BLM & Sanders, Part 2: That’s More Like It

Senator Bernie Sanders opened his speech in LA on August 10 with Black Lives Matter and civil rights issues. He let his new national spokeswoman, Symone Sanders (no relation), begin the program. She is a black criminal justice advocate and a supporter of Black Lives Matter. Also, on his campaign page, Senator Sanders has put up very clear position statements regarding racism and racial inequality.

All of this is what needed to happen after the Netroots Nation incident. The Senator needed to get ahead of the argument and present his position clearly and often, because it is one of national concern. Had he done so sooner, then the Seattle protest might not have happened. If BLM protesters come to future events, he at least has these actions and concrete plans to back him up, to prove that he is listening and has plans for action.

As I said in my last piece, I like Bernie Sanders, and have always felt that he was on the right side of most issues I care about. I’m glad to see that he’s now willingly discussing this issue of national importance and giving it the platform it deserves. Well done.

PS: Much has been said about Seattle activist Marissa Janae Johnson, one of the two activists who interrupted Senator Sanders in Seattle. Accusations include that she is a plant by the Clinton campaign, was once a supporter of Sarah Palin, that she does not speak for Seattle Black Lives Matter, etc. I don’t know her and I’m not going to jump to any conclusions. I’m hesitant to make such accusations because I know how easy it is to do such things. In a past life I was involved with in-your-face type groups (ACT UP, anti-apartheid groups) that sometimes went after people that others thought should be our “friends.” Based on that experience, I know that sometimes even friends need a wake up call, and that it’s too easy to impugn the alarm clock rather than listen to it ring. The folks at This Week in Blackness Media (TWiB) discussed Ms. Johnson’s actions and interviewed her for their podcast yesterday. Take a listen and decide for yourself. (NSFW: language)

Bernie Sanders & Black Lives Matter

Last month, Senator Bernie Sanders, candidate for the US presidency, spoke at the annual Netroots Nation convention in Phoenix, Arizona. By all accounts, it did not go well for him. An organized group of Black Lives Matter protesters called on Senator Sanders to speak to the issue of black women and men being summarily executed by police in alarming numbers across the country. In particular, a group of women led by Tia Oso called for Sanders — and presidential candidate Martin O’Malley, former governor of Maryland, who spoke before Sanders — to speak the names of black women either killed by the police or who died while in police custody: Rekia Boyd, Tanisha Anderson, and Sandra Bland. Neither candidate reacted well to the protesters. Sanders announced, “Of course black lives matter,” before continuing with his stump speech about economic inequity, stating that he would address the concerns of the protests after he gave his stump speech. Bad move. Far too often, oppressed communities, whether they be people of color or queer folks, have had to hear the old bromide from white progressives “after the revolution, we’ll deal with your issues,” their concerns pushed aside as an afterthought. Senator Sanders should have known better.

It could have been a teachable moment for the Senator, except that apparently it was not. This weekend, he was about to address a group of supporters in Seattle when again a group of Black Lives Matter protesters confronted him. He did not engage with them, instead allowing the organizers of the event to try to wrest control of the microphone and situation. Ultimately, the Senator left the stage without speaking, appearing as if he could not be bothered.

Senator Sanders is making a huge mistake, the same one that Ralph Nader made in 2000. Both men run, or have run, largely single-issue campaigns. Nader mostly concerned himself with campaign financial reform and the two-party system for elections. Sanders largely addresses income inequality. Nader felt annoyed when people of color asked him about issues pertinent to their communities (racial injustice, immigration, etc.) or when LGBT folks asked about marriage equality — quite a fantasy just 15 years ago — working and housing protections, etc. In all cases, Nader balked, at best making patronizing statements, the equivalent of “we’ll deal with your issues after the revolution.” At worst, he never mentioned the issues at all. Senator Sanders appears to be following this same misguided path, sticking to his stump speech while refusing to acknowledge the pressing issues of the day facing the black community: police killings happening at an alarming rate.

I was never a huge fan of Ralph Nader, so his patronizing attitudes frankly never surprised me. But I do like Senator Sanders, so I’m disappointed that he has not handled himself better. I get it, in terms of sticking to one issue. If you want to convince people of your point of view, repeat it over and over and over again until you are blue in the face. The Republicans are famous for this. For example, we now call Social Security and Medicare entitlement programs because Republicans have foisted that term on the media and public repeatedly, until it has finally stuck, whether they are truly “entitlements” or not. They aren’t. We pay into them. But Republicans effectively changed the debate on that issue — and many more — simply by establishing a line and sticking to it.

Senator Sanders is taking a page from their playbook and I say more power to him. If he were organizing a national organization that dealt solely with the issue of income inequality, such rigidity would be justified. But he’s not. He’s running for president. Presidential candidates have to speak to all of the issues of the day, whether they want to or not. Otherwise, they run the risk of appearing above and aloof issues they refuse to address, like Black Lives Matter.

Bernie has to diversify his platform, in other words, if he wants to be taken seriously by all segments of the population. Of course income inequality is an important issue. So is the environment. So is Black Lives Matter. So are anti discrimination laws for LGBT folks. All of these are issues important to me. He has to address each of these and offer his solutions for these ills. President Obama, when he ran his first race in 2008, got it exactly right when he said that a president has to be able to work on more than one thing at a time. So far, Senator Sanders seems unable or unwilling to do this, thus calling into question his ability to effectively lead the country.

From Sea to Shining Sea – An Evolution

c. 1998

Honey, let’s go to City Hall?

Why?

So we can register as Domestic Partners with the City of Oakland.

Oh! What a lovely idea!

c. 2000

I just got laid off.

Oh no! Well, my employer grants domestic partnership benefits. If we become state registered domestic partners, we can sign you up for healthcare ASAP.

Oh! How lovely!

c. 2003

Have you seen the news?

What is it?

California greatly expanded the Domestic Partner’s laws. Now we can file state taxes jointly, have visitation rights, and survivorship benefits.

Wow!

c. 2008

I’m too afraid to get married.

Yeah.

If it gets overturned, then we may lose everything.

Du hast rechts.

And anyway, it’s really no different than our Domestic Partnership. The Feds still won’t recognize it.

Richtig.

Late June 2013

Sweetie, if we get married, then I won’t have to pay federal taxes on your benefits anymore.

Wow, really? How much will that save?

A LOT!

Oh! Will you marry me?

Yes!

Married, November 22, 2013.

June 26, 2015

Early morning. The phone rings. I pick up:  Woo hoo!

Isn’t is wonderful?

I can’t believe it!

After hanging up, I realized that my marriage to the man I’ve loved for 21 years is now legal from sea to shining sea. And I cried.

Not Promoting Positive Change – Rachel Dolezal

In light of the horrible events in Charleston, South Carolina, I was going to shelve this post, which I started writing a couple of days before the shooting. The whole Rachel Dolezal drama seemed particularly trivial by comparison. But actually, it’s not. It speaks to the ways we discuss race, discuss our troubled national history behind race, and the right and wrong ways of promoting positive change.

First, I want to look at a couple of examples of the right way to promote positive change. Both examples come from music because, well, music.

When long-time DJ, musician, and music promoter Johnny Otis died a few years back, at the ripe old age of 90, I read something interesting in his obituaries. A man of Greek heritage, he grew up in a largely black neighborhood in Berkeley, California. This would have been in the 30s and 40s, a time of extreme racial polarization in the country. In his autobiography, Listen to the Lambs, he wrote that society told him to identify either with the black kids or the white kids, so he chose the black kids. His dark complexion could have helped him “pass,” but that wasn’t where he was coming from. Says Mr. Otis in a San Jose Mercury News interview in 1994: “Genetically, I’m pure Greek. Psychologically, environmentally, culturally, by choice, I’m a member of the black community.”

In addition to his own substantial musical accomplishments, Mr. Otis was a prodigious talent scout. His discoveries included Etta James and Hank Ballard. He was also very political. When Watts blew up in 1965, he said he could understand why, given the treatment blacks have received by the police. One commentator believes that this stance, as well as other civil rights stances, probably stunted his career and kept him from becoming as big a household name as a Dick Clark or a Casey Kasem. But Mr. Otis was OK with that.

John Hammond, born in 1910, came from a wealthy white family in New England. He studied classical music in his youth, but went headlong into the world of jazz, and pretty much stayed there during most of his professional life. As an A & R man for various record labels, most notably Columbia Records, Mr. Hammond went out of his way to find talented African-American artists and promote their careers. Two names he brought to the spotlight include Billie Holiday and Count Basie. He also championed integrated bands, something otherwise unheard of in the 1930s. To that end, he encouraged Benny Goodman to hire vibraphone legend Lionel Hampton and pianist Teddy Wilson. One of his final gigs was the produce records for the 80-something year old Alberta Hunter in the late 70s and early 80s when she came out of retirement and resumed her singing career after nearly 40 years of musical inactivity.

So here we have examples of two non-African-Americans who clearly had the community’s best interests at heart. Mr. Otis was a brother-man, his soul deeply embedded within the African-American community. Mr. Hammond used his position of privilege to further the careers of great artists. Neither men claimed to be biologically black, but then they didn’t have to.

Then we have Rachel Dolezal.

Much verbiage has been spilled about Ms. Dolezal, including those who defend her as a transracial person. She and her defenders cite Caitlyn Jenner’s recent coming out as a comparable situation. I find this comparison troubling and deceptive, because I find Ms. Dolezal troubling and deceptive. Throughout her story, various facts have come under question, starting with her parentage. She claimed some black dude as her father; turns out he isn’t. She also claimed to have been beaten by her white “step-father,” the man who’s her biological father; to have been born in a teepee; and to have been the subject of racial prejudice.

The last point is particularly fascinating. While attending Howard University, she indeed sued the school on the basis of racial discrimination, among other things, as a white woman. She claimed that the school prevented her from getting a teaching assistant position and prevented her art work because she was not African-American. Yikes to the yikes.

What Ms. Dolezal did was quite different from Johnny Otis or John Hammond. She consciously perpetrated a deception, including inventing relatives and a whole backstory to her life that simply wasn’t true. Her deceptions were no different than Jayson Blair’s or Stephen Glass’. And deception, even well intended deception, ultimately helps no one. Indeed, the orgs that she worked for seem to agree. She resigned her position from the NAACP just before they were about to ask her to leave. And the Spokane city council removed her from the police oversight commission. Civil rights work requires people of the highest integrity. Ms. Dolezal has called hers into question.

As I’ve noted, there are plenty of white folks who “get it” about race and work to improve things. Indeed, the NAACP itself was founded primarily by concerned white folks. Ms. Dolezal could have been one of those people, but she chose not to be. She and her prevaricating ways epitomize the wrong way to promote positive change.

Murder and the Myth of Fossilized Racism

The horrific shooting that took place at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina cannot be allowed to exist in isolation. It happened in of one of the oldest black churches in the country, the site of past racial violence. No doubt the killer, Dylann Storm Roof, knew this.

The Daily Beast quickly put together a profile of Roof. In it, they interview folks who knew him, including John Mullins who went to high school with him. Says Mr. Mullins:

“I never heard him say anything, but just he had that kind of Southern pride, I guess some would say. Strong conservative beliefs,” he said. “He made a lot of racist jokes, but you don’t really take them seriously like that. You don’t really think of it like that.”

To be sure, Mr. Mullins concluded that “the things he said were kind of not joking,” but the substance of his statement is deep and profound, and points to why this murder spree happened, why racism still thrives unchecked. Many in our society still don’t believe that racism exists. Such a mindset believes that racist jokes are just fossils of a bygone era, like dinosaur bones you find in the ground. They are inert, dead. The Confederate flag is just a symbol of Southern Pride, and that is all.

Dangerous nonsense. Racism lingering inside of a joke is just as potent, just as alive, just as vital as racism expressed in violence. It is far from inert. One cannot divorce the flag from its history and its continued symbol of white supremacy. One should not need a disaster like these horrible killings for this message to come through.

Mr. Mullins, upon reflection, realized that Roof’s racism was real. Some others still haven’t gotten the message. Some folks have created a page of support for the killer on Facebook.

Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 7.54.15 AM

Fossilizing racism does not make it go away. Confining it to a bygone era does not make it go away. Labeling it a “youthful indiscretion” does not make it go away. Do not make this man out to be a victim. Learn to recognize his hatred for what is it. Otherwise another Dylann Storm Roof will come out of the woodworks and strike again.

Blog Tour – Willem of the Tafel by Hans M. Hirschi

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Willem of the Tafel by Hans M. Hirschi

Willem of the Tafel by

Hans M. Hirschi

Published by

Beaten Track Publishing

Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, LGBT, Post-Dystopian, Young Adult

194 pages

Release Date: May 28, 2015

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The world we know is gone, destroyed by greed and ignorance. On a post-apocalyptic Earth, centuries into the future, few have survived the Great War. Some have taken refuge deep inside a mountain. One of them, Willem, is exiled to the surface… Alone and struggling to survive, Willem embarks on an epic journey, making a discovery that could once again alter the future of humanity. Willem of the Tafel is an epic tale of survival, second chances, hope and undying love.

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Check out the trailer for Willem of the Tafel

Excerpt

“APPLYING A FORMULA based on the need for sunlight, nutrients and yield, the scientists of Tafel had produced beans, tuber crops, fungi, cabbages, berries and citrus fruit that provided the vitamins, calories and antioxidants needed to keep sicknesses at bay and people alive. The Tafel had long ago turned to a vegan diet: no animal could offer the efficient nutrition vegetables provided, given their own need for nutrition, not to mention space.

Bongani had never even seen an animal, or nothing larger than the spiders and bugs cohabiting the caves with his people, though had he heard of them, and that humans had once eaten them. There were no pictures left, no books, nothing, at least not to Bongani’s knowledge.”

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Follow the Willem of the Tafel Virtual book tour here

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Hans M Hirschi (b. 1967) has been writing stories ever since he was a child. Adulthood and the demands of corporate life efficiently put an end to his fictional writing for over twenty years.
A global executive in training and channel development, Hans has traveled the world and had previously published non-fictional titles.

The birth of his son and the subsequent parental leave provided him with the opportunity to unleash his creative writing once again. With little influence over his brainís creative workings, he indulges it, going with the flow.

A deeply rooted passion for, faith in a better world, in love, tolerance and diversity are a red thread throughout both his creative and non-fictional work. His novels might best be described as “literary romance, engaging characters and relevant stories that wonít leave you untouched, but hopeful.”

Hans is a proud member of the Swedish Writersí Union and the Writersí Center in Sweden.

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The giveaway for Willem of the Tafel has 11 randomly chosen winners; 10 will receive $15 Gift codes to the author’s shop, but the grand prize winner will receive a free ticket to GayRomLit retreat 2015, in San Diego, CA, happening October 15-18th, 2015. Ticket value is $175, but if you win the grand prize, you’re responsible for travel and accommodations. Please notify the author in advance should you win and be unable to attend, so we can choose another recipient to enjoy the prize!

Good luck and happy reading and winning!
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The Dust Journals – Part XVIII

Wednesday, May 25, 2157

I got up early that morning, went to the kitchen and had a small bowl of fruit. I ate alone. I remember thinking that it was the first time I ate alone since getting there. The thought did not linger. I switched to thinking about my library and all the books I had. I plotted in my head where to resume my reading. I had the bookcases all organized. I had to find where I left off. It never occurred to me to look in these writings for the answer. It never occurred to me that I may have talked to Walter about it, and that he would remember. I went back into alone mode, the mode I had known most of my adult life.

I returned to the living room and began gathering my stuff. That’s when Walter came out. I noted how disheveled he looked in my head, but didn’t say anything. Instead, I said that I wanted to build a cart or something to help me carry this stuff back to the Arroyo. Do you have anything? He just looked at me for what seemed like an hour. My mind was racing around with a ton of details, and he was just staring at me, looking like crap and staring at me. Finally, he said that he couldn’t think of anything that would work. Fine, fine, I snapped, then leaned over and started clothing buckles and that sort of thing. I could feel him just standing there, looking at me, but I refused to say anything else.

So then he said, you know, you really won’t be able to get over the hills. How will you get over the hills? I told him that I’d go the way I came before, going through the old Caldecott 4th bore. But how will you get there? The way I came, I said.

Until that moment, you’d have thought I had just materialized at the end of the tunnel. I remember that day, when I came through the tunnel and stared at the Bay Area for the first time since childhood. I saw the Albany Hill, now just an island, and a small one at that. I saw how gigantic the whole body of water had become. The old highway ended abruptly, and I had to scale down to go down the side of the hill. I had forgotten about all that. Somehow, I had erased all that from my head. All I had to do was read my own damn writing.

I was so caught up, living “in the moment” that I had forgotten the past. Forgotten the days I had spent with Walter. Forgotten the nasty baby killers down shore. Forgotten nearly dying on the beach, even though I was only a quarter mile from the desal plant. The past vanished. All I saw was that pipe feeding water to the A-fuckers up north. A fantasy. I anxiously wanted to return to reality. My anxiety drove me into flight mode, but a slow motion flight mode, a disorganized flight mode. A predator in pursuit would have found me easy pickings. I substituted dithering with action, with actually doing something.

While I did my mental gymnastics, Walter stared at me. Finally, I looked at him and said, you still willing to take me back? He said, yes.

For the Love of Healthcare – A Call for Help

In 2012, I explained my reasons for supporting President Barack Obama’s reelection. One word: healthcare. The Affordable Care Act had not yet begun so its benefits at that time were still largely an unknown. I just knew that if Mitt Romney had been elected, he would have trashed it, despite having instituted something very similar in Massachusetts when he was governor there. And I did not want that to happen because I knew that I had siblings for whom the ACA would prove most beneficial.

I was correct. Though ultimately my brother Robert did not survive his cancer diagnosis, at least he didn’t have to worry about paying for the treatments he received. Because of ACA’s expanded Medicare provisions, and because California was smart enough to take advantage of them, Robert was covered.

And now my sister Tania is benefiting from ACA. She has contracted a similar, bizarre ailment that took me out for a bit last fall. Only in Tania’s case, she required some minor surgery. She continues to heal up and improve, though with some setbacks, as are possible during a serious illness. However, thanks to the ACA, her copays are not in the tens of thousands. A single-payer healthcare plan, of course, would be the answer. Then she would have no expenses at all, the same as my brother. We’re not there yet.

Tania is a professional make-up artist — check out her blog on all things make-up. She is a musician. She is also a professional baker. She’s a triple threat, and more besides. Brimming with creativity and grounded with business training — she attended a business-themed magnet high school before going to UCLA — Tania is a freelancer. The ACA was made for folks like my sister, folks who go into business for themselves as freelancers or entrepreneurs. And it helps. However, needless to say, she has not been able to work while she recovers from her ailments. And while her medical bills are lower thanks to ACA, they exist nonetheless.

I set up a GoFundMe page to help her with expenses. We set a goal of $5000, which we are approaching thanks to many wonderful, generous donations. Please donate to her fund, if you can. I’m hopeful that she will be back on her feet soon. She has too much more to do, more to give.

Many thanks. Love you madly.

The Dust Journals – Part XVII

Friday, May 20, 2157

Walter and I took the long elevator ride back to the surface. His electric car sat exactly where he left it, fully charged now, good to go. That’s when I broke the silence: Take me home. He asked, why. I said, I don’t want to be any part of this. He said, any part of what? I said, any part of this – this fantasy, sending all the water to privileged idiots in the north. I said, I divorced myself from that world a long time ago. I said, I could live up there, if I wanted to. Hell, for all I knew, I might still have claim to property in Newfoundland. If I had a way to get there, I could go now and suck off the teat of whatever desal plant services that part of Fake Paradise. But I gave that shit up when I was 20. I didn’t want to live that kinda life. I still don’t. I can’t live in a desal plant. Walter asked me where was I going to live. I said, well, back in the Arroyo, back at the house there.

We got into his car and he drove us back to the main plant. Neither of us said a word. I stewed in my head all the reasons why this was bullshit and why I didn’t want to live under it. Walter no longer existed. I sat in his car trying to think of where all my stuff was, how much food and water could I take with him. Then he suddenly said, I can take you back.

I had the nerve to get angry at him. I said, Thank you, but I’ll manage. He said OK. It was the first time I heard an edge in his voice since I first met him. I didn’t care at the time. Like I said, he no longer existed.

When we got back to the plant and went inside, he went into the kitchen. I went into the living room. He came into the living room just as I was gathering my stuff there, carrying a bunch of containers. He said, I would need these to carry water with. I looked at him and looked at the containers, and said thanks. He disappeared. I don’t know where he went and just remember telling myself at the time how much I didn’t care where he went. I just wanted to get my stuff together and plan the trip back to the Arroyo, back to my house, back to my books.

A few hours passed. I had fallen asleep on the sofa. I woke up, startled when Walter threw some blankets on me. He said that I could sleep there and that he was going into his room. Then he turned and walked to his room and closed the door. He had given me his bed, both after I first arrived and then when I tried to pound my brains out in his library. Now I was on the couch. And I was too dumb to figure it out at the time.