Women Lead the Resistance to Trump

(Inauguration Protest Posters by Shepard Fairey, from here)

When my daughter and I joined the Women’s March on Washington, DC, we joined with other women who are leading the resistance to the Trump regime. Reported to be the largest ever one-day march in the US, we were joined by an estimated two million people at sister marches around the world.

Being at the Women’s March on Washington

Being at the Women’s March was a chance to be part of history and to be inspired. Many people at the march were fired up about the fact that Trump is morally unfit for office. Holding signs like: “This pussy grabs back” and chants like our favorite: “We want a leader, not a creepy tweeter!” the women at the march proclaimed their resistance.

Actor Ashley Judd’s impassioned delivery of a poem written by fellow Tennesseean Nina Donovan (19 years old) at the pre-march rally aimed to take back the “nasty woman” insult, insisting vaginas “ain’t for grabbin’” and instead are for birthing the next generation of multicultural, multifaceted diverse human beings. The poem spoke of female empowerment, attacked transphobia, conversion therapy (aimed at LGBTQIA folks), and the abysmal 63 and 54 cents that Black and Hispanic women make compared to a “white man’s privileged daughter.” Right away it was evident to me on the ground that this march was going to be a progressive coalition and the beginning of a much broader resistance than just the outcome of the election,

While marching, I was struck again and again by the juxtaposition of what a sign said and who was carrying it.  A “Trust Women” sign for reproductive freedom, carried by a man; a “Black Lives Matter” sign, carried by a white woman; “Respect Women of Color” NOW sign, carried by a white man; “The Future is Brown and Female,” also carried by a man; and “Channeling my Inner Shirley Chisholm,” carried by a white woman. Chisholm ran for the Democratic party nomination for US President in 1972, and although she did not win it, she adopted the slogan “unbought and unbossed”—was a democratic role model that men and women of all backgrounds, races, religions, and sexual orientations.

(The author and her daughter at The Women’s March)

When the crowd was finally permitted to march forward, I caught glimpse of a vast sea of signs and banners that was inspiring for both me and gave me hope for my daughter’s future.

Intersectionality in Action

For me, The Women’s March was also an opportunity to see intersectionality in action. Several of the visionary organizers of the March for Women –including Tamika Mallory, Carmen Perez, and Linda Sarsour  – spoke eloquently about harnessing the passion of the people who were there.  Rather than focus on calling out the 53% of white women who voted for Trump, or the white women who hadn’t marched before, the organizers chose to “call people in” to the movement.

They called in the people who got on a bus, maybe for the first time and who had maybe never been politically active before, and asked them to stay awake now, to keep paying attention, and to keep speaking up about the issues that others have been fighting for for decades now, like police brutality and Islamophobia.

Linda Sarsour, in particular, who identifies as “unapologetically Muslim American, Palestinian American, and from Brooklyn, New York” passionately spoke that she was glad that people became recently incensed by Trump’s call for a “Muslim registry”—and to these new allies, she affirmed, “I welcome you”—but also made clear, “the very things you have been outraged by, this has been our reality for the past 15 years.

Tamika Mallory reminded the crowd that this was not a concert or a party, and like Sarsour, welcomed new allies in this progressive movement by addressing those who “for the first time felt the pain that my people have felt since they were brought here with chains shackled on our legs, welcome to my world… This country has been hostile to its people for some time. For some of you, it is new. For some of us, it is not so new.”

(Linda Sarsour, speaking at The Women’s March, from here)

While some in the mainstream media tended to focus more on the speeches of white celebrities such as Gloria Steinem, Michael Moore, Ashley Judd, Madonna, and Scarlett Johansson, the reality on the ground at the march was that women of color played a prominent role. And, they always used their platform to highlight intersectionality.  Actor Janelle Monae led the crowd in chants of “Say Her Name,” a call created by Kimberlé Crenshaw to remind us of the black women killed at the hands of police, like Tanisha Anderson, Sandra Bland, Rekia Boyd, Miriam Carey, Shelly Frey, Korryn Gaines, Natasha McKenna, Yvette Smith and so many others. Several of the mothers of black men (and boys) killed at the hands of police, such as Jordan Davis, Eric Garner, and Trayvon Martin, spoke to shout their babies’ names aloud as well.

(Janelle Monae, speaking at The Women’s March, from here)

One of the most powerful moments for me at the march happened when the crowd began to chant in unison: “Sophie Cruz.”  Most people there had probably never heard before of Sophie Cruz, but once this brave and powerful 6-year old girl gave an empowering speech, first in English, and then repeated in Spanish, urging the crowd to work to “keep families together,” urging children to “not be afraid,” they would likely never forget her.  Echoing another young heroine, Cruz told the crowd she still believed that most people have “hearts full of love” so “let’s keep together and fight for the rights!”

Standing for five hours of speeches in a packed crowd where one could barely move was uncomfortable at times, but well worth it for moments of inspiration like this one. Reflecting on these moments of inspiration gives me strength as the news from the Trump regimes unfolds with more terrible developments each day.

Women Continue to Lead the Resistance

(Activists in Portland, Oregon, protest President Trump’s ban. Clinton Steeds/Reuters, from here)

As the first few days of Trump’s presidency unfold with an onslaught of destructive Executive Orders, including the so-called “Muslim Ban,” it it women who have been on the front lines of the protests against these atrocities. Michael Moore suggested that the Women’s March never ended.

Clearly, it’s working. One Republican congressman complained that since the march, women have been “in my grill,” asking about when his next town hall meeting would be, and “not to give positive input.”  On the Democratic side, two women have been at the forefront of putting pressure on Sen. Schumer, staging protests outside his home that have helped him “find his spine” to stand up to the Trump regime. Rebecca Traister has a run down here of all the women opposing the regime, which has set off a flurry of speculation that opposition from women is Trump’s Nightmare.

Sen. Kamala Harris’s speech at the march connected “women’s issues,” to human rights issues, to the economy, to immigration. Native Americans formed a human chain as they drummed and marched, chanting what the crowds marching near them could not help but join in as it became contagious—“women are sacred” and “water is life.” These are not just Native values, these are human values—or should be.

(Photo credit: Eileen O’Brien. Shepard Fairey poster)

Making these connections between disparate issues has never been more urgent.  it’s important to deepen our understanding of “women’s issues,” particularly as whites become a demographic minority in the US. Census Data is quite clear that by 2020, a majority of the children in this country will be nonwhite, ushering in a majority multicultural future for the nation. As Joe’s insightful post notes,Trump’s cabinet is clearly assembled to preserve elite white male advantage. If women are to resist this power structure, then we will need to fully embrace the intersectionality  I saw on full display at the Women’s March.

(Rep. Maxine Waters, speaking at The Women’s March, from here)

As crowds chanted “this is what democracy looks like” and “this is what America looks like,” Rep. Maxine Waters said that Trump’s words, actions, and nominees tells us that “you don’t respect us as women” and they are “dog whistles to white supremacists.” With white supremacists like Bannon and Miller actively involved in drafting Executive Orders for Trump’s signature, this not hyperbole.

As Alicia Garza observed, the march is a part of a larger effort at movement building:

“We can build a movement in the millions, across difference. We will need to build a movement across divides of class, race, gender, age, documentation, religion and disability. Building a movement requires reaching out beyond the people who agree with you.”

When I attended The Women’s March, I’m grateful I got to be a part of this.

 

~ Eileen O’Brien is Associate Professor of Sociology and Assistant Chair of the Department of Social Sciences at St.Leo University. She is the author of several books, including Whites Confront Racism (Rowman & Littlefield, 2001).

The March for Women: Kingian Perspectives

As I make plans and preparations to attend the March for Women in Washington DC this Saturday with my teenage daughter—with controversy already swirling around it—I find guiding wisdom studying the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

King reminds us that doing what is morally right is often not easy, comfortable or convenient. Well, my daughter does not much like crowds, and we will be getting up at 5am and being on our feet all day, but we’ve done just as much for something more frivolous such as a family vacation. No, the discomfort I believe King spoke of is much less superficial, and much more permanent. Not the discomfort to our bodies, but hurt and pain on our hearts and souls. The kind of reproach and rebuke that might come from someone whose opinions of us we care about, maybe even those we love. Or those with whom we might have marched shoulder to shoulder, whose causes with whom we may have been aligned, under better circumstances.

King is known for being a leader—one of many leaders in the civil rights movement—and I have been awed and inspired by this new generation of leaders who are engaging with the March. Several brave women appear to be living by some of the more difficult Kingian teachings, illuminating the difficulties and complexities of the “long arc” of justice that King described. Not knowing what they did not know, initial organizers first termed the event the “Million Woman March,” but rightly backpedaled and withdrew this title once it was pointed out to them that African American women in Philadelphia marched under this name in 1997. Heated Facebook discussions ensued between women about the long history of race and class tension within the feminist movement in the US, amidst reorganization and broadening of the March’s focus and policy platform to incorporate better not only women of color, but all marginalized and oppressed human beings.

It is difficult to put in words the courage one must summon to accept correction and rebuke and remain engaged in solidarity with others. It is much easier to withdraw and take comfort in those who you perceive will not challenge you. When someone is already feeling wounded, they may understandably take the simpler road for a time until they can build up the strength to engage once more. For example, I have written elsewhere (in my Whites Confront Racism and in Doane & Bonilla-Silva’s White Out about the courage and humility needed to stay on a lifelong path of white antiracism. It is not a path for the faint of heart. You will be called out more than you know. Those who feel like they are doing something special by just showing up will be in for a rude awakening. The courage it takes to say, yes, I made a mistake—not in private by yourself, but with others watching—taking responsibility and walking forward to redress one’s wrongs, is not for everyone. But King’s words can serve as a blueprint and moral compass for such a crossroads:

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends [and] Not only will we have to repent for the sins of bad people; but we also will have to repent for the appalling silence of good people.

Some who originally wanted to March have now withdrawn, saying they no longer felt “welcomed.” King rightly points out that being deserted and by potential allies is the “greatest betrayal”—much more so than those who we did not expect to support us anyway.

I am inspired by Lena Gardner, a Black Lives Matter group’s co-founder in Minneapolis, who when interviewed by NPR about the March and asked whether she was hopeful or skeptical about it, answered “both-and.” Gardner stated:

We’ve been out in the streets marching for years. And a lot of white people haven’t been there with us. And now, suddenly, they feel like it’s really important that they come out. So are you marching because you’re upset because you didn’t get your way, or are you marching because you recognize that your life and your liberation is connected to mine now? And I think there’s a long way to go between those gaps. But in my work in the past two years, I’ve seen it happen. So I have hope that it’ll happen for some people. I know it’s not going to happen for everyone. But all I can do, again, is meet people halfway and say welcome to this work. It’s really hard. It’s really difficult, and there are no certain answers.

Gardner appears to be taking the first step to which King refers in this quote: “Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” It would be much easier for Gardner to retreat to a safe haven, to retreat to where she knows she feels more accepted, more whole. Instead, she models what Dr. King describes in this quote about courage:

Courage is an inner resolution to go forward despite obstacles.
Cowardice is submissive surrender to circumstances.
Courage breeds creativity; Cowardice represses fear and is mastered by it.
Cowardice asks the question, is it safe?
Expediency ask the question, is it politic?
Vanity asks the question, is it popular?
But, conscience ask the question, is it right? And there comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because it is right.
[I thank Rev. Travis Harris for bringing the above quote and the one about silence to my attention in his recent sermon on 1/15/17. See http://www.wmbrgblacklivesmatter.org]

The organizers of the March, from the current state of their website, explicitly cite Kingian principles of nonviolence as their guiding vision. They rightly characterize nonviolence as “courageous” (don’t mistake kindness for weakness!), and note that “defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.” Their vision mirrors that of Dr. King, when he says:

It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tired into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one destiny, affects all indirectly.

King’s wisdom resonates today as clear and as urgent and as relevant as it ever was. The road is not easy, but you dust yourself off, get up again, and do the work, because we all sink or swim together. Ultimately, cutting part of the human family off is not going to get any of us where we want to go.

When the world around you seems to be calling for business as usual–amidst cruelty, lies, and disregard for your human dignity–what is the morally upright course of action? King tells us it is to keep showing up, keep speaking up, and never keep silent, because “the day we see the truth and cease to speak is the day we begin to die.” The Women’s March aims to “join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore.” It is surely a day that will make Dr. King proud, for it will be the result of struggles both internal and external, emerging victoriously knowing that it is precisely our differences that is our strength.

Messy Truths about White Trump Voters

Van Jones, I would like to personally recognize you for your undertaking with concern to your exploration within the minds and souls of white Trump voters within your recent televised CNN series entitled, “The Messy Truth.” I get the intellectual journey you are on and appreciate your determination. I truly do. Unfortunately, in regard to the often glossed over purview of recent advanced racialized assessments related to the past electoral democratic debauchery, like many brash hired gun commentators on both the left and right who are propagated by the media to perform political illusion for the ill-informed passive thinkers—you are simply wrong. Your attempted psychological stretch to “make nice” and create an alternative narrative for Trump supporters ignores a hard reality that renowned influential intellectuals such Derrick Bell, Joe Feagin, and Eduardo Bonilla-Silva have discussed, researched, and proven time and time again—the dynamics of race are almost always present. The intellectual and scholarly fortitude of these men compels me to keenly point to those you wish to defend as guilty of participating in collaborative racism. Decisions to vote based on issues such as the economy, on the surface seem to have validity. But when looking not only closer with a critical eyes, but also to the results of the 2016 election, Mr. Jones and others have overlooked the dark shading of racism. In a Rolling Stone interview he argues that:

…progressives think that that all 60 million people who voted for him have signed on to an Alt-Right, white nationalist agenda…a lot of people held their nose and voted for Donald Trump – despite his bigotry, not because of it.

Thusly, he and his media kinspersons consequently advocate for the construction of “bridges” between progressives and Trump devotees.

I contend: Before building any bridges, the ground must first be examined for sinkholes before the golden keepsake shovel is pulled out for pictures. Before we as a nation move forward, we must first be brutally honest and face the ideological perspective, that even though many Trump supporters do not have a smoldering, smelling KKK hood placed in the backseat of their truck after the latest cross burning, their electoral actions, as argued by previously mentioned scholars, are more likely than not internally effected by a dark white-racist ideology that dates back to the first Dutch-flagged slave ship in 1619 Virginia. Their ability to essentially turn a blind eye to the documented psychological effects of media-covered incidents filled with hateful rhetoric–and at times physical violence toward historically marginalized people such as Muslims, Latinos, and Blacks–proves it so.

I am sure many of you are saying to yourselves, how does this apply to evidence provided by an NBC exit poll that explains “29 percent” of Latinos respectively voted for Trump? The answer is simple. It does not apply. Looking beyond the hyperbole and political spin, political scientists have vehemently argued and provided much evidence which proves the quoted Latino turnout for Trump was were wildly exaggerated. This entry is focused on arguments pertaining to phrases such as “sincere ignorance,” “self-hate,” and “conscientious stupidity” within a much longer argument.

But I digress. In terms of whites in America, many are under the false assumption that you are either racist or not. A little secret—-Racism is not binary. Any race scholar worth his/her salt knows that racism moves across an internal sliding scale. Some are blatant proud bigots who spew out epithets with no remorse, adopted an ideology inferiority toward those on the darker side, and practice national terrorism. Others are your uncles who have Black and Brown co-workers they like (he calls, “the good ones”), but also believe in the slogan “White Lives Matters.” In the end, when confronted with policies and groups that threaten their racial interests, all those whites along the middle to extreme fringe lines of the spectrum safeguard it with white-generated colorblind rhetoric and actions that speak to acts of racial criticism and/or ignore the plight and pains of those Americans of color that they see as potentially threatening their interests. But whites in general have come to the aid of people of color, right? Derrick Bell’s forwarded theory, “convergence interests,” argues that in general whites will support issues pertaining to racial justice for marginalized people of color only when that support “converges” with their interests. This has been proven from Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954) to the current bipartisan push to change certain drug laws.

In the end, as Texas A&M Distinguished Professor Feagin argues, we live in a country that is infused with our forefathers-generated system of racism (systemic racial oppression) that was created to maintain modern capitalism and white access to power. In order to maintain power over non-Whites, a white rationale was created to drive and rationalize oppressive acts such as slavery. This rationale is wrapped in conscious and unconscious repeated organized and racialized stereotypes and racialized emotions that consequently foster discriminatory acts or racial justice “in-actions.”

The in-action to empathize with the fear and anger of those on the receiving end of the racial hate rhetoric of Trump and his supporters are examples of Feagin’s white racial frame. The absence of care toward the recipients of physical and psychological warfare created by the Hitler-saluting KKK and other white nationalists members make Trump voters guilty of consciously or unconsciously acting in accord to a transgenerational set of white-racist ideas whose ultimate goal is to maintain the historic U.S. racial hierarchy, while ignoring the pains of those historically seen as un-American, as alien.

If we are truly trying to come to an understanding regarding this racialized country or the racial ramifications related to the previous election, we as a country must be honest—Race Matters. Sorry, by ignoring it Mr. Jones, you have become not a facilitator, but another barrier to our country attaining true democracy for all.

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Insiders and Outsiders in Racialized Higher Education

Having a voice rather than simply a seat at the table is a prerequisite for the participation of minoritized faculty, administrators, staff and students in the mainstream of university and college life. Whereas in the past visibility and invisibility of marginalized groups has been the predominant metaphor for inclusive/exclusionary practices, the phenomenon of voice and silencing more accurately represents the actual dynamic of power relations on college campuses. As Shulamit Reinharz of Brandeis University points out, if institutional practices support only the physical presence of marginalized groups without hearing their voices, little change will have taken place.

In a persuasive article, Fred Bonner argues that the academy gives greater weight to the scholarship of white faculty who write about diversity issues than to minority faculty who are not only writing about issues of inequity, but living them. In his words,

The etic outsider perspective should not be allowed to constantly overshadow the authentic claims of the emic insider’s view.

As a graduate student at an Ivy League institution, I was surprised to find that the leading faculty in Asian Studies were all white scholars, while the native Asian speakers held untenured lecturer positions. While the language instructors typically did not hold doctorate degrees, I often found it baffling at the time that the leading lights in the field did not include the first-person perspectives of Asians or Asian Americans. This polarization bespoke a troubling reality in higher education, i.e. the devaluing of the insider’s perspective.

In this two-tiered system, even the pursuit of diversity-related research by minoritized faculty has been viewed as of less scholarly value, particularly in the tenure process. In the Department Chair as Transformative Diversity Leader, Alvin Evans and I share the perspective of a white chair of kinesiology who sees it as part of her role to have a discussion with the promotion and tenure committee regarding the value of diversity research:

There is just more of an appreciation for what they would call scientific research as opposed to social science research, first of all . . . as much as I have tried to have conversations about that. . . . And then just the valuing of the diversity research agenda, clearly it is not as valued. I think it comes down to method as much as anything, but that is a vicious circle. Because the way you study diversity is different than measuring your blood pressure. The certainty for scientists sometimes in basic science is a false certainty, but they don’t perceive it at all in diversity-related research; there is not a valuing of it. So in the tenure process, I think the chair has to have a conversation about it.

How then can institutions of higher education begin to address the dichotomy between the insider/outsider perspectives? Through case studies and interviews with CDO’s and institutional diversity leaders for a forthcoming book, Leading a Diversity Cultural Shift: Comprehensive Organizational Learning Strategies in Higher Education, Alvin Evans and I explore the ways in which organizational learning can serve as a lever for diversity transformation and the creation of more inclusive campus environments.

Our survey of diversity officers conducted for this study highlights one of the inherent contradictions in the insider/outsider perspective– i.e., the expectation that the Chief Diversity Officer, who is typically a member of a marginalized group, should be the sole leader or spokesperson for diversity cultural change on college campuses. The Chief Diversity Officer role is the only top leadership role in which the majority of all incumbents are diverse, with whites comprising only 12.3 percent of CDO’s in doctoral universities. This singular representation suggests a form of symbolism or even token status. As David Owen observes, reliance on minoritized individuals to carry the load on diversity issues has negative connotations, such as 1) only these individuals are responsible for or interested in diversity work, or 2) that these positions are the only executive positions that ethnic/racial minorities are competent to hold. As he explains:

It is manifestly unjust to place the burden of dismantling structures of race and gender privilege that are the consequence of hundreds of years of systemic oppression in the United States on men and women of color and White women.

Such broad expectations for the CDO role conflict with the fact that many CDO’s serve in “at will” status without employment protection. Leading a change agenda without such protection is inherently a risky proposition. As an Afro-Latino CDO in our survey sample indicates:

This role in itself is a risk. I think that anybody that takes on this role must go into role with the understanding that they are at risk all the time. … the reality is that this work challenges power.

Our current study reveals reveal several key themes that are integral to substantive diversity progress at both private and public institutions of higher education. Courageous presidential leadership is a sine qua non of diversity change. Such leadership communicates a sense of urgency about diversity and inclusion, emanates to executive leadership and the deans, and is bolstered by concrete action that provides the resources necessary for diversity change. Take the urgency given to diversity and commitment to resource prioritization exemplified by President Robert Nelsen of Sacramento State University. As he told us:

. . . in our budget this year we set three priorities: priority number one was to make certain that we had enough classes for our students; priority two was diversity; priority three was safety. When you move diversity to the forefront of allocations, it means that with your budget decisions you are making a moral decision about diversity and its importance. That takes some explaining and teaching so that people understand why it is important.

Another important theme emerging from the case studies is that tenured faculty serve as a powerful and sometimes singular voice of opposition in response to regressive external political pressures. Although student activists on many campuses have raised issues of diversity and inclusion, the power to sustain such efforts may indeed rely on the tenured faculty. Their collective voice has been strengthened when expressed in faculty senate resolutions or through the creation of sub-committees or councils to examine often uncomfortable diversity issues.

In his blog post of December 8, 2016, Joe Feagin warns that our country is now facing a social, political and political-economic downward anti-egalitarian spiral. In the face of this treacherous downward political spiral, as Feagin points out, we need to frame the questions and problems of social inequality. This concrete framing demands that we address both the insider/outsider dynamic at play in university power relations as well as how the value of diversity and inclusion is communicated and disseminated across the multi-dimensional contours of a campus ecosystem.