July 10, 2020

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Oh, hi! Let’s breezily ignore the fact that I skipped last Friday and say it was for the holiday. How are you holding up? I’ve felt two primary emotions this week: anger and weariness. Tired of the endless mental calculations of risk and necessary activities during a pandemic, and so angry that it feels like I’m on fire under my skin. If you touched me right now, you’d burn yourself. There have been just so many preventable losses and despicable sins at the hands of the powerful. Cruelty and ignorance have stunned me: protesters against police violence being bombarded by excessive police violence; indignant refusal to wear a mask as if to say, “This strategy might help people and won’t hurt me, but I’m not doing it!” And somehow these two phenomena are linked, twined around each other like barbed wire. I am sharing things this week that feel like a respite from that.

  1. Jasmine Guillory on the Importance of Reading Black Fiction, Time. “Racism is not the only thing to know about what it means to be Black. Our joys, our sorrows, our love, our grief, our struggles to fit in, our families, our accomplishments and our triumphs—these things also matter. Black children matter, and not only the ones killed before their time. You may think you already know that, but history has proved otherwise. Black lives are not a problem to be solved or an academic text that can be studied. To recognize Black lives as ones to celebrate, empathize with and care about, here’s your antiracism work: read more fiction by and about Black people.” My fave, Captain Awkward, has historically given this advice when straight men write in asking for help dating women: Learn to empathize with women by reading and consuming media by them. Listen to women-led podcasts, women-directed movies, and access your understanding for the complexity of their lives. And I think this is a good practice for white folks wanting to do anti-racist work too, but also what a great reason to indulge in some pleasure reading!
  2. A love story about best friends, Vox. Ohhh! The last panel of this comic is so lovely. Yay to dear, dear friends.
  3. Hugs to look forward to after the pandemic, Eleanor Davis. This one was touching. I want to hug my friends and everyone again!
  4. Toward a Racially Just Workplace, HBR. “We can’t simply ask, “What’s the most lucrative thing to do?” We must also ask, “What’s the right thing to do?”
  5. Things to Do When You’re Bored, MentalFloss. A surprisingly solid variety of options here! Might actually try to memorize the prologue of the first LOTR movie….

Donation station:

  • The Loveland Foundation, a national organization dedicated to helping fund therapy for Black women and girls. I highlighted this one a few weeks ago, but this time I’m donating $5 and inviting you to match it with me on this Friday5! I’ve been stressed lately, but I realize how traumatic and stressful these times must be for Black women, and I really want to support this mission.

Bonus feature:

June 26, 2020

I’ve been playing the Sims lately. It’s so easy to make friends when you just click Get to Know over and over and pepper it with Tell a Funny Story every now and then…imagine. Anyway, if you’re not familiar or haven’t played since middle school, you’ve got to manage your Sim’s needs like Hygiene, Social, Fun, and Bladder. Not sure which of my needs isn’t being met as I write this (Hunger, probs), but I feel like my comments below might be kinda salty. Whoops! Enjoy.

  1. Non Appétit, Samantha Fore. “You grow up not feeling fair enough, smart enough, slim enough, accomplished enough, so you fight hard for everything you have. When the fruits of your labor start to show, you hope they get the chance to ripen, but ultimately, a white gatekeeper deems otherwise. Being Brown means you know exactly how shortsighted and self-serving these kinds of people can be. You know the deck is stacked against you, but you still don’t want to believe it. […] Being Brown means that you adjust to this being a normal way of life. Being Brown means that when you think you are about to get a career-changing opportunity, someone decides it doesn’t fit the brand and mutes you. You realize the irony, as many of the things they’ve elevated have appropriated Black and Brown culture. You’re 36. You realize that nothing has really changed from when you were 4. You aren’t permitted to convey the joys and triumphs you’ve had, the joy in your culture, the joy that somehow manages to flourish against all odds. You’re just Brown. Nothing more, nothing less.” I’ve been following the implosion at Bon Appetit, where courageous staff of color have revealed the inequities at the magazine, from unpaid contributors to the outright brownface of the (former) editor in chief. This piece puts a moment of discrimination and indifference in the context of this chef’s career and life history. She’s a good writer and also I want to try her food.
  2. ‘Live, Laugh, Love’ Mums Defend the Much-Maligned Decor Trend, Vice. You know what? I’ve been sick of “making fun of mom culture” for a bit. I’m not talking about the (rightful) social media skewering of white women who endanger Black lives with their tears and attempt to harness the police and other authorities to preserve their own fragility. No, that is a trend we gotta reckon with, because we “nice white ladies” are doing harm. Instead, my spicy take is similar to my feeling that the only people who can’t make fun of straight white girls are straight white dudes: I’m tired of seeing jokes that “punch down.” Like, it’s very likely your dang mom has been doing most of the work in your family for years and if you’re making fun of her decor, then I am suspicious of how much you actually appreciate her. Anyway! Let these moms live, laugh, love. Is it hurting anyone? No.
  3. Dear F*k-Up: My Close Friend Is Being Radicalized On the Internet and I Don’t Know What to Do, Jezebel. “I do think we have an obligation to intervene when our friends begin to mentally and morally curdle in front of our eyes. I know some people assert that the right thing to do is immediately and forcefully disavow anyone in your life who starts spouting hateful ideologies, but I’ve always struggled to understand how that helps. If you stop talking to her, others will be there to fill the void, which is basically how radicalization works.” This is specifically focused on a feminist person taking on transphobic attitudes, but I think it’s relevant to any of us when we watch someone we love come under the influence of a hateful or radicalized perspective. I liked this: “The question presented to the world time and time again may be worded differently but it always comes down to: Why aren’t we allowed to say this? Why aren’t we allowed to think this way? Why aren’t we alllllllllooooowed? Constantly whining about what you are and aren’t allowed to do is the preoccupation of children, and besides which, the answer is “you are.” In this world, you are always allowed to be cruel, and you always have been. It is no brave thing to stand with the powerful against those who dare live differently, it’s the easiest and most comfortable choice you can make.” And this sounds like something a British etiquette expert would murmur into a teacup: “How embarrassing it is to be cruel.”
  4. Are there alternatives to calling 911?, Chicago Reader. I love how they describe this workshop’s facilitated conversations as a “brave space,” one that goes beyond a safe space, where you confront discomfort with love. The participants reflect on their experiences calling the police: “They’d called the police in the first place because it didn’t seem like there was anything else they could do in those moments of fear and vulnerability. No one who volunteered to share stories knew what happened to the other parties involved.” This question is provoking and I think we should spend time on it: “Are there alternatives to calling 911?” I sat with a few friends in Baker Park the other day and we tried to come up with a couple different options, depending on the scenario. The things we came up with: Talk to your neighbors. Is your neighbor blasting music late at night or letting their dog bark for hours? It’s like if we went to the teacher to complain about minor and often harmless “disruptions,” and the first thing she would ask is “Well, did you ask them to stop?” Another one was: Wait and see. Sometimes a person sitting in their car in your neighborhood is just reading Google Maps and in a half hour they’ll have moved on. Another was: Examine your definitions of “peace” and “order,” because teenagers laughing loudly on the street might not be your definition of orderly behavior, but is it harming anyone? I liked this quote too: “Increasingly people discussed the frustrations of having to think around the state to address problems the state is supposed to be there to handle. Rather than not calling for professional help when we witness some sort of crisis, can’t we just have an assurance that the help won’t arrive armed and dangerous?”
  5. The Risks: Know Them, Avoid Them, Erin Bromage. This helped me think through risks and what I’m comfortable with. She explains the way the virus travels and places and circumstances make infection more likely, like indoor spaces with recycled air. “The reason to highlight these different outbreaks is to show you the commonality of outbreaks of COVID-19. All these infection events were indoors, with people closely-spaced, with lots of talking, singing, or yelling. The main sources for infection are home, workplace, public transport, social gatherings, and restaurants. This accounts for 90% of all transmission events. In contrast, outbreaks spread from shopping appear to be responsible for a small percentage of traced infections. Importantly, of the countries performing contact tracing properly, only a single outbreak has been reported from an outdoor environment (less than 0.3% of traced infections).

Donation station: Donate $5 with me for a local or national organization fighting for equality and in particular racial justice.

  • The Frederick Center: It’s Pride Month for one more week, let’s kick a little money toward the organization that helped Frederick earn a 100 on the HRC’s Municipal Equality Index. (That’s a pretty big deal!)

June 19, 2020

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My friends the Hails have some of THE most photogenic pets in the universe.

Ahh, there’s just so much I want to share with you, but first, I am so grateful you read my words each week. Thank you so much for your attention in a very loud world.

Also, a little note on how we can all contribute to a better world: This excellent newsletter had a great note on bringing the skills we have to the struggle before us: “Not everyone is useful on the front lines of a given struggle. Sophie, for example, is chronically ill and both of us are built for rhetorical battles, not physical ones. […] Our inventory of concrete contributions we can make is more along the lines of writing, revising, information-finding-and-sharing, note-taking, idea-clarifying, list-making, signal-boosting, errand-running, money-giving, supply-ordering, cooking, and baking. WHICH— correctly applied— are not minor contributions.” I hope you can think creatively and compassionately about what gift you can bring toward the liberation of everyone, especially the most vulnerable in our country!

  1. How to Take Care of Each Other: Community Care In Times Of Crisis, Autostraddle. There’s been a lot of talk about replacing the police with community services and moving from a place of control to one of care, and maybe that’s hard to picture in practical terms. Lucky for us, a lot of Black, queer, and/or disabled people have already been thinking about this, in part because they’ve had to create their own systems of care and found family when their needs haven’t been met by mainstream society. I really like how this piece lays out some steps for how we can start asking each other for help and being there for our neighbors, friends, and community. “Analyze your resources. What do you have? Everyone has something: Large kitchen? EBT (food stamps)? A car? Extroversion? Money? Writing skills? Business skills? Empathy? Art skills and/or supplies? Multi-lingualism? A “fancy,” “official-looking” outfit? Carpentry skills? Some time? Any and all of these can be incredibly useful in supporting someone in community. What do you have to offer? Some of these seem esoteric, but can be incredibly helpful in ways you might not immediately expect.” Lots of great stuff here (check out the Support Card idea halfway down)!
  2. Whiteness Can’t Save Us, Taylor Harris for Catapult. “What is a mother to do, if she cannot save her boy? What is a mother to do, if she fights so hard to save her boy’s body from itself, only to have an ugly man destroy it for his pleasure?” This gorgeous writing will crack your heart right open.
  3. White Women: Stop Pretending We Don’t Benefit From White Supremacy, Allure. An article published shortly after the Charlottesville white supremacist rallies in 2017. “‘If this has you saying, But I can’t personally be held responsible for white supremacy, you are missing the point. The point is not that we are each personally responsible for systemic oppression. It’s that we are each individually accountable for doing something about it. If you are a white woman and you are feeling uncomfortable with our legacy, perhaps right now more than usual, that’s good.” This is the water we’re all swimming in, and I know it’s hard and uncomfortable for white folks to confront that, but the best and only way forward, the most responsible way to be good ancestors, is to face our privilege head on, together. This is also a really good line, and galvanizing to me: “We are not innocent until proven guilty of racism; we are complicit until we are no longer silent.”
  4. The End of Policing, Alex S. Vitale. I just finished this book (I listened to it from FCPL’s Hoopla app as an audiobook!) and I really recommend it. I’m definitely not an expert on the topic of policing, but this book is a thorough overview of what’s not working about our current system of policing. For one thing, he points out how the police are not situated to prevent crime, only to respond to it and often escalate the situation in their response. He carefully goes over various attempts at police reform that have been tried in the past (to middling success), and then walks us through some places that we use the police when we really should be sending community aid: homelessness, sex work, and the extremely devastating and ineffective War on Drugs. This book is currently free as an e-book from the publisher, and like I said, available at the Frederick public library as an audiobook with no waitlist. I would love to talk about it with anyone who’s read it!
  5. Police: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Youtube video from HBO. This is one of John Oliver’s best pieces. If you’re not familiar with the host, fair warning that he uses grown up language, but I have always appreciated that his focus as a late night host has been to do deep dives on topics. I come away from his videos with a greater understanding of an issue (his episode on civil forfeiture gave me a whole new thing to be HEATED about!). He ends with the words of Kimberly Jones: “So when they say, “Why do you burn down the community? Why do you burn down your own neighborhood?” It’s not ours. We don’t own anything. We don’t own anything. Trevor Noah said it so beautifully last night. There’s a social contract that we all have, that if you steal, or if I steal, then the person who is the authority comes in and they fix the situation. But the person who fixes the situation is killing us! So the social contract is broken. And if the social contract is broken, why the f*** do I give a shit about burning the f***ing Football Hall of Fame, about burning a f***ing Target? […] Far as I’m concerned, they could burn this bitch to the ground, and it still wouldn’t be enough. And they are lucky that what Black people are looking for is equality and not revenge.” (PS – her entire speech is very good, here’s a transcript and video of it.)

~New section of the blog alert!~

I don’t have a cute name for it yet, but my idea is to highlight one organization that supports anti-racism or improves the lives of Black people, nationally or locally. I invite you to match my $5 donation each week (or more if you can swing it, but I want it to be sustainable for my budget). This week’s org is The Okra Project, which delivers free, delicious, and nutritious meals to Black Trans people experiencing food insecurity.

  • Donate your $5 here! If 17 other people donate with me, we can fund a single chef-cooked, free meal.

Bonus features:

June 12, 2020

Hi, I just wanna use this intro text space to say I love you all and I hope you’re well. Here’s 5 things:

  1. How Body Image Can Be Affected by Coronavirus Isolation, And What to Do About It, Vice. There are tips in here, and some direct talk about diets and fixation on our bodies, but I didn’t find it triggering. Your mileage may vary, but the tips in here are just suggestions for ways to treat yourself with a little kindness. I’ve always liked anti-diet culture stuff that focuses on the ways our body serves and carries our soul, and there’s a line in this piece like that: “Your body is an instrument, more so than an ornament.” And this evergreen advice: “But think about yourself like you’d think about a friend. […] if they were feeling bad about themselves, you’d build them up, rather than indulging their shame spiral, right? In this case, you are your friend. Try to be kind, warm, accepting of where you’re at. Ask yourself: What does your body need? Is it sleep? Space? Kindness? Water? Let that guide you.”
  2. How to be a good white ally during the George Floyd protests and always, Vox. “When white people show up to protests for the Movement for Black Lives, they are our guests. They are new for this. This might be exciting to them now, but this has been something that we have been living for generations and fighting for generations. So, you are showing up, and we’re happy to have you, you are our guests. A white person’s job at a protest isn’t to spray paint “Black Lives Matter” on a building. It’s not to destroy stuff. It’s not to loot stores. Their job is not to mess with the cops and throw stuff. Their job at that protest, what they are there to do, is to do everything they can in their power to put their bodies between the bodies of black people and police.” I’ve also heard the advice that we should be reading the word “ally” as a verb, not a noun. We white people ally ourselves with Black people, not as an emotional experience (or performance) but as a ongoing action. I also love this advice about focusing on your area, because you can bet there are Black folks in your local region doing the work already: “Give your time, talent, and treasure to black-led organizations and black leaders that are doing front-line work in your area. I don’t even think it’s a matter of looking to other cities that might be more in the news — there are black people, black organizations, black organizers wherever you are that are doing the difficult work of fighting for black liberation and against state violence. You need to find out who’s doing that work where you are and figure out what they need and do your best to meet those needs.”
  3. Black Lives Matter Protests In Small Towns Are Important, Buzzfeed News. “These protests cut across demographics and geographic spaces. They’re happening in places with little in the way of a protest tradition, in places with majority white population and majority black, and at an unprecedented scale. People who’ve watched and participated in the Black Lives Matter movement since 2015 say that this time feels different. And the prevalence of these small protests is one of many reasons why.” I’m proud of the small towns and cities I’ve seen turning out, including Frederick. Don’t lose steam yet, we’re just getting started.
  4. The Remaking of Steve Buscemi, GQ. “We used to joke that he was our generation’s Don Knotts, but he’s more Jimmy Stewart in a way,” says the independent filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, who has been friends with Buscemi for more than 35 years and cast him in several projects. “He portrays humanity.” I loved this profile of Steve Buscemi. What a kind person.
  5. Abolish the police: What does it really mean?, Vox. I’ve been turning to Vox for some explanatory journalism because they will give you an overview pretty quickly but with lots of links to back up their claims. They’ve also got a pretty good Youtube channel with 5-10 minute videos on different topics, if you’re a more visual learner. Police abolition is a new idea to me and I’m interested in learning more. “By “abolish the police,” I mean building a world where we do not rely on anti-Black, white supremacist institutions of order to regulate society. This means that alternative forms of order might be embraced, like community care networks and justice structures rooted in restoration rather than punishment.” Each of the scholars interviewed in this piece take a slightly different perspective, so check it out for yourself and see what you think.

Bonus feature:

  • The Low Road,” Marge Piercy. This is a beautiful poem and it gives me energy. “It goes one at a time. / It starts when you care to act. / It starts when you do it again / after they say no. / It starts when you say we / and know who you mean; / and each day you mean / one more.”

June 8, 2020

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Hey everyone, it’s been a minute since I’ve had time to write, and it’s also taken me a while to know what I wanted to say in this space. The past two weeks of action for racial justice have been devastating, inspiring, and a chance to courageously imagine a future without police violence, without police as our go-to for all community issues.

I hope you read with an open mind and a soft heart. Breonna Taylor was about my age, and that detail keeps haunting me. I’m certainly not an expert on anti-racism work but I want to keep doing it, and I hope you join me and hold me accountable to it.

  1. How Much do US Cities Spend on Policing? (Infographic), Forbes. So this source is a few years old but some of us are visual learners and I found this illuminating. The data came from a report “compiled by The Center for Popular Democracy, Law for Black Lives and the Black Youth Project 100, [which] makes the case that investment in mental health, housing, youth development and living wages would stabilize communities and prove more effective than policing.”
  2. From Michael Brown to George Floyd: What We’ve Learned About Policing, The Marshall Project. Good, short read that will catch you up on policing since Ferguson. Includes links to every story they reference. This stuck out to me: “A contributing factor to excessive use of force by police is the increasing militarization of many police departments. For decades, the Defense Department has been passing surplus military equipment to local law enforcement agencies—for free and with little scrutiny. Think grenade launchers, machetes and bayonets. Many of the military-grade weapons were deployed in Ferguson, where police used weapons of war against protesters.The Obama administration banned the program after the waves of protest following police tactics in Ferguson; President Donald Trump reinstated it.” WHY would the police need bayonets?
  3. Tear Gas Doesn’t Deploy Itself, The New Republic. “The most egregious offender to date is The New York Times, which is leaning on a tried-and-true favorite: passive voice. Passive voice removes a subject from the focus of a sentence, instead choosing to look at the action or reaction caused by the subject. Effectively, when describing something like the protests, it’s a way to evasively describe who, exactly, is causing the violence.” Plus haven’t you ever taken an English 101 class? Passive voice is WEAK writing. Here’s more from that source: “As both social media and the evening news are staple sources for people looking for real-time updates, it is necessary to ensure that when people turn to these sources, the framing is not just fair but correct. Equating militarized police units armed with tanks, lethal and nonlethal guns, and riot gear with protesters standing against the violence doled out by them is not just cowardice but an intentional distortion of reality.” Her final sentence sums it up: “People are protesting racist policing in dozens of cities and towns across the country, and police officers themselves remain the largest source of violence in these protests.”
  4.  “White Family Facebook Drama Over Police Racism,” Captain Awkward. The Captain always has the best combination of word and deed in her advice. “Hey, look, as a white person who likes to know things, explain things, and be good at school, I know that the catching up we individually and collectively need to do on the subject of racism can feel like those anxiety dreams where you are sitting for a final exam for a course you don’t remember even registering for, sweating bullets over your blue book while the clock ticks loudly down to the time where Everyone Will Be Able To See That You Don’t Know The Answers. […] [Black people] are experts on shit that we just admitted we don’t really understand! We just showed up yesterday! Let’s do it their way! That is our urgent project, right now. Lives depend on it. We have power to help and a duty to fight in solidarity. […] Black people have imagined, articulated, designed, and advocated for multiple visions and concrete plans, adaptable in real time, for what needs to happen next to shift the balance of power away from white supremacy and make their communities safer, happier, freer, healthier, and more prosperous. Right now. Today. The right things to do next are not only knowable, they are known. You don’t have to become the world’s foremost expert on this topic, you just have to listen to the ones we already have and follow their lead.” There’s so much good stuff in this link, I hope you click through and check it out!
  5. We defend ourselves so we can all breathe in peace, Roar. “There has to be something or someone to nourish, protect, bailout, educate, house and provide healthcare for those in need, since the state is clearly more interested in killing those it deems undeserving of care and aid. That someone is all of us. And all of this should be done in ways that directly challenge the capitalist logic of moneymaking and profiteering. These are rights that we are afforded by birth, not something we should have to be able to afford based on the state of a manipulated economy.” And this is another great quote: “We all have to find our place and our purpose whether we are teaching, planning, organizing, caring, cooking or creating art. Not everyone will be in the streets, but some will, and people should not do anything they are not ready, trained, or prepared to do. There is not a single correct way to protest, and authorities will attempt to divide us by trying to shift blame to those who embrace radical tactics, as Black people have done historically. We can all learn new things, but we should be aware that this is not about any of us as individuals, it is about all of us together.”

Couple places to donate, with a Maryland focus:

  • Baltimore Safe Haven, a black, trans-led nonprofit harm-reduction to support Baltimore’s most vulnerable LGBTQ community members. Their Facebook page has the most recent updates on services during the pandemic, including free lunches, syringe exchange programs, and Zoom community check-ins.
  • Baltimore Legal Action Team (BALT), you can choose to direct your funds to a few different categories: advocacy, management of a community bail fund, litigation, and research.
  • I Believe In Me, a non-profit in Frederick focused on mentoring young people “through mental, physical, and social activities that foster self respect and respect for the world around them.” My dad and I ran their 5k last year, and that’s how we heard of them! Here’s their Facebook page, which has more recent updates.
  • The Loveland Foundation, a national organization dedicated to helping fund therapy for Black women and girls.

5 cute or funny TikTok videos as a reward for making it this far: