage world leaders from governments and civil society in drafting a new global commitment to create a more equal and more sustainable world.

The ICPD Operational Review has been taking place as part of the Beyond 2014 Review, and UNFPA and UNECE have been facilitating this process. Within this process, UNFPA and UNECE organized three thematic meetings on the following topics:

  1. “Population Dynamics and Sustainable Development”,
  2. “Reducing Inequities, Fostering Social Inclusion” and
  3. “Life Course, Sexual and Reproductive Health, and Families”.

As a culminating event, the agencies planned for a two-day Regional Conference entitled “Enabling Choices: Population Priorities for the 21st Century,” which was just held in Geneva (1-2 July), gathering leaders from all over the EECARO region (Europe, North America, Central Asia and Israel).

Young people are at the core of the UNFPA’s mandate, offering an essential voice to help shape the future development agenda. Therefore, young people have participated in the operational review at the country level and in all the thematic meetings mentioned above. In order to continue their involvement, UNFPA EECARO has organized the Regional Youth Forum in Istanbul (30-31 May) and in which I participated, representing Advocates for Youth and the US at large.

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All too often our stories are told for us. Last week, I had the honor of presenting to members of congress, their staff and other people in the reproductive health and rights field during a congressional briefing with Black Women’s Health Imperative. I took this opportunity to use my voice as an African American young person to tell anyone listening that we Millennials are not only invested in creating change but we are committed to making sure our generation can lead healthy lives. Read what I had to say! 

As a member of Advocates for Youth’s Young Women of Color Leadership Council, I have been organizing and advocating around the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people for the last 5 years. I am dedicated to this work not only because I believe that young people like me deserve the right to lead healthy, self-determined lives, but also because I know first-hand what it is like to navigate this world without access to accurate and honest education and services.

At 23 I can say that I never received any type of formal sexual education from any educational institution I attended. The first time I was tested for HIV happened completely by accident. One day during my junior year in high school I wandered into a mobile testing unit in hopes of receiving a free metrocard. That would be the first day I would find out about HIV and other STIs. The woman conducting my test asked me if I was nervous and I proceeded to tell her no and then asked her would I have a reason to be. She began to explain sexually transmitted infections and diseases to me. Thus giving my first “sex education class” in the back of a mobile testing unit. Although my results that day revealed that I was not HIV positive, I remember feeling like someone had robbed me. I felt cheated. Lied to. I could not fathom at that time how learning about preventing diseases that could potentially make you sick and claim your life were not as important as math and science. The even more depressing part is that even when I went to college many of my peers were still uneducated about their sexual health, and how prevent HIV, STIs and unplanned pregnancies. I began wondering whether we all needed to wander aimlessly into a mobile testing truck to learn about saving our lives.

As leader of a campus organization that provided sexual health information specifically geared toward Black and Latino students at Syracuse, it became more and more clear to me that I was not the only person who had been robbed. Some of our campus events attracted over 200 young people interested in learning about what they could do to lead sexually healthy lives. Many of these young people expressed that they felt that this is something that should be taught in school, by the administration. They were not alone.

Not only do African American Millennials believe that comprehensive sexuality education should be available to young people in high school, overwhelming majority, over 90% believe that it should include information about preventing HIV/AIDS and other STDS, unplanned pregnancy prevention, and abstinence. Over 80% also believe that comprehensive sex education programs in high school should cover information about pregnancy options including abortion.

Many of the young people I worked with in college constantly spoke about the barriers, many financial, to accessing contraception and abortion services. Research shows that over 90% of African American Millennials believe that contraception needs to be available and affordable to help young people stay healthy. 75% of African American Millennials believe that regardless of how they feel personally, abortion should remain legal and that women should be able to get safe abortions.

There is still much to be done to ensure that young people like myself have access to medically accurate and culturally competent information regarding their sexual health, and we young people across the country are working diligently and organizing to make it happen.. While the media and other people are committed to portraying my generation as apathetic and removed from this type of work, I can insure you that those statements are indeed false. In fact, according to research conducted by the Reproductive Justice Communications Group and Advocates for Youth, over 7 in 10 of African American millennials say they are interested in improving young people’s access to sexual health services such as contraception and testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. 7 in 10 expressed interest in getting personally involved in promoting honest and accurate sex education programs in their communities. Another 6 in 10 are personally interested in making sure that safe abortion is available and accessible in their community. We African American Millennials are interested and committed to helping our friends, our families and our communities access services and information to live healthy, autonomous lives.

Here’s video of my remarks at the briefing!

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Well Heaven forbid that an old black man should mourn the death of a black child. This woman got so angry about it, she climbed onto the stage and attacked him.

As one commenter aptly put it, “Let me guess, you guys are going to justify it by saying, “She was standing her ground! He looked suspicious and threatening?””.

Two Ugandan transgender activists, Cleo Quentaro and Kim Mukasatalk to the Mail & Guardian about the struggle and challenges of daily life of transgender individuals living in Uganda.

Quentaro speaks about the politics of identity shaming where, as a transwoman, “dressing up” (being trans is not simply an act of ‘dressing up’, I am using her words to illustrate her point) as a woman is seen in our patriarchal society as an act of degradation of the male self and ego.

‘For a man to dress up as a woman, with the patriarchy that’s associated with our culture back home, it’s like degrading yourself to a woman…’ - Cleo Quentaro

Colour me not-surprised. This is the world we live in.

A list of many other unarmed black men who were killed by a cop or vigilante and received no justice. Each name is followed by a summary of the case.

I honestly don’t know what to make of this. It’s shocking and infuriating to see the utter lack of remorse. You killed a child and you don’t even wish it had never happened? A homeless man robs a bank, only takes $100, returns the rest and is sentenced to 15 years in prison and yet Zimmerman got of with nothing?

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There is no other news right now, that could compare to the complete and utter failure to get justice for Trayvon Martin and his family.

And I am reminded once again that in this country, I am black before I am anything else.

 

 

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Parents who had sent their kids to the Blue Ridge Outdoor Education Center were surprised to hear stories about an Underground Railroad reenactment which the parents were never informed about.

There are a few things a lot of people don’t know about the movie adaptations of superheroes and fictional characters…such as the fact that Khan from Star Trek, as much as JJ Abrams would like you to believe, is not white. Also, there is a black Green Lantern *GASP* “You lie!”. The linked post addresses some instances of whitewashing. Don’ worry. It’s not your fault that you don’t know these things…just like you don’t know Blade is from the Marvel Comics Universe. No one makes movie for nerds. It’s all about the box-office dollars.

Until I saw this post, I really never thought about it. Tokenism is very rampant even in futuristic movies. It begs the question, “What exactly was done to get rid of all the non-white people? Was there another mass genocide? Tumblr arguments are the best. Especially when the people who have NO BUSINESS ARGUING IN THE FIRST PLACE, get shut down.

I watched the trailer/preview and now I look at her in a different way. I’ve always understood that part of her allure was her indignation and fearlessness, but I never understood what fueled that.

I wish I were joking about this.

Self-explanatory.

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photo-3

Love this Tweet from former Mother Jones, Adam Serwer.

Categories: Racism
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 It is no mistake, and it is not mere happenstance, that Lifetime refused to allow me to make a show for them about complex, nuanced Latinas, yet greenlit a show about Latinas as sexy domestic servants. It isn’t a matter of me being too sensitive and lacking a sense of humor, and it isn’t a matter of me not liking maids. It is about the way the Latina maid stereotype beautifully cleaves to the time-honored imperialistic way this country has dealt with its Spanish-speaking neighbors in the Americas. My vision of us – as autonomous human beings – is simply too threatening to be considered realistic.”

Opinion: The problem with “Devious Maids” goes far beyond Hollywood

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cheerios girl

I didn’t comment on the cheerios thing because I felt a lot of people had it covered and I screamed on twitter. But then I wrote this poem so here:

 

Balancing

She is real life cirque de solei

She is heel-toe unpaid acrobat

not quite privileged

not quite disenfranchised

brown skin, straight hair

big nose, blue eyes

she is balancing

if this was black and white tv

she wouldn’t show up on the screen

cause either/or, she’s neither

The sequel to jungle fever

Every little feature is built to confuse

Her attempts at blending in amuse

Both sides of the crowd that eagerly waits for her to

Fall. Fall. Fall!

And as she attempts a seemingly simple feat

Her feet are shoved from under her

She

Falls. Falls. Falls!

The crowd cheers, oh

Eating cereal shouldn’t be this difficult

Categories: Racism
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The United Nations has decided that the U.S. must return the sacred lands of native peoples as a result of a recent assessment of native life in the U.S.  by U.N. Special Rapporteur James Anaya, said Reuters.

Said Reuters:

“‘I have heard stories that make evident the profound hurt that indigenous peoples continue to feel because of the history of oppression they have faced,’ Anaya said in a statement issued by the U.N. human rights office in Geneva.

That oppression, he said, has included the seizure of lands and resources, the removal of children from their families and communities, the loss of languages, violation of treaties, and brutality, all grounded in racial discrimination.”

While this is a really remarkable decision, I am concerned with the U.S.’s response to this declaration. I am an avid news reader and, while of course some things are liable to slip past my eyes, I am only hearing about this now, more than a month after this Reuters article was published. What does that say about the ability for us, the public, to be able to hold the U.S. accountable?

Categories: Racism
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Is it really 2013? Is it though? Is it?

People of different races can get married yeah? Same-sex couples can get married in some places too no? So why can’t people handle a simple Cheerios commercial featuring a bi-racial family.

It’s a 31-second spot featuring a little girl who asks her mum if it’s true that Cheerios are beneficial to heart health. Cut to her father, who wakes up on the couch with a pile of Cheerios on his chest because kids are so cute innit? Silly girl, Cheerios are for eating not for wearing *chuckle chuckle*. That’s it right? Nope.

Comments are no longer allowed on the video’s Youtube page due to horrible commentary which has been described by AdFreak as, “a flame war, with references to Nazis, “troglodytes” and “racial genocide.”

Nice going humanity.

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We don’t mean to offend you by calling you racist.”

“Two slam poets with Brave New Voices deliver this fearless indictment of hipster cultural appropriation and all its collateral damage. ”

http://youtu.be/l9Avq8QPUO8

“Acting like you’re down because you say “f*** the system,” but in the same breathe are quick to gentrify the hell out of my hood.”

“Is that racist? Yes, that is. And we don’t mean to offend you by calling you racist; we know that according to you, we’re all part of the universe. But you have a tendency to treat animals better than humans.

 

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There are three things you must know before you read this post:

  1. I am not a Trekkie.
  2. I only just saw the first Star Trek movie from 2009 this last weekend. I felt like I needed to in order to watch the sequel.
  3. I LOVE BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH!!! And he is my only motivation for going to see “Star Trek: Into Darkess”.

Now, as much as I love Benedict, his portrayal of Khan Noonien Singh is QUITE problematic. Here’s the thing, Khan is “…a genetically engineered superhuman Sikh from the Asian continent with Mongol ancestry…”. At least that’s the back-story for the older Star Trek movies. See where I’m going with this? In the movies, “Space Seed” and “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan”, the villain was played by Ricardo Montalbán, who is Mexican. I don’t know anything about casting in the 60′s and 80′s, and so I cannot speak to the decision to cast him instead of a South Asian actor.

An article on Racebending.com aptly titled, “Star Trek: Into Whiteness” (still LOL-ing at this), discusses this latest case of whitewashing in movies, and cites some others that came before it. E.g. The Mandarin from Iron Man 3, Miranda Tate from Batman Rises, and the whole fiasco of The Last Airbender *eye roll*. One reader shed some light on the casting of Montalbán, reminding people that when “Space Seed” aired, lynchings were still happening and interracial marriages were still illegal in more than half of the country. And so, the casting of Ricardo Montalbán was still a victory. Instead of committing the dastardly crime of yellowface, Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek apparently announced on national television that he would not be casting a white actor for that role because, “…if a geneticist took all the best DNA from planet Earth and put it together to make the best human the world has ever seen – he wouldn’t be a white guy.”*

How is it that in 2013, this kind of blatant whitewashing is still common? If the original movie did not feature a white man playing the role of Khan, why would anyone think that making this huge change would go unnoticed? Frankly, it’s insulting…and reeks of supremacism. What the casting of Benedict Cumberbatch says to me, is that the Hollywood honchos think that the white race is still the best race, no matter how hard other ethnicities have fought throughout history to dispute that fact. The stuff that caused chattel slavery, erasure, forceful relocation of indigenous peoples, biological warfare, murder and other horrible things is now available for all to see on that 52ft-wide screen. Okay maybe I’m reaching a little bit, but things like these make me really angry.

Tumblr user rob-anybody has compiled a list of 10 South Asian actors who could have played Khan. Really it was this easy!

    

     

In order of appearance: Sendhil Ramamurthy, Naveen Andrews, Sacha Dhawan, Kal Penn, John Abraham, Hrithik Roshan, Akshay Kumar, Arjun Rampal, Aamir Khan and Kabir Bedi.

This isn’t one of those superhero franchises where there’s more than one generation (e.g. The Green Lantern) so what’s the excuse here? One thing I’ve got to say is, if there can be a white Khan, there better damned well be a Spider-Man movie with an ethnic minority in the lead role coming our way soon. Remember when Donald Glover campaigned to be the next Spider-Man and people got all racist about it? Implying that there was NO WAY there could ever be any black kids in existence who are like Peter Parker? Well, that happened. Where are all those racists nerds who are so concerned about preserving the integrity of the superhero franchises? What have you got to say about this? Or is it not as important because it’s an ethnic minority being erased? Speak up! I can’t hear you!

 

*might not be a direct quote

 

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Colorado Youth Testify in Support of HB 1081

I strictly assumed that by this time period humans would not be arguing over equality, inclusion, and sexual health. Apparently, some Americans don’t want their children learning about “the gays”, “the lesbians”, “the immigrants” or “cultures.”  Some are even outraged because “white heterosexuals” are “no longer represented.” These are authentic words spoken from citizens present in the committee for HB 1081 or “The Sex Ed Bill”, on Thursday February 7th. I went into committee humming “I’m just a Bill” to ease the nerves, because I had no idea what to expect for my first committee hearing.  I was not prepared to speak, but after listening to the opposition’s arguments that were no more than racist and discriminative, I wanted my voice heard. I was “the gay” that they rejected, and the “immigrant” that disgusted them, and the “culture” that they were opposed too.

My turn came to speak. Hesitant I got up from my chair, stepped slow and cautious to the stand while I felt judgment from the many eyes in the room. I thought repeatedly in my head what I wanted to say, but as soon as my mouth said the first word, everything seemed to vanish from my brain. What was a high school student to say? Hell, why was he even here? I sat down. My voice shook as I said my name, but I remembered the woman who didn’t want “the gays” and the “immigrants” in her white heterosexual culture and said “I am here representing the Latino community who cannot be here today because they do not speak English, or have the resources to be here.” Yes, I said Latino with an accent because in that very moment, I had never been more proud to be a person of color. I then stated “I would like to begin by saying that I identify as gay.” Never had a said “I identify as gay” openly, in public. I knew however that this was the time to truly express myself as an advocate.

I testified for HB 1081 in a way I never thought I would. I not only came out to the 12 legislators in the room, but I came out to the priest in the back who probably damned me to hell ten times over, the woman who drove from Colorado Springs to attack communities I am a part of, and the many allies in that room which gave me the boost of confidence I much needed. I didn’t have a clear understanding of why I do the work I do. I knew I had a passion for the education of individuals, the equality of humans, and empowerment of the mind, but it took that one woman saying “the gays” and “the immigrants” to accurately put this into perspective.  Not only was I advocating for Comprehensive Sexual Health Education, but I was making a stand for everything that is included in Comp Sex Ed; The inclusion of culture, ability, gender, age, sexual orientation, size, and ethnicity. Comprehensive Sexual Health addresses the respect for others and respect for yourself, which is why I was able to testify, and confront the opposition: Learning about my body, my actions and reactions, and my rights as a young person has allowed me to gain self assurance and confidence.  The experience of testifying for committee was electrifying, intimidating, but mostly rewarding and reflective, and I can only hope that I was remembered among the citizens who don’t want the “the gays”, “the lesbians”, or “the immigrants” in their culture, these pitiful underprivileged people: Where are they represented?

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So far, I have refrained from blogging about the Boston Marathon bombings lest I explode into a ball of fire from the rage I feel. It’s always interesting to see the way that mainstream media latches onto stories about tragedy. Before it’s all over, the story has been told one million different ways, with everybody and their mother having been invited to weigh in. I kid you not, last Friday, every time I tuned the radio to NPR, someone was spouting some kind of analysis or the other. It’s always the same – “experts” postulate, and close friends and family talk about how the perpetrator was someone who could never have done whatever it is that was done.

 

In the case of the Tsarnaev brothers, take away the death and injury, and it’s almost funny to see how confused America is as to how to treat them. The way things usually go is that people of color, no matter whether they are actually victims in the situation (*cough cough* Trayvon Martin), are portrayed as “thugs”, while their Caucasian counterparts are always the quiet, awkward, friendless young men who are subsequently proven to be mentally imbalanced in cases. Yeah, he didn’t have any friends so he decided to shoot a theater full of people whose only crime was wanting to see the new Batman movie.

 

On one hand, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is, for all intents and purposes, a Caucasian fellow. He is also an American citizen. Logic dictates that this case would be treated as an instance of domestic terrorism. But on the other hand, there are rumors of Muslim involvement, and he is also brown-looking, so this must be an international crime against America right? At least that’s the way the public is reacting to the media coverage. People danced in the streets with the American flag the way that they danced in front of the White House when Osama bin Laden was reported dead. The media is constantly highlighting any possible ties to Islam, because somehow that makes it all much more justifiable. Do you see how Islamophobia is constantly being bred?

 

Tarring all people who fit in a specific category with the same brush is what leads to situations like an innocent woman being harassed in the street and blamed for the bombings simply because she was wearing a hijab. Let us not forget the false accusations leveled by Redditors against missing Brown University student Sunil Tripathi. Usually I love the internet because of its bountiful provision of Corgi photos, but stuff like this makes me wish I could take away internet privileges from some of these really ridiculous people who think it’s ok to sit in judgment, protected by the afforded anonymity of teh interwebs. Seriously, if I was the parent of one of those wanking, racist kids on Twitter, spouting ignorance, he/she would have the fear of Cthulhu put into him/her…and also wouldn’t be able to sit for a month.

 

Seriously, people. Stick to your day jobs and leave the policing to the actual judiciary system. Also, stop being so racist and judge people for their actual crimes rather than their religion or where they come from. If every ignorant thing said about groups of ethnic minorities were true, according to Oprah, I’d be a criminal regardless of my level of education (Ask me again why I have no respect whatsoever for that woman).

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image

Social justice and environmental justice have a very direct
correlation. The environmental movement and the feminist movement both
advocate for the health of humanity, but in different ways. There are
many subject matters that exemplify this intersectionality.
For example, the way people use and abuse nature can easily be
compared to how society uses and abuses women.
Toxic Chemicals. We clearly need to do something about how easy it is
for major companies to slowly pollute our bodies and our earth. There
are over 84,000 chemicals in popular consumer products and only 200
have been tested. When chemicals even are tested it is primarily on
men, so these companies clearly do not care about the effect they are
having on women’s bodies. Some of these chemicals are made from toxins
that pollute our water and air. Many of these chemicals have been
shown to cause infertility, low sperm counts, sexual dysfunction,
miscarriage, and different types of cancer.  Not to mention women use
personal care products far more often than men and are therefore more
negatively affected. Here at ETSU we’re celebrating Earth Day with a
festival and a young man best summarized it when he said “unnatural
chemicals don’t make natural beauty.”
Not everyone can afford ridiculously expensive so-called “natural
organic” personal care products to keep themselves and their children
healthy. In addition, toxic waste dumps are disproportionately located
near minority communities. Women of color are targeted by systematic
racist beauty standards convincing them to buy hair relaxers and skin
lightening creams with chemicals that have severe damage potential.
For example, the chemicals found in common African-American hair
products are known endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). EDCs are
linked to a range of reproductive health issues, like premature
puberty, gynecologic cancer, and birth defects. Look at who is hurting
the most by toxic chemicals. This is clearly a social justice issue
activists need to rise up against.
Quick Fact: 80% of federal transportation funds go to highways while
only 20% goes to mass transit. Not only does this hurt inner city
communities, but it’s a contributing factor to global warming.
Reproductive Justice. You know what’s really hurting our resources?
Overpopulation. People are using up far more than they need to and it
is growing out of control. If reproductive health options were more
readily available this would alleviate a great deal of that
environmental strain.
Here is a quick review on what the Toxic Substances Control Act is and
why we need it to be updated. This site also helps teach you on how
you can help.http://www.saferchemicals.org/resources/opinion.html
Find out what is in your cosmetics:
http://safecosmetics.org/article.php?list=type&type=33
Wake up to the threat of toxic chemicals!
www.rhtp.org/fertility/ToxicZombie.asp (Many resources used in the
writing of this blog were obtained from this site.)
“Toxic Combination: Fact Sheet on Toxic Chemicals and Reproductive
Health”—Center for American Progress:
http://www.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/issues/2010/04/pdf/toxic_combination.pdf
“Women of Color are at Greater Risk for Toxic Chemical
Exposure”—Women’s Voices for the Earth:
http://www.womensvoices.org/about/why-a-womens-organization/

 

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Photo Credit: Sacramento Earth Day

Crossposted from Everyday Feminism

Today is Earth Day.

It’s a day that many of us associate with recycling and celebrating trees, wildlife, and rivers. And as a recreational tree-hugger, I can appreciate those traditional connotations of Earth Day.

But today’s environmental issues run much broader than just our waterways and forests.

Examining environmental issues with a feminist lens enables us to see the intersection of gender, socio-economics, and the environment.

The exploration and study of this intersection is formally referred to as eco-feminism.

Although no single definition of it exists, I would define it as a feminism that works to examine how environmental degradation and climate change impact communities and community members based on their socio-economic status and gender.

It’s important that the valuable intersectional perspective of eco-feminism doesn’t get lost amidst the green frenzy on Earth Day.

Women and Global Climate Change

Natural disasters and resource shortages hit impoverished communities first and worst. With women making up an estimated 70% of those living below the poverty line, they are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation.

Women living in developing nations tend to be natural resource managers as the gatherers of food, water and firewood. And from a young age, girls traditionally assist their mothers with this work.

As resources become scarcer with decline in the environment’s health, girls are attending less and less school to be able to dedicate more time to finding water, or simply because school fees are no longer available as crop cycles become less predictable.

You can imagine the cycle of poverty that this spawns.

As primary natural resource managers, these women are especially well-equipped to lead environmental mitigation and adaptation efforts.

But due to traditional and patriarchal gender roles that devalue unpaid work like childcare and water retrieval, women’s specialized knowledge in smart and effective climate change adaptation is typically not respected or taken into consideration in most community decision-making processes.

Environmental and Social Injustice in the United States

In our own backyard, low-income communities and communities of color bear the greatest burden of environmental injustice.

Take Mossville, Louisiana as an example.

The small, rural, and predominantly African American town became the site of the highest concentration of vinyl plastic manufacturers in the US, in addition to housing a coal-fired power plant, oil refineries and other chemical production facilities.

Together, these facilities produce more than 4 million pounds of carcinogenic toxic chemicals that end up in the soil, air and water of Mossville. This community’s exposure to these toxins has resulted in grave health impacts, from high incidences of asthma to a cancer epidemic.

It is not a coincidence that these toxic plants were built in a lower-class community of color and not a place like downtown Washington, DC, a place populated by people of privilege and significant socio-political power.

Mossville, Louisiana is a clear cut incidence of environmental racism.

Toxic Injustice

Another alarming instance of environmental and social injustice happening right before our eyes has to do with toxic chemical exposure.

Mounting scientific evidence reveals that chemicals in our air, water and everyday products—from our furniture to our personal care and cleaning products—are harming our reproductive health and fertility.

This is frightening news for those of us that are planning big spring cleaning extravaganzas or like to paint our nails every few weeks.

But what about if you clean houses for a living or work in a nail salon? Your exposure to toxic chemicals is likely to be constant and severe.

Women of color and immigrant women are overrepresented in professions that entail extreme and dangerous exposure to toxic chemicals.

Again, it’s not a coincidence that low-income women of color are disproportionately burdened by toxic chemicals through their jobs, and the eco-feminist lens helps illuminate this reality.

Applying Eco-Feminism on Earth Day and Beyond

The eco-feminism lens is helpful in addressing environmental issues because it allows us the unveil oppressive societal structures – like racism, sexism, and classism – that play a significant role in the health of the environment and who is most impacted by this health declining.

So from now on, when you’re discussing recycling with your friends, don’t just think about where your un-recycled items will end up.

Dig deeper and consider which communities tend to live near the landfills in which non-recyclable waste is dumped.

Then dig even deeper and consider how living near the landfills may impact their health and wellbeing and if they are likely to have access to health insurance or not when it comes time to address these health impacts.

That is the beauty of the intersectional nature of eco-feminism.

Taking Action

With eyes wide open to the importance of justice issues on Earth Day, let’s take action in support of legislation that would make the 84,000 chemicals in commerce today safe for use by all consumers, but most importantly, communities that are disproportionately harmed by toxic chemicals.

Tell your Senators that you support the Safe Chemicals Act!

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Virginia’s New Anti-Choice

Restrictions Will Force 40-

Year-Old Abortion Clinic To

Close This Weekend

 Last week, Virginia’s Board of Health voted to finalizeunnecessary regulations that will force many of the state’s abortion clinics to shut down. Those new restrictions — which are known as the Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, or TRAP laws — are already having their intended effect. Hillcrest Clinic, which opened to the public just nine months after the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion services, will be closing its doors this weekend.

READ MORE HERE.

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DOWNLOAD THE EARTH DAY OF ACTION TOOLKIT HERE
What do reproductive and sexual health have to do with the environment and Earth Day?

A whole lot.

When we think of Earth Day, visions of green recycling signs and oceans often come to the forefront of our minds. But today’s environmental issues run much broader and deeper than just our recycling bins and waterways.

Natural disasters and resource shortages hit impoverished communities first and worst. With women making up an estimated 70% of those living below the poverty line, they are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation. This increased vulnerability for women and girls is oftentimes manifested in high rates of maternal mortality, pregnancy complications, and poor overall reproductive health. This is just one example that illustrates the intersection of reproductive health and the environment.

In our own backyard in the United States, low-income communities and communities of color bear the greatest burden of environmental injustice.

Take Mossville, Louisiana as an example.

The small, rural, and predominantly African American town became the site of the highest concentration of vinyl plastic manufacturers in the US, in addition to housing a coal-fired power plant, oil refineries and other chemical production facilities.

Together, these facilities produce more than 4 million pounds of carcinogenic toxic chemicals that end up in the soil, air and water of Mossville. This community’s exposure to these toxins has resulted in grave health impacts, from high incidences of asthma to a cancer epidemic.

It is not a coincidence that these toxic plants were built in a lower-class community of color and not a place like downtown Washington, DC, a place populated by people of privilege and significant socio-political power. Mossville, Louisiana is a clear cut incidence of environmental racism.

Another alarming instance of environmental and social injustice happening right before our eyes has to do with toxic chemical exposure.

Mounting scientific evidence reveals that chemicals in our air, water and everyday products—from our furniture to our personal care and cleaning products—are harming our reproductive health and fertility. This is frightening news for those of us that are planning big spring cleaning extravaganzas or like to paint our nails every few weeks. But what about if you clean houses for a living or work in a nail salon? Your exposure to toxic chemicals is likely to be constant and severe.

Women of color and immigrant women are overrepresented in professions that entail extreme and dangerous exposure to toxic chemicals.

Again, it’s not a coincidence that low-income women of color are disproportionately burdened by toxic chemicals through their jobs.

This is why we must take action this Earth Day and raise our voices in support of the Safe Chemicals Act, a piece of legislation that would make the 84,000 chemicals in commerce today safe for use by all consumers, but most importantly, communities that are disproportionately harmed by toxic chemicals.

How You Can Take Action on Earth Day:

  1. Blog for Amplify!
    Participate in Amplify’s Earth Day discussion/blog-a-thon, using the Earth Day category tag. Write about how you see reproductive health and the environment being connected and what you’re doing to stand up for them on Earth Day.
  2. Photo Petition
    Download these pre-made petition signs, fill them out, take pictures with them, and email them to your Senators (instructions on how to do this included!) to let them know that you support the Safe Chemicals Act, a bill that would protect marginalized communities from toxic harm. Please also Tweet them and post them on Facebook with the #RJonEarthDay hashtag.For a chance to win a signed copy of Eco-Sex: Going Green Between the Sheets and Make Your Love Life Sustainable, also email your photo petition pictures to salcid@rhtp.org !
  3. Twitter Chat
    Let’s chat about #RJonEarthDay at 2pm EST on Earth Day, April 22nd!
  4. Host a Film ScreeningShare one of the films included in the action toolkit with your friends, campus or community to raise awareness about the link between reproductive and environmental health & justice.
  5. Host a Green Cleaning Party
    Learn how to make toxic-free cleaning products with Women’s Voices for the Earth’s green cleaning party kit, which is also included in the action toolkit!

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“To be clear, reproductive justice is not a label—it’s a mission. It describes our collective vision: a world where all people have the social, political, and economic power and resources to make healthy decisions about gender, bodies, sexuality, reproduction, and families for themselves and their communities. And it provides an inclusive, intersectional framework for bringing that dream into being. Reproductive justice is visionary, it’s complex, it doesn’t fit neatly on a bumper sticker, and it has a lot to teach us about how to be successful in a changed and changing world.”

— Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas and Kierra Johnson, Beyond Choice: How We Learned to Stop Labeling and Love Reproductive Justice

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Just when you start to forget what about what a messed up world we live in, someone out there decides to do s0mething that makes you wonder just what kind of people exist on this planet. Remember two years ago when Dutch Magazine Jackie wrote an article about copying Rihanna’s style, in which they called her the ultimate “ni**a b*tch” with a “ghetto *ss”? Well the Dutch are at it again.

This time, the racism is courtesy of PowNed, a Dutch broadcaster on the Netherlands Public Broadcasting system. I can’t find any news coverage on this apart from a post on Roet In Het Eten, a blog which covers everything from politics to popular culture. The blog apparently wrote a post about a casting call by a Dutch agency which called for women who, “…white women who’s heart beat faster by the mention of ‘Chris Brown, Usher and Denzyl (sic) Washington’. These women would be put in an apartment together in the Bijlmer, Amsterdam’s black neighborhood, and date black men as they got acquainted with the multicultural society in the Bijlmer…”

Sounds like some kind of twisted reality show setup to me. Are people really allowed to be this racist? I guess I can’t expect much from a nation responsible for Zwarte Piet.

You can read more about this whole fiasco in the blog post linked and referenced above.

Categories: International, Racism
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While browsing through my twitter page I came across an ad directed at teen mothers in NYC. While seeing this ad disgusted me; I was a little relieved that I had not seen it person in my city, Brooklyn. Not only is this ad extremely offensive (the Post calls it a “Tad” offensive), it has racist, classist and sexist undertones. The ad I saw featured a beautiful brown girl with big brown eyes and read “Honestly Mom… chances are he won’t stay with you. What happens to me?” It also quoted a statistic that 90% of teen parents do not marry each other. While this statistic can be shocking to most it also seems to continue to push the agenda of marriage and “nuclear” families among young people, something I wish this country would have let go of in the 1976 Reagan “Welfare Queen” era.

After further research, I discovered that this ad was part of a larger campaign created by the NYC Human Resources Administration. For an agency with the word “resources” in its name, it appears that they do not know how to use them very well.  Especially considering the fact that the United States is preparing to undergo sequestration and they thought it wise to use government funding to disseminate disturbing, stigmatizing and shameful ads about teen mothers. Also considering the fact they are a “Human Resources” agency, I would think funds would be better allocated to real initiatives to help young mothers, such as creating real job opportunities for young moms and working with other agencies and organizations to provide childcare so that young women could support their families. It is resourceful to create life-size ads that basically say “Mom you suck for having me.”

While NYC has taken steps to improve the lives of young parents, like closing Pregnancy Schools after advocates insisted these institutions were in violation of Title IX, this initiative seems backwards. This is the same city responsible for the Living for the Young Family through Education program which provides free childcare around the city to help teen parents graduate from high school. In addition to these efforts, the NYC Department of Education mandated Comprehensive Sexuality Education in schools in 2011 to decrease the rate of teen pregnancies, HIV and STIs among young people. However, many of the youth that I work with in Brooklyn still report receiving little to no sex education even after the mandate was placed into effect. Having grown up in Brooklyn my entire life and having never received formal sexual education, I know they are telling the truth.

So if you think scare tactics and shameful ads are going to work, think again.  In fact it is just making the situation worse. I’m mostly concerned with who the agency talked to before creating these controversial ads. It definitely was not teen parents!! I wonder how agencies feel they can solve a problem without consulting the people on the ground and the young people with the “situated knowledge.” As a millennial of color, research shows that although my peers would like to decrease the rate of teen pregnancies, they also feel that society has a responsibility to provide young parents with the necessary resources and opportunities to lead healthy lives.

Lastly, I think these ads should be taken down, and the funding for this so-called Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Initiative should be redirected to organizations working to provide real comprehensive sexual education, access to contraception, teen parenting programs, affordable childcare and job opportunities for young people. Education, inclusion and empowerment is how we solve real issues not by attaching stigma to young people, especially young women!

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Refusing to learn how to pronounce Quvenzhané’s name says, pointedly, you are not worth the effort.  The problem is not that she has an unpronounceable name, because she doesn’t.  The problem is that white Hollywood, from Ryan Seacrest and his homies to the AP reporter who decided to call her “Annie” rather than her real name, doesn’t deem her as important as, say, Renee Zellweger, or Zach Galifianakis, or Arnold Schwarzenegger, all of whom have names that are difficult to pronounce–but they manage.  The message sent is this:  you, young, black, female child, are not worth the time and energy it will take me to learn to spell and pronounce your name. You will be who and what I want you to be; you be be who and what makes me more comfortable.  I will allow you to exist and acknowledge that existence, but only on my terms.

“After being a part of The Real L Word, I learned of many other young LGBTQ people of color who were also in need of LGBTQ role models, a role I certainly couldn’t take on alone. So I wanted to create BlackOUT as a space were LGBTQ individuals can see themselves, people like them, experiences like theirs.”

“…But would it really be horror, Shayla? It’s 2013 in allegedly post racial America.  Your president is Black for crying out loud.  Wouldn’t that word just roll right off your back?

Quite the contrary.  All that is precisely the reason why it doesn’t.  A complete stranger has the ability to come along and remind you that, still, after all this time and all the progress you think you’ve made, people still hate you just because your skin is brown.  And in an instance, with little more effort than it takes to breathe, can reduce you to absolutely nothing…”

No, really. It did.

Colleen Clark is an Illustrator and she made this awesome comic about body image. It’s short but it highlights the frustrating scale by which a person’s worth is measured. You’ve gotta be something, but not too much.

 

 

 

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This is a post by a fellow blogger called BrashBlackNonBeliever.  These are her words and feelings about how “pro-life” advocates use PoC, specifically Black women and children, to further their agenda.  Some of it will be edited for language censorship.

http://stfuprolife.tumblr.com/post/43324196733/brashblacknonbeliever-i-am-beyond-fucking-sick

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  1. What America Hasn’t Learned 70 Years After Japanese Internment (Colorlines) – February 17th marked “the 70th anniversary of President Franklin Roosevelt’s signing of Executive Order 9066, which led to the forced internment of more than 120,000 Japanese-Americans who lived along the West Coast. The order came after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. In the wake of the attack, Japanese-Americans were immediately cast as a threat too dangerous to be allowed to live freely.”
  2. a hijabi can…be a figure skater (Hijabican) – the first-ever hijabi figure skater.
  3. A Conversation With Rihanna’s Hair Stylist Ursula Stephen (HuffPo) – A really important article about the significance of black hair. It also makes Rihanna kind of a progressive badass.
  4. the bad dominicana: On importance and substance (Tumblr) – “Journalists” are stealing from bloggers on Tumblr and refusing to acknowledge said bloggers as credible sources. Whoa!
  5. A school somewhere in the US tried to pull a sexist stunt on Valentine’s day and the awsum wimmin smashed it to bits! (Tumblr)

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I have ABSOLUTELY NO WORDS – well some words – for the enormous loogie hocked in the faces of ethnic minorities in the form of the SI Swimsuit Edition.

“We need a fresh idea for the shoot”, said the head honcho. “I know! We’ll use people of color as PROPS! I am so going to win an award for this.”

How about we clap you in irons and pelt tomatoes at you?

 

JUST…

WHAT

Jessica Gomes, China. Image via SI.com

IS

13_anne-v_27

THIS?

As usual, there are people who think that labeling these photos as appropriative and exploitative are overreacting. How dare you sir?! I’ll have you know that even the men these photos were created for, think that using minorities are as props is very uncool. One person even questioned the undermining of China as an economic giant through its representation by a fisherman on a barge as opposed to all the other beautiful things about China.
My feeling is, there’s a HUMONGOUS difference between appreciating culture and appropriating it. An appreciation of culture requires an understanding and respect of its sacred nature; while appropriation is people using highly connotative aspects of cultures because, “Omg it’s so cool”. Don’t get me started.

But seriously, I would LOVE to know what everyone thinks.

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  1. Ten Things I Wish I’d Known When I Started My Transition – Annika Penelope, a Trans Issues contributor at Autostraddle, writes a personal essay about some of the things she has experienced during her MTF transition.
  2. Al Roker Slams ‘Small Minded Idiot’ for Insulting Melissa McCarthy – Film critic Rex Reed wrote an irrelevant review of “Identity Thief”, choosing to be sizeist instead of providing an actual review. It’s so rude no one can believe he thought he’d get away with putting all that vitriol out in public space. Al Roker, like many of us, thinks Rex Reed can shove his review up his you-know-what. Well done sir! Well done!
  3. Uh, Yes, Franca Sozzani, Racism is a Problem in Fashion – Vogue Italia puts an Asian model on it’s covers for the first time. Apparently, the US and UK editions are yet to do this as well. Also, editor-in-chief Franca Sozzani doesn’t think the fashion industry is racist, but has advocated for the inclusion of more women of color in fashion. Her magazine is also responsible for this highly offensive spread which some people tried to explain away as “Racist in America but not in Europe”. What? Grrrrrrrr!
  4. Taylor Swift Grammys Performance: Pop Star Sings ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’ To Open Show – All comments about this would be fueled by exasperation and followed by hyperventilation so I won’t even go there. What I will say is, “What are you, five?”. She is welcome to all the seats on the planet and more. Ugh!
  5. Farewell to an Uninspiring Pope – NYT Op-Ed Contributor, John Patric Shanley, writes about the gender inequalities within the Catholic Church and how it will lead to a sorry fate.

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In the days leading up to the Superbowl, automobile manufacturer Volkswagen released its gameday spot. The commercial depicted a white man going about his business at work. But wait! It’s not THAT simple, he was speaking patois. Or at least what can be deemed as patois while blurring the lines between linguistics and accentual comprehension. New York Times columnist Charles Blow has compared it to blackface in audio form and I wholeheartedly agree.

So far, most of the people I’ve talked to and almost all the comments I’ve read on articles discussing this commercial have been in its favor, accompanied by trite cries of “Oh it’s not that serious!”. It’s infuriating to see so many people approach this topic with the same lackadaisical attitude as they do with everything pertaining to race. No matter how insignificant it may seem, addressing the claims of racism is still a small step towards breaking down racial tension and ensuring social equity. Just because it’s not inciting people to lead riots does not mean it’s not demeaning or harmful. Just take your licks, say you’re sorry and move on. But then, I also understand that this is one of those cases where “All publicity is good publicity”.

Volkswagen claims to have spoken to 100 Jamaicans during its creative process for this commercial, and released a statement claiming that the aim of the commercial was to put smiles on people’s faces and build upon the heritage of human stories. Whatever that means. You can read said statement here. There’s also a website dedicated to getting you and your friends happy.

C’mon Volkswagen, why couldn’t you be cool like Malibu and put an actual Jamaican/Caribbean person in the commercial? They found a way to be inclusive of various cultures’ enjoyment of Malibu Rum and dancehall vibes, so why couldn’t you? What? There are no immigrant Jamaicans in Minnesota? Or a Jamaican wouldn’t work in an office?

Someone made the argument about white Jamaicans but here’s the thing though. He was asked if he was Minnesotan and he said yes. There’s no explanation for his “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” shenanigans. Please stop trivializing the lives/cultures/experiences of people of color, no matter how minute you think it might be. The Burger King commercial of Mary J. Blige singing for her chicken supper didn’t make it, so why should this one?

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When you say I sound white or act white, you are, intentionally or not, saying 3 things:

  1. White is some optimum state of being that I am trying to achieve through my actions and words, rather than Standard English being a language I acknowledge is necessary to progress in the world.
  2. My attempt to achieve this optimum state amuses/angers you because, as I am an inferior being, my efforts are surprising/uppity.
  3. Ebonics, slang, whatever, a language that evolved out of arguably the most driven effort to SURVIVE that the world has ever seen is something that you/I think is worthy of shame.

All of which are presumptuous and SO VERY IRRITATING.

If we cannot even respect this brilliant testament to the human mind, how can we respect the culture that fostered it? If we look down upon the people who use Ebonics, how can we affectively help those people overcome the many hurdles they face every day? Furthermore, how can we teach ourselves to be open to their ideas, their perspective, if we refuse to truly LISTEN to them?

So I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and say may that when you say I sound/act white, you don’t REALLY know what you’re saying.

And that’s understandable. We live in a culture where racism is so subversive people don’t even notice it most days.

That doesn’t make you racist. I repeat, THAT DOES NOT MAKE YOU RACIST.

I mean the action of saying I sound white is kind of racist, but YOU aren’t.

The reason why this particular statement irks me so much is because I think Ebonics is a truly remarkable language.

Millions of captives were taken from their homes, few sharing the same culture, the same traditions, or the same God, much less the same language. These people, if they survived the tumultuous trip to the Americas, were forced to work together in an effective manner and if they did NOT do so, they and the people they cared about were severely punished.

Despite being prohibited from learning to read English, or even really speak it beyond the basics, these people built a language, a combination of their enslavers’ language and their varying native languages. Slowly this language became more and more like Standard English, yet not quite.

Generations later these people are “freed”, if we can consider the slave-like tendencies of sharecropping, the installment of grandfather clauses and other hallmarks of the Jim Crow era, and the steady increase of hate crimes, “free”.

…. That was heavily sarcastic. I’m sorry.

Meanwhile, this language continued to evolve with its community. For example, as the community was constantly attacked the language became more militant, hence the multitude of colloquialisms for guns. Why?

You never know when you might need one…discreetly.

Another example: white superiority is submersed in almost every aspect of American culture. Hence, the projected inferiority of African Americans also becomes imbedded in their language.

Yet, despite all these trials, this language survived. It, and the people who created it, SURVIVED.

However, right now, in the present, when this community is truly supposed to be free, we still see subtle, but vicious attacks on African American culture, and in particular its language.

This grand thing that was made in the midst of a desperate situation, this amazing universal code that was understood by almost all African Americans, this truly living language, has been systematically criticized and manipulated by those in power so that it is made out to be something inferior.

That is a problem, one we need to address, both in our own communities, and on a broader scale.

Because I don’t sound white.

I don’t sound “intelligent”, as so many people rephrase it.

Ebonics is in no way a language inspired, influenced, or created by unintelligent people.

I sound like I’m speaking Standard English. That’s it.

I personally cannot speak Ebonics, not for lack of trying, but rather for the same reason I spent several hours a day practicing Spanish for my Foreign Language oral exams: it’s not my natural dialect

And if it was okay for me do an immersion course in Ebonics I would have done it years ago, because it is a language I deeply admire.

You have to remember this wasn’t a language created by one person adapting to Standard English, or even two people adapting to both Standard English and each other’s language.

It was a Whole. Freaking. Continent.  It was Babylon.

And it’s a testament to human ingenuity and spirit that my people found a way to communicate at all.

HAPPY BLACK HISTORY MONTH!

Categories: Racism
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Last weekend, I was in Atlanta, Georgia attending the twenty-fifth Creating Change conference. For those who are not familiar with Creating Change, it is the biggest national conference on LGBT equality in the US and receives over 2,000 attendees each year. The conference is organized by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, which is an American nonprofit organization with the mission to build the grassroots power of the LGBT community. Creating Change takes place over a long weekend during which sessions are held to explore various issues that face the LGBT community. This year was my first time attending this conference as I was there to represent Advocates For Youth’s International Youth Leadership Council (IYLC) and my country. Thus, I was part of a panel entitled, “U.S. Foreign policy, queer activism, and The Global Human rights movement: Tensions, Trials, and Opportunities.” As its name indicates, the panel looked into the relationship between LGBT advocacy in the United States and the realities of queer activism in the developing world. We had a great turnout of over 75 attendees and the discussion was engaging and informative to all.

That notwithstanding, the highlight of my time at Creating Change was listening to Bishop Gene Robinson and meeting him in person. Robinson is an American retired bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire and is widely known for being the first priest in an openly gay relationship to be consecrated a bishop in a major Christian denomination. Robinson has done and is still doing a lot to advance the LGBT movement. As a Christian myself, I had a hard time growing up and accepting homosexuality without “betraying” my Christian upbringing. For a long time, I thought Christianity and homosexuality are mutually exclusive. Thus, my spiritual journey was a challenging one, as I had to alter my beliefs to fit both identities together. At Creating Change, Robinson added the cherry on top by explicitly stating how one can be both Christian and LGBT at the same time. To do so, he reminded us of a line in the Bible that reads, “I still have a lot to say to you, but you cannot bear it now. Yet when the Spirit of Truth comes, he’ll guide you into all truth” (John 16:12-13). According to Robison, the Bible is telling us, “Don’t think for a minute that God is done with you. You will do amazing things later. The Holy Spirit will lead you to all truths.” For him, this is an exciting view of God. “God didn’t say all He wanted to say to us by the end of the scriptures.”  He has left a lot out, which shall be revealed to us with time.  For example, Robinson believes that the end of slavery, the recognition of people of color and the recognition of women are all examples of the Holy Spirit’s work in human history. This is exactly what President Obama alluded to in his inauguration speech when he mentioned Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall. Therefore, it is only fair to believe that wide recognition of LGBT rights is on its way. Moreover, it is more than possible to achieve it through God’s work, as the Holy Spirit’s job is to bring us to new truths. In the words of Robinson, “there is something comforting about believing that God is still revealing himself to us.” God did not say all He wanted to say in the scriptures. He did not say, “that’s it I’m done, I’m off to the Bahamas [for a one-way holiday]!”

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Let’s take a look at a bunch of racist people, doing their best to cancel out the kind of progress that Volvo tried to make when they put Jeremy Lin in a commercial for one of their cars shall we?

 

Racist tweets about Jeremy Lin’s Volvo Commercial

*sigh*

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Remember in 2011, when Congressman Trent Franks (R-AZ) introduced the Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2011 (aka. PRENDA) to ban abortions on the basis of race and sex selection? Remember when Rep. Franks attempted to use two iconic freedom fighters and language from the Civil Rights Movement to mask this bill as a step towards equality? Remember in 2012 when Republicans made a last-minute change in the bill, dropping the “race selection” language, and voted on PRENDA, positioning it as an anti-discrimination bill? In reality, we all knew it was a thinly veiled attempt to further place restrictions on abortion, specifically aimed at women of color and specifically, targeting Asian-American women across the country. But mainly, do you remember in May, 2012, when activists across the country like YOU contacted their Representatives about this outrageous piece of legislation, and the House killed the bill, 246-168?

I remember it too. And while only four states – PA, IL, AZ, OK – currently have sex-selective abortion bans in state law (Arizona’s 2011 law is the only one to include a “race-selection” restriction), we are seeing other states jump on this bandwagon.

PRENDA may be dead in Congress, but continues to rear its ugly head elsewhere.  In Virginia, Representative Robert Marshall (R) introduced HB 1316, a bill that, if passed, would criminalize doctors who perform an abortion that is being sought on account of the sex of the unborn child.

Let’s break this down. AGAIN.

Sex-selection is widespread in certain countries, especially those in East and South Asia. It’s a practice that occurs due to cultural and entrenched gender bias, and unequal value placed on men and women. Abortion opponents have framed sex-selective abortion bans as a way to ensure this practice does not occur in the United States (there’s inconclusive evidence that it actually does), while claiming to save the lives of thousands of little girls. On the surface, this bill purports to further gender equity, but what it really is doing is chipping away at abortion rights. Further, it places an unnecessary and discriminatory burden on women of color, especially Asian-American women, who find themselves needing to access reproductive health care.

Every woman’s choice to have an abortion is a private matter, not a decision the government (state or federal) should interfere with.  Banning abortion is NOT the way to end sex selection – it’s simply a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a disingenuous strategy to limit women’s access to abortion. Period.

Currently, HB 1316 is sitting in the Committee for Courts of Justice, and will be heard TODAY. If you live in Virginia, I urge you to take action and contact legislators on the committee to ensure this bill’s lifespan ends soon.

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We need to talk about why we’re not talking about Uganda.

A recent report from progressive watchdog organization Media Matters found that despite the hot-button nature of Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill, cable news networks in America have seriously lagged in covering the legislation. In November, for example, the viral music video for “Gangnam Style” by South Korean rapper Psy received more coverage on CNN and Fox News than Uganda’s attempt to kill LGBT people. In fact, Fox didn’t cover the legislation at all. Notably, MSNBC devoted twice as much airtime to covering the “Kill the Gays” bill as it did to discussing “Gangnam Style.”

from The Advocate

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Jordan

By Jordan Craven

I’m pretty sure we’re all familiar with the dishonorable Todd Akin; you know, the one who thinks a woman’s body will prevent pregnancies in the event of a rape? Yeah, well he’s not the only one misinformed about sex.

Check out this article.

Read it and weep. This survey from the Bristol Youth Project has shown that many young men and women still do not understand what ‘consent’ really means.

Well? What is consent? Good question. First of all, consent is more than just saying yes (or no). If you are not comfortable with having sex with someone, no matter how long you may have known them, you DON’T have to have sex with them. No joke. If you want to stop having sex while having sex, as disheartening as it may be to the other party, you still have the right to call it quits. Sex, like many have said over and over, should be something you cherish or enjoy, not something you must endure.

As for the ones who are a little too pushy about having sex… Stop it right now. There is never at time, ever, that it is okay to force someone into having sex with you. Like, never ever. Rape is very real, and it happens to people all the time. If the other person shows any inkling of NOT wanting to have sex (and yes, that includes: fellatio, cunnilingus, analingus, or anything that involves sexual gratification), then, sorry pal, you’ve lost your pass. No means no (even if “no” was never said, but implied).

Communication is always important in any relationship involving sex, whether it be a one-night-relationship, or a long-term one. Always communicate what you want and what you don’t want. If the feeling isn’t reciprocated, well, that’s OKAY. If you’re not sexually pleasured, that doesn’t mean you’ll die. That just means you’ll be solo for the night… and honestly, we all know it wouldn’t be your first time on your own.

For the sake of learning, let’s role play.

Assume you’ve been out at the bar with a few of your friends. One of them has shown previous interest in you before, but neither of you have acted on it. Somehow, the both of you end up at the bar alone. A little drunk, you suggest it’s time to take a cab home. Both of you get in the cab, drive to your place, and walk inside. It’s too late to walk home, so your friend asks to stay the night; you oblige. You both talk, things get a little heavy, and before you know it, you’re putting the moves on. But wait! Are you still drunk? No? That’s good, you can make decisions. Cool. Oh, but your partner is still a little out of it? Hmm. Here lies the problem.

To give consent, you need to be ABLE to give consent. Both parties need to be sober & fully capable of letting the other know that “yes, it is okay to have sex with me” (granted, they may be a tad more suave in their wording, but you get the point).

Another point to be made, is body language. Does your partner seem like they want to consent? (Do you want to consent?). Saying just yes or no doesn’t cover it. Make sure, before you indulge in any intercourse or sex act that your partner isn’t just saying yes to please you; make sure they really do want to have sex. If your partner seems timid, shy, or reserved then they may not be ready. Talk first. Ask questions, and let them know that saying “no” is a real option.

Like I said before, sex should be enjoyable, not something you must endure. If you or anyone you know has been forced/coerced into having sex, then please report it. There are plenty of people out there willing and able to help you or your friends. No one should have to tolerate sexual abuse.

So, to all the previously uninformed young men and women (you too Todd), consider yourself informed & make sure you understand what consent really means.

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Talking about young people in the part of the world where I come is already a sensitive issue and adding ‘rights’ which is another very explosive issue to this makes advocacy for the placing of youth rights at the heart of development a very difficult but not an impossible task. Behind these words lies the fears, doubts, and optimism of a participant at the just ended International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD)-Beyond 2014 Global youth Forum (GYF) which held from the 4th to the 6th December 2012.They are also the words that come to my mind whenever I think about this forum and the impact its outcomes will have on the future of young people and therefore our world as a whole. The fruits of the optimism raised and the hopes re-enkindled by the ICPD-Beyond 2014 GYF not only in the young persons that attended this event but above all in the lives of the millions of young persons that are marginalized, down trodden, and persecuted because of their gender, age, political choices, and sexual orientation, will no doubt become reality as youths irrespective of their social status, religious beliefs, and gender have been empowered and energized by this forum. With most of the recommendations from the ICPD-Beyond 2014 GYF urging governments, international bodies, and civil societies to recognize the rights of all young persons especially the marginalized, suffering and persecuted(the girl child, sexual minorities, rural dwellers, the uneducated) and establish an enabling environment for the potentials of every young person to be unleashed and his/her dreams fulfilled, the forum is ended but has opened an avenue for youths to claim what is theirs and take their places in decision making cycles in their various countries. Enlightened, empowered, and inspired by the passion and enthusiasm I witnessed in Bali, the following words came to my mind in the evening of the 6th of December as the forum ended: ‘What happens when it comes time to part? Well you know how when you’re listening to music from another room and you’re singing along, because it’s a tune you really love, when the door closes, or a train passes, and you can’t hear the music anymore, but you sing along anyway?’ Just like the song described in this scene from the movie, ‘Music from Another Room’, the journey towards achieving youths rights might have begun long ago, Bali marked a new beginning in this fight for the rights of young people in all their diversity to be recognized and respected in the society where they live.

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As a community organizer by day, and night and every other weekend, I’m often invited to fancy-pants events in the name of social change. It’s most certainly a privilege for me to be invited to such spaces where I know I’m representing a whole demographic of people that don’t have the same access. Even so, my work does not make me exempt from “microaggressions”. I wanted to write up an account of a less than awesome experience, on my way to do fabulous organizing work.

Upon my arrival to the convening, I buzzed myself in with a white woman that appears to live in the building. We exchanged smiles and got on the elevator together. A floor before I got off the elevator, she asked me, “Are you the babysitter?” I was instantly offended, yet not quite sure why, though I simply responded, “No.” and got off the elevator. There were so many questions that came up like, “Whose babysitter?”, “Is it because I’m black?”, “Is it because I’m a young woman?”, “Does she need a babysitter?”, “Does the entire building have a one babysitter?”, “Do I seem like I’d be good with kids?”. This trailed off into a billion other thoughts about how awesome being a babysitter/nanny could be as a side hustle, though I’ve never taken care of other people’s kids for money in my life.

Later, I thought, “Why couldn’t I just be all up in here without having to work here?” Clearly, I’m one of the building denizens’ guests. Clearly, I was invited to be there, and there’s nothing wrong with being a domestic worker, yet I can help but think of who this woman might’ve seen when looking me and how that informed how she should engage with me.

I get it. She’s never seen my face before, and most often than not, being in an elevator with someone you don’t know might be a cause to feel a little uncomfortable or awkward. I just wish she had the sense enough not to blurt out the most insidiously racist, ageist, sexist thing she could think of and leave such a lasting impression of disdain for her in my mind. She might be a nice woman or a racist or a nice, racist woman, but I’d never really know, now would I?

On the flipside of that, I prejudge people all the time. I admit it, and actively check myself in the process, and I welcome members of my community and allies to check me, as well. Standing in the elevator of a NYC midtown elevator with a lily-white, foreign woman who may or may not live there, some prejudice things most certainly passed through my mind. I assumed she lived there, though she could’ve been a domestic worker with a key to the building and the mailbox. Maybe her question was an attempt at camaraderie. I’m not in the business of making up excuses for her audacity. My skin color and my defiant, natural hairdo, did up into a petal loc fro that day kept my presumptuous thoughts silent and smeared a smile across my face. I pretended to look as “normal’ as I possibly can next to someone who meets most European beauty standards and arouses no suspicion, as to whether or not she belongs in the building. My silence and my smile were a way for me to make her feel safer being on the elevator with me; though I’m sure she didn’t know it.

It is in times like these that I wish I had a white girl in the room. I cannot always be the angry black woman, suppressing anger or frustration or simply stuck on stupid, trying to figure out whether or not I should feel some type of way about what some random white person says to me. If I had a white girl in my pocket, I could pull her out at a time like this, and have her say to her fellow white sister, “Hey girl hey! Check yo’ privilege!”

Microaggressions are real y’all! They exist as roadblocks to the true post-racial utopia we claim exists in this here America. It’s important to recognize, resist and call out, not just tolerate racism and other oppressive tendencies on all levels. That is all.

Categories: Racism, Youth of Color
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Yellow Face and Orientalism in the Media: Controlling What it Means to be Asian

[Inspired by a fellow Amplify contributor, Karachi, and her post on Blackface, Slurs and Appropriation]

Yellow Face isn’t just the mere inauthenticity and a failure of aesthetics of white people dressing up, wearing make up, trying to be Asian, and/or playing the roles of Asians.  No, it’s definitely more insidious and problematic than that.  It is systematic racism and discrimination, refusing to hire Asians or forcing them to play as villains, or when they receive a major role, it is typically a stereotypical one (i.e., martial arts, ‘wise man’, ‘dragon lady’, etc).  It simulates a crude idea of what ‘Asians’ look like, all the while perpetuating terrible stereotypes, controlling what it means to be Asian whether it’s in person, on the stage, or on screen.

Orientalism: It’s a dichotomy created by the ‘West,’ it builds a view of the ‘East’ along with many elements of this culture that becomes obscured and exotic. Making a whole group of people seen as something monolithic, creating an erasure of actual identities.

I’m not even going to try to bother with getting too in-depth about the obvious cultural appropriation, ethnocentrism, and orientalism (not too much at least).  I’m not going to go into Yellow Face on stage, in whitewashing (too much), in Europe, nor will I take the time to go through political caricatures of Asians throughout history.  [Not that it’s less important or there’s a lack of evidence.]  These following examples and history checks should do enough for now in getting my point across.  (Please find a friend in Google if you really want to educate yourself though!  Thank you!)

So, why did Yellowface occur?  Was there a shortage of Asian people to play these Asian roles during the times this practice was most rampant (19th and 20th century)?

Meet Sessue Hayakawa (Born 1889-Death 1973), the first Asian American leading actor.  He was one of the highest paid actors of his time.  His talents were definitely recognized by Paramount Pictures and was even considered a sex icon.  But despite all of this, he still met discrimination and racism everywhere he went.  He was always forced to either play “the exotic villain” or “the exotic lover.”  He waited for his turn to be casted as a hero of color, but it never came.

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This is Anna May Wong (1905-1961).  During the 1920s-1930s, Anna was given many different roles as a contracted Paramount Pictures actress, but they were always either as a “dragon lady” or a “butterfly lady.”  Despite all of that, she was still a household name and was considered a fashion icon.

She was the top contender for the leading role of O-Lan, a Chinese heroine for the movie The Good Earth (1937) by MGM, but that role was later given to Luise Rainer (definitely not Asian).  MGM went to her and tried to give her another role for a film called Lotus, but it meant that she had to be the villain again, so she turned it down and left for Europe for more opportunities and eventually went back to Paramount Pictures.

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Say hello to Philip Ahn (1905-1973).  For the film, Anything Goes, Ahn was initially rejected by the director, Lewis Milestone, because—I shit you not, he said this to Philip Ahn—he thought Philip’s “English was too good for the part.”  During World War II, Philip Ahn was often forced to play roles of Japanese villains.  He even received death threats because people thought he was actually Japanese.

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Other Asian actors/actresses: Barbara Jean Wong, Fely Franquelli, Benson Fong, Chester Gan, Honorable Wu, Kam Tong, Keye Luke, Layne Tom Jr., Maurice Liu, Philip Ahn, Richard Loo, Lotus Long, Rudy Robles, Suzanna Kim, Teru Shimada, Willie Fung, Victor Sen Yung, Toshia Mori and Wing Foo.

Merle Oberon can also be added to the list, although she was part white/part Asian.  She had to lie about her origins and applied whitening make up to pass as fully white.  Other Asian actors and actresses: Jack Soo, Pat Morita, Mako, Bruce Lee, Lucy Liu, Margaret Cho, B.D. Wong, Amy Hill, Jennie Kwan, Masi Oka, James Lee, Ming Na, Daniel Dae Kim, Sendhil Ramamurthy, Charlyne Yi, Miyoshi Umeki, Shin Koyamada, John Cho, Brenda Song, and George Takei.  Click on this link to see a hundred more. 

After going through the list, ask yourself why the majority of the actors and actresses here are either in some martial arts movies or some other stereotypical crap?

TL;DR this section: There definitely wasn’t a shortage of Asian American actors and actresses.  And there still isn’t.


Very Few Examples (of Very Many) of Yellowface in History:

Nil Ashter as General Yen from The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1933)

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What Nils Ashter really looked like:

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Harold Huber as Ito Takimura in Little Tokyo, USA (1942)
Interestingly enough, everyone who was a “bad guy” in this was portrayed as Japanese.  Even more interesting, this was around the same time Japanese Internment Camps were happening.

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What Harold Huber really looked like:

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Katharine Hepburn as Jade Tan in in Dragon Seed (1944)

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Katharine Hepburn just a few years after Dragon Seed:

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Jennifer Jones as Dr. Han Suyin in Love is a Many Splendored-Thing (1955)

Another interesting concept found in this movie. “BEING WITH ASIAN WOMEN IS SO HOT AND EXOTIC. LET’S FETISHIZE THE SHIT OUT OF THEM.” Yup.

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What Jennifer Jones actually looks like:

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John Wayne as Genghis Khan in The Conqueror (1956)

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John Wayne, y’all:

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Mickey Rooney as Mr. Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

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Mickey Rooney at that time:

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Joel Grey as Chiun (Kung Fu Master, everyone—on the left) in Remo Williams (1985)

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What Joel Grey really looked like:

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Other cases I haven’t really taken the time to cover: Charlie Chan Series 
(Actors who played as Charlie Chan from 1931-1981: Warner Oland, Sidney Toler, Roland Winters, Peter Ustinov) Fu Manchu, Madame Butterfly, The Teahouse of the August Moon, Shanghai Express, The Manchurian Candidate, Sayonara, Mr. Moto Series, 7 Faces of Dr. Lao, Short Circuit (1986 & 1988), The Party, Gunga Din, Broken Blossoms, The Year of Living Dangerously, etc.


I mean, I guess you could say, “But those movies were decades ago!”

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Alex Borstein as Ms. Swan.

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Nicholas Cage as Fu Manchu (2007)
(Other actors who played the role of Fu Manchu starting from the 1920s up ‘til now: H. Agar Lyons, Warner Oland, Boris Karloff, Harry Brannon, Christopher Lee, and Peter Sellers)

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Christopher Walken as Feng (2007)

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Rob Schneider as Asian Minister in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry (2007)

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M. Night’s The Last Airbender (2010)
Well, the show was based on Asian and Inuit culture.  But just look at the casting.  The three protagonists are all light skinned while Zuko (played by Dev Patel in the movie) is dark skinned, (but Zuko is actually the lightest skinned in the original series and the good guys were darker skinned) and by default in this movie, the bad guy.  Someone please just remake this movie.  Please.

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British Actor, Jim Sturgess, (rocking bad eye prosthetics) playing as a Korean in Cloud Atlas (2012)

Here is a response to people who didn’t get what this post is about and are defending some of the movies on this list.

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Michigan Lawmakers Are Trying To Sneak Extreme Abortion Restrictions

Source: http://thinkprogress.org/health/2012/12/06/1294861/michigan-lawmakers-are-trying-to-sneak-through-extreme-abortion-restrictions-in-lame-duck-session/

Women’s health advocates confirm that Michigan lawmakers are likely to revive on Thursday an omnibus anti-abortion bill that sparked widespread protests after it passed the House this summer, in addition to a host of other restrictive abortion legislation they hope to force through the current lame duck session.

As Michigan’s current attempt to pass anti-union legislation dominates the coverage surrounding the state legislature, lawmakers are using the opportunity to revisit anti-abortion measures they hope to slip through before this session ends. Since five anti-choice state legislators lost their seats in last month’s election, this may be the best time for the legislature to advance their far-right agenda — despite the fact that the majority of Michigan residents support legal access to abortion. On Thursday afternoon, the state senate may consider multiple anti-abortion bills that aim to:

1) Regulate abortion clinics out of existence. HB 5711, the massive 45-page legislation that sparked amassive outcry when the House considered it in June, contains additional and unnecessary regulations for abortion providers. HB 5711 would subject any facilities that perform 6 or more abortions per month to burdensome regulations that could be so costly that they force clinics to close their doors, an indirect method of targeting abortion providers.

2) Limit abortion access for women in rural areas. HB 5711 would also place restrictions on telemedical abortions, which provide essential health services to women in rural areas who often lack any access to nearby abortion doctors. Even though telemedical procedures have been proven to be safe and effective, Michigan lawmakers seek to require doctors to be physically present to administer abortion services.

3) Impose further guidelines for the disposal of fetal remains. Michigan already has regulations in place to instruct medical professions about how they must dispose of fetal remains, but HB 5711 wants to go a step further, requiring fetal remains to be treated in the exact same manner as dead bodies. Doctors would be forced to fill out death forms and make arrangements for the fetal remains’ cremation or burial,imposing an emotional burden on the women whose pregnancies end through a medical miscarriage. No other state handles fetal remains at 10 weeks in the same way as it handles dead bodies.

4) Prevent private insurance companies from covering any abortion services. A trio of companion bills — SBs 612, 613, and 614 — would work together to ban the health insurance exchange that Michigan will set up under Obamacare from covering abortion, as well as ban private insurers from covering any abortion services under their general insurance plans. Currently, 87 percent of Michigan’s insurance plans include abortion care in their benefits packages. If private insurers elect to cover abortions, they have to do it as a separate rider, which often ends up being more costly for women.

5) Allow doctors to refuse to perform abortion services because of their personal beliefs. SB 975, which passed the Michigan Senate’s Health Policy committee earlier this week and is now up for a full vote, is a sweeping “license to discriminate” bill that would allow medical professionals to deny health services based on their personal beliefs. It would allow doctors to refuse to provide HIV treatment, vaccinations, or abortions to any of their patients simply based on their “conscience.”

Preliminary reports from women’s health advocates on the ground in Michigan suggest that the Senate has already passed SB 975, and is likely to pass SBs 612, 613, and 614 this afternoon. But Thursday’s push doesn’t represent the only step that Michigan lawmakers have taken during this year’s lame duck session to push through anti-choice legislation. Just a few weeks ago, state legislators also considered establishing a tax credit for fetuses past 12 weeks’ gestation, a dangerous step toward endowing fetuses with the same rights as U.S. citizens.

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Another day has come and gone over Bali ICPD Beyond 2014 Global Youth Forum.But as days come and go, the discussion intensifies and young people are more demanding to their governments, religious and traditional authorities, parents, and society at large.

Universal access to education,inclusive education, relevant education, quality education ,financing and partnerships, as well as ccomprehensive sexuality education were identified by participants at the ICPD beyond 2014 Global Youth Forum participants as being vital for comprehensive education to become a reality in our world and were thus recommended in that other for discussion by the United Nations and possible inclusion in its post-2015 international  development agenda.

Transitions to decent work, and famiies,youth Rights and well being are the themes which were on the discussion table today.These being of course issues which are relevant to every young person irrespective of  where he/she hails, the debate in the plenary was so intense and continued into the various work groups.

During the plenary on transitions to decent employment, it was revealed by the International Labour Organisation’s representative that we now have the highest number of unemployed youths that the world has ever. Also, during this plenary it was disclosed that 1 in 9 young workers in Africa are in the informal sector, 4 out of 10 young workers are working on a temporary basis, and 5 in 10 low paid persons are youths.

Productivity, fairness, and rewarding are the major characteristics of a decent job as defined by the International Labour Organisation(ILO). If one is to go by this definition, one will have no choice but agree with the above statistics. One other area in which there was total agree is on the fact that  stronger families, respect of  youth rights, and the well being of youths are the basis for any society and so for  a world at peace with itself, there was need for these issues to be tackled with maximum care.

According to Mr.Anatole Makosso, the president to the conference of African youth ministers and youth minister of Congo Brazzaville, there exist three reasons for governments to carefully consider the above mentioned issues and ensure that the needs of youths are met: They are the majority, they are the future, they will not identify with any decisions taken without them.

Another day is come and gone,  and the desire for action by youths on the part of their governments has not faultered Youths want to make the Bali declaration not only a declaration but a platform for action. Hear our voices!

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Gaston

What a long awaited and historic day for mankind has today being. The ICPD Beyond 2014 Global Youth Forum was officially opened today. In the presence of   close to a thousand participants, Indonesian officials, and  representatives of governments the world over, Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA’s executive Director , in his speech  decried the  situation in which so many young people, especially those in the global south, live in before pointing  out the importance of this event, and then inviting  representatives of governments and those he termed “Seniors” to look  at the  young people around them and  challenge  how they  relate to them, and then think of how they can release  the potentials of these young people.

Further setting the context of the Bali ICPD Beyond 2014 Global Youth Forum, the Indonesian minister for people’s welfare, declared that: we believe that a meaningful dialogue is necessary on the means and ways of engaging young people to release their potential. He further emphasized that , young people need to understand the values of life that will make them  stay healthy, be educated, foster family life, actively participate in building the  world they have always dreamed of.

Staying healthy, comprehensive education, transition to  decent work for youth, Families, youth rights and well being, leadership and meaningful youth participation, and realizing youth rights are the themes which will be discussed and recommendations made by the over 650 participants for  discussion and adoption  by the UN member states as one of its post-2015 agenda.

 

Staying healthy and comprehensive education were tackled today in discussion groups (world Cafés) and recommendations made on the former. Access to data, putting in place of an enabling environment for youths by governments, religious and traditional authorities, access to   quality, affordable, and comprehensive health services, and finally  the abolition of laws and policies that   that hinder youth empowerment   are the recommendations that came out from the 15 sort of work groups that brainstormed on this topic. The recommendations on the comprehensive education will be presented  tomorrow, Wednesday December 5th 2012.

It should be noted that the above recommendations were arrived at by participants including representatives of governments, UN agencies, and civil society in a very interactive, safe, and open environment  after attending the plenary session that addressed  the issue of staying healthy for a young person. At this plenary Advocate for Youth’s Meredith Waters acting in her capacity as young person commentator for this theme, declared amid thunderous applause from the audience  that: the Global Youth Forum is a great way to start but not enough. Dr Nafsia Mboi, Indonesian minister of health, answering to questions from the participants declared to conclude the plenary that: Every person, I repeat every person including young people has the right to health.

Good as the speeches may be, world leaders should be conscious that young people are tired of speeches and want to see concrete actions being taken solve the pile of problems in which young people from all part of our beloved world are drowning. World leaders! Take action now or be fired! We are ready for the fight and I assure you we will always out power you; for we are the majority.

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Seriously? SERIOUSLY?

It is amazing how anyone would be able to look at this picture and say, “no, this is clearly not a perpetuation of a disgusting, racist, exploitative caricature.” And you would think that, with each of Victoria’s Secret’s flubs this year– first with their “Sexy Little Geisha” nightie and more recently with their use of a Native American headdress in their runway show–that Illamasqua and any other company would be sure to check that they are being culturally sensitive with their advertisements.

As of now, Illamasqua has not taken down their ads or commented on the campaign.

Update, November 28, 11:20 AM: Illamasqua has issued an apology on their Facebook account which reads,

We thank and acknowledge your comments regarding the above image. Obviously it was never our intention to cause offence; Illamasqua has always celebrated the right to self-expression and we continually push creative and artistic boundaries, priding ourselves on working with models of many ethnic backgrounds to reinforce this point. Alex Box, Illamasqua’s Creative Director, has emphasised that this campaign is about colour ON the skin, not colour OF the skin, depicting polarity between the two images (both images are the same model) not race.

So basically means, “sorry you were offended by our ad, but I guess you just don’t ‘get it.’”

Categories: Racism
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Source: http://thinkprogress.org/health/2012/11/20/1223231/michigan-tax-credit-fetuses/

State legislators in Michigan held a hearing on Tuesday to consider House Bills 5684 and 5685, which would allow taxpayers to receive tax relief for unborn fetuses past 12 weeks’ gestation. The proposed legislation is an odd push for Michigan Republicans, partly because Progress Michigan notesthe state slashed tax credits for children last year — meaning that although parents living in Michigan do not qualify for additional tax breaks to offset the cost of caring for their own children, they could soon be able to claim a tax credit for an unborn fetus.

Progress Michigan’s executive director points outthat the proposed legislation is a dangerous step toward endowing fetuses with the same rights as human beings while disregarding the real economic needs of Michigan’s children, 341,000 of whom currently live in high-poverty areas:

“It’s clear Lansing Republicans have the wrong priorities by wasting time on these extreme bills,” said Zack Pohl, Executive Director of Progress Michigan. “This is really a backdoor way of passing extreme personhood legislation, which has been rejected by voters in states across the country. Even worse, this would create a special new tax credit for unborn fetuses, after Lansing Republicans eliminated the tax credit for living, breathing children last year.It’s time for our elected leaders to get their priorities straight and start working together to create good jobs and improve education.”

The National Conference of State Legislatures believes this type of legislation could represent the first of its kind, although they acknowledged that the issue of states providing tax credits for fetuses has not been widely studied.

The nonpartisan House Fiscal Agency has estimated that allowing Michigan residents to claim a tax credit for unborn fetuses would cost the state between $5 million and $10 million annually in lost tax revenue.

(HT: Alison C)

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I live about five minutes away from this.

Their typical show of “slactivism” is anti-choice chalk writing on school property, which reeks of emotionally manipulative messages full of misinformation and bad spelling.

And now there’s this recent sign they put up, even after what happened to Savita Halappanavar, see what AFY_EmilyB has to say about that.

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by Deb Hauser
President, Advocates for Youth

Advocates for Youth congratulates President Barack Obama on his historic reelection. We also celebrate the amazing role that young people played within his administration and his reelection, and we recognize the growing power of youth to drive social and cultural change for a better world. Young people represented approximately 19 percent of the electorate yesterday—a larger percentage even than in 2008!

In the years ahead, we call on President Obama to stand with us in recognition of every young person’s right to honest sexual health education, safe and affordable sexual health services, and an equity of social, educational, and economic opportunity – the type of opportunity that builds healthy lives and strong communities.

(more…)

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The governmental programme of St. Petersburg “Tolerance” (http://spbtolerance.ru/) published a brochure, where Central Asian migrants are portrayed as a spatula, a roller, a brush and a whisk. It includes tips for various situations faced by migrants.


In the story, the guests of the city – the spatula, the roller, the whisk and the brush – go through all the stages of labor migration in St. Petersburg from landing at the airport, medical testing (including HIV) and visiting museums to “right” communication with the residents of St. Petersburg, which were of course represented by and shown as people in the brochure.

The brochure is available in four languages: Russian, Uzbek, Tajik and Kyrgyz. NGO “Looking to the future” has developed the brochure with the support of St. Petersburg Migration Service and City Centre for Prevention and Control of AIDS and infectious diseases. The brochure is divided into three thematic blocks: the rights of migrants, HIV and “Useful tips”, which include such xenophobic pieces of advice as “they should not squat outside in the streets”, “Do not wear national cloths. It attracts a lot of attention”, “Do not always wear sportsuits, especially with classic shoes (sport costume is only for sports)” and “In St. Petersburg people take off a hat indoors.”

The initial purpose of the brochure was to help labor migrants from Central Asia to adapt into the new environment of St. Petersburg. However, in fact this xenophobic brochure dehumanizes the migrants from Central Asia, labels them as stupid and infantile, as unwanted people, as people, who bring HIV to Russia. Moreover, it can cause interethnic hostile.

Source: http://www.the-village.ru/village/situation/situation/118264-venik-i-valik

Categories: International, Racism
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Click to watch: Fundamental Human Rights.

Every day, governments all over the world violate the fundamental human rights of millions of women. The Center for Reproductive Rights fights on the front lines every day to beat back these assaults — and Meryl Streep, Sarah Silverman, Amy Poehler, Billy Crudup, Audra McDonald, and many more are standing beside us in this call to action in the global battle for reproductive freedom.