Category Archives: social justice

the little gray hoodie on the hook

We wear hoodies in our family, all 4 of us. I am the mother of 2 young children, one a little boy. He probably has more hoodies than the rest of us, in a range of colors. He even has a gray hoodie, one that we got during our visit to my husband’s high school for a reunion a few months ago. Each day when we send him to his pre-K class, we have to send him in with a sweater or sweatshirt. Even on hot summer days, since New England weather can turn quickly, or the air conditioning inside can be excessive. This past week, I have found myself consciously avoiding that gray hoodie. I see it hanging there on the hook on the back of a door, along with the yellow hoodie and the blue one with the prints of cars.

I look at that little gray hoodie, and my heart hurts. I can’t even bear the thought of posting a photo of my little boy in his gray hoodie, because of the association with the vulnerability of being a target. Because of the association with a boy who lost his life, and a mother who lost her child.

One day my little boy will be the same age as Trayvon Martin was that night last year. He will be a teenage boy, with the range of moods and sometimes unpredictable behavior that come with that stage. He may be an honor student, or a rebel, or a little of each. He may choose to behave exactly as Trayvon did, buy the same candy and sugary drink. Want to walk out in the rain to get away from adult company. He may be the same height and build as Trayvon. He may choose to dress exactly as Trayvon did. And yet I also know that he will never be a target in the same way that Trayvon Martin was. The privilege of white skin will give him license to wear that hoodie, to walk in an unfamiliar neighborhood, to shop in a store, without being profiled by default as a potential threat.

The discourse of the past 2 weeks reminds me of the privilege that I have and that my family has. The fact that I can be reminded of my privilege is itself a hallmark of privilege: I have the luxury to be able to regularly forget. Where I live, I can drive around my town, I can walk through my neighborhood, shop in any store, without once wondering if the color of my skin will attract negative attention. I know that I don’t entirely fit in where I live, and my hairstyle and clothes mark me as a bit different. But never in a threatening way. I can dress like a slob without worrying that it reflects badly on my heritage. I can drive a nice car without raising any eyebrows, or drive a beat-up car without people assuming that I am poor. As a white female, people make lots of assumptions about me, which may or may not in any way reflect who I am. But none of the assumptions put me at higher risk of being stopped by the police, or worse, someone like Zimmerman: highly armed but poorly trained, full of anger and self-righteousness and fear.

I have been feeling heartsick since Zimmerman’s acquittal. The messages I read from that verdict and some of the ensuing discourse just drive home to me how far our society has yet to go to achieve equality. I have the sense that this country is divided: those who see the systemic inequity and the harmful biases, and those who are unwilling or unable to see them. I know that I live in a society that continues to have systemic racism. I am ashamed to sometimes see evidence of that racism in my own thoughts, my own assumptions. Much as I sometimes find my thoughts reflecting sexism, ablism, agism, classism and so many of the other isms that are part of our society. But I call myself out. Sometimes I even have the courage to call out others when I see it.

I have had conversations with close friends and family members, and feel lucky that those closest to me see things much as I do. But I am realizing that these private conversations with like-minded people are not enough. I need to make a public stand, even if in my small way, by writing here. I know that people who are blind to what I see, to both systemic racism and the privilege that allows them that blindness, are not necessarily bad people. I know people, some of them even friends or family members, who fit into these categories. Even thinking about starting conversations with them about race and privilege exhausts me. But I am thinking about these things, and with this post, I am showing that I am willing to be part of this conversation.

I have been reading posts and articles every day since the news of Zimmerman’s acquittal. I have spent a lot of time reflecting. I have felt outrage and deep sadness, but also great hope that this conversation will continue, and will bring progress. I am busy and am protective of the time I need to spend on my work and family obligations. However, this conversation is too important to me. I need to be part of the conversation because I want my children to grow up in a world where no child’s life is cut short by others’ assumptions about race.

I want to live in a world where a mother’s worries about her son’s choice to wear a hoodie when he goes out on a walk will never be about anything more weighty than whether that hoodie will be warm enough.

I have recently read lots of post relating to the death of Trayvon Martin, Zimmerman’s acquittal, and privilege. Here are some of the ones that have stuck with me:

If you have written things about these topics yourself, or read things that moved you, please feel free to share links in the comments.

The September 2010 Just Posts

Welcome to the September 2010 Just Posts, the latest edition of a monthly roundtable of posts on a range of topics relating to activism and social justice hosted here and at Cold Spaghetti. Please show your support and check out the great posts on the list below!

If you have a post in the list above, or would just like to support the Just Posts, we invite you to display a button on your blog with a link back here, or to the Just Posts at Cold Spaghetti. If you would like to have a post included next month, you can find out how to submit posts and all sorts of other stuff about the Just Posts at the information page.

The August 2010 Just Posts

Welcome to the latest Just Post roundtable, a collection of posts from the month of July on topics relating to social justice hosted here and at Cold Spaghetti.

The posts of this month’s roundtable were nominated by:

If you have a post in the list above, or would just like to support the Just Posts, we invite you to display a button on your blog with a link back here, or to the Just Posts at Cold Spaghetti. If you would like to have a post included next month, you can find out how to submit posts and all sorts of other stuff about the Just Posts at the information page.

stemming the flood of apathy

A couple of weekends ago I went to New York City for BlogHer, a big conference for bloggers.

That same weekend, in Pakistan, the disastrous flooding that had started a week before was getting steadily worse.

I’m embarrassed to say that over that weekend when I was in New York, the flooding in Pakistan was not even on my radar. While I can’t say for certain that it wasn’t mentioned, I just don’t remember anyone talking about it. Even at the very activism-oriented sessions that I attended. It could be that I was caught up in other things, or it could be that everyone else was, too.

During the 2 days that I was staying in comfortable hotels, and feasting on the elaborate buffets courtesy of corporate sponsors, hundreds of thousands of people in Pakistan were already left homeless, and millions more were affected. Over a thousand had already died.

In the following week, I know that I had seen an email come in from UNICEF about the floods, but I didn’t spend much time looking at it. I confess that it wasn’t until I was glancing at a newspaper left on a table at my in-laws’ house last weekend and read an article about US aid to Pakistan that I really became conscious of the magnitude of the flooding, and reflected on how little I had heard about it. I know that some of this is because I was travelling, and preoccupied with personal business. I was too busy with kids and family to spend more than a few minutes a day online, and I don’t generally watch TV. But somehow in those few minutes a day online I read about other things. I read far more, for example, about the controversy about the proposed Islamic community center in New York City. (You know, the one that’s not actually a mosque, nor actually at Ground Zero.) And I can’t help but feel that the lack of widespread concern over the one story and the furor over the other are related.

Now, more than two weeks after the flooding began, the crisis in Pakistan is still growing, with 8 million people urgently needing humanitarian aid.

I know that I am not alone in my concern, nor am I alone in being disturbed by the unimpressive trickle of response to these catastrophic floods. I think it’s important for those of us who do care to do what we can to express our concern, and show the people of Pakistan, and the world at large, than many of us care at least as much about the survival of their children as the fate of a building that once housed a Burlington Coat Factory.

So, you may be wondering why I’m bringing up a conference I attended. Well, for one thing, things that happened there have been on my mind a disproportionate amount of time compared to world events, and that does not make me proud of myself. For another thing, thanks to the kindness of a couple of generous friends, I didn’t need to get a hotel room of my own for the two nights I was in the city, as they let me use the extra beds in their rooms. Both turned down my offers of contributing to the hotel bills. So, I feel like I had a bit of a windfall. And I have decided to donate the equivalent of what I might have paid for 2 nights of hotel in New York City to organizations who are actively providing humanitarian aid to the survivors of the floods in Pakistan.

I donated to IRC and UNICEF, two organizations I have previously supported, and who are already on the ground in Pakistan. I know that there are other worthy organzations at work in Pakistan, such as Doctors Without Borders. If you would like to recommend any others, or any other ways of either helping the situation in Pakistan or voicing your concern, please share them in the comments.

The July 2010 Just Posts

Welcome to the latest Just Post roundtable, a collection of posts from the month of July on topics relating to social justice hosted here and at Cold Spaghetti.

Just Posts for a Just World, July 2010.

Readers:

If you have a post in the list above, or would just like to support the Just Posts, we invite you to display a button on your blog with a link back here, or to the Just Posts at Cold Spaghetti. If you would like to have a post included next month, you can find out how to submit posts and all sorts of other stuff about the Just Posts at the information page.

The June 2010 Just Posts

Welcome to the Just Posts, a collection of posts on topics of social justice hosted here and at Cold Spaghetti.

The posts of this months roundtable were nominated by:

If you have a post in the list above, or would just like to support the Just Posts, we invite you to display a button on your blog with a link back here, or to the Just Posts at Cold Spaghetti. If you would like to have a post included next month, you can find out how to submit posts and all sorts of other stuff about the Just Posts at the information page.

petroleum junkie

Like so many, I am angry at BP. They have done unfathomable amounts of harm to our ocean, to the wildlife that calls that ocean home, and to the economies that rely on that life. They have done damage that will take enormous amounts of time and expense to address, and much damage that may take years to recover from. Some damage may be permanent. The ongoing catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico is utterly devastating.

It’s appalling to realize how much profit BP has made–over 5 billion dollars in the first quarter of 2010–at the apparent expense of comprehensive safety measures.¹

Many people are calling to boycott BP. I’m not about to go out of my way to patronize them, but I’d never actually bought gas directly from them before.

So, what can I do to send a message?

Clearly, I need to buy my gas from a company that is more socially and environmentally responsible.

Would you believe that in a fairly recent (pre-”spill”) ranking of gas companies by social responsibility, BP came in second. Second from the top!

As gas companies go, BP has had a relatively clean and green record, boasting the following positive actions:

$600m to update pollution ctrl/workplace, working with Amnesty, working with WWF, low-sulfur gas, largest solar company, solar powered gas stations, member of CFCP, 1998 Enviro Steward Award, best overall effort in industry, abstains from political contributions, Malaysian GW education program, Non-Discrimination Policy, 100 Best Companies for Working Mothers, Greenhouse Friendly Autogas in Australia, 2004 model human rights efforts, self-imposed emissions caps

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not supporting BP, and I think they should pay heavily.⁴ I am disgusted by their irresponsible behavior, both in allowing the Gulf disaster to happen, and their actions since. (Such as using highly toxic dispersants, preventing journalists from accessing affected areas, etc.) The trouble is, their actions appear to be based on more-or-less standard practice in the oil industry.

I was horrified to learn about comparably large scale spills that have been going on in Nigeria–for decades. According to the Guardian :

…more oil is spilled from the delta’s network of terminals, pipes, pumping stations and oil platforms every year than has been lost in the Gulf of Mexico…

As you might imagine, the effects of this ongoing situation in Nigeria are devastating to local wildlife, local economies and the health and well-being of the people who live there.

Who is to blame for this? As far as I can tell (from that Guardian article and this source), several oil companies are involved: Shell, Chevron-Texaco, and Exxon-Mobil.

But you know who else is to blame?

I am.

Me, and all of the other hundreds millions of people who use the oil. Like the oil that BP has been pumping out from the ocean floors, the oil being drilled in Nigeria is headed for the shores of wealthy countries: “the Niger delta supplies 40% of all the crude the United States imports.”

We use it not just for our cars, but for a whole bunch of other things. We rely on it for our way of life. We lament when gas prices go up, but we still keep consuming. And we are so dependent that we let the oil companies trash our environment and ruin the health and livelihood of thousands of people. All in the name of profit and convenience.

I know I’m not the worst offender. I don’t make billions in profits from oil. But…

We drive. We fly. Our house is heated by oil. We use plastics. We purchase goods that are transported by trucks. Driven on roads paved with petroleum products. We buy goods that come from across the globe.

I use petroleum products every day, in just about every aspect of my life. I am a junkie.

I can’t quit cold turkey.

I’m not ready to give up everything yet, but I’m planning to cut down.

If you’ll bear with me, I’ll share some of my plans (both short- and long-term) to reduce my personal dependence on petroleum.

———
¹ I love this commentary about the grand scale hubris. It’s bitingly funny. With dinosaurs.²

² For that matter, I’m pretty amused by the FB page called “Plugging the Gulf Oil Leak with the works of Ayn Rand.”³

³ In case you haven’t guessed, I am not a Libertarian. I’d like to see heftier regulations going on in the oil industry. But that’s a whole ‘nother topic.

⁴ BP has had other “black marks,” too, mind you. In addition to those listed on the ranking site mentioned above, there appear to have been many more recent safety violations.

h/t to laloca for the links on Nigeria and gas station rankings.

The March Just Posts

Welcome to the March 2010 Just Posts, the latest (and in this case quite late¹) monthly round-up of blog posts on topics of social justice.

The March Just Posts:

The posts of this month’s roundtable were nominated by:

If you have a post in the list above, or would just like to support the Just Posts, we invite you to display a button on your blog with a link back here, or to the Just Posts at Cold Spaghetti. If you would like to have a post included next month, you can find out how to submit posts and all sorts of other stuff about the Just Posts at the information page.

Shortlink for this post: http://wp.me/p2jCr-1bK

¹ The lateness is in part be due to our having overdone things a bit in getting the Best of the 2009 JP project done. But done it was, if overdue. In sum, we’re overdue ’cause we overdo.

The Best of the Best of the 2009 Just Posts

Strike up the band! Break out the champagne! Holly and I are ready to announce the results of the “Best of the Best of the 2009 Just Posts” voting. Can you believe we’ve finally gotten here? The imperfect process has taken us almost 3 months, and it’s been a remarkable experience. We’ve learned lots, and read and re-read lots, and been gratified by your comments and support. And we got lots of help, for which we are hugely grateful. Thank you, again, to all of you who read, reviewed, promoted, voted, and were otherwise there for this project. I could go on and on, but I’ll spare you. (For now. [cue ominous laughter])

And now [cue drumroll] the voting results, by category:

SOCIAL JUSTICE as political/legal :

SOCIAL JUSTICE as health/wellness:

SOCIAL JUSTICE as socio-economic inequalities :

SOCIAL JUSTICE as advocacy/service :

SOCIAL JUSTICE…

We have a prize for each of the post authors above in the form of a hand-made piece of New Orleans art (from Holly) and a bit of fair trade Theo chocolate (from Alejna). To collect your prizes, please send your snail mail addressess to Holly at (coldspaghetti at gmail dot com) or Alejna (alejna99 at gmail dot com).

And, for the post that received the largest number of votes in any category:
When is zero not really zero? When it describes your food. by Kimberly at The Gav Menagerie

Congratulations, Kimberly! We’ve got an extra special prize for you (and we promise it won’t have trans fats!)

Editors’ Picks:
And just because we’ve gone absolutely mad with power, we also wanted to recognize a couple more posts that, in addition to all those voices that have been recognized above, have really spoken to us. So we’ve got loot for two more, too! (Mind you, I wish we could send prizes to every single participant in the project: finalists, semi-finalists, and everyone who read, commented, posted and contributed in various ways. But that much fair trade chocolate and postage would definitely break the bank…)

I had a hard time choosing just one, as so many of the posts from the year really moved me. There are, for example, quite a few posts by authors in this lists above that have moved and inspired me. For example, Stacie, Emily, Erika and Jen have all written powerfully on so many different topics, and they each have written posts that, for me, really capture the spirit of the Just Posts: posts that bring in personal experiences to the larger social issue, posts that move me emotionally as well as make me want to act. But they each already have posts on the list above. I also really appreciate it when writers bring in humor to address serious subjects, and I confess that I am quite fond of submom’s All Things on Cable TV Considered, I wish my Hotel had Porn…. (Come on, is that a great post title, or what?)

In the end, though, I decided that I want to highlight a post that has really kept me thinking, for months after I read it: When Allies Fail, Part One by Tami at What Tami Said, as well as its companion post,Part Two.

I love that these posts gives practical advice on furthering activist movements, and in particular “maintaining alliances in the face of failure.” They speak to my periodic frustrations with some members of activist communities, where the discourse between those working towards the same ends is often more bitter and caustic than that directed against those who more actively demean marginalized groups, or who actively oppose the agenda of the activist movement. But I suppose the reason that these posts stuck with me most is that they speak to me as an activist, and to my ongoing internal struggles with my imperfect self. They lay out what it means to be a member of marginalized group vs. what it means to be an ally who comes from a more privileged group. They have helped me to process thoughts and actions in my own past that have shamed me, as I have bumbled along as a well-intentioned yet often insecure and under-informed individual.

Please also see which post Holly has chosen for her editor’s pick.

If you have a post in the lists above, we invite you to display a button:


On the left is a png (transparent background) and on the right is a jpg (white background).

For more information on the Just Posts, please visit the Just Posts information page.