At the tender age of 70, I have come out to the world as a transgender woman. Plagued by intractable anxiety and preoccupied with all things feminine I was surprised by the inescapableintersectionality conferred upon me involuntarily – that not only am I transgender, but I am a transgender Jew.
Judaism always seemed the right fit for me. Its implicit refutation of our dominant theology appealed to me. Personified by modern folk heroes like Einstein, Dylan (Zimmerman), and Koufax, it seduced me with inspiration. With teleological certitude Jewish Messianism offers the promise of a just revolution in our time and a profound endorsement of the counter-cultural impulse. It encouraged our rage against Nazis. It made us as one with all of America’s rejected minorities from the original Native Americans to the most recently-arrived Syrian refugees.
I embrace this rare classification with enthusiasm. I’ve discovered that transgender Jewry features an elite element that could not possibly include me. Or could it?
This is the eighth in a series of columns based on my research as a former fellow of the University of California National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement. In these columns I have discussed what I call the diversity movement — the composite of individual, group, and organizational efforts to reduce societal inequities that penalize people because of their actual or perceived membership in certain social groups. In particular I have focused on the intersection of diversity and speech.
After analyzing the past half century of the diversity movement, I concluded that the movement actually consists of four separate but intersecting diversity strands: intercultural; equity and inclusion; critical theory; and managing diversity.My past columns have sketched the parameters of the first three strands.In this column I will focus on the fourth strand, managing diversity.
Picturethis: There’s a beautifully manicured house a few blocks from yours. The hedges are lit up with Christmas lights. A new BMW is parked in the driveway. Just outside the door, there’s a nice 11’/24’ picture of your neighbor’s son on a poster donning his black and yellow basketball uniform. All is well right? Well, yesterday you learned that the house, which was empty at the time, was burglarized.
Sometime between a Sunday afternoon nap, raking leaves from my yard and watching NFL games in my “man cave” yesterday, I received the following message from my friend Troy from Houston, an emerging author. I read it several times and immediately determined that it must be shared broadly:
Yesterday my wife and I stopped at a local 7-Eleven to gas up her car. The card reader on the pump didn’t work, so I headed inside to pay for the gas. While I was inside, a white male in his mid-50’s drove up in front of the car and got my wife’s attention. She rolled her window down and this man told her that she had a dent in the back of her car. She opened the car door and was about to get out as I walked up. She told me what the guy had said about the dent. I looked at the car and said, “What dent?” He got out of his truck, came and looked at the back and said, “My eyes must have been playing tricks on me.” Got back in his truck and drove off.
His name is Stan Maclin. He lives in Harrisonburg, Virginia, having moved there 20 years ago. He is the founder and curator of the Harriet Tubman Cultural Center in that city.
It should come as no surprise then that Maclin’s Center has garnered national attention and many phone calls ignited by the recently released movie “Harriett,” the story of Harriett Tubman who single handedly made many forays deep into the south to free slaves.
When asked why he started the Center, in words that undoubtedly flowed from his mouth hundreds of times over the years, Maclin said that he wanted to open a place where African Americans can learn about their history, identity, and culture. He wanted to be able the educate future generations so that history does not repeat itself.
FBI Director Christopher Wray recently told Congress the following about hate groups: “A majority of the racially motivated violent extremist domestic terrorism is at the hands of white supremacists.”
Hate crimes increased by nearly 20% in 2017, according to the latest FBI data. The actual numbers are likely larger because many hate crimes go unreported or are misclassified for various reasons.
Another study on hate crimes among 30 big cities nationwide, by The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, states the following: “Hate crimes rose 9 percent in major U.S. cities in 2018, for a fifth consecutive increase, to decade highs, as cities with increases outnumbered those with declines two to one. In contrast, crime overall in major cities has declined in both of the last two years.”
This is the seventh in a series of columns based on my research as a former fellow of the University of California National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement. In these columns I have discussed what I call the diversity movement — the composite of the myriad individual, group, and organizational efforts to reduce societal inequities that penalize people because of their actual or perceived membership in certain social groups. In particular I have focused on the various issues raisedconcerning language and the exercise of speech.
In the past two columns I compared two threads of that diversity movement: intercultural diversity and equity-and-inclusion diversity. For the most part interculturalists emphasize voluntary speech restraint through the development of intergroup understanding.In contrast, while they often draw upon interculturalist principles, some inclusionists are more willing to pursue direct speech restraints, such as through regulations.When it comes to the third strand of the diversity movement, critical theory, its advocates tend to take an even stronger position in support ofthe direct restraint of speech, including through laws and codes.
Perhaps it’s attributable in part to shifting demographics, which has attracted people from across the globe, but there’s no denying the growth in cultures that have permeated Douglas and surrounding Georgia counties, their schools, businesses and neighborhoods. And that growth has been accompanied by an increase in the number of accents and the challenges that come with communicating through accent differences.
No matter how hard I work at it, I often struggle attempting to communicate with someone with a “heavy” accent. Am I alone? A situation a few years ago, one that left me feeling woefully incompetent, made this poignantly clear. Here’s what happened. Tell me if it resonates.
In one of his legendary “folks, let’s not air our dirty laundry” features, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Leonard Pitts began a recent column, “Blacks, too, judge each other by the color of their skin. How sick is that?” with this loaded old folk saying:
“If you’re white, you’re all right. If you’re brown, stick around. If you’re black, get back.”
Now the funny – well, no, maybe not always so funny – thing is that every now and then someone will put something out that makes you reflect on your own experience relative to that issue. And that old saying from my past is one.
“… You can call it fate or call it destiny. Sometimes it seems like a mystery. Timing is everything!” ~ Garrett Hedlund
Fate? …Destiny? … I cannot explain it.
You see, someone recently sent me a quick read on courageous acts by courageous people. “So, are you trying to tell me something?” I thought to myself while putting the piece aside. Now by coincidence – or destiny? – I remembered that Deborah Levine and Marc Brennan are about to release their long-awaited book, “When Hate Groups March Down Main Street.”
All that said, days later I received the following story from “Mariah,” that provided an opportunity for me to pull all these pieces together: