Author Archives: mrswhatsit9

On “Values” Voters


I don’t know about you, but I am heartily sick of the religious right insisting that they’re the only “values” voters, and the rest of us are…what? Voters with no values whatsoever? It’s like their insistence that they’re the only ones who are patriotic and love America (and the rest of of us are…what? Traitors who hate America? Well, at least according to Ann “Skeletor” Coulter, we are), and it’s equally wrong.

I am a values voter. Here are the values I vote on:

I believe that women are full adult human beings, with the same rights as men, which includes full bodily autonomy and integrity, full and exclusive control over our reproductive choices, and equal pay for equal work.

I believe that climate change is real, and caused by humans burning fossil fuels, and that we have a responsibility to do something about it.

I believe that every creature on our beautiful, fragile blue-green planet has a right to clean air, clean water, and habitat preservation. Humans may be at the top of the food chain, but our needs and wants do not supercede those of the other inhabitants of this planet we share.

I believe that citizens of a community exist in relationship to each other and bear responsibility to each other, which includes adequately funding a strong social safety net for those who can’t do for themselves.

I believe that every person has the right to a high-quality education, and that we have the responsibility as a community to fund that for every member of our community.

I believe that health care is a human right and every person should have access to it.

I believe that black lives matter, and that ending legal discrimination against people of color didn’t endow us with a magic wand we wave that automatically eliminated the legacy of hundreds of years of racism and white supremacy, and that we, as a society, have an ongoing responsibility to make amends for that legacy.

I believe that Americans have a right to bear arms (I grew up in a hunting culture), but that we need gun safety protections that are at least as rigorous as the safety protections that govern other potentially dangerous but highly useful tools like cars.

I believe that we want community goods like safe roads and bridges and fire departments and trash removal and police forces and a military and a thousand other things, and that we have a shared responsibility to pay for them – even the ones that we don’t personally use ourselves.

I believe that work – all work – brings dignity, and that work – all work – deserves to be compensated with a living wage.

I believe that “unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required” (Luke 12:48), so those who have been lucky and hard working enough to have more (money, power, status) OWE more to the community.

I believe that “all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals,” so consenting adults have the absolute right to organize their romantic partnerships in any way that suits all the parties involved.

I believe that the right to vote is both fundamental and a civic duty, so we need to make it as easy as possible for every citizen to fulfill that duty.

I believe that America is a nation of immigrants, and that is one of our greatest strengths, so we need to do everything in our power to create permanent legal status for the millions of undocumented, law-abiding, tax-paying residents who contribute so much to our economy and our communities.

And I vote on these values, to coin a phrase, RELIGIOUSLY.

I like these values. They’re about doing unto the least of these (Matthew 25:40). They’re about comforting the afflicted (Mother Jones). They’re about feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, and educating the ignorant (the Catholic Works of Mercy and the Jewish mitzvah of hospitality). They’re about welcoming the stranger (Matthew 25:35).

Do those sound a little more Christ-like than what you generally hear out of the religious right? Well, maybe they’d benefit from spending a little more time reading their bibles and a little less time watching Fox News.

What values do you vote on?

Image found here.

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter @MrsWhatsit1.



Why Do We Hate Poor People?


“What are you saying, Mrs Whatsit? We don’t hate poor people! We feel bad for them and help them with government programs and charity!”


Then why is our minimum wage still only $7.25? It’s purchasing power was highest in 1968 (which is before I was born, and I’m not young), and it’s declined by almost 10% just in the past 9 years. By the way, if you work 40 hours a week for 52 weeks of the year (that is, you take NO time off whatsoever for any reason), at $7.25, you’ll earn $15,080. Could you live on that for a year?

Then why do we require drug testing to get public assistance? Studies show welfare recipients use recreational drugs at much lower rates that the rest of the population. (Could that be because RECREATIONAL DRUGS ARE EXPENSIVE? Hmmmm….)

Then why do we require single mothers with children to work or lose their benefits (which actually ends up as “work AND lose their benefits” since every dollar you make results in lowered benefits)? Particularly when, over the long-term, those “welfare to work” requirements almost universally leave people worse off – without stable employment and deeper in poverty?

Then why are we about to start requiring that Medicaid recipients work to keep their health care? Yes, in states that opted into the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, there has been a rise in young, unemployed, single men getting coverage. You know what else is true about young, unemployed, single men? THEY DON’T USE A LOT OF HEALTH CARE. And by the way, the overwhelming majority of low-income people who can work already do work, even Medicaid recipients.

Then why do we judge the person in line in front of us at the grocery store who buys a steak with a SNAP card? SNAP benefits average $126 a month per person. Could you feed yourself for a month on that? What if your living situation is unstable, so you can’t buy in bulk, and you don’t have access to a full kitchen? Or you work two (or more) jobs, so you need food that you can prepare fast that has plenty of calories? Or you can’t afford to waste money on stuff your kids might refuse to eat, like broccoli or canned beans? And by the way, on that steak, aren’t poor people ever allowed to have a reason to celebrate? Or just want to taste something delicious? Also by the way, you can only have about $2000 in assets (i.e., money in the bank) on SNAP, so I sure hope you don’t have unforeseen emergencies ever, because you won’t have the cash to cover them.

Then why is so much of the housing that’s available to the poor, whether in housing projects or through section 8 vouchers, in horrible condition? Or totally unaffordable? Or too small for their families? Or all of the above? (For more on this, read Matthew Desmond’s outstanding Evicted.) And that poor housing can have life-long effects on children who are raised in situations where they’re exposed to lead paint, mold, radon, carbon monoxide, and the like.

If we don’t hate the poor, why do we treat them like they’re less than human? Like their lives don’t have meaning?

I blame, at least in part, our Puritan heritage.

If it’s been awhile since your last American history class, recall that the earliest settlers in the New World, particularly in the New England colonies, were frequently Puritans. Having decided that the Church of England were insufficiently “reformed” for their tastes and were really just papists in disguise, they were insufferably self-righteous and not too popular, and so fled religious persecution in the Old World to found, notably, the Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay colonies (among others).

One of the key tenets of Puritanism is that one is saved only by grace, not through works. God alone chooses the redeemed – those who try to “earn” redemption through their works are actually damned (take that, Catholics!).

Relatedly, they believed “that money and wealth were gifts from God.”

So if money and wealth are a sign of God’s favor, what does it mean if you’re poor, if you don’t enjoy money and wealth? Does that mean God doesn’t favor you?

Although some scholars of Puritanism claim that doesn’t necessarily follow – that in fact, poverty can also be a sign of God’s blessing, teaching you to control your desires – in practice, “rich = favored by God, poor = not favored by God” became deep seated in our national consciousness.

I think there’s also an element of the same pathology that makes women unsympathetic jurors in rape cases: we have to “other” those people who are in a situation we don’t want to be in as a talisman of protection that we’ll never find ourselves in that situation. “I’ll never be raped because I would never dress like that.”  “I’ll never be poor because I would never choose to buy a steak when my budget is tight.”

Our psychology and, in the US, our history, inclines us to think that people get what they deserve – rich people earned it; poor people are lazy and make bad choices. The alternative – that life can be pretty random; that some people have advantages that others, through no fault of their own, lack; that “he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45) – is just too painful to fathom.

You know what fixes that attitude? Getting to know poor people.”The more you engage with with people unlike you and learn about their lives and stories, the harder it is to see them as stereotypes or to dismiss their challenges as trivial.

Unfortunately, we have become, to quote the Kerner Commission Report: two Americas, separate and unequal. Very few middle and upper class people have regular contact with poor people – we don’t live in the same neighborhoods, commute in the same ways, work in the same places, worship in the same churches, send our kids to the same schools. We lack an understanding of each others’ lives. We lack empathy for each other.

There is no simple solution for a lack of empathy. It requires educating yourself – with personal stories of poor people’s real lives, with data about income inequality and the decline of socioeconomic mobility, with a theoretical understanding of the role of the “natural lottery” and the myth of meritocracy. It requires doing the hard work of challenging your inherent biases – moving past first thought into second thought and first action. It requires stepping out of your comfortable upper-middle-class daily bubble and intentionally encountering different people. Want a good place to start? Try getting around entirely on public transportation (no cheating with Lyft) for a week. Or volunteering at a local shelter one Saturday morning. Or tutoring a kid in a school in an economically depressed neighborhood. It requires effort. But that’s not a valid excuse not to do it.

Oh, and you know what’s been proven to work for fixing poverty? Giving poor people money, without conditions, so they are free to make choices about how to spend it in the ways that will best improve their lives. You know, kind of like the rest of us do.

Tenement image: from Jacob Riis’s famous 1890 book How The Other Half Lives: Studies Among the Tenements of New York

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter @MrsWhatsit1.

I Want to Talk About Dianne Feinstein


And Nancy Pelosi.

And Hillary Clinton.

And every other woman who’s ever been told by men to sit down and shut up (so all of us, really).

Notice how it’s always older women who are told to fuck off?

“You’re too old and voted for the Iraq War. You need to retire.”

(In favor of a man, of course.)

(And AGAIN with the goddamn Iraq War? In the words of Elsa: “Let it GOOOOOOOO!!!!!”)

“The Republicans don’t like you. You need to step down.”

(In favor of a man, of course. Who’s not particularly down with supporting women’s reproductive rights. But who cares, right? Bitches who have sex deserve what they get.)

(And we’re basing our decisions on what Republicans like because why now?)

“You lost the election. Go into hiding for the rest of your life. Oh, and maybe learn to knit while you’re there.”

(You know who couldn’t win the goddamn primary, but is still trying to take over a party he refuses to join? And has written TWO shitty books? And is 76? And will probably run again in 2020, Goddess help us all? But I digress.)

Joe Biden voted for the Iraq War. And lost the presidential primary in 1988. And is 75 years old. And was Obama’s VP. And is probably also going to run in 2020.

John Kerry voted for the Iraq War. And lost the presidential election in 2004. And is 74 years old. And went on to be Secretary of State in Obama’s second term.

Chuck Schumer voted for the Iraq War. He’s 67. And is the current Senate Minority Leader.

Harry Reid voted for the Iraq War. He’s the former Senate Minority Leader. And he was 75 when he left Congress.

John Edwards, Tom Daschle, and Chris Dodd all voted for the Iraq War. They’re all out of Congress now, but Chris Dodd was until recently the chief lobbyist for the Motion Picture Association. He’s 73 by the way. Tom Daschle, who is 70, is also a powerful lobbyist. Things didn’t go quite so smoothly for John Edwards (who, at 64, is a spring chicken comparatively), but it was his own damn fault for committing campaign finance fraud covering up an affair and a secret child. He is, by the way, still a practicing lawyer.

As far as I know, none of them know how to knit.

Look, maybe we need to talk about a mandatory retirement age from Congress. Hell, I’m a GenXer. We got so tired of being told “it’s not your time yet” with Boomers refusing to make way that we all went out and started our own things, and now y’all are moaning and crying that there’s no one to step into senior leadership positions in your organization, and we’re all, “Nah – got my own gig. Like it. Pass.” But again, I digress.

I feel like a broken record, but why is it always ALWAYS ALWAYS women – particularly older women – who somehow need to clear the way for MEN? (because it always seems to be men)

I’ll close this rant with an image I found during the 2016 campaign that still resonates with me:


Is telling women – ONLY women, ALWAYS women – to sit down and shut up when they do something you don’t like or dare to try something unprecedented and fail ALWAYS 100% of the time not about the women, but about misogyny? Well, I’ll allow that it’s possible that there’s A CASE (maybe one) where it’s not. But I would surely appreciate it if men on the left who are supposed to be our allies would take a minute BEFORE yelling “make me a sammich, bitch” to consider that it might be.

Image found in the public domain. It’s Dianne leading a march in remembrance of slain San Francisco supervisor (and gay icon) Harvey Milk (and slain mayor George Moscone) in 1979. 1979. Tell me again how she’s too conservative?

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Once More Unto the Breach, Dear Friends


In the past 15 1/2 months, we’ve marched and marched and marched. For Black Lives, for Women, for Dreamers, for Truth, for Science, for the Affordable Care Act, for Climate Change Awareness, for Immigrants. MARCH MARCH MARCH MARCH MARCH.

And a lot of us have marched on from marching to contributing to #TheResistance in other ways.

Maybe you’ve started volunteering in your community more.

Maybe you’ve joined your local chapter of Black Lives Matter, or Indivisible, or SURJ (Standing Up for Racial Justice).

Maybe you’ve become a pro-level ACLU People Power texting activist.

Maybe you’re raising money hand over fist for Swing Left.

Maybe you’ve trained with the League of Women Voters so you can register people in your community to vote.

Maybe you’ve become active in your local Democratic party, or have campaigned for particular Democratic candidates.

Maybe you’re training to run for office yourself with EMILY’s List or Emerge America or Run For Something.

Well, it’s time to break out the poster board and markers, buy some new walking shoes, and re-memorize your attorney’s phone number in case you get arrested (and if you don’t know to write in somewhere on your body in Sharpie before you venture out, well, now you do).

Or to quote King Henry from Shakespeare’s Henry V:

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage;

Because it’s about goddamn time for some “hard-favour’d rage.”

On Valentine’s Day, 17 people were shot at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. It was only the latest mass shooting in the US in a history of horrific violence that stretches back to 1966 and has claimed over 1000 lives. The Washington Post has an excellent interactive feature that documents the carnage.

This has been going on for more than 50 years, and no one – and by “no one” I mean politicians who are bought and paid for by the National Rifle Association, or who are at least afraid of them – does anything. (And it ain’t just Republicans, although it is majority Republicans.)

I know that advocating for gun control can feel futile. We watched 20 six year olds get killed at Sandy Hook, and legislators (mostly, but not entirely, Republicans) pretty much responded: “Look, I can pretend to care about fetuses because it’s a wedge into controlling women, and those uppity bitches need to be taken down a peg. But I don’t give a shit about dead babies when it  might interfere with my gun lobby money! The reason I made fun of President Obama for crying about dead six year olds is because empathy is for suckers! (Did I mention I’m also a complete sociopath?)”

(Yeah, we already got there on that last bit, buddy.)

Well, not this time. This time the shooting victims were new media savvy teenagers, and they have had enough.

It started with student journalist David Hogg bravely documenting the shooting WHILE IT WAS HAPPENING.

It spread to floods of tweets students aimed at NRA-supported politicians, including so-called (for now) President Trump, who was elected in part due to MASSIVE NRA spending on his behalf (and, of course, the Russians, and potentially the Russians funneling money to Trump through the NRA).

It progressed through Hera Emma Gonzalez’s impassioned speech (may the Goddess guard her):

And now, the kids marching, and we need to march with them.

Saturday, March 24…

the kids and families of March For Our Lives will take to the streets of Washington DC to demand that their lives and safety become a priority and that we end gun violence and mass shootings in our schools today.

March with us in Washington DC or march in your own community. On March 24, the collective voices of the March For Our Lives movement will be heard.

You can find out more, register to join them in Washington, DC, donate, or connect with people in your own community to stage a local march at You can also follow #MarchForOurLives or @AMarchForOurLives on Twitter for the latest news.

Too many times, we’ve been through this. Terror, tears, “thoughts and prayers,” memorials, funerals, and…nothing. EJ Dionne wrote an impassioned op-ed this week about gun control, and how US politicians’ (mostly, but not entirely, Republicans’) inability to do anything at all on an issue that has EXTREMELY wide-spread support indicates that, at least in this area, the United States is a “corrupt failed state.” It’s easy to become discouraged and assume that since nothing has ever changed in response to the horror, nothing ever will change.

Students and young people have often been in the forefront of major societal change from the Freedom Riders and SNCC to the Black Panthers to anti-war movements across time to the women’s liberation movement. This just might be another one of those moments.

Or as Barack Obama would put it:

Screen Shot 2018-02-22 at 4.46.03 PM

So don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.

Image found at the March’s website.

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter @MrsWhatsit1.




“Wait! What? The Equal Rights Amendment is dead. The ratification deadline passed more than 35 years ago!”

Hold on there, Sparky. Not so fast.

A little history. The first draft of the Equal Rights Amendment was crafted by suffragist Alice Paul in 1923, three years after women won the right to vote. It read:

“Women and men shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction.”

It eventually morphed to its current version:

“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

The amendment was introduced in EVERY SINGLE legislative session between 1923 and 1972, when it was finally achieved the required 2/3 votes in both Houses of Congress. Then it was up to the states, 3/4 of which (38) would have to ratify for it to become part of the Constitution. The initial deadline for ratification was set as 1979, and when that year came and went without the required 38 ratifications, Congress extended to 1982. That deadline also came and went, with only 35 states ratifying.

“That’s great, Mrs. Whatsit. I could’ve read the Wikipedia entry my damn self. It’s been mostly dead for more than 35 years. In fact, Wikipedia indicates that, since then, five states have actually rescinded their ratifications. What’s your point?”

This is where it gets complicated. NOW (the National Organization for Women) sued the states that had rescinded. The US District court said the states could rescind, but it went to the Supreme Court, which vacated that decision because “the Amendment has failed of adoption no matter what the resolution of the legal issues presented here.” So technically, those five states are still on the record as ratifying, and the Constitution itself makes no provision for a state to change its mind.

Meanwhile, in 2017, Nevada became the 36th state to ratify.

Here’s how things stand now:

Because the Constitution itself doesn’t address this question directly, we’re required to go to the 1939 Supreme Court Coleman v. Miller decision, which was about an amendment that dealt with child labor laws. Congress never set a deadline for ratification, so according to SCOTUS, that means that the Child Labor Amendment is still technically pending before the states (although it’s not exactly urgent business these days because of the Fair Labor Standards Act).

In fact, ratification deadlines were not common until the Eighteenth Amendment. The Nineteenth Amendment didn’t have one, but every amendment since has.

ERA activists are arguing that the Coleman decision, combined with the lack of Constitutional process for rescinding ratification, means that if we were able to get 38 states to ratify, Congress could basically change its mind about the deadline, and voila, the ERA becomes Amendment 28.

In the intervening years, the ERA has been periodically reintroduced in Congress, and in 2011, Representative Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced legislation to remove the ratification deadline. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) followed up with a Senate bill requesting the same the following year. Neither passed. And in 2013, the New Mexico State legislature passed a resolution requesting removal of the ratification deadline as well. It was entered into the Congressional record.

I should stress: This Coleman-based theory has not been tested in the courts. And if we were to get those last two states to ratify, it almost certainly would. The five states that rescinded would likely come back to try to yank their ratifications again, and no doubt someone would bring suit claiming that Congress couldn’t remove the ratification deadline after the fact. SCOTUS would almost certainly be a 4-4 tie, split on ideological lines, plus Anthony Kennedy, and who knows what he would do? Meanwhile, the current GOP Congress is not a particularly friendly place for women’s rights, so getting legislation passed in both Houses to remove the ratification deadline is not exactly assured.

All that being said, regardless of what happens this fall (and early signs seem to indicate not just a blue wave, but a blue tsunami), the GOP will not control both Houses of Congress forever. So the best thing those of us who care about equal rights for women can do is to be ready when that day comes.

What do I mean by “be ready”?

Get those last two states to ratify.

Who’s in play?

The deep South, of course, which is a lost cause in more ways than one. Utah, Arizona, Missouri, Oklahoma, Illinois, and Virginia.

Although pro-ERA activists are targeting ALL of the above, the most promising states for ratification appear to be Illinois and Virginia. (I still can’t figure out why Illinois hasn’t ratified yet. It’s a puzzlement.)

Virginia, while technically still the South, is an increasingly indigo purple state that hasn’t chosen a Republican in a state-wide election in almost a decade. After the state-wide blue wave that nearly flipped control of the House of Delegates, Virginia activists made another run at ERA ratification in this year’s legislative session, which, sadly, just went down to defeat.

But the fight continues. What can you do?

Glad you asked!

Ratify ERA has a great list of suggestions. Short version:

  1. Stay informed.
  2. Spread the word (like this blog post!).
  3. Lobby (particularly if you live in Illinois or Virginia or have family or friends there).
  4. Donate (of course).

Equal Means Equal has some solid ideas, too.

Image found here. (and do click the link and read the Politico article – it’s more terrific evidence for why we need to keep pushing on this topic, even in 2018)

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter @MrsWhatsit1.

Do Not Become Weary

I recently had the opportunity to hear Ruthie Foster live for the first time. She played an amazing show. (Seriously, if she comes to your town, go see her. Also, woman drummer, so that’s awesome, too.) Of course, we demanded an encore, and she knew just what to serve up. She’d set Dr. Maya Angelou’s well-known poem, Phenomenal Woman, to music, so she concluded with that. It brought the house down (and cleverly ensured her a standing ovation).

So on this second Friday of Black History Month, I wanted to dedicate Ruthie Foster’s lovely and powerful song to all the women of #TheResistance. Because, as you know (as usual), the majority of the work of the #TheResistance is being done by women.

This is for the black women who, no matter how cute DeRay is in his puffy vest or how many times he goes on Jimmy Fallon or Stephen Colbert, are the mothers, organizers, and foot soldiers of Black Lives Matter.

This is for Latinas fighting for the Dreamers and fighting against ICE’s Gesatpo-like and possibly illegal raids.

This is for women with disabilities who put their bodies on the line to defend the Affordable Care Act this summer and who continue to do so to fight to protect Medicaid.

This is for the mothers who fought to save CHIP.

This is for Muslim women who keep showing up every time so-called (for now) President Trump tries to enforce one of his unconstitutional Muslim bans.

This is for rich and powerful women in entertainment and the media who used their privilege to bring attention to #MeToo – and then turned around and used that power and privilege to start the Time’s Up movement to combat harassment for working class women.

This is for lesbians showing up to dance their protest outside Mike Pence’s and Javanka’s houses in DC.

This is for working class women who fought the #GOPTaxScam, understanding that a bill that gives them an additional $1.50 a week and gives over 90% of its benefits to the top 1% is bullshit.

This is for young women fighting to protect access to their Constitutionally-protected right to reproductive health care and to keep Planned Parenthood, in many locations the only affordable option for sexual and reproductive health care, open and funded.

This is for the millions of women who’ve marched for these issues, and for Science and Climate Change and Truth and Release The Taxes and the myriad other issues where they’ve raised their voices and their fists.

And this is for middle class white women, who’ve worked as allies on all of the above and more in the past year. (Yes, plenty of white women are still making the faulty calculation that it serves their interests better to align themselves with patriarchy and white supremacy. But I’m done lying down and pretending like it’s all middle class white women all the time, and not speaking out when people make us a punching bag for whatever their current beef is. I’ve been in the trenches for 30 goddamn years, so as Robin Morgan would say, “Goodbye to all of that.”)

As Hecate pointed out yesterday, we’ve now been doing this work for a year, and there’s no end in sight. And I’d like to leave you with a verse from the christian bible.

(Let’s not forget that, despite their perversion of much of what it contains, the bible is wisdom literature and there is some good stuff in there. Remember, the actual Jesus was a brown-skinned radical.)

Galatians 6:9: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

A full transcription of Dr. Angelou’s full poem, Phenomenal Woman, can be found here.

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Is It Racism or White Supremacy?


And does it matter?

A lot of people seem absolutely terrified of difference these days (or perhaps I’m just noticing it more). And I’ve genuinely been trying to “walk a mile in their shoes” and understand what in their worldview could be causing such an extreme reaction against people who are a different color, or social class, or religion, or sexual orientation, or whatever. “Other.”

My spouse being a pretty wise person, I brought this up to him, which led to a conversation about racism versus white supremacy. I will admit, I hadn’t done much unpacking of the difference between the two. The way I saw it, they were both based on incorrect beliefs and harmful stereotypes that produce terrible outcomes for both individual people and society as a whole. They were both bad and should be repudiated strongly in both thought and action by all people of good will.

Here’s the thing: They aren’t the same (I know, duh), and we shouldn’t be using them interchangeably.

Racism is about hating people because they’re a different color. It also has power implications, because it’s about systems as well as feelings. Only the group in power (in the US, white people) can be racist, although other groups could certainly be bigoted.

White supremacy, on the other hand, is more hidden and, likely, more powerful because of that. It’s about racial hierarchy, the belief that anything “white” is better than anything “not white” (music, literature, theater, movies, social norms, religion, ideas, governing structures, etc., etc., etc.).

I know this seems really elementary, but stick with me.

I think we’re calling people racist (which is a highly loaded term in the US), when what we really mean is white supremacist (which is maybe a little less so).

As my spouse put it, in the context of the faux Fox war on Christmas: No one ever told anyone they weren’t allowed to say “Merry Christmas.” People have been freaking out because they don’t want anyone to be able to say anything different back to them.

Here’s why it matters.

Let’s say your mom does something racially bigoted. Maybe she’ll only hire white contractors. Maybe she responded to so-called (for now) President Trump’s “shithole” comment by harping on poverty in Haiti. Maybe she’s against affirmative action because she thinks it’s “not fair.” Whatever.

And you respond, “Mom, that’s racist.”

And she says, “I’m not racist! I took the Jacksons, the black family that just moved in next door, a pie and invited them to the our cookout next weekend. Our church is one-third Hispanic, and I sing in the choir and serve on the deacon board and participate in the quilting guild with them! Lupe Garcia is my best friend! Six of my piano students are Asian!”

And she’s probably right. And “racist” is such a loaded term that the conversation probably ends there.

What she is is white supremacist. White contractors are “more reliable.” Even though Jim Crow only ended 50 years ago, black people should just “get over it” and compete without any “help.” When Dutty Boukman, Toussant Louverture, and Jean-Jacques Dessalines led their people to freedom and the white masters fled, those masters left behind a population that had been forcibly kept ignorant and illiterate, but that’s no “excuse.”

White supremacy is:

  • I don’t hate black people – I just don’t want to live near them.
  • I don’t hate Muslims – I just don’t want a mosque in my town.
  • I don’t hate Latinx people – I just think they should stay in Mexico.
  • I don’t hate Asians – I just don’t want them taking all the available slots in the incoming freshman class.

White supremacy is, as my spouse put it, “I can only feel safe when everyone around me is exactly like me.”

It all comes down to fearing anything that’s different.

If, like me, you live in a diverse “coastal elite” blue city and like to travel, you may have a hard time wrapping your head around that. But many of our fellow Americans have not only never left the country, they’ve never left the county where they were born. They’ve never been to even the mid-sized city that’s in driving distance, much less one of the big cities on the coasts. They’re used to everyone around them looking like them, talking like them, going to the same church they go to, going to the same school they went to, having the same beliefs, listening to the same music, eating the same food, watching the same TV shows. And anything else is to be feared.

How does this happen?

Kids are inherently curious. That can lead to them asking some pretty direct questions or making some pretty blunt observations. But they want to learn about the world and are fascinated by new things.

What causes that to change? What causes people to look at difference, not with curiosity, but with fear and mistrust? What causes us to close our minds and hearts, and abdicate our decision-making process to hurtful stereotypes?

I don’t know, but I think it’s one of the issues at the root of our current cultural and political chasm in the US.

One of the things that I think is most amazing about America is that, unlike most other places in the world, you can move here and become American. Even though my (long ago) family roots are there, I couldn’t move to Germany and become German, or to Scotland and become Scots, or to Ireland and become Irish. But people can move here from all over the world and become American, because being American isn’t about who your parents were or where you were born or the language you speak or the deity you worship – it’s about shared values and ideals. It’s about keeping some of what you came from – your foods, your traditions, your religion, your music – and adding it to what’s already here.

The richest, most vital, most unique local culture in the US is in New Orleans, and that’s exactly how it was formed: a gumbo of French and Spanish and Caribbean and West African and First Nations and Irish and Italian and American, each keeping elements of its own distinctiveness, while combining other elements to make something more, other, greater than the sum of its parts.

I’d like to think we as a community, as citizens, as a country, can still do that.

Image found here.

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