Category Archives: Social Issues

Social causes, activism, and projects

Microaggression and Stereotype – by Julia Wai-Yin So

You were at a house-warming party hosted by your immigrant friends from Mexico who just bought their first home. Your excitement was genuine. As you hugged your friend and his wife, you said, “I am so happy for you and your new home, especially in this neighborhood. Unlike other Latino immigrants, you are so accomplished.”

Your comment might have meant to be complimentary. Unfortunately, your Latino friend might have felt you just insulted his entire ethnic group. According to Dr. Derald Wing Sue from Columbia University, such remark falls under microaggressions–verbal, behavioral, or environmental slights that reflect the speaker’s conscious or unconscious stereotyping certain minoritized groups. Other examples include complimenting the English spoken by an Asian, or congratulating a college graduate while saying “You made me proud. I don’t think I have one black friend that has a college degree”. Though meant to compliment the recipient; such comments sadly also insult the ability or intelligence of the social group which the receiver belongs to.
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Civil Rights Icon Diane Nash….What else don’t we know? – by Terry Howard

Photo: From left, Rev. John Edwards, Jr., Diane Nash, John Edwards, III

When I got the news that President Biden recently awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to civil rights icon Diane Nash, I called an elated John Edwards, III, publisher of the Chattanooga News Chronicle having recalled a chat I had with him a while ago about his memories of and experiences with Nash.

Said Edwards, whose dad was an influential pastor and civil rights leader in Tennessee, and whose church was bombed by racists, “I was only 12 years old when I got the approval from my father to take part in the sit-ins. Dad dropped me off at the church early each morning where I sat on the front row and took my marching orders from John Lewis and Diane Nash. I was so enamored with those two Fisk University students and the courage they embodied.”
Continue reading Civil Rights Icon Diane Nash….What else don’t we know? – by Terry Howard

Impacting Education in Low-Income Countries – by Pearl Kasirye

Educators like Dr. Gillian Kabatereine believe that education is the key to developing young minds and helping them improve their economic circumstances. Dr. Gillian got her PhD in education and curriculum design at Columbia University in New York and returned to East Africa to use her knowledge and skills to make a difference in the education sector.
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On rustic church pews – by Terry Howard

If ever there was an eye-catching picture, this one fits the bill.

You see, a fellow I grew up with in a small town in Virginia posted it on Facebook. I’m not sure of its source or time, but think that maybe it was sometime in the 40s or earlier. Who knows for sure?

Okay, I admit to having lost count of the number of times I’ve looked at it, and am doing so right now as Juneteenth is in the spotlight. However, to get other reactions I randomly shared it with several folks.
Continue reading On rustic church pews – by Terry Howard

Reflections on the Holocaust — by Deborah Levine

As my radio theater play, UNTOLD: Stories of a World War II Liberator, is in preparation for broadcast, I am reminded of the 1st time that I agreed to serve on the local Holocaust Remembrance Day Committee was painful, even after almost seventy years since the end of World War II.  I agreed to assist in promoting the event beyond our Jewish community and I agreed to participate in the reading of the names of the victims.  And I resigned myself to being an usher at the event, not my favorite thing.  What I didn’t bargain for was a seat on the stage when I offhandedly shared that I was helping in memory of my father who was a U. S. military intelligence officer during World War II.  Aaron Levine was an army translator of German and French.  And by the way, he was a liberator of a labor camp.

Continue reading Reflections on the Holocaust — by Deborah Levine

My letter to Payton the gunman – by Terry Howard

Dear Payton “Gunman” Gendron:

Okay, you don’t know me and until a week ago, I didn’t know you. 

But since you disrupted my life when you snuffed out the lives of 10 African American people in Buffalo, I decided to write you a letter.  I included pictures of your victims in my first draft but removed them because they were too painful to look at. Why the pictures? Well because I wanted you to see them in your worst nightmares during your years behind bars. 

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U.S. Indian Boarding School Report – by Marc Brenman

In April 2022, the U.S. Department of the Interior issued the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative Investigative Report. The report was probably prompted by several year’s ago Canadian report on First Peoples boarding schools, and by the appointment of the first Native American Secretary of the Interior. The Canadian report was issues by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation in 2015. 

The U.S. report has much interesting information on cultural eradication. Native American children were forced from their families and into schools that were little better than prisons, beginning in the early years of the American Republic. Esteemed Founding Fathers like Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin expressed anti-Indian beliefs. Interestingly, these sentiments were sometimes expressed in confidential memos to Congress, as if it was known even then that the actions were morally reprehensible. 

Continue reading U.S. Indian Boarding School Report – by Marc Brenman

Anti-abortion and the Descent into Fascism – by Marc Brenman

What can be said about the anticipated anti-abortion decision from the US Supreme Court that hasn’t been said already? From a civil rights and social justice perspective, the reasoning in Justice Alito’s draft opinion is dangerous. It presages and exemplifies anti-democratic tendencies already present and vigorous on the American right. There are many “rights” that are not mentioned explicitly in the Constitution. Even though Alito’s draft says the decision should not be used as precedent in restricting other rights, the effort is already underway to do so. These include privacy, LGBT rights, the rights of people with disabilities, and the education of non-citizen children in public schools. And of course, the rights of women, educational rights, and the right to housing, to eat, and to live in a clean environment. Although we hear about it relatively little, the Equal Rights Amendment has never been added to the Constitution. However, there are many laws from Congress on protecting women, people with disabilities, and the environment. Women’s health advocates want Congress to pass similar laws protecting abortion. This is unlikely to occur, with the close division between the parties in the Senate, and the likely loss of Democratic House seats in the mid-term election. In addition, the Supreme Court can overturn acts of Congress if they believe the laws are not rooted in the Constitution. 

Nothing stops a conservative Supreme Court from declaring that statutes that provide rights not mentioned in the Constitution are not constitutional. Even school integration, required by Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, can be declared bad law. The Supreme Court has already pulled the teeth of the Voting Rights Act, making voter suppression easier, and already provided religious rights mentioned nowhere in the Constitution. In an act of supreme hypocrisy, the Court has enabled Christian believers, organizations, and corporations to impose their beliefs on others. The Constitution, in its mention of the separation of church and state, nowhere permits such imposition. And of course the Court has protected and enhanced only extreme Christian beliefs, leaving out the many other religions and their belief sets. Another example is gun rights, where the Constitution refers to a “well-regulated militia,” but the federal courts studiously ignore this phrase, and let unregulated shooters run rampant. 

Although the accusation has perhaps been overused, these tendencies of the rightwing are very similar to the tenets of fascism. When democracy is eroded, the vacancy invites in fascism, anarchy, libertarianism or communism. Social media does sometimes feel like anarchy, and with Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter, it will probably feel more like libertarianism. We’re already seeing the victory of libertarianism in the legalization and decriminalization of marijuana growing and use. The Supreme Court, if it was consistent, could do some good in doing away with some bad old court decisions, such as the one from 1911 that declared that corporations are people. But we cannot expect consistency from this Court. They are ideologically driven. 

The descent into fascism is part of a larger trend toward the manifestation of evil in society. Elements include too many guns, lying, hypocrisy, conspiracy thinking, hate, misogyny, xenophobia, antisemitism, homophobia, ablism, and racism. Trump, the Antichrist, manifests all of these. His followers enable and support him. We are observing in the Ukraine what can happen when a regime like communism is replaced with fascism—genocide, mass murder, crimes against humanity. And recall that Trump worships Putin. 

What prevents that from happening in the United States? Already we’ve heard from some scholars that civil war could occur in the US. Recall that we had a civil war here, in which the nominally losing side fought to preserve slavery and the benefits it drew from slavery. But the Confederacy did not really lose. Rather, it morphed into domestic terrorism and guerilla warfare, through the KKK, White Citizens Councils, Jim Crow laws, lynching, redlining, etc. Now those with nostalgia for slavery wish to enslave women, LGBT people, and immigrants. The enablers include those who vote against their self-interest, such as the 52% of white women who voted for Trump, the half of people with disabilities who vote Republican, and the increasing number of Hispanic men who vote Republican. We who have tried to educate people about civil rights and social justice have made some very bad mistakes, including telling people they should not just vote their self-interest. Unfortunately, we were listened to, and many people today vote their conscience of conspiracy and their warped moral judgments. A marginally more moral and ethical case can be made for anti-abortion if those on the right were to guarantee healthcare, education, housing, and food for all children. And to clamp down hard on men who rape, who commit incest, who do not support the children they have been instrumental into bringing into the world, who do not support the women they have forced into childbearing. 

What is to be done? Marching and demonstrating don’t help much. Signing petitions has almost no effect. Only a few actions will help much, including voting for liberal and progressive Democrats all up and down the ballot, and contributing money to their campaigns. Some actions are almost guaranteed not to help, such as racial, sexual, and LGBT essentialism. Manifestations of this include the idea that unless you look like me and have my preferences, I don’t want you as an ally. We see other “shoot yourself in the foot” phenomena such as the belief among some progressives that merit does not exist. We see extreme manifestations of rights such as insisting that transgender minors can use the bathroom of their choice, the idea of “neurodiversity,” and the imposition of required ethnic studies programs in public schools while the pandemic has set educational attendance and achievement back by two years. In an ideal world, all these concepts might be marginally good, but we don’t live in an ideal world. We live in a world under extreme threat and real and present danger. The movement against the right to abortion and women’s health care is yet another area of discrimination against women, added to existing disparities such as lack of pay comparable to men, the glass ceiling in employment, and lack of pay for work that mostly women provide, such as daycare. 

Awhile back, I was researching a project on how to draw some Trump voters back toward the political center. I asked the question, and added a second one, roughly should progressives and liberals negotiate and/or compromise with those on the right? I received such angry feedback from progressives that I stopped asking the second question. If no compromise is possible, then we may well end up with two Americas—one a democracy and one a fascist empire. In addition to what we are already seeing as many women flee to states where abortion is legal and available, we may see “democracy refugees” of African-Americans making a new journey to the North. 

Diversity and Speech Part 30: The Strange Odyssey of Racial Sports Metaphors – by Carlos Cortés

Woke people don’t stereotype, right?  And, of course, white men can’t jump.  Hm.  Consider the following.

For relaxation, my wife Laurel and I attend a bi-weekly creative writing workshop.  For a recent assignment, our instructor Jo Scott-Coe asked us to write about chocolate.   Each of the other participants wrote about food.   Not me.  For whatever reason, Jo’s assignment triggered thoughts of former National Basketball Association guard Jason Williams.

Continue reading Diversity and Speech Part 30: The Strange Odyssey of Racial Sports Metaphors – by Carlos Cortés

Afflictions of American Health Care – by Eliana Teel

When I was seven years old, I had my first MRI, or Magnetic Resonance Imaging – a medical imaging machine that generates internal images of the body. The tubular machine was quite large in comparison to my petite body. I can still remember how scared I was as they placed headphones twice the size of my head over my ears and pushed me back into the small cylinder. Or how the nurse called the IV that shot cold, contrast dye throughout my bloodstream a “butterfly clip” to ease the nerves. The MRI was ordered to examine my neck and upper spine because I was experiencing a lot of unusual pain there for a child that young. What my family and I didn’t expect was to be in that room for two more hours as they caught a glimpse of something concerning in my lower back.

Continue reading Afflictions of American Health Care – by Eliana Teel