Posts Tagged ‘justice’

Please keep smiling

For several years, I worked next to a mosque. Its parking lot often overflowed on Fridays and religious holidays; on such days, my company’s owners permitted its congregants to park in the company parking lot.

Once, I saw women step out of a car and cover themselves for service. I smiled on my way into the office. They smiled back.

Many times, I walked by women already covered. I’d smile at each, if she looked at me; much more often than not, I’d see eyes wrinkling from smiles returned.

(Seeing mouths isn’t the most important thing to seeing smiles.)

After exchanging such smiles one afternoon, I remembered a conversation with a male friend years before and hundreds of miles away.

“You’re not supposed to look at them when they’re dressed like that!” he’d told me. I replied that I’d never heard such a thing, and that I’d keep greeting human beings as human beings.

I posted about the new smile and the old conversation on Facebook. “Please keep smiling,” one Muslim friend soon replied. 

I committed to doing so.

A year ago, I saw a Muslim family on a plane and just about broke into a cold sweat.

I came to my senses soon enough. Warm smiles were exchanged that day, too. 

When I returned home, I told my husband, “Fearmongering works!”

(I vow now not to let it.)

“Yep.” he replied. “That’s why they use it.”

Protesting at LAX last weekend, I saw many women wearing hijabs. In all the hubbub, I only spoke with two. I was tired and ineloquent as I greeted them with my two-year-old on my hip, but they were lovely.

“Ugh, I’m saying all the wrong things,” I mumbled a couple minutes into conversation. Both women, Sara and Hannah, said no, no, no; Hannah’s face was especially aglow with compassion that filled me with a sense of okay-ness.

Maybe I didn’t say the right words. Maybe there are no right words.

What I do know is that I said I’d keep smiling.

I meant it,

and I will.

MLK, Jr: passionate and revolutionary

A couple months ago, I wrote about Martin Luther King, Jr.‘s pursuit of positive peace. King succinctly but powerfully differentiated this peace from what he described as “negative peace”:

I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I began today writing a rejection of WashPost’s vision of the “conservative” MLK, Jr. You can read that if you’d like.

Whether or not you read that, please do read MLK, Jr’s letter from a Birmingham jail at the very least, and understand King’s love wasn’t mild and conservative but passionate and revolutionary.

His body

Oh, friends.

I need to tell you about a nightmare I have, often.

I’ve told you about the facts of Black men killed by American state actors, hundreds of men-turned-hashtags daily and the numbers to which their lives are boiled down, but I need to tell you about this nightmare. This hurt.

I need you to know that I don’t care how you cast your votes. I don’t, though I obviously did until a few weeks ago. This isn’t about votes, though the post was inspired by yet another White Hillary voter telling me I must be so glad Trump is coming to office.

He spoke those words because he has no idea the weight I’ve carried the last few years. He has no idea that this Terrible Thing Just About to Happen in his eyes is already a moment from happening day after day after day after day in mine.

He has no idea that when I cast my vote for Bernie Sanders in the general election, it was because I already knew that Hillary Clinton was no savior for Black men.

“You didn’t find the right words,” people like this man have told me dismissively. “It can’t really be that bad, or I’d have noticed it.”

No, you really wouldn’t have, I’ve tried to say dozens of different ways. Your life is hard and scary and sad enough as is, even without looking beyond your own day to day.

You didn’t notice, and that’s understandable.

I did, because I had to.

I did, because every day I kiss my husband goodbye as I leave for work, I’m acutely aware of how I might never see him again.

So, please, follow my nightmare … and, please, for the love of God, do anything you can to see it doesn’t come true for anyone else, no matter who ascends to the White House next month.

I am sitting and playing with my two young boys in my living room when my cell phone rings. Read more…

“Don’t argue with your team!”

My politically moderate husband and I were just arguing in the kitchen.

“Deborah, you need to tell people that you’re trying to figure shit out by writing about it.”

“I already did! I do it, like, every fifth post on Learning to Speak Politics. Are you saying I need to spell it out in every single post?! I mean, the entire premise is in the blog’s title. I’m learning by writing!”

“Yes! You need a note on every. Single. One. Copy and paste it: ‘I am not a Trump supporter! I did not vote for Trump! I am literally live-broadcasting my political journey, and this is my scratchboard! I’m making it public so you can aid that evolution! I’m not at an endpoint but walking a road. I’m trying to figure out what I believe and why I believe it!‘”

He’s probably right. I don’t know what that footnote will be, exactly, but I do know its first incarnation was the preface I wrote on my politics page a few months back:

This page reflects a selection of politics-related articles
curated by a (new) U.S. third party voter.

While both main-party presidential candidates threaten
prospects of retaining any semblance of U.S. democracy,
links below emphasize the
Democratic threat,
which is all the more horrifying because
it’s hidden under the guise of
the dove.

My journey of discovery began from a place of shock and horror. I thought my votes for Democrats (versus Republicans) were votes for peace. They weren’t.

So now, understanding this … it’s up to me to figure out how I can play a role in propagating actual peace–positive, not negative, justice.

No one else has paved this road for me. No one else can pave it for me.

My husband just told me not to argue with my team. But who is my team? Right now, I’m not sure.

The people I thought were my team spent the last six months yelling at me for ever disagreeing.

So maybe it’s up to me not to yell. Maybe it’s up to me to be even clearer
that I’m simply


Eight years ago, and still. Anthony: “We can disagree within in the team, ’cause that’s what democracy is. Then we figure out how to make an agreement!”


two bicycles

this morning,
my two-year-old
awakened me with his howls

it was too early
to be awake, but also
too late for me to fall asleep again

in the darkness,
i thought two words
that jolted me out of bed:

two bicycles

i’d read, as many now have,
about a (now former) stanford swimmer
found guilty of rape and yet
barely sentenced
because his life
should not be ruined
for “20 minutes of action
out of his 20 plus years of life” Read more…

Forget Phylicia. Remember my mom.

“That man is following us,” my mom whispered as we left the corner market.

My prepubescent self waved her off. I was irritated how paranoid she’d become as our court date loomed.

Whatever. He just wants to get something to eat,” I whispered back as we began walking toward the courthouse. “Just like us.”

When we reached the courthouse, the man walked in right behind us. I ate my words outside the market when he handed a thick envelope to the defense attorney.

He had been following us. But why? Why would anyone investigate the victims?

More than 20 women have brought allegations of sexual assault against Bill Cosby

I didn’t mean to write about that, not even when I read he’d hired a team of private investigators to discredit the women.

I didn’t mean to write about that even when I read how Phylicia Rashad, the actress who once played his TV wife said, “Forget those women,” expressing the opinion some unknown enemy is trying to smear Cosby’s legacy for reasons she can’t understand.*

I didn’t mean to write about it when I woke up this morning. But then I saw another choice quote from Phylicia, and my heart plummeted.

Whenever I thought about testifying against a pedophile as a child, Read more…

DESTROY DENIAL. #EricGarner #ICantBreathe

Eric Garner, father of six, was choked to death last summer. 

As I wrote here, he “was choked to death by police for potential sale of untaxed cigarettes.”

Today a grand jury failed to indict the police officer who killed him. This is so despite the fact Eric’s death was filmed, or that choke holds had been banned in the jurisdiction since 1993.

Eleven times he said he couldn’t breathe. Eleven times he was ignored by someone who had likely surmised–from precedent long preceding Mike Brown–consequences would be few to none.

My ex-boyfriend was better with computers than people, which made him a better teacher than boyfriend in some ways.  Read more…

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