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.”

Comments Off on Anti-Trans Bills Sweeping The Country

Filed under Civil Rights Activists

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.”

Comments Off on Bigotry Against Asian Americans Is Nothing New

Filed under Civil Rights Activists

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.

Comments Off on Can Infrastructure Be “Racist?”

Filed under Infrastructure

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.

Comments Off on Does Activism On Social Media Actually Make A Difference?

Filed under Civil Rights Activists

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.

Comments Off on Protests In Myanmar Find LGBTQ Support

Filed under My Blog

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.

Comments Off on History Of Activism Around The World: Part III

Filed under Civil Rights Activists

History Of Activism Around The World: Part II

One of the first traces of activism was the Third Servile War in Ancient Rome, and was covered in part one of our series on the history of activism around the world. But there were many other examples of times when social activism led to upheaval in Rome. These include the 241 BC Falisci revolt, the First and Second Servile Wars in 135 and 104 BC, the 91BC Social War, and the 80 BC Sertorian War. Revolt in Rome, suffice it to say, was relatively commonplace throughout history. True peace was rare.

Only a couple decades after the Third Servile War, Gaius Julius Caesar came to power. He was a divisive political figure among those who thrived in the Senate, and many of the common rabble of Rome loved him dearly. Why wouldn’t they? He symbolized Roman power — in part by committing the Gauls to genocide during his campaigns — he was rich, and he did what he said he would do. He was eventually killed by his own colleagues in the Senate for becoming too powerful after he was proclaimed dictator in perpetuity, i.e. for life.

But this followed a great civil war in Rome due to political matters and personal differences between Caesar and other men. After Caesar’s death, yet another civil war was fought between Caesar’s own adopted son and soon-to-be crumbling factions of Opimates and Liberatores. This was actually the true beginning of the establishment of the Roman Empire, paving the way for Emperor Augustus to take power.

This period of upheaval occurred for many reasons, but the people of Ancient Rome had spent a great deal of time transitioning away from a monarchy — because they frowned down upon kings and traditional monarchies. How strange it was, then, to have a single person upon the seat of power once again. In any case, this conflict paved the way for future activism that we’ll discuss in part three.

Comments Off on History Of Activism Around The World: Part II

Filed under Civil Rights Activists

History Of Activism Around The World: Part I

The United States has a long and storied career as a nation of activists when compared to others on the world stage, but did you know that the word “activism” has only been used in a political sense for about the last century? Even in the 1960s, though, we usually referred to these types of actions and campaigns for equality as “social action” instead. But in the less literal sense of the word, activism around the world is something experienced by nearly every generation. 

This is the first in a series on activism around the world, where we’ll explore every trace of activism from Ancient Rome to modern-day California. And where else to start but the story of the slave turned gladiator, Spartacus — and his rebellion to free the slaves? It would eventually be named the Third Servile War because of how far Spartacus’s reach extended.

That the revolt happened at all was a shock — not just because of what it meant to the Roman Empire, but because it was nearly a miracle. An escape from Lentulus Batiatus’s gladitorial training school in 73 BC had already been planned, but someone spilled news of the plot. That didn’t stop anyone. Dozens of men grabbed kitchen instruments to fight their way free. 

Once outside, the gladiators accomplished two things in quick succession: they captured a store of weapons and armor to outfit themselves, and they chose leadership. Spartacus was one of these men (and would become the face of the rebellion from history’s point of view), but Crixus and Oenomaus were two others.

Historians believe the escaped gladiators had many early successes in no particular order: they pillaged the towns surrounding Capua to free and recruit more slaves, they defeated forces sent from Capua, and eventually fled to Mount Vesuvius — perhaps in hopes of finding a more defensive position.

The real shock occurred when Roman militia were sent after them under the command of Praetor Gaius Claudius Glaber, who tried to starve the slaves from their perch on Vesuvius. But the slaves managed to climb down the other side of the mountain using vines, flank the militia, and slaughter the force of 3,000 men. Another expedition was subsequently sent and slaughtered.

Because of these Roman defeats, word of mouth spread — the seeds of activism — and the cause swelled to around 70,000 men and women, who trained until 72 BC. Accounts differ, but after Oenemaus was killed (historians don’t know how), Crixus and Spartacus may have had a falling out and split the army in two. This led to the eventual defeat of both armies. We know that Crixus was killed, but what happened to Spartacus is still a matter of debate.

Following the destruction of the slave armies, many thousands disappeared into the ether — either never to be heard from again, or to be slowly picked up by Roman authorities. Thousands of slaves were crucified along the Appian Way as a future warning. But it served more as a reminder.

Want to learn more about Spartacus? There are many historical references in texts from the time, but books dedicated to the Third Servile War are in abundance. If you might prefer a fictionalized and dramatized account, try Starz’s popular TV show that aired beginning in 2010: Spartacus.

Comments Off on History Of Activism Around The World: Part I

Filed under Civil Rights Activists

What Will Biden’s Legacy On Civil Rights Look Like?

Finally, we have President Joe Biden. It’s been a long time coming! Many were certain it would not happen even after he was justly elected. But Trump is gone and, while Trumpism may remain in one form or another for years, his voice has been drowned out by those who wish to move forward — and there are more of us. And looking forward means that we have to ask whether or not Biden will uphold his many promises on racial justice and lasting equity.

Progressives and civil rights leaders around the country have made one thing very clear to the new president: They will not let up for one single second while there is work to be done.

And that leaves us with good news and bad news. The good news: A few executive orders signed by the new president make small gains in the civil rights arena — and this is after Biden said that such executive actions were outside his authority — but they have been overshadowed by undoing the damage Trump by reversing the former president’s own executive orders, from the Muslim ban to separating families at the border. This is a step in the right direction, but it’s not enough. Not yet.

The bad news: Biden seems poised to focus his efforts on putting into place the framework for a strong economy and providing the means for the renewable energy sector to take off. And let’s face the facts. We can hardly see that as bad news. In fact, in the long term it will undeniably be a good thing for everyone, minorities included at the top of that list. 

That’s because saving our planet will protect us against displacement and war, both of which adversely affect minorities more than anyone else. The same is true of the coronavirus. African Americans are one of the hardest hit groups. Biden’s gambit to inject over a trillion dollars into the economy should help them.

But again, it’s not enough. We’ll have to wait and see where the legacy goes from here.

Comments Off on What Will Biden’s Legacy On Civil Rights Look Like?

Filed under Civil Rights Activists

Trump Lawsuits Will Likely Head To Supreme Court

The scene was set months ago. Trump would cry foul, win or lose. If he lost the election, he would not concede. He would launch dozens of lawsuits aimed at halting the vote after Election Day. He would ask electors to vote directly for him in the event that he lost the popular vote in critical swing states — all on the basis of unsubstantiated voter fraud. Most of those lawsuits have already failed miserably in court.

The chaos that this cloak and dagger routine has thrust upon the American people is immense. Just after Election Day, protestors took to the streets to demand Trump’s concession. In Downtown Chicago, hundreds gathered to say in one unified voice: count every vote. Similar crowds could be found in Washington, Los Angeles, New York City, and Portland. 

The protests have made little difference.

Trump’s supporters still believe wholeheartedly that the election was stolen from him — that upwards of a million votes were cast by dead people (Trump said the same thing after the 2016 election, even though he won), or that votes for him were thrown out by the hundreds of thousands.

Yesterday, an appellate court made an especially strong rebuke of Trump’s lawsuits: “Free, fair elections are the lifeblood of our democracy. Charges of unfairness are serious. But calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here.”

That was Judge Stephanos Bibas, referring to the fact that while Trump has consistently and constantly said that election fraud has run rampant, he’s failed to provide a shred of evidence to support the claim. His own lawyers haven’t had it easy.

But Trump doesn’t care if there’s a legal basis for his arguments. He doesn’t care what the truth is. All votes must be certified by specific deadlines in the states (many of which have already passed), and then nationally certified on December 14th. If he can delay the certification beyond that date, he could cause yet more chaos.

Right now, his lawsuits will likely be headed to the Supreme Court, where he hopes the three judges he nominated for service will rule in his favor. That seems exceedingly unlikely. But even if they ruled in his favor, it’s difficult to see what difference it would make. Trump is suing to prevent Pennsylvania from certifying the vote in Biden’s favor. But preventing that certification doesn’t mean that Biden automatically loses. The Republican-controlled legislature has already said matter of factly that it would not subvert the will of the majority of the voters — and that means sending a set of electors to vote for Biden in January.

Trump’s lawyers (and Fox commentators) have suggested that the “judicial machinery” has covered up his victory in Pennsylvania. But the judges in question were all nominated by Republican presidents.

Trump’s lawsuit said that state officials should not have tried to certify the “results of an invalid and constitutionally infirm election process before this case can be heard on its merits.”

Comments Off on Trump Lawsuits Will Likely Head To Supreme Court

Filed under My Blog