Warren Blumenfeld's Blog

Social Justice, Intersections in Forms of Social Oppression, Bullying Prevention

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

White Supremacy & Devaluation of African [Heritage] Lives

without comments

The philosophy and practice of white supremacy devalues all African and African heritage lives whether human or non-human animal. White supremacy links slavery in the “Americas” with the ongoing police murders of unarmed black people and to the murder of animals on the continent of Africa.

Primarily wealthy white people invade Africa, and then track, entice, snare, capture, kill, sometimes skin, and behead majestic and noble animals, some of which appear on the endangered species list, as trophies for their own personal ego fulfillment. These so-called “hunters” kill not for food, but rather, for sport. In so doing, they demolish complete blood and succession lines, and interrupt entire ecosystems placing species in peril. Surrounding their actions come their sense of entitlement from amassing the discretionary income to satisfy their desires for power over other forms of life. The world exists for them simply for the taking. They view other forms of life as cheap that do not matter, except to fulfill their pleasures.

Similarly, the institution of slavery in the “Americas” was built on a foundation of white supremacy. Primarily white people, backed by wealthy whites, invaded Africa, and then tracked, enticed, snared, and captured the proud people on the continent, chained and packed them like sardines into crowded ships’ cargo holds, and transported them across vast oceans to foreign shores stripping those who survived of their dignity, languages, cultures, families, and humanity. The kidnappers as well as the residents of these lands viewed the “cargo” as cheap lives that did not matter, except to fulfill their needs for unpaid labor and to satisfy their sadistic ego and sexual gratification. If the enslaved had the audacity to misbehave or to escape the reserve called “the plantation,” whites tracked, enticed, snared, captured and either returned them to the reserve where their so-called “masters” tortured them as examples to inhibit others from attempting escape, or they killed them.

Though whites did not need a rationalization for their terror, they justified their brutality on the newly-constructed “science” of “race.” Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), born Carl Linné, (whom we call today the “Father of Scientific Racism”), a Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist, developed a system of scientific hierarchical classification. Within this taxonomy under the label Homo sapiens, (“Man”), he enumerated five categories based initially on place of origin and later on skin color: Europeanus, Asiaticus, Americanus, Monstrosus, and Africanus. Linnaeus asserted that each category was ruled by a different bodily fluid (Humors: “moistures”), represented by Blood (optimistic), Phlegm (sluggish), Cholor (yellow bile: prone to anger), Melancholy (black bile: prone to sadness).

Linnaeus connected each human category to a respective Humor, thereby constructing the Linnaeus Taxonomy in descending order: Europeanus: sanguine (blood), pale, muscular, swift, clever, inventive, governed by laws; Asiaticus: melancholic, yellow, inflexible, severe, avaricious, dark-eyed, governed by opinions; Americanus (indigenous peoples in the Americas): choleric, copper-colored, straightforward, eager, combative, governed by customs; Monstrosus (dwarfs of the Alps, the Patagonian giant, the monorchid Hottentot): agile, fainthearted; Africanus: phlegmatic, black, slow, relaxed, negligent, governed by impulse.

The “founding fathers” of the United States took Linneaus’s constructions not only to reinscribe and revalidate the institution of slavery — many of these “founders” themselves enslaved large numbers of kidnapped Africans — but they also wrote into the U.S. Constitution the so-called “three-fifths clause” counting enslaved Africans as equivalent to three-fifths of a full human being for census purposes. As we can see, then, black lives certainly did not matter.

Though Congress passed on January 31, 1865 and the President signed into law on December 6, 1865 the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution abolishing slavery, black lives continued not to matter relative to white lives through Reconstruction, the Jim Crow South, into the 20th century CE, and beyond as we have clearly witnessed in the current spate of murders of black people by police officers.

When we look side by side of pictures of white people standing with big smiles beneath black people they hanged and white people standing next to African animals they killed, we witness many similarities in what some white people perceive as “tropies.”

Black people in the United States coined in the 1960s the battle cries “Black is Beautiful” and “Black Power” as counter hegemonic narrative discourses in a nation that viewed black as ugly and where white people fought ruthlessly to preserve supremacy over black people. Recently black people coined the rallying cry “Black Lives Matter” in a country where historically black lives have not mattered much relative to white lives.

In the final analysis, we must see the senseless murder and devaluation of the lives of animals on the continent of Africa as directly linked with the enslavement, segregation, denial of rights, and murder of African heritage people in the United States, for all this attests to the white supremacist plundering of life continuing to this very day.

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense), and co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press).

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

August 3rd, 2015 at 4:37 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Attacks against Bernie Sanders Have Reached New Depths

without comments

In the Bernieverse, there’s a whole lot of nationalism mixed up in the socialism. He is, in fact, leading a national-socialist movement, which is a queasy and uncomfortable thing to write about a man who is the son of Jewish immigrants from Poland and whose family was murdered in the Holocaust. But there is no other way to characterize his views and his politics.”

Kevin Williamson, “Bernie’s Strange Brew of Nationalism and Socialism,” National Review

Though careful not to call Bernie Sanders “a Nazi” outright because of his Jewish heritage and past, Kevin Williamson, writing in the politically conservative National Review, more than implies that Sanders’ brand of protectionism favoring U.S.-American workers’ rights and jobs, when linked to this self-described socialist political philosophy amounts to his “strange brew of nationalism and socialism…leading a national-socialist movement,” which is a clear and obvious reference to the Nazi party.

Sanders has fought tirelessly for U.S. workers of all backgrounds against their corporate overlords throughout his political life. Williamson, however, not-so-subtly attempts to instill in the readers’ mind Sanders’ own brand of racist National Socialism by stating that Sanders has always been critical of trade policies “with brown people – Asians, Latin Americans,” but has remained virtually silent regarding U.S. trade deficits with countries like Sweden and Canada, demographically whiter countries further along the socialism scale. Williamson continues his accusations of Sanders’ racism, and by so doing, falsely positions conservatives as the true defenders of racial equality:

That the relative success of the Western European welfare states, and particularly of the Scandinavian states, is rooted in cultural and ethnic homogeneity is a longstanding conservative criticism of Bernie-style schemes to re-create the Danish model in New Jersey and Texas and Mississippi.”

To imply that Bernie Sanders’ style of Democratic Socialism even stands on the same side of the political spectrum as the National Socialism of the Nazi Party of Adolph Hitler shows not only a total misunderstanding of history and political theory, but more importantly, it underscores yet again the dog whistle politics of neo-conservatism. As a Jew myself, I find this extremely offensive!

By acknowledging Sanders’ Jewish background, and in deploying McCarthy-style propaganda scare tactics, Williamson taps into a longstanding anti-Semitic trope. According to Ellen Willis in her chapter titled “The Myth of the Powerful Jew”:

“The classic constituency for fascism is the conservative lower middle class, oppressed by the rich, threatened by the rebellious poor (particularly if the poor are foreign or another race); for this group Jews are a perfect target, since they represent the top and the bottom at once. Oppressed classes like the peasants in czarist Russia have traditionally directed their anger at the Jews just above them in the social hierarchy. Politically, the specter of the powerful Jew functions in much the same way as a foreign enemy: it invites warring classes, races, and political groups to submerge their conflicts and enjoy a heady sense of spurious unity.”

Even before the Cold War and the so-called “McCarthy Period” (named after Wisconsin Senator, Joseph McCarthy), individuals and groups on the political and theocratic Right have flung the term “Socialist” – which in the public imagination was once synonymous with “Jews” — from their metaphoric sling shots into the faces of their political opponents to discredit their characters and dismiss their political ideas and policies, and to sway the electorate toward a Conservative agenda. This continues to this very day.

As destructive and as freedom-killing as the Right would have us believe, “Socialism” can be defined as “a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole,” where each of us has a stake and advances in the success of our collective economy.

No country in the world today operates as a fully Socialist state, but rather, some of the most successful economies combine elements of Capitalism with Socialism to create greater degrees of equity and lesser disparities between the rich, the poor, and those on the continuum in between.

In reality, Bernie Sanders’ notion of Democratic Socialism advocates for a governmental single-payer quality universal health care system, which includes safe and reasonably-priced prescription and over-the-counter drug therapies; demands that our country protects and enhances our Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid safety nets; advocates for the further nationalization of our parks, forests, mountains, rivers, streams, shores, and off-shore waters, rather than allocating increased corporate mining, drilling, and timber rights; advocates for free and quality education, not only through grade 12, but throughout higher education and after for everyone who desires and works to achieve their fullest potential; advocates for a government-sponsored program that guarantees our seniors a retirement system that ensures a high quality of life free from economic burdens; advocates for the rights of workers to organize and to collectively bargain for better wages and working conditions; battles to eliminate workplace and larger societal inequalities based on race, nationality, citizenship status, age, sex, sexual identity, gender identity and expression, disability, socioeconomic standing, religion, and other social identities; works to ensure that everyone is guaranteed a comfortable and secure place to live; regulates a banking system that forecloses people’s homes through scurrilous business practices; supports effective governmental regulations on food producers to safeguard our food supply and protect against the maltreatment of animals, and on corporations, companies, and individuals to defend our environment; supports severe restrictions on the political process to prevent mammoth contributions by individuals and corporations to buy and own politicians to influence public policy, while locking out individuals and groups unable to amass large political funds; challenges a military industrial complex that marches to the beat of industry, and a prison industrial complex that perpetuates the racial and socioeconomic class inequities pervasive throughout the society; contests and advocates for effective restrictions on the so-called “free market” economic system that enables the creation and enhancement of mega monopolies, outsourcing of jobs, manufacture of defective products, and inhibition in the development of clean renewable energy technologies; fights for equal pay for equal work; and demands a true progressive tax structure where everyone pays their fair share, one that inhibits massive inequities in the overwhelming accumulation of wealth by the top 10 – 20% of the nation as is currently the case.

The findings of the third World Happiness Report, conducted by an international research team of economists, neuroscientists, and statisticians measured the well-being of residents throughout the world to assist in the development of public policy.

Researchers ranked their data results according to the countries indicating the “happiest” residents in descending order as follows: Leading the way was Switzerland holding the rank of number one, followed by Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Canada, Finland, The Netherlands, Sweden, New Zealand, and rounding out the top ten was Australia. These top countries have universal single-payer national health care systems, and restrictive gun control laws.

I am saddened, but definitely not surprised, that the United States did not make the upper cut, coming in at number 15 behind Mexico. Therefore, we might do well to look to these countries for some of their “Socialist” policies that sustain high levels of quality of life issues for their residents.

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense), and co-editor of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press).

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

July 22nd, 2015 at 12:55 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The Cyber Abuse of Hacking and Malware

without comments

In our “information age,” technology has improved the lives of many people in significant ways, while connecting the human family as never before on a global scale. Although the possibilities are only limited by our imagination, so too are the dangers for abuse of these technologies. The abuse can vary greatly from online cheating and plagiarism, to cyberbullying, child pornography and enticement, sexting, phishing scams, trolling and griefing, to infections and hacking.

With the resent illegal malicious hacking into our systems at The Good Men Project, I would like to discuss briefly the cyber abuse of hacking and malware in the overall context of cyber psychology.

Computer Hacking and Cyber Warfare

Gary McKinnon, a man from Scotland, surreptitiously tapped into the United States’ military computer system allegedly in search of evidence of extraterrestrial life. By breaking into the computer system long distance from his home in London, McKinnon inadvertently exposed the massive flaws in the military’s security system, while the U.S. government claimed that he committed the largest military computer hacking action in U.S. history by cracking into 97 computers.

Illegal entry into a computer for the purpose of gaining unauthorized access, compromising, and taking over remote administrative control is referred to as “hacking.” Hackers, also known as “Crackers” (cyber-criminal hacker), comprise an expanding subculture referred to as the “computer underground.”

Most hackers, who possess expert skills in the nature and functions of the technology, take control of individual personal, business, corporate, and government computers and entire computer systems worldwide. The consequences range from minor annoyances to embezzlement of funds, destruction of computer systems, unauthorized retrieval of sensitive information and access codes, to computer “terrorism,” which can compromise electronic systems and jeopardize a company’s or nation’s security.

Computer terrorism is a form of Cyber Warfare, which is the waging of war in cyberspace through the use of electronic means. Acts of Cyber Warfare include, but are not limited to Cyber Espionage (the act of stealing classified information), Web Vandalism (acts that deface web sites), Propaganda (the swift transmission of political messages), Equipment Disruption (military, government, business), and Infrastructure Attack (communications, power, energy, water, transportation).

“Malware” Infections: Spyware, Viruses, Worms, and Trojan Horses

“Malware” is a term that encompasses a variety of computer software designed and transmitted to clandestinely gather information, or to compromise and corrupt individual computers and entire computer systems.

“Spyware,” for example, (sometimes referred to as “privacy-invasive software”) is secretly downloaded onto a personal computer to monitor and collect information about the user for the purpose of collecting various types of data including personal information, sites visited on the Internet, and messages sent and received. Sometimes employers or parents/guardians install Spyware to scrutinize the computer operations of employees or family members. Spyware has also been known to cause havoc by taking control of the computer away from the user by automatically installing unwanted software or changing computer settings.

Computer viruses work on software in much the same way as biological viruses do, by insinuating and replicating themselves into the system. Computer viruses comprise small pieces of software that infect by attaching to bona fide software, often replicating and dispersing to other systems while spreading destruction in their wake. Perpetrators formulate these destructive infections by designing computer programs, which they then transmit to unsuspecting victims. Often, they send viruses via email attachments that reproduce themselves by automatically dispatching to other people located in the recipients’ email log.

Worms are also small pieces of software, which reproduce on computer networks and exploit “holes” (hence “worms”) in security systems. Copies of worms inspect networks for additional computers, which also have security holes, and then replicate themselves on the new host machines.

Though they do not have the ability to reproduce themselves, Trojan Horses claim to be something such as a game that the unsuspecting user downloads, but in actuality they are computer programs that are intended to destroy or erase the hard drive of a computer when operated by the user.

Cyber Psychology

There are a number of similarities and differences between face-to-face (f2f) or real life (RL) abuse and cyber abuse. Many of the differences with abuse of human-computer interactions generally center on what has come to be referred to as the “online disinhibition effect” coined by cyber psychologist, John Suler.

Users of technology often do things in cyberspace that they would not ordinarily do in f2f interactions. Firstly, cyberbullying is often even more invisible to adults than other forms of youthful bullying. In fact, i-SAFE found that 58% of respondents would not or have not told their parents or other adults about negative experiences online. Young people fear not only that reporting instances of cyberbullying would break a perceived peer norm of silence, which might increase the attacks on themselves or result in further isolation from peers, but also, they fear that adults might take away the technology from them as a way to end the attacks.

In addition, cyber abuse is a particularly cowardly form of abuse. People who engage in cyber abuse can often hide in the anonymity of cyberspace. With anonymity, cyber abusers do not have to “own” their actions, and they often do not fear being punished. The technology can also shelter the user from tangible feedback about consequences of one’s actions, which can result in minimized empathy or remorse for the target of the bullying.

Even with some of the more advanced technologies, the sensory experience in cyberspace is limited. The user of the technologies cannot hear the intonation of the voice, or see the reactions, including body language, of the person on the other end of the “message.” Therefore, people who engage in cyber abuse can inflict pain without having to see the effects, which can result in a “deeper level of meanness.” People who cyber abuse can also communicate their hurtful messages to a wider audience with incredible speed.

With all of this taken into account, it becomes clearer that cyberspace can also inhibit a user’s sense of responsibility for actions online.   Much of cyber time exists asynchronically, that is, people often do not interact in real time, which can add to the disinhibition effect when one does not have to deal with the immediate reactions of others.

Also, people can alter, change, or emphasize different aspects of their personalities or identities in cyberspace—they can reinvent themselves or show different personae (Latin for “that through which the sound comes” or the actor’s mask). Computers embody one of postmodernism’s important tenets by challenging, contesting, and ultimately destabilizing identities. Through computer-mediated interactions, individuals continually redeploy identities as fluid, changing, multifaceted, and non-essentialized.

Human-computer interactions permit individuals to engage in masquerade and change into a virtual costume known as an “avatar.” Communicating only with typed text, one has the option of being oneself, expressing only parts of one’s identity, assuming imagined identities, or remaining completely anonymous—in some cases, being almost invisible, as with the “lurker.”

In addition, cyberspace can have an equalizing effect. People begin on a relatively level playing field—a virtual net democracy. Those of lesser social status or those who are the targets of abuse in RL can gain power, sometimes abusing others in cyberspace. In a virtual sense, then, cyberspace communication can alter perceptions by becoming a make-believe world, a dream-like experience, even a game in which the rules of RL no longer apply.

In psychoanalytic parlance, the concept of “transference” (as introduced by Sigmund Freud) refers to an individual’s unconscious redirection of feelings from one person to another. Often, and primarily on an unconscious level, the new information and communication technologies provide the (cyber)space for individuals to recreate and replay past relationships and also to satisfy unmet or thwarted needs from childhood.

Perpetrators of computer-generated abuse, and in particular, the production and transmission of computer viruses, may do so for a number of psychological motivations. Some may do so simply for the emotional “rush” or thrill, much the same way as would an individual who vandalizes or intentionally sets destructive fires. In addition, creating and transmitting a computer virus works much the same as an explosion for someone who finds joy in watching cars crash or bombs explode. Another reason is simply finding adventure in and claiming bragging rights for exploiting security holes in computer systems before someone else beat them to it.

Abuse of human-computer interactions can occur any time and any place. Home, therefore, is no longer a refuge from this abuse for the perpetrators as well as those who are abused. Although this cyber abuse often occurs outside the parameters of the school grounds or workplace, it invariably affects the overall school and workplace climate and the individuals’ educational or work performance, as well as their short- and long-term psychological states. Since policies and legislation have not always caught up with cyber abuse, for it is often outside the legal reach of workplaces, schools, and school boards when it occurs outside of the workplace or school property.

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), co-author with Diane Raymond of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense).

 

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

July 17th, 2015 at 10:29 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Donald Trump Has Been Located!

without comments

Mexico] are sending people that have lots of problems, and they are bringing those problems to us. They are bringing drugs, and bringing crime, and they’re rapists.”

Donald Trump, June 16, 2015, Trump Tower, NYC, during announcement for presidential run

Trump later went on to declare that “I will win the Hispanic vote.” He has currently surged to the leader of the pack of 15 Republican hopefuls in national polls.

As a hot topic of discussion in political pundit circles, José Díaz-Balart, host of MSNBC’s “The Daily Rundown,” brought up Trump’s claims and ever-increasing poll numbers on his show, Wednesday, July 15, 2015. Talking with his guest, Victoria DeFrancesco Soto — of the Center for Politics and Governance at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas — about a number of Trump’s claims regarding the Mexican government and Mexican people, Díaz-Balart asked, “When [Trump] says the U.S. is getting the short end of the stick, what’s he talking about?”

DeFrancesco Soto answered the question with a question many pundits have been pondering even prior to Trump’s entry into the race: “What planet is Donald on?”

Well, wonder no longer. The Donald has been located! In what was intended as a secret mission, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) broke silence by announcing today that Mr. Trump was launched into space over nine years ago aboard the New Horizons Spacecraft, which is currently passing the so-called dwarf planet of Pluto, some 3 billion miles from Earth. During that time, Mr. Trump has materialized on our planet as projected holographic images, hence the mechanism by which he could seem to appear in two places at once.

According to Trump onboard this truly historic space voyage, “I decided to enter this mission because second only to Mexican criminals and rapists, I knew many years ago that Plutonian illegal aliens would invade the United States one day bringing with them new diseases and spent nuclear fuel rods thus imperiling our great nation.” Trump explained that, “I paid my own way here since I am so rich, so very very rich.”

From the New Horizons Spacecraft, Mr. Trump sent back stunning pictures from Pluto, which he claims he took with his very expensive privately-own digital camera. He is in line to accumulate even greater wealth from the royalty payments generated from these historic images.

The next stage in the voyage of the spacecraft, according to NASA officials, is to drop Trump onto the celestial body of Pluto sometime this week. There, Trump has planned a number of major campaign-style appearances to warn Plutonians to cease and desist in their efforts to enter illegally the orbital territory of Neptune and the boarders of the United States.

Responding to reporters’ questions transmitted to the rocket, Trump asserted that he doesn’t dislike the Plutonian people, per se, but rather, he doesn’t trust their leaders whom he claims are corrupt.

“I will demand, first, that the Plutonian government stops crossing the orbit of Neptune, which it has done for 20 out of the last 248 years, thereby violating the orbitary and planetary sovereignty of Neptune. Second, I will push Plutonian leaders to construct an electrified field around their no-longer-considered-a-planet-but-merely-a-rock-circling-around-the-Sun at their own expense to prevent their criminal and diseased elements from escaping its atmosphere,” Trump demanded. “Because I am unafraid to speak the truth, if I were ever to run someday for Commander of Pluto,” he continued, “I’m certain the vast majority of Plutonians would vote for me, no doubt about it!”

When asked by reporters how he plans to return to the Earth since the New Horizons Spacecraft has already left our solar system, Trump laughed,

“Oh don’t worry about me. I have my ways. My people have constructed a wormhole portal under a shower stall on Pluto, which includes lighting and ventilation, and leads back directly to my massive penthouse suite in Trump Towers. So you will see me in the flesh at the Fox News-sponsored Republican candidates’ debate in August.”

The Donald is considering bringing back to Earth with him a beautiful young Plutonian woman. “I plan to marry her, well, at least after I divorce my third wife. In this way, I will show my high regards for family values in action. What could be a greater way to promote family values than by creating my forth family?!”

He said that while Jeb Bush married a Mexican-heritage woman, he will be the first U.S. presidential candidate to marry a woman from Pluto. He isn’t quite sure, however, whether the coupling will produce children. If it does, though, he argues that since the United States is now a post-racial and post-xenophobic nation, any of his possible future offspring will not suffer any sorts of obstacles from a biplanetary marriage.

Trump ended his onboard interview by claiming that his voyage was a “total win-win for me.” According to the billionaire,

“Some of my Republican rivals ventured to Europe in their attempts to build their foreign policy resumes. However, I was the first candidate for President of the United States to literally outdistance them by taking my message beyond planet Earth to the farthest reaches of our solar system. This will put me in the history books, even though I don’t crave that sort of attention. And I was the first to raise the issue of illegal Plutonian alien immigration, which my other Republican and Democratic rivals are too P.C. to bring up.”

Phoning home after his interview, Trump told Fox News that he is leading the national polls in the Republican field because he is the only one who has the courage to speak about what is really happening to the angry white Republican base. “I’m going to prove Santayana wrong,” he argued. “I am forgetting our history, and I am not destined to repeat it. This time, I will get different results because the majority of Hispanics will vote for me since I am talking trash about them and keeping them as well as Plutonians out of our great country.”

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), co-author with Diane Raymond of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense).

 

 

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

July 15th, 2015 at 4:36 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

KKK Posing as Victim of “Cultural Genocide

without comments

For literally decades, calls have gone out by civil and human rights advocates to remove of the battle flag of the Confederacy from public sites like state capitol grounds and other government buildings. This movement gained enormous momentum recently following the brutal racist murders of nine parishioners at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charlestown, South Carolina by an avowed white supremacist.

On his Facebook page, the 21-year-old gunman posed for pictures wearing a military-style jacket with insignia patches of flags of apartheid South Africa and white ruled Rhodesia (today known as Zimbabwe). In another picture, he waved a Confederate battle flag, and in another, he stood holding a burning American flag. In addition, he wore a T-shirt with the number 88 printed on the front, he had 88 Facebook friends, and he scribbled that number in the South Carolina sand. “H” is the 8th letter of the alphabet, and in white supremacist circles, “88” symbolizes “Heil Hitler.”

To their credit, a number of conservative political leaders in positions of power have finally called for the flag’s dismantling. During a recent press conference, South Carolina Republican Governor Nikki Haley asserted:

“Today we are here in a moment of unity in our state without ill will to say it is time to remove the flag from our capitol grounds. This flag, while an integral part of our past, does not represent the future of our great state.”

Republican Alabama Governor Robert Bentley ordered that all four Confederate flags must go from the Confederate memorial at the state capitol in Montgomery. And Mississippi state House of Representatives Speaker, Philip Gunn, called for a change in that state’s official flag by deleting the Confederate flag symbol that has adorned the flag’s corner since 1894. Said Gunn:

“We must always remember our past, but that does not mean we must let it define us. As a Christian, I believe our state’s flag has become a point of offense that needs to be removed. We need to begin having conversations about changing Mississippi’s flag.”

In addition, Georgia officials ordered the redesign of current state license plates by expunging the two Confederate battle flags boldly stamped in clear view.

Though of no real surprise, not all individuals and groups call for the flag to go. Most on this side of the debate use the argument that the flag does not represent racism and white supremacy, per se, but rather, represents Southern pride and Southern history more generally. For example, the so-called Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) Pelham, North Carolina chapter recently reserved the grounds of the South Carolina Statehouse to hold a rally in support of maintaining the Confederate flag for public display at that site.

According to the Grand Titan (which sounds ominous to me) of the KKK chapter, James Spears, the purpose of the rally is to protest “the Confederate flag being took (sic) down for all the wrong reasons. It’s part of white people’s culture.”

Of particular interest (a.k.a. here as absurdity, irrationality, outlandishness, and lunacy), the arguments put forward by the group include that removing the flag is tantamount to committing “cultural genocide.” On its website, which includes the Confederate flag, the group demands: “Say No to Cultural Genocide….[M]ost groups out there and especially white people are to [sic] cowardly to stand up for their heritage.”

By positioning themselves as the victims in this drama, the white supremacists have misappropriated the terminology of actions they have historical perpetrated upon others.

“Cultural Genocide”

Joel Spring discusses the concept of “cultural genocide” defined as “the attempt to destroy other cultures” through forced acquiescence and assimilation to majority rule of cultural and religious standards. This cultural genocide works through the process of “deculturalization,” which Spring describes as “the educational process of destroying a people’s culture and replacing it with a new culture.”

Dominant European-heritage groups have committed cultural genocide upon minoritized peoples since the first white person landed on these shores. Later, for example, between 1880 and 1920, in the range of 30-40 million immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe migrated to the United States, more than doubling the population. During this time, an “Americanist” (assimilationist) movement was in full force with the concept of the so-called “melting pot” in which everyone was expected to conform to an Anglo-centric cultural standard with the destruction of other cultural identities.

Theodore Roosevelt was an outspoken proponent of this concept:

“If the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself (sic) to us he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else….But this [equality] is predicated on the man’s (sic) becoming in very fact an American and nothing but an American….There can be no divided allegiance here….We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language, for we want to see that the crucible turns our people out as Americans, of American nationality, and not as dwellers in a polyglot boarding house.”

Another example of “cultural genocide” and “deculturalization” can be exposed in the case of Christian European American domination over Native American Indians, whom European Americans viewed as “uncivilized,” “godless heathens,” “barbarians,” and “devil worshipers.” So until the 1960s, a pattern emerged (what some social scientists termed the “immigrant analogy”) in which white ethnic groups initially migrated to cities, assimilated into the dominant Anglo culture, and achieved a certain degree of upward mobility. They oftentimes, therefore, relinquished their cultural identities for the promise of social and economic success.

Many of these same social scientists assumed that people of color (then called “minorities” or “racial minorities”) would follow this model. However, they did not fully comprehend the profound saliency of “race” and racism in the United States, the ethnic consciousness of some groups, and their desire to retain their cultural heritage.

By the late 1960s, communities of color, as well as some white ethnic groups—predominantly from working-class backgrounds—and women in a new wave of the feminist movement, reacted against this ruthless “Americanization” process and the “melting pot” and demanded rather the creation of a “patchwork quilt” or “salad bowl” in which each group—while joining with other groups—would, nonetheless, retain its unique cultural traditions and identities.

Later joined by gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans* activists, advocates for youth and the elderly, people with disabilities, and working class people, a push was underway to “decenter” the standard school curriculum and teach from multiple (multicultural) perspectives. The multicultural movement was founded on the principle that multiple voices and multiple perspectives must be represented in order to ensure a well rounded education for all students, and to aid in the identity development process so essential to young people.

Back to KKK

So I ask the KKK, how exactly do you define, as you term it, “white people’s culture”?

Let’s be clear here: the Confederate battle flag no more represents white Southern culture anymore than the swastika flag represents Gentile German culture. What these flags do have in common, though, is that they both symbolize Christian white supremacy, terrorism, treason, separation, exclusion, enslavement, murder, and in the United States, yes, cross burnings.

The Confederate flag exemplifies an economic system built literally on the backs and the blood of enslaved African peoples. It epitomizes a brief, ignoble, and tragic period in time, and not Southern culture in its nuanced enormity.

Not flown much in the South following the Civil War, many conservative politicians and others reimposed the Confederate flag during the early 1960s in reaction to the civil and human rights initiatives then sweeping the country to end Jim Crow segregation and to improve the mistreatment of people of color throughout the country.

The Confederate flag does not represent pride, but rather, it symbolizes the worse aspects of humanity’s inhumanity: actions committed by individuals and groups like the KKK itself. White supremacists’ attempts to transform themselves in the public imagination from perpetrator of terrorism to innocent victim smacks not only as hollow and disengenuous, but moreso, it shows the group’s utter contempt for the intelligence of the people across our nation.

If anyone desires a flag representing Southern culture, choose symbols that have positively impacted people of all social identities, the proud and positive contributions the people of the South (not only white people) have made to the overall betterment and unity of the United States and the world.

If, however, the KKK and other white supremacist groups percist in addressing issues of “cultural genocide,” they need to educate themselves regarding the lived experiences of African Americans, most of whose ancestors were stolen from their families, their cultures, their homelands and dumped in chains into cargo holds aboard ships; exported like lumber or grain; and if they survived the voyage, forced to stand naked on foreign shores in all types of weather conditions, examined, and sold to the highest bidder like beasts of burden to perform gruilling and hazardous unpaid labor; forbidded to learn to read or attain any level of educaton outside their required plantation tasks; coerced to relinquish their language and all their cultural traditions; made to take on the language and religion of their abusers; separated from their parents, children, and partners; tortured; and killed.

Because of this horrific legacy, many African Americans do not know from which of the African nations their ancestors came. Many do not know of their familial origins because of white supremacy! And in spite of it all, with the physical and emotional scares still lingering in the descendents of enslaved peoples of the Americas, and with bodies straight and heads lifted, as individuals joining in a mighty and glorious chorus sounding together demanding, Enough is enough! The flag must come down as a symbolic step in finally and truly dismantling the white supremacy that has plague this land ever since Europeans first set sail.

The U.S. Civil War has long since ended! Though the Southern states made a galient effort to maintain their economic system built on the institution of slavery, the Confederacy lost the war. The South must finally move on!

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), co-author with Diane Raymond of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense).

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

July 1st, 2015 at 9:27 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

God(s), Same-Sex Marriage, and the Colossal Joke

without comments

God/Gods’s Mixed Messages?

Since the Supreme Court of the United States ruled marriage for same-sex couples constitutional in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, most of the major religious denominations throughout the country have since issued statements in response to this historic and wide-ranging decision. As there are numerous religions and denominations within each, we find also numerous and very disparate responses along a continuum: from very progressive and supportive to extremely conservative and oppositional.

Anyone with even the most rudimentary understanding of world history recognizes that many if not most conflicts between peoples and nations have centered on different (though not necessarily opposing) religious perspectives and viewpoints.

So I find the enormously contrasting responses to the Supreme Court not particularly surprising. But my primary question centers on this: “If all religious denominations truly believe they have been touched by, are privy to, and are following the will and word of the True (with a capital “T”) God(s), how can they come away with such varied and often contradictory perspectives?

Possibly God(s) give mixed messages. Let’s look at a few examples of religious statements on the Supreme Court ruling regarding marriage for same-sex couples, presented in part:

Opposing

The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America:

“In response to the decisions announced today [June 26, 2015] by the United States Supreme Court with reference to the issue of legal recognition of same sex marriage, we reiterate the historical position of the Jewish faith, enunciated unequivocally in our Bible, Talmud and Codes, which forbids homosexual relationships and condemns the institutionalization of such relationships as marriages. Our religion is emphatic in defining marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman. Our beliefs in this regard are unalterable. At the same time, we note that Judaism teaches respect for others and we condemn discrimination against individuals…”

Catholic Conference of Bishops

“Regardless of what a narrow majority of the Supreme Court may declare at this moment in history, the nature of the human person and marriage remains unchanged and unchangeable….The unique meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is inscribed in our bodies as male and female. The protection of this meaning is a critical dimension of the ‘integral ecology’ that Pope Francis has called us to promote. Mandating marriage redefinition across the country is a tragic error that harms the common good and most vulnerable among us, especially children….”

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

“The Court’s decision does not alter the Lord’s doctrine that marriage is a union between a man and a woman ordained by God. While showing respect for those who think differently, the Church will continue to teach and promote marriage between a man and a woman as a central part of our doctrine and practice.”

Southern Baptist Convention, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

“I am a conscientious dissenter from this ruling handed down by the Court today, believing, along with millions of others, that marriage is the sacred union of one man and one woman and that it is improper for the Court to redefine an institution it did not invent in the first place. I believe this action of finding some illusory Fourteenth Amendment right to same-sex marriage will have wide-ranging and perilous consequences for the stability of families and for freedom of religion.” President Russell Moore.

Islamic View

 “Gay marriage is totally prohibited in Islam as well as in all the divine religions. Gay marriage is an atrocious and obscene act which belongs to unsound nature. Islam teaches that believers should neither do the obscene acts nor in any way indulge in their propagation.” Muhammad Muhammad Abu Laylah

In fact, all predominately Muslim countries except Turkey criminalize same-sex sexuality.

* * * * *

At this point, I would like to mention that Catholics, Southern Baptists, Mormons, Orthodox Jews, and Orthodox Muslims have clashed and engaged in warfare, some for millennia. However, by these conservative denominations of the three major Abrahamic religions joining in unity on the issue of same-sex sexuality and marriage, this indicates that agreement is possible.

In bringing these former and continuing battlefield enemies together, I therefore nominate the U.S. LGBT community for the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize, an award well deserved for converting competing and conflicting parties into allies and for reducing tensions that have traditionally separated them.

Supportive

 Evangelicals for Marriage Equality

 “Though the Supreme Court ruling this morning changed the law of the land, there is still progress to be made in changing the hearts and minds of evangelicals who disagree with civil marriage equality. This progress can only be made when compassionate, respectful dialogue is encouraged within communities of faith.”

Central Conference of American Rabbis 

“As Jews, we believe we are all formed in God’s image. This compels us to extend and recognize the same rights to everyone in our community, including individuals who identify as straight, gay, lesbian, or transgender. For many years, Reform Judaism rabbis have called for equal rights for all members of our communities, and we see today’s Supreme Court decision on marriage equality as a huge moral victory for the United States.” Steve Fox, chief executive.

New Ways Ministries (Catholic Organization)

“New Ways Ministry rejoices with millions of U.S. Catholics that the U.S. Supreme Court has decided in favor of marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples! On this historic day, we pray in thanksgiving that justice and mercy have prevailed and that the prayers and efforts of so many have combined to move our nation one step closer to fairness and equality for all.”

Muslims for Progressive Values

“We endorse the human and civil rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI) individuals. We affirm our commitment to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and we support full equality and inclusion of all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, in society and in the Muslim community.”

Does God/Do the Gods Change His/Her/Their Mind(s)

Not only have we witnessed the mixed messages, but in addition, we have seen how God(s) change his/her/their mind(s). Let’s take two specific examples looking specifically at two Christian denominations:

The Southern Baptist Convention

The issue of slavery became a lightning rod in the 1840s among members of the Baptist General Convention, and in May 1845, 310 delegates from the Southern states convened in Augusta, Georgia to organize a separate Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) on a pro-slavery plank. They asserted that to be a “good Christian,” one had to support the institution of slavery, and could not join the ranks of the abolitionists.

Well, either by divine intervention or due to political pressure, 150 years later in June 1995, the SBC reversed its position and officially apologized to African Americans for its support and collusion with the institution of slavery (regarding it now as an “original sin”), and also apologizing for its support of “Jim Crow” laws and its rejection of civil rights initiatives of the 1950s and 1960s.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

Then LDS president, Brigham Young, instituted a policy on February 13, 1849, emanating from “divine revelation” and continuing until as recently as 1978 forbidding ordination of black men of African descent from the ranks of LDS priesthood. In addition, this policy prohibited black men and women of African descent from participating in the temple Endowment and Sealings, which the Church demands as essential for the highest degree of salvation. The policy likewise restricted black people from attending or participating in temple marriages.

Young attributed this restriction to the sin of Cain, Adam and Eve’s eldest son, who killed his brother Abel: “What chance is there for the redemption of the Negro?” stated Young in 1849 following declaration of his restrictive policy. “The Lord had cursed Cain’s seed with blackness and prohibited them the Priesthood.”

While making a speech to the Utah Territorial Legislature in 1852, Young further asserted: “Any man having one drop of the seed of [Cain]…in him cannot hold the Priesthood, and if no other Prophet ever spoke it before, I will say it now in the name of Jesus Christ I know it is true and others know it.”

Joseph Fielding Smith, Tenth Prophet and President of the LDS Church wrote in 1935 that, “Not only was Cain called upon to suffer, but because of his wickedness, he became the father of an inferior race. A curse was placed upon him and that curse has been continued through his lineage and must do so while time endures….” And in 1963 he asserted: “Such a change [in our policy] can come about only through divine revelation, and no one can predict when a divine revelation will occur.”

It seems that the Twelfth LDS Church president, Spencer W. Kimball, who served from 1973 to his death in 1985, was touched with such a “divine revelation” and, therefore, reversed the ban, referring to it as “the long-promised day” by allowing people of African descent full membership rights in the denomination.

What Are We To Conclude?

So, to reiterate, I ask: How can individuals and denominations who all claim to know the True God/Gods while apparently praying to the same God(s) be touched in such different ways and have such differing visions of divine will? Does God/Do the Gods send us mixed and often contradictory messages? Does God/Do the Gods change his/her/their mind(s) from time to time?

By even asking these questions, I’m most likely making a primal mistake by using reason and logic in matters religious, which by its very nature can never be proven. “Faith” is by definition believing in deities and precepts that can never be empirically validated. On the other hand, possibly our divine creations have played a colossal joke on humanity laughing at us all the while.

Happy Pride!

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense), and co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press).

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

June 29th, 2015 at 5:34 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Marriage Equality but One Paving Stone on Path toward Social Justice

without comments

I have mixed emotions as I write these words on this truly historic day when the Supreme Court granted marriage equality to same-sex couples nationwide in Obergefell v. Hodges, thereby striking down bans in the remaining 14 states.

On one level, I am ecstatic that our love and our relationships now hold the same legal status as different sex couples with all the economic privileges, benefits, and responsibilities, as well as enhanced claims of non-birth partners in the raising of children. Especially for upcoming generations, most will not have to live with the extreme levels of scorn and the second-class legal status, which so many of us endured.

It was good to hear President Barack Obama – who has advanced LGBT equality more than any other president – say today in his congratulatory White House remarks that “Love Is Love,” something we have long held and expressed. He said the Supreme Court ruling was the “consequence of the countless small acts of courage of millions of people across decades who stood up, who came out, who talked to parents. Of parents who loved their children no matter what. Folks who were willing to endure bullying and taunts and stayed strong and came to believe in themselves and who they were, and slowly made an entire country realize that love is love.”

And this is only one reason why I support the courage of trans and immigration activist Jennicet Gutiérrez, who interrupted Obama’s speech two days prior at the White House Wednesday, June 24 in commemoration of LGBT Pride Month. Gutiérrez is a founding member of FAMILIA TQLM created to advocate for LGBTQ immigrants, which the group argues are largely excluded from immigration debates. And immigration issues, which Gutiérrez “brought to the highest level of public discourse,” as we within the AIDS activist movement phrased it back in the 1980s, and many other issues highlight an entire other side of emotions emerging within me on this historic day because we as a nation have yet many more paving stones to lay on the path toward social justice.

For example, following Obama’s Rose Garden remarks on marriage equality, he boarded a plane to Charleston, South Carolina, where he was to give a eulogy at the funeral of murdered pastor, civil rights advocate, and South Carolina state Senator Clementa Pickney, who was gunned down along with 8 others by a lone white supremacist terrorist while attending a Bible study group at Pinkney’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Reformist/Assimilationist Focus

In our current so-called “neoliberal” age, emphasis is placed on privatization, global capital, reduced governmental oversight and deregulation of the corporate sector, attacks on labor organizing, and competition. We are living in an environment in which property rights hold precedence over human rights. In this environment, we are witnessing a cultural war waged by the political, corporate, and theocratic right, a war to turn back all the gains progressive people have made over the years.

Looking back over the years, as LGBT visibility has increased, as our place within the culture has become somewhat more assured, much certainly has been gained, but also, something very precious has diminished. That early excitement, that desire  — though by no means the ability — to fully restructure the culture, as distinguished from our mere reform, seems now to lay dormant in some sectors of our communities.

Within at least some segments of the movement, I perceive four main themes as the major focus. These Ms are: 1. Marriage Equality, 2. Military Inclusion, 3. Media Visibility, and 4. Making Money.

Marriage Equality:

The Supreme Court has placed us now above the symbolic line of demarcation granting us the estimated 1300 privileges and benefits of marriage previously accessible only to different-sex married couples. With our ascension over the demarcation line, though, we find the deeply entrenched hierarchy of privilege remaining intact on the basis of relationship status! Why should couples in legally-recognized relationships collect the government-granted array of economic and social benefits at the exclusion of those who either cannot or will not meet prescribed requirements? We must now continue the fight to abolish the line itself, forever, and as a society, provide these benefits to all, regardless of relationship status.

Military Inclusion

Due to the dedication and hard work by individuals and organizations over the previous decades who have been successful in lobbying government officials to repeal the highly discriminatory and offensive so-called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) military policy, now lesbian, gay, and bisexual people can serve their nation openly. This reversal stands to benefit the country by providing a greater pool of committed and talented individuals whose chief intent is to serve and protect their nation with pride. Existing medical and conduct regulations, however, still prohibit many individuals along the trans* spectrum from enlisting.

While stated military goals may promote the notion of providing global security and protecting and defending the homeland, we must maintain and extend our focused and continued attention and critique, however, on the overriding abuses of maintaining a military that engages in unjustified incursions into other lands controlled by an industrial complex that promotes corporate interests. The U.S. government has officially estimated the 2015 military budget alone at $598.5 billion dollars comprising 54% of total U.S. governmental discretionary expenditures.

In addition, I believe we must challenge the extraordinary wide income gap in the United States that offers few options for reasonable employment for young and older workers alike, making military service one of a limited number of options for employment and advancement.

We must work to address the largest income and asset gap of all other so-called “developed” nations, in which the top one percent of the population has accumulated an estimated 34.6% of the wealth, the next 9% an estimated 38.5%, and the remaining 90 percent of the nation a combined accumulation of only 26.9%.

Within this environment, politicians, working on behalf of corporate backers, continue to provide massive tax breaks for exceedingly wealthy individuals and to corporations. In addition, they blame and drive to decertify labor unions, end government entitlement programs designed to offer a safety net to the country’s most economically vulnerable, and attempt to privatize everything from Medicare to national parks all in the paradoxical name of “free enterprise.” Within this environment, corporate bosses, through their mouth pieces in government, divert educational institutions to the private sector to accommodate the needs of business.

Media Visibility

Today, we see more lesbian and gay people, and occasionally bisexual and trans characters on television, in films, fiction and non-fiction materials, magazines, commercials, and ads. These characterizations, though on occasion representing minoritized races and ethnicities, comprise largely white and middle- to upper-class people. While the majority today would be considered by many as “positive” representations for the most part, which may more fully and accurately represent some of our lives relative to the rather sad and miserable or violently threatening characterizations presented previously, the majority depict the upwardly mobile, socially assimilated character who poses little overt challenge to the status quo, those who function rather successfully in the competitive corporate world, those who shop for a dishwasher or go on an expensive vacation with their heterosexual friends and relatives.

While many benefits accrue with these representations, such as providing better role models for our youth, helping to overcome many of the stereotypes and reducing prejudices, the Capitalist system seems to have employed these images of “we are just like you” in its attempts to coopt critique and possible challenge to that very system.

In our communities, the “Pride” marches of the past have morphed into parades and festivals funded on a base of major corporate sponsorship, and capitalist consumption. Parade contingents now include large canvas banners affixed with familiar logos of national and local banks, and insurance, soft drink and beer, and real estate companies. Ironically, some of these same companies not so long ago refused to hire “out” members of our communities, but seeing how our business will improve their economic bottom line, we are now happily welcomed. We can now buy almost everything with the rainbow flag. I call this consumerism “the tchotchketization of a movement” (“tchotchke” in Yiddish means knick knacks, small objects, etc.).

Making Money

While possibly the exception, and certainly not necessarily the rule, some of us at least are now “out” at work with few or no real consequences to our job security. Others now ascend the corporate ladder with relative ease, and own exclusive vacation homes in the Florida Keys, Panama, or Tuscany to “get away from it all.” We gentrify older urban neighborhoods, and spruce up city landscapes with the newest decorative trends.

I ask, however, are we actually contributing to the ever widening income gap that has overtaken our country? And what about the folks and entire communities we dislocate as we gentrify entire neighborhoods?

More often than not, these individuals include white gay, lesbian, and bisexual men and women who conform fairly closely to traditional conceptualizations of gender expression, as cisgender.  Lesbians, bisexual women, and trans people within an overriding sexist and cissexist society, statistically earn less than their cismale counterparts, and individuals who present along the transgender spectrum continue to find less freedom of expression, and, therefore, far less job security.

A Call to Further and Wider Action

While the “4 Ms” are all laudable goals, I believe that if we are going to achieve a truly equitable society, we must reach higher, wider, and broader. As important as these goals may be, I hope we do not envision them as the final resting place over the rainbow. If we do rest here, after having been seduced by promises of achieving some degree of credibility and respectability, I fear we will have become part of the very problems that so many of us have fought so tirelessly to eradicate.

I do remain hopeful, however. The increasing visibility and recognition of trans* people today has shaken traditionally dichotomous notions of gender, and in turn, other stifling kinds of binaries, which are the very cornerstones for the entrenchment keeping our society from moving forward. Their stories and experiences have great potential to bring us back into the future  — a future in which anyone on the gender spectrum everywhere will live freely, unencumbered by social taboos and cultural norms of gender. It is a future in which the “feminine” and “masculine”— as well as all the qualities on the continuum in between — can live and prosper in us all.

Metaphorically, oppression operates like a wheel with many spokes. If we work to dismantle only one or a few specific spokes, the wheel will continue to roll over people. Let us, then, also work on dismantling all the many spokes to conquering all the many forms of oppression in all their many forms.

Until and unless we can join in coalition with other groups, I consider that the possibility for achieving a genuine sense of community and a genuine sense of equity will be unattainable. I believe also that sexual and relational attractions and gender identities and expressions alone are not sufficient to connect a community, and by extension, a movement for progressive social change, and that we must, therefore, look beyond ourselves and base a community and a movement not simply on social identities, but also on shared ideals and values among individuals from disparate social identities, with like minds, political philosophies, and strategies for achieving their objectives.

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense), and co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press.)

 

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

June 26th, 2015 at 6:35 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Women & People of Color Soon on U.S. Paper Currency?

without comments

In most nations, important and strong figures adorn the coins and currency bills of exchange, from nobility, to political leaders, to national and cultural icons. Investigating these personalities can often serve as a litmus test identifying a given country’s power structures, values, priorities, and beliefs. Even in our era of plastic, currency personages can serve as ubiquitous, pocket-sized, and portable role models for contemporary and upcoming generations.

So in the history of the United States, where are the women and people of color? If our litmus test is accurate, it confirms that the nation was founded and maintained on a sexist and racist patriarchal underpinning, one that overtly inhibits the aspirations, opportunities, and ambitions of women, girls, and all people of color. On printed and minted currency, we find only a very few examples of women achieving this place of honor and vicarious immortality, and even far fewer people of color of any gender.

Coins

Women, expressed or as the allegorical “every woman,” cover a few on-going and commemorative coins including:

One of the most identifiable is the 1860-1945, Winged Liberty Head dime. Also minted were the Alabama quarter depicting Helen Keller on the reverse side in 2003, Sacagawea on the dollar coin from 1999 to the present, and Susan B. Anthony on the dollar coin from 1979-1981. The first woman to appear on a U.S. coin was Queen Isabella of Spain on one side and an “every woman” on the other signifying women’s productivity on a commemorative quarter given at the Columbian Exposition of 1893. Other short-term commemorative coins included a Eunice Kennedy Shriver silver dollar in 1995; Virginia Dare, with her mother Eleanor Dare, on the Roanoke Island, North Carolina half dollar in 1937; and the Girl Scouts USA Centennial one dollar coin minted in 2013.

Currency Bills

Women’s appearance on our bills represents the classifications of “rare” and “temporary.” The bronze Statue of Freedom by Thomas Crawford, the female figure atop the U.S. Capitol Dome, was introduced in 1862 on the five-dollar bill; between 1886-1891, Martha Washington emerged on the one dollar silver certificate; the 1896 two dollar silver bank note included a group of three women and two children; the 1863 ten cent fractional currency boasts a female bust; for use only in a U.S. military establishment, issued in 1954, an allegorical woman can be found on both sides of a five-cent military payment certificate.

Change in the Air?

An apparent movement has been set in motion. A grassroots non-for-profit group calling itself “Women on 20s” initiated a campaign and petition to choose a woman to replace Andrew Jackson on the 20 dollar bill. The winner of their online poll of 15 candidates is the abolitionist civil rights worker, Harriot Tubman. Eleanor Roosevelt came in second, Rosa Parks third, and Wilma Mankiller fourth. Other nominees included Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, Patsy Mink, Shirley Chisholm, Francis Perkins, Sojourner Truth, Clara Barton, and Margaret Sanger. The petition went to President Obama in May for his action.

Since the year 2020 marks the 100 year commemoration of the passage of the 19th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution granting women the vote, petition organizers argue that the time has long-since come for women to grace our currency, especially our paper bills.

They chose to fire Andrew Jackson for a number of reasons. During the early years of the new republic, with its increasing population and desire for land, political leaders, such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, advocated that Native American Indian lands should be obtained through treaties and purchase. Later, however, when he inhabited the White House as the country’s 7th President, Andrew Jackson argued that white settlers (actually, land thieves) had a “right” to confiscate Indian land. Though he proposed a combination of treaties and an exchange or trade of land, he maintained that whites had a right to claim any Indian lands that were not under cultivation. Jackson recognized as the only legitimate claims for Indian lands those on which they grew crops or made other “improvements.”

The Indian Removal Act of May 28, 1830 authorized President Jackson to confiscate Indian land east of the Mississippi River, “relocate” its inhabitants, and exchange their former land with territory west of the River. The infamous “Trail of Tears” during Jackson’s presidency attests to the forced evacuation and redeployment of entire Indian nations in which many died of cholera, exposure to the elements, contaminated food, and other environmental hazards.

In addition, though Jackson founded the Democratic Party and brought greater popular control to government, as a farmer, his wealth increased enormously through his enslavement of Africans, and he gave the lash to any who attempted escape.

To the consternation of many in “Women on 20s” and others, U.S. Treasure Secretary, Jack Lew, announced recently that a prominent woman would be placed on the less circulated 10 dollar bill, sharing the cover with its current occupant, Alexander Hamilton, an abolitionist. Lew asserted that he chose the 10 dollar bill since it was the next in line to undergo a design change.

My Suggested Options

If we soon find more women and people of color on our currency, will this actually represent real changes in the status of women and people of color, or will this facelift simply mask the sexist and racist inequities rampant throughout our society?

Rather than replacing or adding others with the portraits on existing denominations of printed currency, I have a plan that will extend our litmus test to represent conditions as they actually exist within the hierarchy of our sexist and racist patriarchal system that is our economy. I propose new denominations representing the 2013 earnings of a number of demographic groups compared with white men doing the same work:

A white woman will now appear on the new 78 cents bill

A black man will now appear on the new 75 cents bill

A Latino man will now appear on the new 67 cents bill

A black woman will now appear on the new 64 cents bill

A Latina woman will now appear on the new 54 cents bill

I maintain that this blueprint will give greater visibility to non-traditional currency honorees while reflecting the true economic inequities plaguing our land. So, let the nomination process for candidates commence!

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), co-author with Diane Raymond of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense).

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

June 22nd, 2015 at 10:35 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

NRA’s Strategy of Blaming the Victims

without comments

I typically find pride in my ability to find words to express what I am thinking and feeling on a given topic. After reading the reaction from Charles L. Cotton, a board member of the National Rifle Association, however, responding to the terrorist act perpetrated against worshipers at a Bible study group at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston by a deranged racist ending in the fatal shooting of 9 good people, I fell speechless, enraged, and emotionally overwhelmed. I had to absorb, attempt to grasp, and reflect upon Cotton’s statement.

In my life, when I have felt emotionally overloaded and blocked, I find a way to process my feelings by taking on some kind of simple physical activity, one I can perform that gives me immediate gratification like mowing the lawn or performing housework. This time, I reached under the kitchen sink for the spray bottle of floor cleaner, gathered a cloth, kneeled to my knees, and scrubbed my kitchen and living room floors as my little doggies licked my face with their soggy kisses. I then mowed both the front and back lawns, ate my lunch, and took a long and deep early afternoon nap.

After watching a silly mindless movie on TV, I felt ready to formulate a response of sorts to Cotton’s blaming the deaths at “Mother Emanuel” Church on its pastor, Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, who lost his life during the massacre. Cotton, with an unimaginable insensitivity, effrontery, and sheer chutzpa, accused Rev. Pinckney of bringing the tragedy upon himself in his capacity as a sitting South Carolina state representative by voting against a bill, which if passed, would have permitted the carrying of concealed weapons into houses of worship. According to Cotton:

“Eight of his church members who might be alive if he had expressly allowed members to carry handguns in church are dead. Innocent people died because of his position on a political issue.”

The bill, voted in the South Carolina legislature in 2011, if passed, would have permitted gun owners to carry weapons into restaurants, day-care centers, and houses of worship. The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Thad Viers (R), said that expanding the locations that one can bring a concealed weapon serves as an effective way to reduce crime: “It puts criminals on the defense. Criminals don’t know if you’re carrying or not.”

I’m not making this up, for as ridiculous at it might sound, some legislators objected that the proposed law did not go far enough. Ed Kelleher, president of the powerful gun lobbying group, GrassRoots South Carolina, argued that the bill “violates the constitutional rights of gun owners” because it allows only adult residents of the state of South Carolina to carry concealed weapons, and not younger people or out-of-state visitors.

“While the bill might make it better for people in South Carolina, it’s going to be a lot worse for others, including those visiting us. We depend on tourism here, and this has a chilling effect on that.”

The progressive organization, ThinkProgress, summarized recent gun laws in the state of South Carolina: a 2006 law mandates that pro-gun laws shall not be rescinded during a state of emergency such as a hurricane; a 2008 law permits legislators and visitors to the State House in Columbia to maintain their weapons in their vehicles while parked on the grounds; a 2009 law allows people who have obtained a concealed weapons permit to possess guns in their cars while dropping children off at school.

Charles L. Cotton gave his “remedy” to what could have prevented the tragedy at Emanuel AME Church. In like fashion, Wayne LaPierre, Executive VP of the National Rifle Association, gave his assessment following the murders of 26 innocents, including 20 young children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Then he called on Congress to “put armed police officers in every single school in this nation.”

So while LaPierre by implication blames the massacre at Sandy Hook on school officials for not having armed guards, Cotton places direct blame on the murdered pastor for his own death and the death of nine others.

This strategy of blaming the victim is often used to reverse and thus deflect the argument by skewing the actual power dynamics and thereby attempting to misappropriate responsibility for the oppression from the dominant group and to those who are, in fact, most negatively impacted by the oppression. In terms of the gun-control debate, by blaming the victims, weapons become a solution rather than one of the problems. Unrestricted and unlimited amounts of weapons then are perceived as unremarkable or “normal,” as a guaranteed Constitutional “freedom.” When anyone poses a challenge or attempts to restrict this “freedom,” those in the dominant group brand them as “subversive,” as “un-American,” as “socialists,” as “politically correct,” as “wimps.”

The technique of attempting to turn the tables by situating the victims of gun violence as holding the responsibility for this violence both denies and deflects the reality of the utter domination of the gun lobby and the massive amounts of power they have to control elected officials.

Each time I hear of yet another incident of gun violence, I think back to the very first thing that caught my eye as I entered the grounds of the Ames, Iowa Republican Party Presidential Straw Poll in the summer of 2011. Three young children, I would guess between the ages of 4 -7, sporting day-glow orange baseball caps with “NRA” [National Rifle Association] imprinted atop, and round stickers on their small T-shirts announcing “GUNS SAVE LIVES.”

But do these “guns save lives”? Do laws expanding gun possession, concealed or not, actually “save lives”? These laws certainly have not worked in South Carolina, which is ranked 9th highest of the states in firearm murders.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gun-related violence has reached epidemic proportions in our country by snuffing out the lives of upwards of 30,000+ people and wounding many more annually. On average, guns end the lives of more than 80 people in the United States every day. Each year, gun violence affects over 100,000 people in some way. Many of the guns used in these killings reach military level weapons power, guns which currently remain legal. Today in the United States, there are 88.8 firearms per 100 people.

Of the estimated 68+ mass murders in the United States since 1982, most of the shooters obtained their weapons legally. Demographically, the shooters in all but one case involved males, usually white, with an average age of 35 years.

Should any limits be placed on the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution, which reads: “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”? We seem somehow only to remember the second clause in that sentence while forgetting the first, especially the term “well-regulated”!

I propose that we reevaluate the political right’s obsession with the so-called “freedom” to bear arms because it is not only “criminals who kill people” as Second Amendment advocates claim. We must ban and criminalize the possession of automatic and semi-automatic weapons, and close loop holes such as buying a weapon at a gun show. We must increase the waiting period and make background checks more rigorous and effective. Furthermore, we need to limit the number of guns any individual can own, and also limit the number of bullets any gun clip can hold. We must rethink the “logic” of permitting concealed weapons, especially in places like houses of worship, colleges, bars, restaurants, and political rallies. Moreover, all data bases monitoring gun ownership must interface to assess the gun owning population more accurately and effectively.

I also believe that even our flawed “founding fathers” did not want unlimited and unrestricted rights to bear arms. Even if they did advocate for unrestricted gun ownership, these are the same men who owned slaves, committed genocide against and expelled native peoples, withheld enfranchisement from women, engaged in and killed one another in duels, and so on. Actually, I’m really surprised the NRA hasn’t advocated for the return of lethal dueling matches. Maybe that’s next on their agenda.

As we all know, the chances for comprehensive common sense gun control in the United States is only a pipe dream as long as the NRA controls Congress and state legislatures, for if they did not, we would have seen effective laws passed years ago resulting in countless lives saved.

Nevertheless, this insanity in our system of gun laws must end. Enough is enough!

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense), and co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press).

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

June 21st, 2015 at 3:39 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Terrorism in Charleston: It’s About Racism Stupid!

without comments

While all available evidence points to Dylann Storm Roof’s racist motives in his admitted mass murder of 9 worshipers at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on Wednesday evening, June 17, in Charleston, South Carolina, still, a number of conservative Republican politicians frame the tragedy as either something we can never truly understand, or primarily as an attack on Christians, Christianity, and religious liberty.

According to South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley: “While we do not yet know all of the details, we do know that we’ll never understand what motivates anyone to enter one of our places of worship and take the life of another.”

Well, Governor Haley, I believe that in most instances of terrorism directed against houses of worship in the United States, the attackers’ motives were crystal clear: white supremacism!

A bomb ripped apart the 16th Street Baptist Church, a historically African American church, in 1963 just before Sunday morning services killing 4 young black girls and injuring many others. The Church also served as a meeting place for area civil rights leaders in a city with “one of the strongest and most violent chapters of the Ku Klux Klan.” An avowed neo-Nazi murdered three people in a pair of shootings at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City and at Village Shalom, a Jewish retirement center. A 40-year-old white supremacist killed six people and wounded 4 others at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin in 2012.

A number of Republican political leaders went further than Governor Haley in speculating on the motives of the 21-year-old Charleston terrorist. For example, former Pennsylvania Senator and recurring Republican Party presidential hopeful, Rick Santorum, connected the tragedy to an ongoing attack in this country on religious liberty: “You talk about the importance of prayer in this time, and we’re now seeing assaults on our religious liberty we’ve never seen before. It’s a time for deeper reflection beyond this horrible situation.”

Current South Carolina Senator and presidential candidate, Lindsey Graham, distrusts those who claim that the shooter’s actions should be defined as a “hate crime.” Graham speculated that other motives beside “race” must be considered: “There are real people who are organized out there to kill people in religion and based on race, this guy’s just whacked out. But it’s 2015. There are people out there looking for Christians to kill them.”

Fox News TV host Steve Doocy expressed surprise and shock that some describe the church murders as a “hate crime.” Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, appearing on Doocy’s show, seemed perplexed over the shooter’s motivations: “We have no idea what’s in his mind. Maybe he hates Christian churches. Maybe he hates black churches, or he’s gonna go find another one. Who knows?”

Well, if these politicians stopped long enough to extract their heads from the sandy depths from where they self-stuck them, ask themselves some important questions, and look at the statements and facts as we know them, they will understand the pattern of racism that emerges regarding the shooter’s motives and purposes.

What are the possible reasons why this young man drove approximately 2 hours from his home in Columbia, South Carolina to this particular house of worship carrying with him the pistol he purchased?

Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church has a historic and proud tradition as the oldest AME church in the south, referred to as “Mother Emanuel.” Founded in 1816, some individual or group burned the Church down in 1822 as a suspected meeting place for individuals planning a revolt against slavery. People continued to worship in other locations until they rebuilt their church. In 1834, the white legislature outlawed all black churches, and congregants worshiped in secret until 1865 when they officially reorganized their Church under the name “Emanuel.”

John Mullins, a high school friend, said that the admitted shooter “had that kind of Southern pride, I guess some would say, strong conservative beliefs. He made a lot of racist jokes, but you don’t really take them seriously like that.” A friend from Middle School, Joseph Meek, Jr., said that the shooter told him a few weeks ago that “…blacks were taking over the world. Someone needed to do something about it for the white race.” And Dalton Tyler, who knew the shooter for about a year, stated: “He said he was planning for about six months to do something crazy. He was big into segregation and other stuff. He said he wanted to start a civil war. He said he was going to do something like that and then kill himself.”

On his Facebook page, the young gunman is seen wearing a military-style jacket with insignia patches of flags of apartheid South Africa and white ruled Rhodesia (today known as Zimbabwe). In another picture, he is seen waving a Confederate flag, and in another, he is standing holding a burning American flag. In addition, he posed for pictures wearing a T-shirt with the number 88 printed on the front, he had 88 Facebook friends, and he scribbled that number in the South Carolina sand. “H” is the 8th letter in the alphabet, and in white supremacist circles, “88” is code for “Heil Hitler.”

According to one of the murder’s family members: “He apparently told people that he was involved in groups, racist groups.” The shooter reportedly told one of the survivors of his massacre in order for her to report the incident first hand, in glaringly stereotypical racist terms, “I have to do it. You rape our women and you’re taking over our country.” He told one of the police officers following his capture in Shelby, North Carolina that he “almost didn’t go through with it because everyone was so nice to him,” but that he still “had to go through with his mission.”

Later, police officials found his racist manifesto on his internet page, including this section:

“N**gers are stupid and violent. At the same time they have the capacity to be very slick. Black people view everything through a racial lense [sic]….I wish with a passion that n**gers were treated terribly throughout history by Whites, that every White person had an ancestor who owned slaves, that segregation was an evil, an oppressive institution, and so on.”

All indications present in stark and glaring terms that his “mission” was not to kill Christians, per se. Rather, he was bent on killing black people, period! To spin this tragedy as anti-Christian, or even as just the actions of one “mentally ill” young man, and not to see it as anything but a demented hate-filled domestic terrorist who grew up in a racism-saturated community, state (which still to this day flies the flag of the Confederacy on its capital grounds), and country who fought a battle to maintain white supremacy by killing unarmed black people would be to inflict even greater pain and insult upon the memory of the good and caring souls who were taken from us too soon, upon their families, and upon all people of color of this nation.

Most white supremacist organizations, including Neo-Nazis and the KKK, claim to base their philosophy and tactics on Christian theology in “defending” the so-called white “race.” These groups do not commit their hate crimes to defeat Christianity, but rather they represent extremist outliers of Christianity who misrepresent Christian teachings. According to the leader of the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, who rejects the label “hate group” to represent their organization, “[W]e’re a Christian organization.” And Adolph Hitler, many of these groups’ “spiritual” leader, in his 1925 book Mein Kampf (My Struggle), in addition to “racial” justifications, he also forwarded Christian religious arguments for his eventual genocidal slaughter of the Jewish people:

“Today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.”

So I ask these Republican politicians, as well as those of had first-hand knowledge of the mind of this mass murderer, to pick up your heads, brush off the sand, take a deep breath, and enter the conversation that must take place if we are ever to begin a healing process as a nation from the deep and tragic depths of white supremacy on which our country was conceived, our “original sin” if you wish to frame it in Biblical terms.

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), co-author with Diane Raymond of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense).

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

June 19th, 2015 at 8:00 pm

Posted in Uncategorized