Racism is whites’ problem to solve.

If you follow news about policing, you will already know that American society is by far the most incarcerated in the world, that black and brown people are enormously overpoliced compared to whites and given harsher sentences than whites for the same crimes, and that young black men in particular are killed by police at rates 21 times greater than their white counterparts. Many liberal-minded whites I know seem incapable of grasping the enormity of the injustice of all of that—which may be understandable given that their interactions with police have been generally much different, but is not excusable on those grounds. Of course many less-than-liberal-minded whites are openly defensive and hostile in response to anyone calling this what it is—systemic racism—in favor of all manner of victim-blaming and othering and authoritarianism and bootstrapping narratives that have about as much relation to reality as…well, as all things conservative generally do. This is why as protesters took to the streets in NYC (and across the nation) in response to police violence and the failure to hold accountable the cops who killed Mike Brown and Eric Garner, I was heartened to see people of every race among them, especially whites. I say this not to suggest these whites deserve a cookie just for being decent fucking human beings. They don’t. I say it because—and this really cannot be said enough—racism is whites’ problem to solve.


See, there I said it again. And it is true in exactly the same way that street harassment is mens’s problem to solve. (The similarities to misogyny don’t end there, but that’s another post entirely.) It’s a tall order, to be sure, and will take a hell of a lot more than white people demonstrating and marching. The solution to police violence and mass incarceration of people of color does not just lie within the relationships between cops and communities of color—although it certainly lies there, too. It lies with whites interrogating ourselves about our participation in social, cultural and political systems that sustain racism—and committing to fucking doing something about it. Janee Woods wrote recently:

We’re 400 years into this racist system and it’s going to take a long, long, long time to dismantle these atrocities. The antiracism movement is a struggle for generations, not simply the hot button issue of the moment. Transformation of a broken system doesn’t happen quickly or easily.

People of color, black people especially, cannot and should not shoulder the burden for dismantling the racist, white supremacist system that devalues and criminalizes black life without the all in support, blood, sweat and tears of white people.


Here are some images I shot from Greenwich Street on December 4th around 8:00pm as protesters marched West on 11th Street. (Yes people, believe it or not I was actually roused from my bar stool—not by all the NYPD sirens of course, but by the protester chants I heard over them from a block away.)

NYPD blocking greenwich st at 11th

NYPD blocking Greenwich St.
West Village, between Perry & 11th Sts.

protestors 11th & greenwich sts

Protesters at 11th & Greenwich Sts.

protestors "justice"

Protester at 11th & Greenwich Sts.: "JUSTICE"

protestors on 11th st

Protesters at 11th & Greenwich Sts.

woman protestor "Black Lives Matter"

Woman protesting at 11th & Greenwich Sts.: BLACK LIVES MATTER.

USA Today has a fantastic collection of photos from nationwide protests; here are a few from NYC.

Brooklyn Bridge protestors

Brooklyn Bridge.
(Photo: Jason DeCrow, AP)

Grand Central Die-In

Grand Central.
(Photo: Justin Lane, European PressPhoto Agency)

Foley Square "We Can't Breathe"

Foley Square.
(Photo: Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY)


Back at the bar, a young woman came in, sat next to me and ordered a drink. We got to talking, as bar people do. She had just turned twenty-one a few days ago, and in a few weeks will be headed for a semester in Paris to study curation. We talked about art and artists (she loves Frida Kahlo) and Europe (she’s never been) and her excitement about the adventures that lie ahead (highly contagious). Eventually she mentioned that she had just been marching with the protesters, and that she was struggling with some guilt over pursuing her dreams overseas while her community was suffering so much here, and yet she said she felt a duty to take advantage of these opportunities for them. She has an autistic brother, 17, who she fears will make an easy target for police violence, not just because of his race but because his disability makes interpersonal communication so difficult for him. She is not wrong about that. I listened for a while, and did not interrupt, until she shared that she was really torn between being a committed activist and “curling up in a ball in bed.” Wait, I said. Those things are not mutually exclusive. And I urged her to curl up in a ball in bed exactly as often as she needed to, to mourn, to rest, to reset. There is no shame in tending to your own garden. We hugged, I wished her well and parted.

paris-bound student protestor

Photo shared with permission; name withheld.

We may well lose her to Paris, and that would be our great loss. Who could blame her? Any future she may have stateside is up to us—all of us.

Earlier that evening, I had posted to Facebook a photo of police helicopters swarming the skies above Manhattan. Later on, I would have a fitful night’s sleep, awakened over and over by the sounds of sirens blazing and helicopters roaring. This is nothing, I reminded myself, compared to the nightmare that will never end for the families and friends of those unjustly killed by police with impunity.

I hope you will get involved, and stay involved. I may well be curling up in a ball in bed today.

The helicopters are still in the skies.



[a version of this post appeared at perry street palace.]

Funny times with Forced Birthers.

Jill Filipovic has a good piece up in Cosmopolitan (yes, that Cosmopolitan) entitled Abortion Clinic Protesters: “Sidewalk Counselors” or “Sidewalk Terrorists”? It covers the usual rabid theocrats and misogynist circus clowns, and it documents (as we already know) that these assholes are not driven by “baby killing” per se, they are really railing against women (and others) having non-church sanctioned, non-procreative sex. I have never understood this motivation personally because that is, quite obviously I would think, the best kind of sex to have. Nevertheless, this particular attitude, incomprehensible as it may be, explains why Forced Birthers are also dead set against birth control—which would, you know, actually reduce abortions.

Now maybe this is because I have a terrible fucking head cold, a hacking cough and a fever (OMG! EBOLA!) but for whatever reason I found the clinic protesters interviewed for this article hilarious. Don’t get me wrong—they are as rage-inducing as ever, and I still loathe each and every one of them with the burning fire of ten thousand suns. But this, my friends, is comic gold:

“[Women] had equality,” [demonstrator Fred] Delouis says about the 1950s, before Supreme Court cases legalized contraception and abortion. “But they had to be obedient to their husbands. That’s where equality comes: where the mother stayed home and raised the children in God’s light, and the husband worked, and everything was great. When I grew up, there were no problems.”

Equality, y’all! EVERYTHING was GREAT! And there were NO PROBLEMS…for Fred! LOL!

And Fred just keeps the hits right on coming:

“Society was great before they had abortions,” he says. “Because there wasn’t as much evil in the world.”

Did you know World War II happened after Roe v. Wade? HAHAHA!

“They weren’t murdering God’s babies, which is the most important thing.”

Silly Fred! Abortions are actually helping God murder his babies, because if there’s one thing we all know God loves, it’s murdering his babies! If 50% of pregnancies spontaneously abort, obviously clinics are just doing some of God’s baby murderin’ work for him! You would think Fred would show a little more enthusiasm and gratitude. He can be pretty funny, but I think he’s a little confused.

Then there’s the Death D00d:

Inside the clinic, Deb Fenton, regional director of Central and Western Massachusetts Planned Parenthood, peers out the window, looking for one of the regular protesters who shows up in an Angel of Death costume. “Is the Grim Reaper out there today?” she asks.

Excellent! I want to hang around Grim Reaper d00d while wearing my trademark bloody coat hanger dress—always a big hit at parties. I had been thinking of festooning it with bloody doll parts around the coat hanger anyway, and I feel this would nicely complement the whole “bloody dismembered fetus” theme they’ve got going on their posters and signage. I’ll fit right in! It’ll be a hoot!

Then there’s Ruth:

“I consider my profession having been a mother and a grandmother,” Ruth says, adding that her children agree with her values: two of her daughters got pregnant out of wedlock, one in high school, and both placed their children for adoption.

Oh, Ruth. Priceless!

And the lovely Nancy Clark:

“Abstinence,” Clark says. “It’s possible. I taught my daughters abstinence. It doesn’t mean I’ve been successful with my first two, but I have three more to go.”

Third time’s the charm? Bwahahahaha!


Clark says that after marriage, “natural family planning” is the only way to go. And she’s mystified by its lack of popularity:

“You can’t even get Catholics to use it,” she says. “It does work though. Of course, I have nine kids.”

Stop it Nancy! You’re killin’ me!


Clark testified in the Supreme Court’s recent clinic buffer zone case—presumably under penalty of perjury—that:

“close personal communication” in a “kind, gentle voice” was her preferred method of approaching women, and that “speaking in a raised voice, shouting or yelling is counterproductive.”

Once the shitheads on the high court struck down the clinic buffer zone law (a unanimous decision, by the way, issued from the safety and comfort of the court’s own 200 foot buffer zone), Clark now enjoys having more options of where she can approach women in a “kind, gentle voice.”

“Instead of yelling from here,” she says, gesturing across the street to the clinic, “I get to yell from over there.”

What a scream! (<—Hahaha. Sometimes I crack myself up.)

Next, meet Father Andrew Beauregard, a Franciscan monk—i.e. a celibate d00d (at least we hope…). He’s here to helpfully ‘splain everything you need to know about wimmenz lives:

“The fullness of being a woman is being a mother.”

And here I thought the fullness of being a woman was me eating too much of Frankie’s pizza. Huh. So I guess the fullness of being a man is being a daddy? Then why the fuck are you here yellin’ at pregnant people instead of making the babies? Dust that thing off and get to work, Father. God needs more babies to murder!

“For a woman to say that she has to have control over her body or over herself in such a way that she can’t be a mother really speaks to a degradation towards women.”

Conversely, compulsory childbirth is in no way degrading to women! I can’t stand it! This guy is a fucking pisser!

Protesters also told Filipovic they had a “save” the week before: that is, they convinced a man (*ahem*) to convince his girlfriend to leave the clinic:

Recounting their “save,” Meija and Pablo say the woman was going to terminate because her boyfriend had another girlfriend and had also fathered children with other women. But, they say, the boyfriend didn’t want the abortion from the beginning and after he promised he would support the baby, she came out of the clinic crying, and they walked away together.

Well that sure sounds like a win for everyone!

“We saw them together,” Pablo says. “That’s the most great thing — to see them together as a family.”

Remember, people, this is all about traditional family values: one d00d, his two girlfriends, plus a bunch of kids he’s had with other women. The MOST GREAT THING. Probably ever! Tee-hee-hee!

There is one thing I don’t get, though: if you’re so content with the choices you’ve made in your own life, what the hell are you doing spending your days harassing and yelling at other people for making choices of their own? I thought this would go without saying, but nine kids just isn’t for everybody. Hell, marriage isn’t for everyone, either. Just ask Father Beauregard about that!

It never occurred to me before, but I’m starting to think maybe they do it for the lulz.

[cross-posted at perry street palace]


Interview with Soraya Chemaly

Soraya Chemaly is a feminist activist who writes about gender and culture. She appears all over the internet, in places like The Guardian, Ms. Magazine, CNN, Salon, and The Huffington Post, and sits on our Advisory Council. Soraya will be at Women in Secularism 3 where she will be talking about Gender and Free Expression, Intersectionality and Humanism, and Online Activism.

MO: Did you always want to do what you are doing? Did you fall into it? How'd you get here?

SC: I think the way my childhood experiences made being a girl cognitively disjunctive, particularly religion in my case, made it almost inevitable. I've studied theology, history, gender, feminism for as long as I can remember. At university, I founded a feminist magazine but then after school I started to work that had nothing to do with these subjects.  Then, about two years ago, when my children were on the verge of being teenagers, it struck me that we'd come to a standstill in terms of women's equality and parity, so I launched back in with a vengeance to make up for lost time!

MO: My family gets upset with me for deconstructing everything. Can you shut it off?

SC: Really can't! As I said to them long ago, this is not what I do, it's really is who I am. By asking me to stop (and they do!) they are falling into the classic trap that this perspective is tangential.

Mo: Harassment: We all get it. What do you get? How do you get through it?

SC: Street harassment has been a constant in my life since I was nine. I respond in different ways depending on the circumstances (because we all assess risk each and every time we feel the urge to respond), my mood, the place, etc. Now, a lot of the harassment I experience also happens online. There are people who really cannot imagine sharing public space – on line or off – civilly with women as equals.

Some, I ignore entirely. I figure, it's like bullying –  if you don't like my opinion,  it is not my problem, but your problem. Some of it I can't afford to ignore. One time in particular, I had to call the police. Another activist got death threats from the same person, we talked and it ended up with an FBI complaint.  We all have to assess risks. Some people have the wherewithal to ignore harassment and threats. What is sad and understandable, however, is when people stop talking or censor themselves as a result. This is problematic for so many reasons. As far as engagement goes, you only have so much time and energy in you every day. There are some who are never going to change their minds so why on earth would you engage with them?

MO: Over the last few years, we've heard "where are all the women in atheism?" How many atheist conferences have invited you to speak?  How do you think we should change the question to "why aren't you inviting women to speak?"

SC: I wrote this about that topic and recently, this, about the lack of women on tv, as experts, etc. Same holds true for conferences. I have never been asked to speak at another secular/atheist conference, but, in truth, I am not very immersed in the community. I think these issues are exactly the same in every industry and they have to do with deep structural issues related to whose time and work we value in society. 

MO: Getting more women to the top areas of the movement would be key to change. How would we do that?

SC: What is required to get women to the top is have specific plans to identify systemic inhibitions to parity and execute them with benchmarks. Getting women to the top might open a flood gate, but the gate has to be opened in order for them to get to the top in the first place. 

The immediate response, when someone says "where are the women," needs to stop being, "we are right here" which we've been saying for decades and change to, "if you are serious about diversity, where is your plan. If you are serious, you need to be able to say, these are the resources I am dedicating. These are the people, this is the time." 

MO: Every one of your articles seem to be link heavy from beginning to end. This has to take a stunning amount of research. 

SC: One of my defensive strategies for sure is to provide as much information as possible. If people want to argue with facts, then go for it. They can argue with the CDC, or the Department of Justice, or Cambridge, or whomever the source of information that I am citing might be. 

MO: How has Twitter changed activism? Especially corporate activism?  Twitter #FBRape campaign for instance.

SC: I think Twitter has been transformative for activists who, in the past, would have been unable to reach millions of people through media because they were marginalized.  The #FBRape campaign that we organized brought together more than 100 organizations and tens of thousands of people globally. That would never have been possible without the transformative power of the Internet and tools like Twitter. I don't really see Twitter as separate from the other social media that we rely on – each has quite a specific demographic reach that enables activists to reach the likeminded, catalyze conversation and debate.

MO: Twitter feminists are hilarious. Their hashtag appropriations are always amusing in a snarky way. Have you appropriated a hashtag? Have you had one overrun?

SC: That's true. It's hard for me to think now, there have been so many good ones! #Liberaltipstoavoidrape is a recent one that comest to mine. I haven't had one overrun. There was a lot of potential for that to happen with #FBRape, and we knew that, but it didn't happen, even with more than 50K tweets. I think it was because the graphic nature of what we were sharing and protesting spoke for itself.

MO: What are some of the other campaigns you've run?

SC: I try and focus activism time on two areas: media diversity and sexualized violence because our storytelling shapes imagination and ambition and violence is a tool used to regulate inequality.  To that end I try to support and participate in the activist efforts of organizations such as Stop Street Harassment, Take Back the Tech, Hollaback, FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture, The Representation Project, the Women's Media Center and Everyday Sexism.