The Next Day, The Same

It’s over before their families know
The bullet’s job is through
They’ll still be on that floor for hours
The shooter, someone they knew.

In America, we pretend to feel sorrow
But in the next few hours
It will just be tomorrow.

Will it ever change?

#Resist

Advertisements

A Utah School and #MeToo

download

Update on this story: The school district has changed course, now allowing girls to say “no thanks” to boys at the dance. Thank you to everyone who called and contacted the district on this.


The other day I came across this story. Read it, please, so you don’t think I’m making any of this up.

It goes like this:

A mother in Utah, Natalie Richard, was concerned when her 6th grade daughter came home and told her that, for the upcoming school dance, she was not allowed to say “no” to ANY boy who asked her to dance.

The Kanesville Elementary Valentine’s Day dance just got interesting.

Richard was sure her daughter misunderstood what was really said.

There was no way, in 2018, that this could possibly be a rule. No way that girls have to say “yes” to any boy that asks them to dance.

So Richard went to the teacher, who indeed confirmed that her daughter was correct.

Next stop, school principal, who told her that the dance had been set up that way for a long time and they have never had a complaints about it before.

Ummm, okay. So, because something has not been brought up before as a problem, it couldn’t possibly be a problem, right?

Lane Findlay with the Weber School District confirmed the rule, put in place to teach students how to be inclusive. “Please be respectful, be polite,” Findlay said. “We want to promote kindness, and so we want you to say yes when someone asks you to dance.”

I put out a tweet about it and got a strong reaction from my followers. The discussion is ongoing, but the message is pretty consistent:

This is not okay.

Our country is going through a major movement. #MeToo is empowering women to come forth about past abuses and to stand up to a culture that has treated them unequally for so long.

Women are letting the world know that they are finished being second class citizens.

A rule like the one at Kanesville Elementary gives us a picture of just how early the idea of women being “less than” begins. These are 6th graders, and both the girls and boys are learning the wrong things.

The girls are learning that it is their job to say “yes” to boys.

The boys are learning that when they ask a girl something, the girl has to go along with it.

Do we honestly not see a clear parallel to what is going on throughout our society? This is the kind of behavior that has upended Hollywood, the political landscape, and our business culture.

Kanesville Elementary was aiming for an inclusive environment, not wanting any boy to be rejected. The problem with that is that they don’t mention a rule saying that the boys have to say “yes” to any girl who asks. Maybe they just assume that the boys have their choice, while the girls have to wait to the invite. Are the girls even allowed to ask the boys?

Rejection is a natural part of life. There is no problem with teaching kids that, indeed, you will be told “no” sometimes.

This is just one example from one school. Yes, it is in a conservative state, but it should not be allowed. Let’s start cleaning all of this up, beginning with this school.

Here is some information so you can make some calls. Click the links and you will be led right to the contact information you need:

Kanesville Elementary School

Weber School District Superintendent

Weber School District School Board Members

Let them know that this rule is not okay and that they need to change it immediately.

Everyone should have the right to say “no” to anyone. It doesn’t matter what gender you are. You have to power to say “no.”

What do you think? Comment below.

Acceptance of the LGBTQ Community is Declining

635665082747065361-GTY-451623030
American’s acceptance towards the LGBTQ community declined over the last year

Acceptance towards the LGBTQ community was never at the level we thought it was – it’s just that many people are okay showing their bigotry again.


The LGBTQ community has become more and more accepted over the last few decades. With the rise of portrayal of LGBTQ people in television and movies, as well as many legal victories, most Americans have begun to simply see it as a regular part of life.

But something has happened.

GLAAD’s 2017 Accelerating Acceptance report has revealed some alarming, and rapidly changing, new trends.

  • In a survey, only 49 percent of non-LGBTQ adults say they are “very” or “somewhat” comfortable with LGBTQ people.
  • That is a 4 percent drop from the previous year.
  • There was a 3 percent drop in American adults being comfortable with learning a family member is gay.
  • There was a 3 percent drop in having an LGBTQ person teaching their child or being their doctor.
  • 55 percent of LGBTQ people have reported experiencing discrimination, up an alarming 11 percent over the previous year.

What happened?

How could there be such dramatic shifts in tolerance and acceptance after such a long trend towards acceptance?

There may have been a sudden shift in the true feelings of Americans towards the LGBTQ community, but that is unlikely. Very rarely do we see people that have accepted something suddenly reverse their opinions.

No, let’s be clear.

That is not what happened.

Bigot in Chief

What has happened is that people feel more empowered by the current political climate to be able to express the feelings they’ve always had towards LGBTQ people.

The people who simply can’t fathom anything but a straight couple and two genders have an ally who speaks their language.

His name is Donald Trump.

President Trump has made no efforts to hide his disdain towards anyone different. From mocking the disabled, calling mostly black countries “shitholes,” banning travel from majority Muslim countries, and attempting to ban transgender people from serving in the military, President Trump has shown his doesn’t care much for minorities.

Anyone who was tempering their racist or bigoted feelings no longer feels like they have to. Why would they when the leader of the free world so freely insults whoever he wants and gets away with it?

The Same Truth

The numbers in the GLADD poll don’t show a decline in LGBTQ acceptance – they show the truth that was already there.

And I’m fine with that. I would rather have the real numbers. I want to know how people truly feel and not have falsely inflated numbers. The truth is out there. As a gay man, I can deal with that truth.

Many people still can’t stand the LGBTQ community.

We can’t regulate thoughts. People are free to think what they want. For the most part, they can say what they want. That’s their right.

Unless their words lead to discrimination and violence.

Remember:

  • 55 percent of LGBTQ people have reported discrimination in the last year.
  • That is an 11 percent increase from the previous year.

It is no coincidence that the 11 percent jump has coincided with the rise and election of Donald Trump.

Speaking up about not liking the LGBTQ community has led directly to increased violence in the community. According to the HRC, 2017 was the deadliest year on record for members of the transgender community.

A 2017 NPR report shows:

  • 57 percent of LGBTQ Americans personally experienced slurs about their orientation or gender identity.
  • 51 percent of LGBTQ Americans say they or an LGBTQ friend or family member has experienced violence because of their orientation or gender.

Moving Forward

Progress towards acceptance for any minority community is always bumpy. The latest numbers show a truth that we had hoped was not there, but now we have to deal with it. We have much more work to do.

In the end, I have to believe what President and CEO of GLAAD Sarah Kate Ellis says:

“Forward progress ebbs and flows in every social justice movement. Progress for marginalized communities is a pendulum that swings in both directions, and, when well-supported, ultimately lands on freedom.”

Meaning that we won’t stop speaking up.

We won’t stop marching.

People are people, and until every person is treated equally, we will carry on.

 

 

 

 

 

Do You Know the South?

348s
Good, Fried, and Southern

*This is the first of a series of articles about the Southern USA. The topics will range from culture and food to politics and religion. You can see my post about growing up gay in the South by clicking here. Strap in and enjoy the ride.

Defining the South

It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are in the United States, you know what the South is when people talk about it. When someone says they are from the South, they are either looked at with pride or disdain. Rarely does anyone feel indifferent about the area. Really, since when has this country ever not had divided feelings about the South?

So, in your mind, RIGHT NOW, define the South. Make a mental list of what the “South” is and what makes it that way.

I could ask one hundred people to define the South. They could write their list down and I could post them all on the wall. Nobody’s list would be the same.

For an area so vilified and so cherished, nobody can really define it.

Disclaimer: I am from South Carolina. Born and raised. I went to school here, stayed for college, and stayed again afterwards. I live on the coast, a beautiful area that inspires me. I’m also gay and a Democrat, not exactly things that are synonymous with the South.

When I was teaching AP Human Geography to high school students, I gave them a blank map of the US and asked them to shade in the area of the country that they considered the South. I have to say, the results were interesting and often funny.

Even though I was teaching in the South and most of the students were from the area, not a single one of their maps was ever the same.

With apologies to a Hungarian student who had recently been transplanted in the state, who simply drew a line across the southern part of the country, I put his to the side. After all, he had Southern California and South Carolina BOTH in the South. His concept of the “South” was simply directional.

What I ended up with was a hodgepodge of maps, all somewhat resembling each other, but never quite lining up.

The discussion I had with my students is the same I’ve had with many adults since then. It revolves around the question – How do you define the South?

Defining Legacy

Historically, as we know, this country has always had a North/South divide. As the North industrialized in the 1800s, the South kept their agrarian society intact. Why wouldn’t they? It had worked thus far, and it was a generational thing. The prosperous days seemed to be rolling by with no end in sight, especially after good ole’ Eli and the cotton gin.

This also meant an explosion of the slave population at a time when many of the Founders thought slavery might begin to die out.

Naturally, many people still define the South based off of this history and the Civil War. Much of the culture of the region as well at the ethnic makeup is a testament to this darkest period of our history.map1861[1]

Civil War State Breakdown

You can see the ethnic breakdown of our country. It is no surprise that African Americans are heavily concentrated in the South. That is where many of their ancestors were property, brought here for labor and kept for generations because of unrelenting greed.

article-2408591-1B95A350000005DC-125_964x720
Though this is from the 2000 Census data, the basic racial breakdown hasn’t changed much

Sweet Tea and Fried Food

There is no quicker way for a Southerner to get laughed at in a restaurant in the North than to ask for sweet tea. You’re just not going to get it. They’ll bring you unsweet tea with packet of sugar, which I think we can agree, is not the same.

Sweet_Tea_0507291
Sweet tea is a Southern thing

Sweet tea brewing is a near religious thing in the South. No restaurant goes without it and you won’t enter a household without a pitcher on standby. That’s not to say it’s all the same. There are varying degrees of sweetness, from a little sweet near the border state of Maryland, to molasses, can barely suck it through a straw sweet as you move to the deep South of Alabama and Mississippi.

Simply put – if you don’t drink sweet tea in the South, you are an alien (I used to, but now I don’t, much to the consternation of many. I’ve nearly been exiled).

And that Southern food!

Fried food is a way of life in the South, as ubiquitous as our favorite drink. You name it, we fry it. You won’t find one mammy, momma, or meemaw, who doesn’t have a fried chicken recipe right next to their recipe box with instructions on how to fry every other food. Squash, zucchini, okra, pork, liver, turkey, fish, apples, Snickers…you get the point. Every race of every age in the South fries food.

It’s not uncommon to go to a restaurant in the South and see people order fried chicken with french fries. The other side? Fried okra.

And sweet tea to drink.

Oh yeah, pass the hot sauce.

A quick look at this heart disease chart tells you all you need to know about this type of cooking, and gives us another way to define the South.

hd_all
A cluster of heart disease deaths in the Southern region. A quick glance tells me that the Appalachian region is doing something right.

It’s a Religion Thing

Driving through the South is an interesting thing to do. Save for the larger cities, the amount of rural spaces here always amazes me. It is beautiful country, with farms and small mom and pop stores. Small towns that have stayed the same way they always have, where everyone knows everyone.

There is also a church on just about every other block. In the spaces where there’s not a church? A sign with Jesus telling you what you’ve done wrong and how to fix it – or you’ll go to Hell.

You will be hard pressed to find a church that is not Southern Baptist, especially as you get out of the cities.

Whatever you think of the Southern Baptist Convention, there is no denying their stronghold is the American South.

2010 U.S. Religion Census
The geographic dominance of the Southern Baptist Convention is clear

Endless Possibilities

A Southerner out of the South is easy to spot. Even those of us who don’t think we have an accent are inevitably picked out of a crowd if we travel anywhere else in the country. That Southern drawl is unmistakably charming and annoying at the same time.

There are more ways to define the South. Everyone has their own way. We call it soda, the North says pop. The Confederate flag flies proudly in the South, but most Northerners would burn it.

How do you define the South? What comes to your mind? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Check back for more articles about the South and Southern culture. We’ll be getting into the Second Amendment, the death penalty, and political parties, as well as more lighthearted topics like BBQ and taxes.

See y’all soon!

We Forgot, So Let’s Hope We Remember

150927_POL_TrumpWallace-01.jpg.CROP.promo-xlarge2
There were similar slogans in Germany in the 1930s.

Never forget that the Nazi party rose to power legally on a wave of nationalism.

Never forget that the Nazi party was a smaller faction of the German right wing…until they weren’t.

Never forget that the goal of the Nazi party was to extinguish left wing politics.

Never forget that Hitler and the Nazis coined the term “Lügenpresse.” Translated, this means “lying press.”

Never forget that German institutions slowly lost independent power, or became discredited, until Hitler had complete control.

Never forget what happened next.

We forgot.


Check out the whole article I wrote by clicking here.

 

Original post is from the Rural Urban Divide, a political outlet I write for.

The (Almost) Failed Republic

The British surrendered at Yorktown in October of 1781 and George Washington took the oath of office to become president in April 1789. Yes, you are seeing that correctly – there was almost an eight-year lag time from the end of fighting to when our first president took office. What happened during those eight years was the first great experiment the United States undertook. It was an experiment of government that almost destroyed a nation that had just been born. It is also an example of how decentralized government can dissolve under its own weight.

Want to read the whole article I wrote? Go to The Rural Urban Divide and check it out!

The Rural Urban Divide

Since I Started High School

BMQxQEVD_400x400

I’m starting a post about the state of the US when I started high school. I hope others will write their own. I’ve found it interesting to look back and see what was going on when I started high school. It’s amazing how much I didn’t know about the world then, so going back and looking at all the news highlights, knowing what I know now, is a journey. I didn’t actually intend on this being anything but a fun post, but reality set in as I started to write.

I started high school in the year 2000. Bill Clinton was president, but as we all know, it was an election year. THE election year. Bush versus Gore. The outcome would shape everything I’ve known since.

When I started high school:

  • Y2K turned out to be just a big party
  • The US had a $232 billion SURPLUS not a deficit
  • Gas was $1.26 per gallon
  • Unemployment was at 3.8% (an absurdly low rate)
  • The Yankees won the World Series, the Rams won the Superbowl
  • Survivor was the number one show (can’t believe that show is still around)
  • Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, Eminem, blah, blah, blah

We should have known things were brewing. In 2000:

  • The Pyrenean Ibex went extinct
  • The Dot-Com bubble burst
  • Vladimir Putin was elected president of Russia (I mean, damn, he’s still there)
  • I’m sure I was wearing ridiculous clothing held over from the 90’s

I started high school before the Supreme Court put George Bush in office, changing the next few decades of military and political roles and influence. It was before 9/11, an event that taught Americans that our isolation can be violated. It reopened the wounds of those who lived through Pearl Harbor and taught a new generation that the days of our invulnerability were gone. For a moment in time, though, it united the country as we tried to heal.

When I started high school, I thought the idea of war was cool (having not learned what war really was). The invasion of Iraq had my full support. I didn’t understand then, when I started high school, that my country was capable of mistakes.

We started the year 2000 with hope. Hope for our booming economy. Hope for global partnership. We were boosted up for a new millennium, so full of energy that anything seemed possible. If the year 2000 taught us anything, it’s that things can change.

Since the year I started high school, things have changed. The victor of the 2000 election was handed one of the worst situations our country has ever faced, and he handled it well…at first. He attacked those we thought were responsible, then abused our blank check to start a war with someone else.

In 2000, our economy was so good that we couldn’t know that a combination of 90’s mortgage policies and labor union exploitation would set off a major economic disaster. We couldn’t know that our hopes would be dashed by 2007, but renewed in 2008 when we thought racism was on its way to defeat. Our first black president would bring us together, or so we thought.

Since 2000, a hurricane in one of our oldest cities taught us that underlying racial tensions can lead to delayed assistance for those who need it the most. Since then, race has taken center stage. Trayvon Martin, Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Walter Scott. Ferguson and Baltimore. In my home state, a sick and deranged young man murdered nine African Americans in Charleston. In a church. I wish he was alone in his thinking, but after what we all just saw in Charlottesville, Virginia, we know better.

Black Lives Matter was born because of much of this, though we should have never gotten to a place where we had to be reminded that anyone’s lives matter. How is it that we don’t know, don’t realize, that every single life should matter?

Just a thought, but most of that happened under a black president.

How could we know, in 2000, that a real estate businessman, a reality TV joke, would become president of our country. We should have known. We would have known, if we had been careful in monitoring just how much certain groups in this country were looking for an answer to the hate they had been building. We’d have seen those who were just waiting to hear their dreams spoken by a demagogue who could disguise their ideals inside the guise of patriotic nationalism. Too bad we never paid attention to 1930s German history.

Yes, we’ve had trouble since 2000.

And damn, here’s what’s happening now:

But we’re not going to give up. I didn’t know about these issues when I started high school, but now I do. I know how to write, so I’ll figure it out that way. I would never have come out back then, but now I have. We’ll make it through this okay. Just hold on tight, it’s going to be a wild ride.

White People Should Stay Silent?

la-1502661094-4weelmkz50-snap-image

(Photo Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

It won’t happen often, but I want to deviate away from the normal type of blog posting to discuss some current events. We all know what is going on in Charlottesville, VA. White Supremacists have proven once again that they have a strong support group and are willing to commit violence to back their cause. Full disclosure: I am a white liberal and not at all a Donald Trump supporter. This post will not go into politics. I want to talk about the anger some, and I stress the word some, black people have towards white people right now and give my take on it.

I’m active on Twitter, but I try not to get goaded into any crazy Tweet battles. Unfortunately, I have seen many posts from some black people who are angry about whites using the hastag #ThisIsNotUs, or similar expressions, in their efforts to disavow the supremacists. Here is just one of many examples I have come across.

wp-image-52067053

As I started to look around Twitter for similar themes, I was met with a barrage of similar responses. Unfortunately, they did not offer a common solution. Some blacks expressed outrage like the one above and some said that whites are responsible for everything and we are not owning up to it. Therefore, they conclude, we should not speak out. Ignoring the logical fallacy of statements like that, I want to discuss their argument.

I taught high school history, so I wish they wouldn’t presume to think all whites do not understand. While I’m not black, we share a common history. My history was just on the other side. To say that I can never reach a point of understanding that will satisfy you is basically saying there is no hope for the future. So, let me, as a white guy, tell you what I do understand.

I understand that our slavery began in the 1600s and was the most brutal, long lasting institution the US has ever used. I understand that it was not ever humane, no matter how well some people claim slaves were treated. Slavery is never humane. I understand that whites in this country fought to keep slavery long after every other global community disowned it, but I also know that whites fought hard on the other side to rid our country of the horror.

I understand that slavery ended in 1865, but it ended in name only. Oppression was just getting started at that point. I understand that the end of Reconstruction in the South opened the way for Jim Crow laws, Black Codes, and the most incredibly inhumane treatment of people that was possible. Lynching, dragging behind horses, torture. And that’s just the physical treatment. I understand the KKK was and still is the worst hate group this country has produced and that whites could have ended this at any time, if they wanted. If they had the collective will. They didn’t. While not all were extreme racists, most though of blacks as inferior.

I understand that it took the incredible bravery of a generation of black Americans to begin the change that we have yet to complete. I understand there were many camps in the Civil Rights Movement, and I do understand why they were all necessary. Martin Luther King and Malcom X vastly differed in their approach, but both men’s methods were born of a long, weary road of pain. I understand but cannot comprehend the courage it took Oliver Brown to muster to sue and overturn Plessy v Ferguson, one of the worst decisions in our Supreme Court’s history. I understand but cannot fathom the earth shattering fear those nine girls must have experienced walking through the doors of Little Rock Central High School.

I understand that we’ve reached a tipping point once again and I understand why.

I grew up white, not black, but I know that every black person faces things that I will never face. Walking into a store, they will be watched closer than me. White people may cross the street to walk on the other side when they see a young black man coming towards them. Entire black communities try to survive day after day without their men because the laws in this country, created almost solely by white men, have incarcerated them at incredibly high rates, causing irreparable systemic damage. Single black mothers fight for their children, only to see society often treat them as lesser. I’ve personally seen teachers make the mistake of presuming a black child can’t possibly know as much as a white one and I’ve seen a group of black girls at a church event get called the “n” word by a group of white boys as those boys rode by in their jacked up truck. I couldn’t find the words to say to apologize to those girls, but I know they will never forget that.

I’ll wrap this up because I know this is getting long. My point is this – I will not stay silent and I don’t care who gets mad at me, white or black people. Don’t presume to understand me and what I know. I’ll listen to you and you listen to me. We beat this together, not divided. Trust me, there are plenty of white people like me. It’s just a loud minority that’s making noise right now, and we’ll see it fixed.