The Trend Of Spiritual Activism To Foster Mental Health

Most white Americans won’t understand the pressure crushing down upon our minority friends and family members. Life can be a daily struggle. Coming away from that struggle with a positive outlook can be nearly impossible — especially considering the state of American politics and partisanship. And that’s why many activists have sought spiritual rest and relaxation in order to foster their own mental health. How else can they keep fighting the good fight?

Author of Do Better: Spiritual Activism for Fighting and Healing from White Supremacy Rachel Ricketts says that her book is “essentially a combination of my personal and professional experiences of a lifetime of navigating white supremacist systems as a queer multiracial Black woman — and it is rooted in spiritual activism.”

Spiritual activism doesn’t mean that people have to stop fighting. To the contrary, it only means that we have to keep fighting after we attain personal inner peace. You can’t fight from a place of hatred. Your heart needs to feel content first.

Ricketts said that spiritual activism “means doing [the work] from a space, of a grounded understanding, in the way we are all involved in systemic harm in a way that ensures that we are connected to ourselves as well as each other, as well as all beings — conscious or not — including nature, and to something bigger than us.”

She adds, “Activism is really about understanding that this work has to start within us first, so that the work we do out in the world is a reflection of that. It’s grief work, it’s healing work, it’s trauma work, and if we aren’t treating it as such, then it just becomes an analytical exercise.”

The purpose, according to Ricketts, is to get to know oneself and other people in order to understand what makes people tick. Without that understanding, growth and change are impossible — and we’ll only keep hurting ourselves and the ones we want to save.

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Why Is White The Color Of Suffrage?

Women’s rights have come a long way since the birth of our nation. But the right to vote wasn’t just an American struggle. The British suffragists shared it. The color “white” became a visual symbol of this struggle at a time when women were desperate for men to understand. This came to be in the 20th century when women in the United States formed the militant organization called the National Woman’s Party. They adopted the colors white, purple and green. And that message came across loud and clear — even though it wasn’t always received well.

Historian Susan Ware wrote to the Washington Post in 2019 in an effort to memorialize the plight of women not too long ago: “For too long, the history of how women won the right to vote [has been] top-heavy and dominated by a few iconic leaders, all white and native-born.”

She added, “Thousands of unheralded women representing a vibrant mix of regions, races and generations came together in one of the most significant moments of political mobilization in all of American history.”

Women marched through the streets in the District of Columbia more than a century ago, wearing white dresses. 

They’ve earned the right to vote in both countries, but they still make less money than men. They still occupy fewer positions of power and authority. There are signs that a shift is taking place — but is it happening fast enough? Influential women dominate the activist’s sphere, especially when it comes to climate change. Do you know these women?

The Prime Minister of New Zealand is Jacinda Ardern. When she won reelection, she almost immediately declared a climate emergency to jumpstart the country into becoming carbon neutral by the year 2025 — which is an ambitious goal.

She said, “This declaration is an acknowledgment of the next generation. An acknowledgment of the burden they will carry if we do not get this right and do not take action now.”

African American Director of Consumer Health Boma Brown-West has waged a long war on carcinogens and potentially dangerous chemicals that we see everyday in the products we use and consume. In addition, she’s driven internet behemoths like Amazon and Walmart to provide information about ingredients in their products. 

Boma explained, “We want to call attention to how the biggest environmental impacts and the biggest health impact of products is really due to the products themselves and the creation and the use of a product.”

Our new Secretary for the Department of the Interior Debra Haaland has a long history of fighting climate change. 

National spokesperson for the Sunrise Movement Lily Gardner said, “[Debra Haaland] was one of the first co-sponsors of the Green New Deal and really broadly has a bold agenda for climate justice. This is a huge and historic moment.” 

Haaland will now have the opportunity to oversee the management of our federally-owned lands.

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Are Social Media Giants Helping Indian Authorities Wage War Against Climate Activists?

Climate activists have rarely put the government of India in the position of international hero — but then again, climate activists all over the world are pissed off at their respective governments. Why shouldn’t they be? Politics are putting the future of our world at risk. They shouldn’t force us to delay investment into renewable energy solutions just because a few holdouts can stomach the idea.

Last month, Naomi Klein for The Intercept wrote about a climate activist named Disha Ravi: “A nature-loving 22-year-old vegan climate activist who against all odds has found herself ensnared in an Orwellian legal saga that includes accusation of sedition, incitement, and involvement in an international conspiracy whose elements include…Indian farmers in revolve, the global pop star Rihanna, supposed plots against yoga and chai, Sikh separatism, and Greta Thunberg.”

Ravi had spent more than a week in prison while she was interrogated about her alleged part in these crackpot conspiracy theories when a judge granted her bail. But he actually wrote an 18-page ruling to rant about the government’s part in accusing this youthful, innocent activist without actual proof.

Social media giants like Facebook and Twitter have now been accused of playing a role in helping the Indian government lock up activists like Ravi — and for no good reason.

One anonymous digital rights activist told Naomi, “The silence of these companies speaks volumes. They have to take a stand, and they have to do it now.”

The judge who presided over Ravi’s case wrote: “Citizens are conscience keepers of government in any democratic Nation. They cannot be put behind the bars simply because they choose to disagree with the state policies.”

Part of the government’s case against Ravi hinged on Ravi sharing a digital “toolkit” with Greta Thunberg, a famous climate rights activist. These toolkits are basically just organizational suggestions. Tweet this, hashtag that, etc. The judge said that sharing the toolkit amounted to “the freedom of speech and expression [and included] the right to seek a global audience.”

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How Can We Lift Minorities Out Of Bankruptcy?

African American farmers have been hurting for generations, and COVID-19 hasn’t done anything but depreciate family bank accounts. For them, this is about survival. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 has an underlooked clause that forgives about $3.7 billion of debt owed by disadvantaged farmers all over the country. Some African American farmers believe that this is the chance of a lifetime to build their farms back up.

President of Memphis-based trade group Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association Thomas Burrell said, “It is a victory for socially disadvantaged farmers. They can forgive their debt, start over and go back to the front of the line. They’re not asking for any more than anyone has received. They’re just asking for their share.”

One farmer living in Shorter Alabama named Demetrius Hooks commented, “Ironically that money is going to dissipate through USDA and not go directly to farmers. So, we don’t know exactly how that’s going to come out.”

Another, John Coleman, said, “Right now, we’re on the bleachers. This will help us get on the playing field.”

A number of farmers aren’t sure the help will get here in time. It’s almost planting season.

One anonymous bankruptcy lawyer who works for Toronjo & Prosser Law (www.t-plaw.com) said, “Some ranchers along the outskirts of Dallas are bleeding money bad right now. We want to help everyone we can, and we point to some of the help provided by the government, but it’s not always enough. Sometimes bankruptcy ends up being the best option. No one wants to hear that.”

The American Rescue Plan also has a mandate that forces special agencies to consider equitable solutions for American minorities in order to lift them out of poverty. In order to benefit from the current debt relief, farmers need to contact their local Farm Services Agency.

Arkansas farmer Jeffery Webb said, “There just isn’t much information out there. I am at the brink of bankruptcy right now. This forgiveness could keep me from going bankrupt.” 

But Webb also commented on the typical USDA pressure on the African American community: “We’re so limited on resources — African American farmers are. They can pass a bill like this in Washington and we would never get the full benefits because it’s hard to know what the benefits are and how to find them out. We don’t know where to start.”

That means civil rights activists would do well to approach legislators about finding new ways to easily provide information to those who need it the most. Not everyone has a working computer or internet access out in the country. Farming doesn’t require a screen. 

Agriculture researcher Brennan Washington said, “It’s kind of interesting that once again it doesn’t seem like a good job is being done of communicating this to the people it’s actually going to affect. But there will be a period for comments. Especially if you’re in areas where you have Black congressional reps, call them. Because they would have information on what’s going on with this. People who are going to be affected by this, this is the time to let their concerns be known.”

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Anti-Trans Bills Sweeping The Country

A recent Supreme Court ruling guarantees certain kinds of protections for trans individuals in the workplace. The ruling says that the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects individuals based on sexual orientation and gender identity from being fired simply for existing and prevents landlords from barring them from properties for the same reason. The landmark Equality Act would fortify those protections in modern law.

But those protections might not be enough to protect our trans kids.

Regional and state-sanctioned bills have been introduced in the last few months — dozens of them — which would bar trans kids from playing on the male or female sports teams aligned with their own gender identity. These bills are advocated on the basis of “fairness.” But since when do Republicans care about that? We live in America, where capitalism thrives and the super rich are rewarded simply for having more money than the rest of us. 

Eleventh grade student Eli Bundy missed class on February 23 to testify to a South Carolina House Subcommittee on one of the aforementioned bills.

They’re sixteen. Bundy said, “They didn’t want to hear from us. I think that’s part of the reason why they weren’t more accommodating — they didn’t want to sit through that.”

Senior executive adviser at GLSEN Eliza Byard said, “The incredible well of youth activism that has been at the vanguard of the LGBTQ progress for the last 30 to 40 years continues to push back in new ways…It continues today, and I feel very confident given what I’ve seen over the years that these advocates will prevail.”

Bundy says that the conservative push for discriminatory legislation demanded their response. They said, “In my case, it feels like a necessity. I feel like I can’t afford to not pay attention, because it’s my life and the life of my friends on the line, and that feels like much too high of a cost not to be paying attention to, even though it definitely can be very painful.”

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Bigotry Against Asian Americans Is Nothing New

Some were surprised to learn that hate crimes targeting Asian Americans have increased dramatically over the last year — but we weren’t. Donald Trump’s rise to power was proportional to a rise in hate crimes targeting nearly every minority as far back as 2015, when he first campaigned for president. His rhetoric has provided millions of hate-filled individuals with an excuse to use minority groups as an outlet for their own learned rage. 

Is it really all that shocking that violent crimes against Asian Americans have risen over the past 12 months? We had a president who consistently blamed China for letting the virus travel beyond its borders (there’s no guarantee the virus first appeared in China, by the way) and calls the novel coronavirus the “Chinese virus,” the “Wuhan virus,” and even “Kung Flu.” He says he isn’t a bigot, but…does anyone really believe him?

Settling debt we must pay back to minority groups via reparations is the only path that might foster healing, but it’s not likely to happen soon if at all.

Postdoctoral fellow at the Charles Warren Center For Studies in American History Courtney Sato said, “The important thing to remember is that this is really not an exceptional moment by any means. But it’s really part of a much longer genealogy of anti-Asian violence that reaches as far back as the 19th century.”

Racially motivated stereotypes sometimes take on a confusing appearance. For example, many men fetishize Asian women — which, perhaps contrary to common thinking, only fosters an unhealthy relationship between white people and this particular minority group. 

Sato shed light on past events that most people don’t know about. For example, in 1871 a mob formed in Chinatown (in Downtown Los Angeles) to murder 19 Asian-American residents, including a young teenage boy. This event followed biased and racially motivated government legislation, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. The law prevents Chinese immigrants from entering the country. A prior law had prevented only Chinese women from entering the country.

The United States was founded on the principle that all men are created equal, but its citizens have long found ways to “sidestep” this principle by simply defining certain people differently. For example, slaves were defined as personal property — they weren’t people at all as defined by law.

Sato said, “In the 1875 Act, we see the ways in which race and gender are beginning to be entangled and codified in the law, and how Asian women were deemed to be bringing in sexual deviancy. That far back, we can see how racism and sexism were being conflated.”

Harvard President Larry Bacaw responded to the recent violence: “For the past year, Asians, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders have been blamed for the pandemic — slander born of xenophobia and ignorance. Harvard must stand as a bulwark against hatred and bigotry. We welcome and embrace individuals from every background because it makes us a better community, a stronger community. An attack on any group of us is an attack on all of us — and on everything we represent as an institution.”

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Can Infrastructure Be “Racist?”

It’s a strange question to ask. After all, “infrastructure” is a non-living entity. But hey, guess what: humans build infrastructure. We get to decide where to build it, how much to invest in it, and where to allocate the money that is invested. And as long as humans are the ones who decide those aspects of infrastructure, there’s always plenty of room for racial bias to take over the conversation. This is what happened during the Jackson, Mississippi water crisis that you might never have heard about.

Over winter, residents were forced to make do without clean running water. That’s because the infrastructure failed due to inclement weather. Was the failure connected to the city’s predominantly African American population? You be the judge.

Author or Waste: One Woman’s Fight Against America’s Dirty Secret Catherine Coleman Flowers said, “I believe that what we will find in a lot of these areas, especially in the South, is the type of benign neglect of these cities…There’s an intentional avoidance of putting the types of dollars in infrastructure — in these Southern communities, it’s not coming from the tax base because the tax base is not there.”

She added, “A lot of it comes from the federal government, but it’s those cities that have lobbyists or political connections that get the money over and over again. We have to change that paradigm.”

Jackson was once predominantly white. Not coincidentally, the pipes haven’t been replaced since then. Flowers also suggested that Jackson will be a city heavily impacted by climate change, and new infrastructure is needed now if we don’t want to end up spending more later. 

Catherine is someone who is accustomed to working with people on both sides of the aisle — such as progressive Bernie Sanders and former Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions. She said that she actually asked Sessions, who grew up in poverty, how poor communities could obtain grants when richer communities were the ones that paid to match. Sessions didn’t know the answer. And that’s how they decided to work together.

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Does Activism On Social Media Actually Make A Difference?

The couple of years have been different as far as activism goes: namely, we’ve seen an increase in celebrity and influencer support for certain causes with social media used as the main tool to promote awareness. For example, Black Lives Matter was thrust into the media spotlight last summer as an inflection point was reached after several police shootings left a number of African Americans dead for no reason.

Breonna Taylor was asleep when she was shot and killed by police during a strange nighttime no-knock warrant. BLM opponents will say she wasn’t asleep, and while technically true — she was awake by the time the bullets started flying — that sort of misses the point, don’t you think? She was asleep when the door was broken down. She was killed seconds later.

This event and others just like it led to a day of “blackout” on social media to show support for the minority victims of police brutality and violence. Activism always used social media as a tool to gain more traction, but this — this was something new. This was bigger than it ever was before. Anyone following celebrities or popular influencers on Instagram will know what we mean. Awareness was being promoted everywhere. And even today, many influencers haven’t toned it down. They still want us to know everything that happens to minority victims on a daily basis.

Many have asked whether social media activism works. Should we keep up the fight using these tools? The quick answer is “yes.” 

Social media might not gain the ear of everyone who sees, but the point is that almost everyone is forced to see. They can’t just turn it off their feed. Many people will share posts, many will donate to organizations that need the cash, while others will get out there for the next march or protest. The vast majority won’t. But does it even matter that most people won’t? What should matter is that more people are.

It’s true that those in medical fields have provided a great deal of support for activists during the mostly peaceful BLM protest last summer — and some of them realized first-hand that police brutality was a real problem. One story showed a medical station that had been set up to offer first aid and water to protesters, only for authorities to show up and destroy the supplies.

One of the most popular climate change activists is a teen named Greta Thunberg. She routinely makes a name for herself by attending big rallies and speaking in front of the part of the establishment that doesn’t believe it’s real or doesn’t want to invest the money into saving the world. But most of her supporters will recognize her from Instagram. And without Instagram, most of us might not even know her name.

So long as platforms like Instagram and Twitter exist, we should use them to spread the word. It’s the right thing to do — because educating the masses is more important that limiting the tools we use to inform others that wrongdoing is pervasive in our society.

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Protests In Myanmar Find LGBTQ Support

The military coup in Myanmar has put relationships around the world on a strained setting and tested the first days of the Biden presidency. According to the authorities responsible for deposing the elected president of Myanmar, the military will stay in control for one year. Biden has ordered sanctions while we wait for new information. Now, human rights activists have homed in on Myanmar — LGBTQ supporters included.

Min Khant Zin is a popular drag queen who decided to attend the protests in drag, according to the Los Angeles Blade.

Zin said, “Most of the openly gay people in Myanmar are makeup artists and cross-dressers. They do not stand out in the crowds when they wear female costumes, but someone with drag costumes will. This is my intention…We want people around the world to know about the LGBT community’s contributions for the fight for democracy.”

At least 100 members of the LGBTQ community participated in a protest on February 8. The protesters say that police sprayed them with water and shot rubber bullets into the crowd.

Protester Maung Soe said ,”We have to be cautious because we look different and are easily noticeable. We are worried we might be targeted by the police forces and counter protesters. We are all coming to the protests to support the greater cause.”

Burmese college student Khant Sithu explained that the current unrest is simply a result of the military usurpation of power. Sithu said, “Regardless if you are gay or straight, we all vote for the political parties we like. People in Myanmar have overwhelmingly voted for Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD party. Now, the military dislikes the situation and detain the civilian leaders.”

The situation overseas is not unlike the one that former president Donald Trump tried to create here in the United States both before and after he lost the 2020 election. He was reported to have been in talks with Pentagon officials about the outcome of the election.

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History Of Activism Around The World: Part III

So far we’ve discussed the Third Servile War and popular sentiment resulting from the dictatorial rule of Gaius Julius Caesar, which led to the beginning of the Roman Empire — which from that beginning until its end would be home to a number of revolts, civil wars, and overall large-scale civil unrest.

Anti-Semitic views and hate crimes have fluctuated throughout history for thousands of years. Even right now in New York, hate crimes are on the rise — and in 2021! But this type of hatred goes back all the way to Roman times, when many revolts led to a rise in activism in the Ancient World. 

A man named Publius Quinctilius Varus was responsible for a great deal of conflict between anti-Semites and the Jewish people. When there was a messianic revolt in Judaea when Herod the Great died there in 4 BC, Varus wasted no time in stamping it out. He occupied Jerusalem, crucified thousands of rebels, and sparked a great deal of disgust for Rome’s actions.

Josephus, who made every effort to reconcile the Jewish people to Roman rule, felt it necessary to point out how lenient this judicial massacre had been…Indeed, at precisely this moment the Jews, nearly en masse, began a full-scale boycott of Roman potter.”

Historians believe Varus’s treatment of the Jewish people resulted in a great deal of protest. He was eventually recalled to Antioch. But his brother Drusus was campaigning in Germania in an attempt to acquire new territory for Rome to rule over, who in doing so subjugated many German tribes. This was the storied career of a typical Roman military commander or politician — the subjugation of other peoples.

Even so, Rome normally allowed its conquered peoples to retain their own culture and religions — and in fact, Rome routinely adopted the gods from other religions into its own pantheon. This was likely part of the reason the empire was so successful for so long. Subjugated peoples would reap the rewards of Roman rule — like new roads — and only have to pay taxes in exchange. 

Eventually, Rome went through a period where the disparity between poor and rich became too great to bear, allowing the seeds of Christianity to take root. This was a religion that taught that being poor was not just okay, it was actually how one was supposed to live life (something that many modern-day Christiants seem to have forgotten). But the slow rise of Christianity led to a great divide in Ancient Rome — because Christians believed in only one god, which inevitably led every other god in the pantheon to be cast out. 

This caused a great deal of social strife in Rome. One could say that Christianity kept the Empire alive for a bit longer at the cost of its soul. Social conflict between those who wished to keep their gods and Christians rose for centuries, and Rome’s grip on subjugated peoples was greatly weakened as a result. Christian activism caused the emperor himself to lose power, as he was an almost god-like figure.

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