The Week That Was

This is the week that was that never should have been:

A judge in Canada decided Jian Ghomeshi was not guilty on all counts — and also that it’s high time society got over this wacky stereotype of rape victims as generally being NOT lying liars who lie.

Republican legislators in North Carolina decided that society’s central problem was too little shaming of people for their genitals and too much legal protecting of vulnerable minority populations.

A New York court decided that while cops can technically be held accountable for killing random and unarmed Black people, that only applies in cases where 1) the cop is not white and 2) the Black person still gets no justice.

A County Recorder in Arizona decided that voters themselves were at fault for the unconscionably long lines at polling stations on Tuesday — though she accepted “full responsibility” for telling them so.

And so, with all that in mind, allow me to invite you to greet the weekend by singing along with me and Katie Goodman:

[Continue beyond the jump for a brief PSA…] Continue reading “The Week That Was”

Of Power and Poison


“My family drank fluoridated water from the city taps when I was born, over 40 years ago. We lived in newly built housing close to a well-maintained park; my mother bought fresh produce at a nearby grocery and weekend farmers’ markets. When my parents moved out of the city a few years later, I found myself in a verdant suburb with expansive lawns, a gurgling neighborhood creek, and air so fresh I never thought to notice it.

Year after cavity-free year of my childhood, dentists and hygienists praised my superior flossing and brushing skills as if I had created that outcome—though in reality, my tooth-cleaning habits were no different from those of any other child.

I carry the bodily imprint of my racial privilege right down to the strength of my teeth.

The families and children of Flint, Michigan, have also been drinking water that changes the makeup of their bodies…”

 — “What is the Dollar Value of a Human Right?”: Flint’s Act of Extreme
Envionmental Racism | My latest at The Body Is Not An Apology

Coming Out of the Quiet

Deray McKesson — Black Lives Matter activist, founding member of We The Protestors, “curator, connector,” and Twitterer extraordinaire — gave a speech on Saturday at a San Francisco gala hosted by GLAAD.

McKesson spoke about the protest in Ferguson, and how those early days grew into a movement. About what it means to love himself as a proud black gay man. About the power of Twitter as a force in fostering community and sustaining activism, and how social media has enabled those who have felt alone to find one another — and to make their voices heard.

Because I believe this speech is too good not to be heard, I am sharing it here.

Because I can’t be the only person who prefers reading to listening, I also transcribed it. (You’re welcome!)

Because I proved unable to control myself, I have added emphasis to certain passages below. Mostly these’re the ones I want to run through the streets shouting into people’s faces, so I figured a font change was the better choice. (You’re welcome again!)

Without further ado — take it away, Deray…


A year ago in St. Louis, we never thought that the protests would spread the way that they have. We never thought that people would rise up in their own communities. We knew that people were going to stand with us in St. Louis, but we didn’t know that it would spread. But it did. And here we are.

In those early days, we made two commitments:a commitment to stand today, and a commitment to fight tomorrow. We made those commitments despite it being illegal in St. Louis to stand still. We made those commitments despite being arrested for what we knew was right. We made those commitments despite being teargassed and shot at with rubber bullets. We made those commitments because we knew that we were on the right side of justice.

And those commitments started as commitments of protest. Protest is confrontation, protest is disruption, protest is the end of silence. And for us, the protest began in the street. But protest is so many things.

I think often of this tweet:

Continue reading “Coming Out of the Quiet”

Just Because the Book’s Not Pornographic, Don’t Assume There’s Nothing Obscene Going On

As a former high school English teacher — and longtime analyst of the US’s weird dance between puritanical prudery and enthusiastic sexualizing of…well, EVERYTHING — I shall forever find entertaining the books parents want to ban their children (and everyone else’s) from reading. I mean, the most challenged book of 2013 was Captain Underpants, for heaven’s sake. Captain Underpants!

So this recent headline was guaranteed to catch my eye: Tennessee Mom Calls Book On Cervical Cancer Cells ‘Pornographic’

Turns out the book in question is Rebecca Skloot’s New York Times bestseller, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, described by the author as “a story of race and medicine, bioethics, science illiteracy, the importance of education and equality and science and so much more.”

immortal life_skloot

I’ll come back to Henrietta Lacks (and why you should know who she is, if you don’t already) in just a moment. First I need to alert everyone to Tennessee Mom’s disturbing discoveries: Bodies have insides.

Those insides have organs. 

And sometimes those organs develop cancer. 

If this is ‘porn,’ I’ve been doing masturbation all wrong

The mother’s objection to this book being read by her 15yo son [and, lest we forget, by all his classmates at a Knoxville magnet school for STEM education — and all the other students in Knox County, period] centers on two passages: 1) the first describing infidelity on the part of Henrietta’s husband, and 2) the other detailing the moment in which Lacks discovers the lump on her cervix.

Curious to hear the wording that’s too “graphic” for teenagers? Cuz I sure was! Thankfully, The Guardian‘s got us covered:

Continue reading “Just Because the Book’s Not Pornographic, Don’t Assume There’s Nothing Obscene Going On”

Justice for Sandra Bland

The same week that a sitting US president visits a federal prison for the first time in the nation’s history, Sandra Bland died in jail. Waiting for her family to be able to bail her out. After being pulled over for not using her turn signal to indicate she was about to change lanes.

Got that? She changed lanes without signaling.

And four days later she’s dead in police custody.

(Facebook photo via)
(Facebook photo via)

My heart is with Bland’s family. May they have all the resources and support they need to endure this trauma. May they get whatever answers they demand. May they receive whatever ‪#‎JusticeforSandy‬ that feels meaningful to them. Though I struggle to imagine what “justice” might now mean for her family and friends.

Where does justice live, when love only cries out for the beloved’s return — yet the beloved is no more?

For the rest of us, justice must mean no more senseless deaths at the hands of the police. It must mean an end to the state-sanctioned and state-facilitated slaughter of America’s Black (and brown) daughters and sons.  Continue reading “Justice for Sandra Bland”