Dear Good Black News readers – chances are most of you are unaware that earlier this month, our goodblacknews.org site was hacked and (temporarily) completely wiped off the internet. Luckily, we were able to recover our data and immediately begin work to re-secure GBN. We would have let this remain a behind-the-scenes matter, if not for one thing – the verbiage left on our profile page, the only page we could access while the site was down. Our screenshot of it is below:
In case that is hard to make out clearly, it says:
Good Blackuski News
Likely I K Kim KK
We suspect the message above was tailored to target Good Black News and its content. Whether this was the work of a hate group, or of those posing as one to create disruption and stoke anger or fear, the bottom line is Good Black News is not and will not go down, will not be erased and will not alter our positive and pro-active vision one whit.
Over the years GBN has received several racist and/or hateful tweets, emails and comments – our typical response has been to delete, block and move on with little to no acknowledgement of the vitriol. But now, in the era of #TimesUp and #MeToo, it no longer feels right to ignore the ugliness that comes our way, even if pointing it out may invite more of it.
Regardless, we will continue to stay true to our mission and philosophy to be an unfailing and reliable source for all the good things black people do, give, and receive all over the world.
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Ever since I was four years old, I remember feeling powerless. I didn’t know it by name then, but looking back, powerlessness is what drove me every night, after I slid under my Raggedy Ann sheets and comforter, to wish and pray that when I woke up, I’d wake up a boy. Not because I felt like a boy inside, but because boys got to have what I couldn’t. Hair that didn’t have to be detangled or combed or braided. Action figures instead of dolls. Race cars with race tracks and pants to play in—always pants. In my four-year-old mind, boys had everything. Freedom. Choices. Power. Pants. But every morning like clockwork, the sun rose, I looked down, and I was denied yet again by The Man Upstairs. I was still Team Pink. I was still a girl.
I wore my disappointment more stoically than my dresses, because somehow I knew this was not a conversation to be had with either parent, or even my big sister (who was obsessed with boys in the acceptable way—with crushes and smiles and day dates to ice skating shows). I didn’t know how to voice the palpable inequity I was absorbing from our society, my culture, the media. That boys were considered the stronger, smarter, faster sex, who should be deferred to and in control. What I couldn’t find words for, but knew from the tips of my bobble ball hair ties to the soles of my patent leather Mary Janes, was that the way girls were devalued wasn’t fair, square or remotely close to justified.
Girls were just as smart and fast and valuable as boys—and once in a while, in between ads for EZ bake ovens and hungry toy babies and household products that would save me from a lifetime of dishpan hands, my TV echoed parts of this truth to me. I saw the “Bionic Woman” and “Wonder Woman” and Billie Jean King with the big glasses and small tennis racket beat the old, blustering Bobby guy in “The Battle of the Sexes.” And then there was Nadia from Romania who proved her ability at the Montreal Olympics, though her dainty and pretty were remarked upon more often than her athleticism and artistry. Even after her repeated displays of superlativeness, she stood there, half-smiling, as they gave most of the credit to her male coach. They might not have been black like me but they were girls like me, girls who liked to rip and run and use their bodies and brains for something other than to attract boys.
In my home, the messages were similarly mixed. My mom had a job just like my dad did. And as a teacher, when I went to work with her, I got to see a woman in charge. Of the space, the lessons, the students. I saw her leadership there, as well as in the house. Mom had as much authority as Dad (if not more) and my dad did the cooking. And since both parents were college graduates and educators, my sister and I were expected to do well in school, go to college and have a career.
Mom even gave my sister and me “School Years” memory books so we could track our progress from Kindergarten through High School. Who our friends and teachers were, our activities, awards, and what we wanted to be when we grew up. This aid to success ended up being one of the most painful reminders of the limited expectations the world had for me. The occupations listed for “Boys”? Policeman, Fireman, Astronaut, Soldier, Cowboy, Baseball Player. But for “Girls”? Mother, Nurse, School Teacher, Airline Hostess, Model, Secretary. In that order.
There was a “fill in the blank” space, so every year from Kinder on I filled it in with “Doctor.” By third grade, someone with a pink marker lined through my “Doctor” and checked “Secretary” instead. I rebelled with my blue marker and rubbed over the pink check next to “Secretary.” I didn’t remember this until I recently found the book, but it spoke volumes that someone in my life thought I was fantasizing if I wanted to be a doctor. In 1976. The same year of the U.S. Bicentennial, 200 years after independence from tyranny was declared and where colonists believed their liberty was worth their death. I, too, was fighting for liberty. My liberty. I wanted Batman, not Barbie, and I was tired of feeling wrong about it.
Years pass, and compliments about my cuteness are directed to me instead of my parents. I didn’t do anything to be cute—DNA did that—so this always feels weird. My mum tells me to not question or argue but just say “thank you.” Dutifully, I do. But being valued solely this way never sits right with me. I wanted “boy-style” compliments, about how clever or strong or skilled at whatever I was—praise that felt earned. I did receive some of this from the adults in my life, right alongside advice like, “Always have bus money so you don’t have to depend on boys for rides,” or, “No one buys the cow if the milk is free,” or, “It’s just as easy to marry a rich man as it is a poor one.”
When my parents separate and divorce, this family fracture ironically gets me more of what I want. Guilt presents include video games and model cars and Star Wars toys. And pants—jeans and corduroys! My mom says when she was younger, she was a tomboy too. She enrolls my sister (and eventually me) in softball, and buys me books about skateboarding but stops short of the skateboard—she thinks I will fall and break my head. If I were a boy, I think, she’d let me break my head. I try to build my own with a plank of wood and wheels from Mom’s ancient metal roller skates. It travels six inches, I fall off and it falls apart. When my dad gets a housekeeper for his new townhouse, she cleans my room and asks him how old his son is. Suddenly Dad won’t buy me any more model cars.
As puberty dawns, boys are still getting the better deal. Most of them grow into muscles and height and undeniable physical dominance. But should this give them more rights? Should more strength automatically equal more power? Boys (and several girls) seem to think so and this thinking is validated at every turn. In government, in movies, in the workplace, in classrooms. They can pick up girls at random and the girls squeal and laugh and cajole the boys to put them down instead of throwing them into the ocean/pool/sofa cushions. All in good fun, right? Not at all a display or reminder of dominance, right? Boys get to act on crushes and initiate kisses and ask for dates without being considered “fast” or “sluts” or “whores.” They also get no periods, no pregnancies, no abortions.
I am handed deodorant, pads and Judy Blume books as my teenage girl starter kit. I dislike the changes and growing pains and expectations of “blossoming into a young woman.” I focus on grades instead of gregariousness—studying instead of a social life. My big sister Lesa, a natural at young womanhood, follows in our grandmother and mother’s kick steps and becomes a varsity cheerleader. I scoff and diminish her choice by saying I’d rather be who people cheer for. Because some girls make fun of other girls for being too “girly.” I do not see the insidious danger of this for decades.
By 1986 I am a senior in high school, and being in the “smart girl” category has been a boon for me. I am not offered a cent for a cute outfit or a good hair day, but Dad pays good money for As and Bs. I also get to wear pants and sneakers and no make up everyday and no one cares. Mom and Lesa are officially the “pretty girls” with pretty power and that is alright by me. I have no jealousy or longing for “pretty” status— though most girls aspire to this, it seems more like a curse than a gift to me. Yes, my mother and sister get preferential treatment and constant compliments, which they enjoy. But I also see them experience the flip side. Men and boys would stalk them both. Put their hands on them without permission. Recklessly follow after them in traffic. This was weekly if not daily for them; for me it was rarely, but it should have been never. It should always be never. But as 99 percent of girls and women will tell you, it’s never never. I am approached by a pimp on a bus who tells me I look sad and he can take care of me. I exit at the next stop and walk the extra mile home to escape him. I am told to smile more times than I am asked for my opinion. One afternoon I’m followed by a man who screams I should be walking behind him and don’t know my place. I run into a 7-11 and stay huddled near the Ms. Pacman machine until he disappears. Oh hell no. Screw being treated like prey. Screw pretty.
Instead I want to be strong and quick. And thanks to Title IX, I can put my body in service to sports—softball, basketball, cross country. I do them all and excel at none. I am average in every way, but the existence of these girls’ teams does not live or die by any one of us having to prove exceptional ability. We have the freedom to suck and stay funded, just like the boys’ teams. This makes me wonder if society needs a version of Title IX not just for the sports field, but for every field. Shouldn’t we demand and legislate programs that provide equal opportunity for both sexes everywhere? So then over time, like with sports, this parity would become the norm? Why not try this out in politics, I think—like maybe in the Senate? After all, there are 100 senators, two from each state, so why not make them 50:50, one male and one female? Wouldn’t that be true equal representation? But I don’t know what to do with these notions, so I keep them to myself. What kind of power do I have to make them happen, anyway? I don’t my want my “smart girl” rep to become a “naive, silly, pie-in-the-sky girl” rep.
High school also offers me a lifelong mentor in the unlikely form of tough-as-nails, no nonsense, AP U.S. history teacher Mr. Safier. He values effort, intelligence and discipline above gender, race, class… or anything else, really. Finally I am celebrated for what I believe counts. Safier is more than safe harbor. He is an equalizer. After repeatedly killing it in his classes, one boy writes in my senior yearbook he’s lived in academic fear of me for almost two years. I love this. Now I have proof. Brains are my field-levelling power. And they are what get me into a top-notch university.
At first, college feels different than high school—better—like there is gender parity. Like “smart” is all that matters. Smart whomevers travel to Boston from wherever to spend four focused years getting smarter. But then the parties start. The blue lights, safety phones and shuttle bus stops are pointed out. Boys casually notice, girls mark their maps. We have political debates. Ideological tangles. We openly protest to take back the night. I make male and female friends of every race and religion and orientation and it all feels equitable and the way the real world should be. I don’t shave my legs all winter. I march with the Black Student Union to the freshman quad to demand I don’t remember what from the Dean. One Christmas I fly home sporting fake Malcolm X glasses, leather Africa medallions and a lot of opinions. My dad picks me up at the airport and later asks everyone in the family but me if I’m a lesbian. Dressed like that, politicized like that, with my “tomboy” history—what else could I be?
What my father does ask me about is what I want to do after college. Whatever it is, I’m told, I should want my boss’ job. That’s where the power is. If you don’t want your boss’ job, you have the wrong job. So if I still want to be a doctor, become Chief of Surgery. If I want to teach, become Teacher of the Year. I do journalism for fun at college because there’s no television station, so I tell him maybe I want to write. Then, Dad says, become the publisher. He sends me articles on mastery and how to achieve it. The bar is set high—as high for me as for the boy he never had, I think, so I accept his challenge. I try to jump that high. Into top positions. Into leadership. Into power.
Unlike Dad though, I think public sector work is for the birds, even when in the “power position.” Dad had achieved that – he rose from community college counsellor to assistant Dean, Dean (the youngest dean in California ever at the time), Vice President, President, then Chancellor of an entire district. He was the top dog, the leader. But then sometimes he would say if he were in the private sector, he would be a CEO making ten times as much money. But it just so happened his heart was in education, and he chose it over what could have been real wealth. Another mixed message I struggled to process. Go for heart or for money or for power? And do they have to be separate?
My power equation, I came to realize, extended beyond my father’s. Mine was leadership, plus affinity, plus money. And, luckily, I told myself, my heart was in writing—television to be specific—a very lucrative field. (Journalism, I’d discovered, paid even less than teaching). So I told him I wanted to follow the Hollywood path. I wanted to come back to California. Come back home.
We Christians like to talk about Hell a lot, so let’s talk about Hell a little. Yesterday, in the very first few daylight hours after Donald Trump’s election victory it began:
Near San Francisco, a home in Noe Valley flew a nazi flag where kids walk by to get to school.
A white middle school student brought a Trump sign to school and told a black classmate it was time for him to get “back in place”.
A gay New York City man getting on a bus was told that he should “Enjoy the concentration camps, faggot!”
The NYU Muslim Students Association found the word “Trump!”scrawled on the door of their prayer room.
A female seminary student was stopped at a coffee shop with the words, “Smile sweetheart, we beat the cunt.”
Parents of children of color spent the day picking up their children early from elementary, middle, and high schools across the country because they were inundated with slurs and harassment and unable to study.
A group of Hispanic kids in Raleigh were taunted by white children, telling them they were “going back to Mexico.”
This is the personal Hell we’ve unleashed upon our people this week.
And if you’re a white Christian and you voted for Donald Trump: You need to fix this.Now.…
For personal and political reasons, I was really hoping this morning would never come: a morning where I’d see Donald J. Trump elected to lead this nation as its 45th president. It has come, however, and as I posited in my most recent editorial, What I Want to Be Able to Tell My Children About Their Next President, I was at an initial loss for what to say.
But before I said good-bye to my children this morning, I let them know who won the Presidency. My seven year-old daughter Phoebe asked, “So it’s all boys?” I responded, “Yes. That’s how the results came in. But that doesn’t mean we stop fighting for what we believe in and what we think will be helpful for most people. And in four more years, we can go back to our polling place and use our vote to make a change.” My daughter nodded, satisfied. My nine year-old son Xavier took it in, much harder to read, but his silence was more stoic than sad. And then their father took them to school.
Like so many others, I then checked in on social media and witnessed a tide of anger, disbelief, sadness and deeply stirring, galvanized spirit pouring out of family, friends, acquaintances and strangers. Soon after, I turned on the television and watched Hillary Clinton give perhaps the greatest, most moving speechof her life. She was gracious, offering openness and healing while remaining indefatigably determined about her democratic agenda and beliefs:
Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power, and we don’t just respect that, we cherish it. It also enshrines other things –- the rule of law, the principle that we’re all equal in rights and dignity, and the freedom of worship and expression. We respect and cherish these things too — and we must defend them.
…Our constitutional democracy demands our participation, not just every four years, but all the time. So let’s do all we can to keep advancing the causes and values we all hold dear: making our economy work for everyone, not just those at the top; protecting our country and protecting our planet; and breaking down all the barriers that hold anyone back from achieving their dreams.
We’ve spent a year and a half bringing together millions of people from every corner of our country to say with one voice that we believe that the American Dream is big enough for everyone — for people of all races and religions, for men and women, for immigrants, for LGBT people, and people with disabilities. Our responsibility as citizens is to keep doing our part to build that better, stronger, fairer America we seek. And I know you will.
And then, for me, came two of her most stirring sentences:
Please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it. It’s always worth it.
Scripture tells us: “Let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season, we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.”
So as of today, I am determined not only to continue to curate and write positive stories about people of color via Good Black News, but also to step it up and be a source for even more. To help provide information, ideas and maybe even forums on ways to be pro-active for justice, fairness and inclusivity on local, state and national levels. It may be loose, unpolished and grass roots-style; it may come in the form of tweets, Facebook live posts, IG snaps and super brief posts here, as our GBN squad is as small and volunteer-based as ever – but we vow to offer what we can, when we can, in whatever way we can.
It is my renewed and expanded mission to keep heart, love, be kind, be outspoken, work with whomever has good intentions, and to use any anger and rage as fuel for positive change. And most of all, to work day-by-day, moment-by-moment, step-by-step to deliver on promises for a better, more decent and humane future for our children, ourselves and our country.
I know everyone wants this election to be over already – you’ve seen every debate, every news clip, every “shocking revelation”; been inundated in your social media feeds for what seems like an eternity with everyone’s thoughts, opinions, screeds, salvos and takes on who is or isn’t a worthy presidential candidate and why. So here, in these last days, I’ll weigh in with what my choice ultimately boiled down to for me: When the final results are in, what do I want to be able to say to my 9 year-old and my 7 year-old about who their next president is?
In 2008, this moment was revelatory: I was bathing my then almost 2 year-old son Xavier (who since birth has been negotiating the challenges of cerebral palsy and epilepsy) when Barack Obama was officially proclaimed the future 44th President of the United States. I looked at Xavier… he smiled. I teared up, my heart swelled and I told him it was just proven without a doubt that the impossible IS possible, that his own potential was limitless and he could be whatever he wanted to be when he grew up.
In 2012, more of the same – but now I got to say it to my then 3 year-old daughter Phoebe too, who in her lifetime has never known a president OTHER than Barack Obama. Wow. And now in 2016 she has the potential to see a woman rise to the top post of our nation for the first time in U.S. history – which will also be a truly awesome milestone of possibility to celebrate.
But even more than that, I want to be able to tell my children whether or not I or their father agree with the politics of our next president, that our next president is worthy of our respect and support. That our president at her or his core is a decent human being who is doing her or his best to make our country stronger and create more opportunity for the majority of Americans. That our president values and respects women, the LBGTQ community, people with disabilities, people of color and people with varied religious beliefs.
For me, it is glaringly obvious that there is only one candidate in true contention for the Presidency who fits that description: Hillary Clinton. Which is why my sister and our Lifestyle Editor Lesa Lakin produced the ad below and why I agreed to have me and my children take part in the political ad below (we are at the :12 mark). I wanted Xavier and Phoebe to know who I supported, and why it was worth putting ourselves out there to do so.
As difficult and divisive as our current times can be, as I do here on Good Black News, in everyday life I work hard to stay focussed on the positive (and some days, as we all know, that is REALLY REALLY hard). I always want my children to live in a welcoming atmosphere of possibility, encouragement and hope. Of civility and decency. Of responsibility, fairness, and a willingness to admit one’s mistakes and do better. I want the same values they are learning to live by at home and school – to listen, be polite, not name call, take turns, share – to be values I can say our nation’s leader lives by as well. Come Wednesday morning, if Hillary Clinton has won, I can say that to them.
But if she doesn’t win… frankly, I don’t know what I’m going to say.
You’ve surely heard about it by now, and likely seen it too – U.S. gymnast phenomenon Simone Biles easily captured individual all-around gold at the Rio Olympics Thursday by out-performing the best of the world’s best and fulfilling what many felt was her long-awaited destiny. Teammate Aly Raisman won the silver and Russian gymnast Aliya Mustafina took the bronze, repeating her finish in London four years ago. It was the second time the U.S. women went 1-2 in the all-around, having also done so in 2008.
But what I find to be challenging about the major media coverage of Biles beyond the footage of her feats (which I could watch all day every day) is how much it focuses primarily on three things: 1)her “humble beginnings” family story 2)how “girly” she is and 3) how she is preternaturally genetically gifted for the sport she so clearly dominates. If you need to see examples of any or all of this, simply turn on NBC to catch whatever package is running on her as they show the gymnastics competitions (I’ve personally seen the footage of her at the nail salon three separate times), go to nbcolympics.com, read pretty much any major newspaper’s feature on her (many with some tagline about what a “giant” the 4′ 8″ teen is), or heck, just click through the internet.
In addition to hearing about her once-in-a-generation, God-given talent or her twitter crush on Zac Efron, can’t we please hear, see, read and learn more about how Biles’ team crafts her routines to capitalize on her strengths? Or how exactly did she and/or her coaches come up with her signature move for the floor routine – the Biles? (Okay, I just found that one – it’s on inc.com – a business site!).
If I Google and scour a bit, I do find what I want – coverage of Biles’ discipline, work ethic and what kind of discrimination, if any, she faces as a black gymnast in a predominately white sport – like this very strong piece published in deadspin.com. I do believe, however, this should be the standard of mainstream media coverage on a sports superstar of Biles’ caliber, particularly from the official network covering the Olympics she is currently crushing. (Yes, it’s cute to see her dance to “Uptown Funk” with Hoda and reveal her and her teammates’ Kellogg’s cereal box on “The Today Show”, but c’mon Peacock – there is so much more to this athlete!)
Hopefully this weekend during the broadcast of the individual skills events, NBC will step it up – way up – because Biles surely will, and she deserves nothing but the best as she gives us all her best.
Yesterday I was tagged in a post by an old high school friend, asking me and a few others a very public, direct question about white privilege and racism. I feel compelled not only to publish his query but also my response to it, as it may be a helpful discourse for more than just a handful of folks on Facebook.
Here’s his post:
“To all of my Black or mixed race FB friends, I must profess a blissful ignorance of this “White Privilege” of which I’m apparently guilty of possessing. By not being able to fully put myself in the shoes of someone from a background/race/religion/gender/ nationality/body type that differs from my own makes me part of the problem, according to what I’m now hearing. Despite my treating everyone with respect and humor my entire life (as far as I know), I’m somehow complicit in the misfortune of others. I’m not saying I’m colorblind, but whatever racism/sexism/other -ism my life experience has instilled in me stays within me, and is not manifested in the way I treat others (which is not the case with far too many, I know).
So that I may be enlightened, can you please share with me some examples of institutional racism that have made an indelible mark upon you? If I am to understand this, I need people I know personally to show me how I’m missing what’s going on. Personal examples only. I’m not trying to be insensitive, I only want to understand (but not from the media). I apologize if this comes off as crass or offends anyone.”
Here’s my response:
Hi, Jason. First off, I hope you don’t mind that I’ve quoted your post and made it part of mine. I think the heart of what you’ve asked of your friends of color is extremely important and I think my response needs much more space than as a reply on your feed. I truly thank you for wanting to understand what you are having a hard time understanding. Coincidentally, over the last few days I have been thinking about sharing some of the incidents of prejudice/racism I’ve experienced in my lifetime – in fact I just spoke with my sister Lesa about how to best do this yesterday – because I realized many of my friends – especially the white ones – have no idea what I’ve experienced/dealt with unless they were present (and aware) when it happened. There are two reasons for this : 1) because not only as a human being do I suppress the painful and uncomfortable in an effort to make it go away, I was also taught within my community (I was raised in the ‘70s & ‘80s – it’s shifted somewhat now) and by society at large NOT to make a fuss, speak out, or rock the boat. To just “deal with it,” lest more trouble follow (which sadly, it often does). 2) Fear of being questioned or dismissed with “Are you sure that’s what you heard?” or “Are you sure that’s what they meant?” and being angered and upset all over again by well-meaning-but-hurtful and essentially unsupportive responses.
So, again, I’m glad you asked, because I really want to answer. But as I do, please know a few things first: 1) This is not even close to the whole list. I’m cherrypicking because none of us have all day. 2) I’ve been really lucky. Most of what I share below is mild compared to what others in my family and community have endured. 3) I’m going to go in chronological order so you might begin to glimpse the tonnage and why what many white folks might feel is a “Where did all of this come from?” moment in society has been festering individually and collectively for the LIFETIME of pretty much every black or brown person living in America today regardless of wealth or opportunity. 4)Some of what I share covers sexism, too – intersectionality is another term I’m sure you’ve heard and want to put quotes around, but it’s a real thing, too, just like white privilege. But you’ve requested a focus on personal experiences with racism, so here it goes:
1. When I was 3, my family moved into an upper-middle class, all-white neighborhood. We had a big backyard, so my parents built a pool. Not the only pool on the block, but the only one neighborhood boys started throwing rocks into. White boys. One day my mom ID’d one as the boy from across the street, went to his house, told his mother and fortunately, his mother believed mine. My mom not only got an apology, but also had that boy jump in our pool and retrieve every single rock. No more rocks after that. Then Mom even invited him to come over to swim sometime if he asked permission. Everyone became friends. This one has a happy ending because my mom was and is badass about matters like these, but I hope you can see that the white privilege in this situation isbeing able to move into a “nice” neighborhood and be accepted not harassed, made to feel unwelcome, or prone to acts of vandalism and hostility.
2. When my older sister was 5, a white boy named Mark called her a “nigger” after she beat him in a race at school. She didn’t know what it meant but in her gut, she knew it was bad. This was the first time I’d seen my father the kind of angry that has nowhere to go. I somehow understood it was because not only had some boy verbally assaulted his daughter and had gotten away with it, it had way too early introduced her (and me) to that term and the reality of what it meant – that some white people would be cruel and careless with black people’s feelings just because of our skin color. Or our achievement. If it’s unclear in any way, the point here is if you’ve NEVER had a defining moment in your childhood or your life, where you realize your skin color alone makes other people hate you, you have white privilege.
3. Sophomore year of high school. I had Mr. Melrose for Algebra 2. Some time within the first few weeks of class, he points out that I’m “the only spook” in the class. This was meant to be funny. It wasn’t. So, I doubt it will surprise you I was relieved when he took medical leave after suffering a heart attack and was replaced by a sub for the rest of the semester. The point here is if you’ve never been ‘the only one’ of your race in a class, at a party, on a job, etc. and/or it’s been pointed out in a “playful” fashion by the authority figure in said situation – you have white privilege.
4. When we started getting our college acceptances senior year, I remember some white male classmates pissed that another black classmate had gotten into UCLA while they didn’t. They said that affirmative action had given him “their spot” and it wasn’t fair. An actual friend of theirs. Who’d worked his ass off. The point here is if you’ve never been on the receiving end of the assumption that when you’veachieved something it’s only because it was taken away from a white person who “deserved it” – that is white privilege.
5. When I got accepted to Harvard (as a fellow AP student you were witness to what an academic beast I was in high school, yes?), three separate times I encountered white strangers as I prepped for my maiden trip to Cambridge that rankle to this day. The first was the white doctor giving me a physical at Kaiser: Me: “I need to send an immunization report to my college so I can matriculate.” Doctor: “Where are you going?” Me: “Harvard.” Doctor: “You mean the one in Massachusetts?” The second was in a store, looking for supplies I needed from Harvard’s suggested “what to bring with you” list. Store employee: “Where are you going?” Me: “Harvard.” Store employee: “You mean the one in Massachusetts?” The third was at UPS, shipping off boxes of said “what to bring” to Harvard. I was in line behind a white boy mailing boxes to Princeton, and in front of a white woman sending her child’s boxes to wherever. Woman, to the boy: “What college are you going to?” Boy: “Princeton.” Woman: “Congratulations!” Woman, to me: “Where are you sending your boxes?” Me: “Harvard.” Woman: “You mean the one in Massachusetts?” I think: “No bitch, the one downtown next to the liquor store.” But I say, gesturing to my LABELED boxes: “Yes, the one in Massachusetts.” Then she says congratulations but it’s too fucking late. The point here is if no one has ever questioned your intellectual capabilities or attendance at an elite institution based solely on your skin color, that is white privilege.Continue reading “EDITORIAL: What I Said When My White Friend Asked for My Black Opinion on White Privilege”→
I don’t know about anyone else, but I really needed this today. I specifically set my alarm this morning to wake me at 6AM (PST) to watch Serena Williams compete for her seventh – yes, take that in – seventh Wimbledon title, and to tie Steffi Graf for the most Grand Slams won in the Open Era.
I’ll admit, regardless of the week of continued brutality and violence by police against black citizens and the gut-wrenching retaliation in Dallas because of such violence, as a lifelong fan, I most likely would have been up and watching Serena anyway. But because of its timing, this victory – this continued rising, this perseverance – was that much more coveted, and that much sweeter.
Although Williams did not mention or comment on what’s been happening in America as she accepted her trophy, don’t think she’s remained silent in the media about it. On her Twitter (which we here at GBN happily follow), she spoke directly to the recent atrocities and let us know they were on her mind days before this most crucial, career-defining match:
In London I have to wake up to this. He was black. Shot 4 times? When will something be done- no REALLY be done?!?! pic.twitter.com/OaLn60G6nm
This tweet leads me to speculate that Serena was that much more focused, that much more centered and that much more desirous of the outcome that occurred – because she knew in her heart she wasn’t just winning her 22nd Grand Slam and making history for herself, but for all of us.
So thank you, Serena – for playing your best tennis today and being so damned undeniable. You have been and are a shining light and the G.O.A.T. and a champion for the ages. You are loved and supported in all of your endeavors. You are #blackexcellence. (And P.S. having Beyoncé and Jay Z in your box was on point, too! #Freedom #Formation)
First Lady Michelle Obama advocate for young women and girls across the globe with today’s frank and forthright editorial in The Atlantic magazine entitled “Let Girls Learn.”
That is also the title of her initiative with President Obama, which is aimedat doing just that. The program will not only fund leadership camps and address resource limitations, but it will also educate girls in conflict zones and address broader cultural beliefs that prevent girls from growing up to be successful, independent women.
Read her powerful essay below:
Right now, 62 million girls worldwide are not in school. They’re receiving no formal education at all—no reading, no writing, no math—none of the basic skills they need to provide for themselves and their families, and contribute fully to their countries.
Often, understandably, this issue is framed as a matter of resources—a failure to invest enough money in educating girls. We can solve this problem, the argument goes, if we provide more scholarships for girls so they can afford school fees, uniforms, and supplies; and if we provide safe transportation so their parents don’t have to worry that they’ll be sexually assaulted on their way to or from school; and if we build adequate school bathrooms for girls so they don’t have to stay home when they have their periods, and then fall behind and wind up dropping out.
And it’s true that investments like these are critical for addressing our global girls’ education crisis. That’s why, last spring, the president and I launched Let Girls Learn, a new initiative to fund community girls’ education projects like girls’ leadership camps and school bathrooms; educate girls in conflict zones; and address poverty, HIV, and other issues that keep girls out of school.
But while these investments are absolutely necessary to solve our girls’ education problem, they are simply not sufficient. Scholarships, bathrooms, and safe transportation will only go so far if societies still view menstruation as shameful and shun menstruating girls. Or if they fail to punish rapists and reject survivors of rape as “damaged goods.” Or if they provide few opportunities for women to join the workforce and support their families, so that it’s simply not financially viable for parents struggling with poverty to send their daughters to school.
In other words, we cannot address our girls’ education crisis until we address the broader cultural beliefs and practices that can help cause and perpetuate this crisis. And that is precisely the message I intend to deliver this week when I travel to the Middle East. I’ll be visiting girls at a school in Jordan—one of many schools in that country educating both Jordanian children and children whose families have fled the conflict in Syria—to highlight the power of investments in girls’ education. But I’ll also be speaking at a global education conference in Qatar where I’ll be urging countries around the world to both make new investments in girls’ education and challenge laws and practices that silence, demean, and brutalize women—from female genital mutilation and cutting, to forced child marriage, to laws that allow marital rape and disadvantage women in the workplace.
We know that legal and cultural change is possible because we’ve seen it in countries around the world, including our own. A century ago, women in America couldn’t even vote. Decades ago, it was perfectly legal for employers to refuse to hire women, and domestic violence was seen not as a crime, but as a private family matter. But in each generation, brave people—both men and women—stood up to change these practices. They did it through individual acts like taking their bosses to court, fighting to prosecute their rapists, and leaving their abusive husbands—and through national movements and legislation that brought changes like the 19th Amendment, Title IX, and the Violence Against Women Act.
Cultural shifts like these can spur countries to make greater investments in girls’ education. And when they do, that can cause a powerful ripple effect that can lead to even greater cultural and political progress on behalf of women. Girls who are educated marry later, have lower rates of infant and maternal mortality, and are more likely to immunize their children and less likely to contract HIV. Educated girls also earn higher salaries—15 to 25 percent more for each additional year of secondary school—and studies have shown that sending more girls to school can boost an entire country’s GDP.
And when educated girls become healthy, financially secure, empowered women, they’re far better equipped to advocate for their needs and aspirations, and challenge unjust laws and harmful practices and beliefs. So really, this can be a virtuous cycle.
But ultimately, for me, this issue isn’t just about politics or economics—for me, this is a moral issue. As I’ve traveled the world, I have met so many of these girls. I’ve seen firsthand that every single one of them has the spark of something extraordinary inside of them, and they are so hungry to realize their promise. They walk for hours each day to school, learning at rickety desks in bare concrete classrooms. They study for hours each night, holding tight to their hopes for the future, even in the face of heartbreaking odds.
These girls are no different from my daughters or any of our daughters. And we should never have to accept our girls having their bodies mutilated or being married off to grown men as teenagers, confined to lives of dependence and abuse. We should never have to raise them in societies that silence their voices and snuff out their dreams. None of us here in the U.S. would accept this for our own daughters and granddaughters, so why would we accept it for any girl on our planet?
As a first lady, a mother, and a human being, I cannot walk away from these girls, and I plan to keep raising my voice on their behalf for the rest of my life. I plan to keep urging world leaders to invest in their potential and create societies that truly value them as human beings. I plan to keep reaching out to local leaders, families, and girls themselves to raise awareness about the power of sending girls to school. And I plan to keep talking about this issue here at home, because I believe that all of us—men and women, in every country on this planet—have a moral obligation to give all of these girls a future worthy of their promise and their dreams.
First and foremost, all of us at Good Black News are heartbroken over the loss of the nine precious lives taken this week by senseless, hateful murder at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and our sympathies and prayers go out to the families and loved ones most acutely affected by this domestic terrorism. Even though you may already know the names of the unintended martyrs, they bear repeating, and often, so we never forget: Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Tywanza Sanders, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Daniel L. Simmons, Ethel Lee Lance, Myra Thompson, and Rev. Depayne Middleton-Doctor.
We call them martyrs because they are now part of the unfortunately long lineage of named and unnamed African-Americans subjected to racially-motivated violence in the United States. From enslaved persons who died on slave ships in the Middle Passage, to persons enslaved in the colonies, to Reconstruction, to the Jim Crow era, to the Civil Rights movement and up through today, the pattern is plain: you are black, you are hated, your life doesn’t matter, you die violently.
I have spent a lot of time this past week reading and watching coverage of this national tragedy, not only to gather as much information as possible, but also to process and attempt to think of the right words to share on how to move forward in a positive manner, as that is overriding philosophy and mission of Good Black News. I do think it is crucial first, however, to talk about WHERE this happened, HOW it happened and WHY it happened.
As everyone knows by now, South Carolina so proudly claims its antebellum history that the Confederate flag still flies on its State Capitol building. The battle at Fort Sumpter in 1861, right outside of Charleston, which occurred not long after South Carolina seceded from the Union, set off the Civil War. Tourist shops in Charleston casually sell merchandise such as mammy magnets and confederate bumper stickers, which are symbols of racial oppression to my eyes, but symbols of “the good ol’ days” to others.
The other “where” in this situation is specifically the Emanuel AME Church. The history of this church is steeped in the fight for African-Americans to create their own place of worship and the freedom to express their humanity. One of the church founders, Denmark Vesey, attempted in 1822 to organize a slave rebellion from this space, which, although thwarted, created mass hysteria among the slave owners in the Carolinas and lead to the church being burned. It has been rebuilt several times and stands as a consistent symbol of black pride, resistance and fortitude. So the choice of this place for this action makes it clear this was a targeted, racially-motivated attack.
On Wednesday night, in the spirit of fellowship, church members welcomed Dylann Roof, the unfamiliar stranger who would become their assassin, to join and participate in their bible study. He took advantage of their compassion and open hearts to forward a racist agenda that is centuries-old and still pervasive in the DNA of this country, and particularly so in South Carolina and the South. In the 1960s, people didn’t call the killers of Emmett Till, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Jr., or the four African-American girls in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama “mentally insane.” They called them what they were – Klan members and/or racists. So regardless of whether or not Roof has mental problems, his racism and desire for racial supremacy is the primary motivation behind his actions.
So, clearly knowing all of that, what are some positive, actionable ways we can move forward as a nation, in our communities and in our personal lives from this horrific event?
Petition/protest/vote for removals of all symbols of oppression and hate from government buildings, streets, tourist centers and shops.
Contribute to the donation fund set up for the families of the victims of the Emanuel AME shootings.
Support/join organizations such as the NAACP, ACLU or the National Urban League, that are dedicated to protesting racial injustice and empowering minorities.
Educate all children of all colors and creeds about the racial history of the United States from slavery to the present and call it what it is. Visit civil rights museums. Read, know and learn the history. Just as Jewish peoples around the world make sure each generation “never forgets” the Holocaust – so should we never forget about American racial injustice.
Keep calling out and protesting current injustices – we need to keep filming and reporting and being sources for unjust police actions, racial disparities in the workplace and even in our personal conversations. Let’s not be Roof’s friend Joseph Meek Jr.,who now regrets not checking his friend more thoroughly about his racist vitriol.
Love. Find forgiveness in our hearts just as the family members of several of the victims are doing for the assailant. Meeting hate with hate solves nothing.