Posts Tagged ‘Race’

*This was originally posted on the blog Exhale is Pro-Voice*

On Friday, June 17th, Exhale Executive Director Aspen Baker participated in a panel presentation at Netroots Nation entitled “FTW: Social Networks, Down & Dirty for Change.” Assembled by 16 & Loved architect Deanna Zandt, the panel also included Cheryl Contee from Fission Strategy, Anita Jackson from Moms Rising, and Rachel LaBruyere from Mobile Commons and explored case studied of social media successes. Aspen Baker presented the 16 & Loved campaign to a standing-room only crowd, exploring campaign goals, media reaction, and lessons learned. You can watch the whole panel discussion below [a new browser window will open]:

Panel attendees also helped generate quite a bit of buzz on social media about the presentation while it was happening, and you can read some of their Tweets below:

Thank you to all who attended and helped us grow the conversation through social media and beyond! If you’re not already following Exhale on Twitter and Facebook, we hope you’ll join us there in the Pro-Voice

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I live in Oakland, California and I love it. Lake Merrit is one of my favorite spots. Because I grew up on the ocean I need to be around water and so I always pretend the Lake is the ocean. It works, especially on hot summer days.

If you haven’t been here, you should check it out the next time you visit the Bay Area. There is a gondola, a bird sanctuary, and it’s regularly used for exercise. Families, women, men, couples, and people with dogs, strollers or on bikes take the 3-mile journey around the Lake on a daily basis.

Sometimes, driving by at night, I will see a man running, alone, listening to his music on an ipod. And I will be jealous. So jealous.

I will be jealous because that man is doing something that I will never in my life have the chance to experience. I will never run, alone, around the Lake at night, oblivious to my surroundings while enjoying music on my ipod. Never. Not a chance.

Not because it’s Oakland. Because I am a woman and rape is always a threat.

I was probably about 12-yrs old the first time I took a self-defense class. I learned a lot of tricks to stay aware of my surroundings and how to fight back. But the thing that sticks out most in my mind all these years later is what I was told to scream, should I ever find myself attacked.

“Never,” the instructor said, “should you yell RAPE. Always, yell FIRE.” If you yell RAPE, no one wants to be involved, but if you yell FIRE, everyone wants to be a hero.

To this day, if I ever find myself walking to my car at night, alone, I repeat “FIRE, FIRE, FIRE” in my mind over and over in case someone attacks me. I want to be ready with the right word. I want someone to want to be a hero.

The fact that I haven’t been raped has everything to do with luck. It could happen at any time, in any city, day or night. These are the statistics. While never running alone at night or being prepared to yell FIRE may make me feel better and more in control, I don’t know that it’s actually lowering my risks of being attacked.

When I look back on life, especially all the times I was drunk in high school hanging out with the guys, I’m actually quite amazed that I escaped without assault. How sad is it, that I see this as lucky, instead of normal? I know it’s not normal. Almost every friend of mine from high school has a story, a story of a time when they felt threatened, when they went farther than they wanted to because they were afraid, and when they were forced to perform against their will. Almost every friend. I don’t think a single one of them ever reported it. We probably just avoided those guys in the future. We didn’t go to their party.

When I think about how lucky I am to have escaped rape on those drunken nights in high school, I know that I have yet to escape the threat of rape. No one really does. Even if I make it to 90, rape-free, and end up in a nice, quiet nursing home, my chances of being abused may have actually increased. Sexual assault and abuse of elders is on the rise.

This is what it’s like to be a woman in a rape culture.

When I think of the young woman in Richmond who was attacked, it is hard for me to describe my feelings. Pain. Agony. Sadness. Horror.

I think of all the women I talked to when I was a sexual assault counselor at BAWAR, and I know that healing is possible, and I know the road can be long.

I think about her family, her friends, and her community. I think about the family members of those young men who attacked her and how mortified and disappointed they must feel and I know that healing is possible for them too and that their road is also long.

Rape is not only a product of urban environments. Neither is being bystander. It is not just young black men perpetuating violence against young women. Rape happens in every community, in every environment, within and between every race. It is worldwide.

Rape, as every anti-violence advocate knows, is never about sex and always about power and control. It is used as a weapon. It is used to intimidate and to hurt others. It can be used by a husband against a wife, a famous celebrity against a promiscuous groupee, an uncle against a niece, a militia against a community, a prisoner against a fellow inmate. It knows no bounds across race or sexual orientation – straight men can rape other straight men.

It’s about power, not about sex.

None of these forms of rape are acceptable. It will not be OK for these young men to have done to them in jail what they did to the young woman. Violence as revenge, to exert power and control, is not the way to transform a culture from one that accepts rape as the status quo into a culture that supports bystanders willing to intervene when someone yells – or sees – RAPE.

Most of all, it does not help to have people like Deepak Chopra say on national television that these rapists and bystanders are emotionally retarded. This makes my stomach hurt. If one in six women will be assaulted in their life, we are all bystanders. We have all stood by and watched, and laughed and took pictures because if we haven’t done something to end violence against women and communities of color, then we may as well have. Because we’re standing by, letting it happen.

So, what do we do? We do as Akua Jackson, Director of Programs for Youth Together said in her CNN interview: we all take responsibility. Parents, teachers, youth, organizations, law enforcement, elected officials, clergy, community members. Preventing rape, stopping rape, is everyone’s responsibility.

Each of us can stop being a bystander. We can be an ally. An advocate.

What I remember most from my days as a rape-crisis counselor was how few women who are raped are believed, and how few report (and often, for good reason). The primary thing we did on the BAWAR hotline is believe callers when no one else would. Rape is so horrible and unimaginable in most of our minds that we would rather play tricks on ourselves than deal with the reality of a rape of someone we love, or of the truth of someone we love being a rapist.

That night in Richmond, it seems that every single person made the wrong choice. The wrong choice to rape. The wrong choice to watch. The wrong choice to laugh. The wrong choice not to act.

Luckily, we get to make the right choice.

We can start by showing our support for this community and these families and the many people, leaders, youth and organizations who have made significant progress in creating a safer, more just community in Richmond. We can let them know we are with them and we believe.

Community Healing Event and Candlelight Vigil at Richmond High School

What: Community Healing Event
When: Tuesday, November 3, 2009, 3:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Where: Richmond High School (back Football Field), 1250 23rd Street, Richmond, CA
Who: Students, Teachers, Community Leaders, and Public Officials

Then, perhaps, I can achieve my dream. To run at night, alone, without fear. And a smile.

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Abortion is back in the news.

Dudes are debating each other about it on blogging-heads. RH Reality Check has launched a new Common Ground feature. And, we are anxiously awaiting what President Obama has to say in a yet to be unveiled plan to…well, that seems to be the question..what is the plan?

Its gotten me thinking…and reflecting back.

In our 7-short but mighty years of existence, Exhale has done an incredible amount of work to shift the dialogue around abortion. From our very first paper in 2005 (a must-read, if I do say so myself) describing the necessity and possibility of a Pro-Voice framework to the broad-array of work we do now, we have stayed true to our mission: to create a social climate more supportive and respectful of each woman’s unique experience with abortion.

Exhale has seen real, tangible results with our efforts. More women have more access to more emotional care than ever before. They have more outlets in which to get support, tell their story, and raise their voice in public dialogue. The emotional experience of abortion has been acknowledged in places where the issue was previously greeted with skepticism, and sometimes, frankly, scorn. New research, new clinic intake protocols and new blog features on abortion story-telling are just some of examples of change. I couldn’t be more pleased with all we’ve accomplished. I am that much more ready and inspired to keep going.

I feel as strongly as I did then, as I do now, that the voices of those who have helped to shape Exhale over the years are the voices describing our future. A look through their lens is a look through the lens of possibility. Many of our new supporters have not had the chance to read the words of those who have shaped Exhale’s work, and thus our current national dialogue around abortion.

In honor of all the people – allies, ambassadors, volunteers and advocates – who spoke out in recognition of the need to support women emotionally after-abortion, before it was convenient or popular to do so, I will re-publish their words here. Their voices have helped create an environment in which President Obama and his team can find open-minds for a new kind of agenda, a new tone, a transformed debate. It is what we all need.

I am proud to publish one of my favorites, from previous Exhale volunteer, Cristina Correa. She writes about how a culture that was once a place of judgment, can be transformed into a place of support. I believe this is possible and true.

Latinas: Building Support Within the Culture
By Cristina Correa

Family. Community. Religion

These are the very components of Latino culture. These are the elements that bring us together, that offer us support, that provide a sense of pride and strength. They let us know we are never alone, that we are always welcome.

This is the culture where family, community and church members, rally around young, unmarried women to insure Latino children are raised in caring, loving environments.

This is also the culture that shames Latinas who have abortions.

Growing up as a Latina in California, I knew many young, unmarried Latinas who had babies. While initially admonished for committing the sin of having premarital sex, these women could also count on their families playing an active role in helping her raise the child.

Abortion, on the other hand, was taboo. So was information about how to protect against STD’s and pregnancy. Rather than have these difficult but important conversations about our health, sexually active young Latinas just cross their fingers.

I began working in the reproductive and sexual health field because I wanted to work with Latina’s to create safe places to talk about and make decisions about traditionally taboo subjects, like abortion.

For every Latina who chooses to have a baby, knowing she will be supported, another Latina makes the decision to have an abortion en secreto. After an abortion, Latinas who have always looked to their families, communities and churches as places to receive love and support, instead feel isolated from them. Because most often these centers of culture are anti-abortion, Latinas often feel they must repress their feelings, “act normal,” and never discuss having an abortion.

The Latinas who have told me their story of abortion, whether in my work with Promotoras, providing abortion services or as a volunteer on the Exhale talkline, have talked about the silence and lack of support after an abortion. It is the perceived myths and social reactions to an abortion that can make the process emotionally difficult.

The silence around abortion has not stopped Latinas from having them. It has also not stopped them from going to church and needing the support of their families and communities. The same culture that makes the decision of abortion so difficult can also be the place of comfort and support to break the silence.

Nuestra familia. Nuestra comunidad. Nuestra Espirtualidad.

*This was first published in “Freedom to Exhale,” Summer 2004

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The rumors have been flying.

Rhianna and Chris Brown are back together, or at least, they are talking, reports People. Those who blamed Rhianna from the beginning are basking in the idea that she made it all up to begin with while those who went on the attack against Chris are left feeling betrayed and embittered about rising to her defense. Many of us are saddened or confused, and worried about the “message” her behavior is sending to other young people who have been hurt in their dating relationships.

As a long-time advocate against domestic violence, I am all too well aware about the data that tells us it usually takes a woman multiple attempts to leave her abusive partner, and that leaving is often the most dangerous thing she can do. It is easy for those on the outside to tell women they should leave and judge them when they don’t, but what these women know all too well, is that leaving can put their life in even more danger.

This is what also makes it hard to be around someone in an abusive relationship. It is hard to stand by their side when they return, when they choose to stay. It is hard to see the signs of abuse and not be able to make someone you care about safe.

Rhianna and Chris Brown are living out the reality of domestic violence in front of all our eyes, in front of the world. Being famous or rich or beautiful doesn’t make domestic violence less real or easier to escape.

Elizabeth Méndez Berry lays out the hard facts in her article, Chris Brown, Rhianna and Reality, for New American Media:

For black women ages 15 to 29 —Rihanna’s demographic— homicide is the second leading cause of death, after accidents, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A woman’s most likely murderer is her current or former romantic partner.

The problem is widespread: the U.S. Department of Justice recently reported that in 2007 intimate partner assaults on women were up 42 percent. Sadly, the response to Brown and Rihanna reveals why this goes unchecked: more time is spent attacking the individuals than tackling the problem.

The Family Violence Prevention Fund (FVPF) reminds us that this incident “is a stark reminder of the urgent need for education and prevention.” And what we need is exactly what we are missing: public voices willing to use this teachable moment to take a stand for the following principles laid out by the FVPF:

Violence is never acceptable. Nothing a victim does, and nothing in a perpetrator’s background, ever justifies violence. Those who commit violence must be held accountable. Victims of violence need and deserve protection, support and privacy.

In her article Brown V Monkey on the Huffington Post, Jehmu Greene takes it a step further and laments:

The beating Rihanna experienced at the hands of Chris Brown was tragic, but definitely not uncommon. .. black men are killing young black women in such high numbers it beats out accidents and every illness you can imagine. Where is the outrage? Where is the boycott? Where is the speech? I have never received a call to action email on behalf of black women affected by domestic abuse – at a rate 35% higher than our white counterparts.

Even celebrities like Kanye West who was one of the first to step up and take a stand for Rhianna is quoted as saying “can’t we give Chris a break?.. I know I make mistakes in life” on unaired footage of his VHI’s Storytellers.

Unfortunately, as Méndez Berry points out in her article:

whether a case involves celebrities or civilians, too many demonize one person instead of humanizing both.

We can humanize both. We don’t have to boycott or hate or blame. We must understand, support and love. This is how we end violence.

Most importantly, Yes Means Yes reminds that even if these rumors are true, there are still many things that remain untrue. Rhianna reuniting with Chris does not mean the following:

1. It doesn’t mean she is stupid.
2. It doesn’t mean we should forgive him.
3. It doesn’t mean what he’s alleged to have done is any less horrible.
4. It doesn’t mean she has betrayed any kind of sisterhood.
5. It doesn’t mean that if he hurts her again, she deserves it.

There may seem to her to be a million reasons for her to take him back. Not one of them means that she deserves to be hurt again. No one deserves to be beaten or abused. Ever. By anyone. Period.

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Thanks to Tara for posting on FB and Jezebel for raising the question first.

Cover featuring man of color:

Inside photo featuring woman of color (on right):

I am a longtime subscriber to Vanity Fair. My letter:

Congrats to Vanity Fair for putting America’s first President of color on the cover. Imagine, then, my surprise to find a virtually unrecognizable Freida Pinto inside, who seems to have lost her color. It was only because you published her name and the role that has made her famous that I was able to connect your “picture” with the real-life beautiful woman of color. What’s up?

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Shocked, sad, pissed, are some of the words I feel about what happened on New Year’s Day in Oakland. A young father was shot and killed by BART police, while he was laying on his stomach, with his hands behind his back, and with two cops standing over him. So far, the officer has not even been interviewed!!!

Here is the video.

This family, and this community, need justice. This is freakin ridiculous, unnecessary and a tragic loss of life.

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But we have a black president!

So racism is over right???

Not so much.

Check this out from Afro-Netizen:


“Post-Racial” Racism in the Post

By Dedrick Muhammad
Guest Contributor

As we come closer to the “post-racial age” of a Barack Obama presidency, I am intrigued to find that post-racial racism is already being propagated in the pages of the Washington Post.  In “An Enduring Crisis for the Black Family,” Kay Hymowitz blames the economic disfranchisement of African Americans upon the personal behavior of Black people and the silence of Black leaders concerning this behavior. Ms. Hymowitz portrays the massive national growth of single parent homes as a Black pathology.  She uses the real challenge of the breakdown in the traditional family to further stereotype and lay blame on African Americans for racial inequality in this country.

As one who studies racial inequality and the African American condition in particular, I have often been told to ignore the studies that show there is still racial prejudice in employment, homeownership, and predatory lending, and to instead look at the rapid decline of two parent households for African Americans. In the report “40 Years Later: The Unrealized American,” I looked at the decline of the two parent household for Blacks and whites and found some surprising results.

Using data from the 2007 State of Our Unions report, I discovered that the share of Black children living in a single parent home increased by 155% between 1960 to 2006. The share of white children living in single parent homes increased by 229% during this same time period. The white two-parent family has declined at a faster rate than the Black family. Yet, Ms. Hymowitz never once mentions that the increase of single parent Black families exist in a context of an even greater rate of increase in single parent white families.  Ms. Hymowitz attacks Black leaders for not addressing this issue yet as a white woman she never sees fit to mention this issue as it relates to white Americans.

Was Ms. Hymowitz so concerned about the African American community that she failed to consider that Blacks were part of a national social trend that was cutting across racial lines?  I do not know. What I do know is that she is a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, an organization with a history of concluding that the “deficiencies” of African Americans are the primary cause of inequality.  Charles Murray, formerly of the Manhattan Institute, is the most renown example of this tradition.  In 1994 he co-wrote the book “The Bell Curve“.  This best selling book argued that Black/white inequality could be explained by the inferior intelligence of African Americans.

Ms. Hymowitz’s charge that civil rights leaders historically and today remain silent on the topic of Black family and single parent households is as misleading as her portrayal of the break up of the family. Growing up in the 1980’s, I remember listening to Rev. Jackson as he urged Black men to stand up to their responsibilities as fathers. In 1995 I was proud to participate in the Million Man March, the largest Black gathering this country has ever seen. Over a million Black men came together to pledge greater responsibility for their families and to atone for their sins. The Black community and its leaders have always engaged the issue of greater self-responsibility.  One can look back to Garvey, DuBois, Fredrick Douglass and Harriet Tubman for this tradition.

In his book “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community,” Dr. King stated “History continues to mock the Negro today, because just as he needs ever greater family integrity, severe strains are assailing family life in the white community.”  Someone seriously concerned about the decline of the two-parent family would not racialize a serious national problem. They would, instead, challenge the nation to address this problem in unity.

Rev. Jesse Jackson, who grew up in a single parent home, stated in 1988 that “Protecting America’s families is not simply a problem of the poor.  It is a challenge to the entire society, a practical as well as moral challenge.” Jackson proposed a Family Investment Initiative, an initiative that would go beyond talking about family values and instead place societies’ resources behind valuing families.  As we approach the inauguration of Barack Obama, we look to the President-Elect to enact legislation and inspire a national commitment to strengthen all American families, and to bridge the racial divide that for too long has divided this nation.

Dedrick Muhammad works for the Institute for Policy Studies as part of the Program on Inequality and the Common Good.

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I Faced Race

Colorblind and colormute? Racist abuses or lame excuses?  Shoulda seen the Great Race Debate yesterday in downtown Oakland.  Dam that Kalpana Krishnamurthy and Julianne Ong Hing had me cheering for them, despite their points.  Inspired to get going after meeting the folks at Jack& Jill Politics, Afro-Netizen, and Culture Kitchen.  No time like the present! 

P.S.  The best fro-yo in the world is at Kultured Kitchen in San Clemente!

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