Why it’s ok to say ‘All Lives Matter’

Don’t freak out or get pissed off, but the much maligned retort to the statement, ‘Black Lives Matter,’ can be used to propel the conversation forward instead of inflaming it. At it’s core, ‘all lives matter,’ tries to negate the focus of Black Lives Matter, which is that Black people are disproportionately affected by police abuse, but ultimately, it’s an umbrella term that suggests that the protection of everyone is integral. Ok, here’s the push: don’t make it about the words, make it about the issue. If someone says, ‘all lives matter’, then that means they agree that all citizens should be assured that a routine interaction with a police officer should be without intimidation, risk of harm or death. That means they agree that individuals should have reasonable expectation that a traffic stop will not turn fatal. It should also mean that they agree that police brutality exists, that it’s wrong and that reform is necessary. Why? Because we know there are lives affected by police brutality and since all lives matter, there can be no dissension about solving the problem.

So when Trump responds to a question about how Black people die at the hands of law enforcement with, ‘so do White people,’ the reply is, ‘so what are we going to do about it?’ Even if people question the circumstances under which citizens are killed by officers (they shouldn’t have resisted/run), ask them to study up on Tennessee v. Garner that states, ‘the use of deadly force to prevent the escape of all felony suspects, whatever the circumstances, is constitutionally unreasonable. It is not better that all felony suspects die than that they escape. Where the suspect poses no immediate threat to the officer and no threat to others, the harm resulting from failing to apprehend him does not justify the use of deadly force to do so.’ And this decision was regarding unarmed alleged felons. Would not the same logic apply to unarmed civilians who aren’t suspected of any crime?

Those who stay on the ‘all lives matter’ bandwagon, are presumably aware that issues of police abuse don’t just happen during the arrest or pursuit of alleged felons, but they can happen while cooperating, while pulling up to a gas station, while eating a sandwich on a train platform or walking a dog off a leash. Two individuals in the videos are identified as having disabilities. ‘All Lives Matter’ means we care about injustices especially when they happen to our most vulnerable populations.

‘All Lives Matter’ means that it’s important for police officers to be better trained in handling individuals with mental health problems or who are under the influence because being troubled or drunk shouldn’t cost you your life. It also means there’s support for alleviating police of certain duties that might be better handled by social workers or unarmed personnel so as not to overburdened an already stretched resource.

When people have no problem saying, ‘all lives,’ it means that everyone deserves equal protection under the law and that protection should be preserved and defended at all costs. Instances of inequity in this regard should be stamped out without hesitation.

When you can say ‘all lives matter,’ it quite simply means you don’t want to say ‘Black lives matter’, but what won’t be said will, without a doubt, one day be seen.

The Perils of Retro-activism

We’ve seen it more and more. Past behaviors revived and skeletons being dragged out of the closet. At one point, we used to only see this around election time. Every few years, politicians would have to explain and apologize for any action, that was regarded as unseemly for political office: affairs, drug use, etc. ‘Crimes’ fell into the moral category, peccadilloes that brought into question an individual’s character and judgement, two traits that are apparently key in attaining public office.

In recent years, Jimmy Fallon, Jason Aldean, Jimmy Kimmel and Jenna Marbles, among others, have all had to come to terms with past behavior that no longer agrees with modern taste. Retro-activism is the new force fighting to bring past crimes to present-day justice all in the name of holding people accountable…and it fails miserably. Why?

  1. Most have long since stopped doing whatever they’re being called out for. Which means their sense has adapted to the times. So the ‘lesson’ has already been learned, making the fault finding needless.
  2. Shame is not an effective tool for change. What retro-activists are trying to recreate is a sense of guilt. They want people to feel bad for what they have done and then connect that to a meaningful act of contrition, but it never works. To genuinely feel guilt, you have to believe that what you did what was wrong, which is hard when at the time that you did it, it wasn’t. That’s why so many of the apologies that come after these ‘finds’ end up being as criticized as the action itself. What is really happening is the targets feel shame. Much of the complaints go after a person’s character rather than the behavior. They feel bad because they are being accused of being a bad person. That’s why so many seek out absolution from groups/individuals who can give them a stamp of approval (i.e, talks with a respected individual(s) from offended group), so others will know that they are good people.
  3. Digging into a person’s past is an unsustainable activity because no one will past the test. We are asking people to behave in a way that ensures that future generations will not find their behavior offensive or problematic. How hard is this task? Well, few of us are visionary and even less are perfect.
  4. It takes a certain amount of arrogance to assume that the standards of 2020 are appropriate to judge people by. Retro-activism is a power trip. Like it’s sister, micro-activism, it is the wolf of oppressive judgement wrapped up in the lamb’s wool of accountability. It creates cowards and coverts: people who will be too afraid to say or do anything meaningful at all and others, who will just do it in the dark.

The Perils of Micro-activism

I used to love reading about microaggressions, comments or slights that happen in the course of everyday life that sting because of assumptions made about the targeted person’s identification within a specific group. It’s the ‘you’re not really black’ comment said to the grammatical correct Black women, the ‘is English your first language?‘ asked of the the third generation American or the ‘I thought all Asians were good at math’ comment to a high schooler struggling in Trigonometry. I’ve had a faux pas (or more) in my lifetime: telling a colleague of mine that I would not match her Korean features with her Polish last name or exclaiming (in genuine awe), ‘that white girl can really dance!’

I would read about others’ experiences with daily ignorance to commiserate. It’s comforting to know that others stories are similar to mine and sometimes, I would even get ideas on what to say and how to react. I believed that while these moments were unpleasant, even painful, they were the cost that we paid for living in an integrated society. It seems in 2020, what was once viewed as ignorance and prejudice has been elevated from micro to macro-level racism, a word so overused and overplayed, it barely has meaning.

And that’s a good thing for those who wish to dilute it’s definition in order to cast a wider net to ensnare people. Take Samantha Ware’s now infamous unrelated response to Lea Michele’s tweet about George Floyd. The national conversation at this moment was about the death of another unarmed black man at the hands of police and the desperate need for reform. And what has she got to add? ‘Traumatic microaggressions?’ You have to be bold to stand on the back of a national dialogue about police brutality and make it about someone threatening to ‘s*** in a wig.’

Recently, I posted the video of the Michigan couple charged with felonious assault for an incident in a Chipotle parking lot. The alleged bump between the white woman shown and a teenager was enough to convince the unidentified individuals in the video that the woman was racist. The bar is now that low. And it doesn’t even have to be evident, just assumed.

The rise of the media attention on ‘{Enter location} {Enter generic white sounding name}’ also coincides with the rise of micro-activism and its raison d’être: microaggressions. Why bother solving problems that can help a people when you can just get rid of a person? It takes less time and nowadays, yields results in days, sometimes less. These kind of ‘victories’ only whet the appetite of people so far removed from the satisfaction of justice and change, that they’ll accept the far inferior substitutes of personal attack and degradation as a social justice win.

#WildWestWendy and the Insidiousness of the Machine

Today we celebrate our nation’s birthday and usually on birthdays, it’s a time for contemplation and celebration. I am thankful for the miraculous experiment that is the United States of America. And as we look on 244 years of history as a country, I wonder about the danger of the new faceless oppressor that has led and controlled our language on some of the most pressing issues of our time; the one that encourages us to vilify and destroy one another in the the name of justice.

The machine has taught us to look at this video and see a hero and a villain.

It has taught us that, in situations like these, a gun is both the problem and the solution.

It has taught us that making a definitive assumption about someone is both racism and justice.

The miracle of America, is that our heterogeneity, in all it’s ugly glory, made us who we are and has not killed us….yet. But the machine’s power is using strength and turning it into weakness.  A place where once,  opposites could co-exist, now a place where you can either stand as black or white or a muddled gray. What makes America great is how well we’ve evolved towards ‘e pluribus unum’ without collapsing on ourselves. But the machine learned that money mattered most and that perhaps our motto was the only thing standing in it’s way.

‘Karen’ and the New Misogyny

What did you notice about the reporting in that video? How many people confronted the man? Two. How many people are being spoken about? One. Why?

There was Permit Patty, BBQ Becky, Cornerstone Caroline and then came the catch-all term to end all catch-all terms: ‘Karen.’ White, usually middle aged and certain that white-ness confers an authority that can be wielded freely on any unsuspecting black person (or POC). And ‘Karen,’ of course, is a woman. There’s Chad and Kyle or Earl, remember him? Come to think of it, we never heard from Earl again, which likely means he received a settlement to not sue his employer for wrongful termination and as a condition of the agreement, cannot speak on the incident. A favorable outcome not offered to the favorite villain of social media: the privileged white woman.

Twitter makes quick work: names and places of work were called out. A short while later, here come the apologies. Did you notice anything about their statements? Who actually called the police? Mr. Larkins, the other man in the viral video. Shouldn’t all the fiery accusations then be squarely on his shoulders? It’s not. Why not? Maybe it’s her appearance (a hideous picture, worthy of meme-ification) or her irritatingly sweet, condescending tone or maybe there’s something to be said for our culture’s comfort in destroying women in a way that we don’t men.

Sure, there’s ‘Chad’ and ‘Kyle’, but they don’t make front page news because ‘they’ run the newspapers, TV stations and networks. White people calling the police on POC isn’t new, so why is it news? Look at the year when Permit Patty, BBQ Becky, Hotel Earl and Cornerstone Caroline stories happened: all in 2018, an election year. And now, in 2020, we have a new crop of Karens: Lisa Alexander, Alison Roman and Amy Cooper (who’s behavior was more vitriolic, IMO). More destruction of women (disguised as social justice) and really, no men in sight. Are we to believe that white women are disproportionately more likely to call the police? Sure.

We think our outrage informs what gets covered, it doesn’t. It only gives us clues as to who’s actually controlling the narrative.

Yes, Non-Black people can wear braids

No disclaimer/tribute necessary

As far as I can remember, conversations about the appropriateness of specific Black hairstyles were typically centered around the workplace and whether or not someone would appear unprofessional (especially in a corporate setting) wearing braids, locs and the like. Consequences for hair choices disproportionately affected African Americans, but there was also an understanding that if a person of any race (however, unlikely) punched in wearing an ‘unapproved’ style, they too would have reprimands thrown their way. Today, the conversation has shifted; and while the concept that Black people are punished for styles linked to their culture and history remains, the new facet is that White people donning the same looks are heralded and because this dichotomy exists, it is cultural appropriation for a non-black person (especially white) to wear braids or similar ‘do’s.

It used to be that the fight to expand images of professionalism (to include elements of black culture) was handled in court; now, we just scroll through the comments. A thoughtful article from 2001 discussed the issue as improving, as more employers were willing to take a more even-handed approach. It never once mentioned that a viable solution would be to restrict others from making similar hair choices because that…solves… nothing.

In 2018, someone decided that African people invented braids (not true) and that a decision by a non-black person to wear said hairstyle requires self-reflection (am I doing this to be trendy? Or because I want to inspire?) and research (!): “Don’t [wear braids] for fun or because your African-American boyfriend or girlfriend has them…Learn about the story, find inspiration and give credit where credit’s due by explaining who or what has inspired you, like on social media.” 🙄 Advice like this leads to stuff like this:

Nikita_IGA ‘cut and paste’ tagged to the original post to ward off criticism. This is considered sufficient penance paid for the privilege of wearing a hairdo not associated with one’s race or ethnicity? There’s so much focus nowadays on ‘credit’, precious little on how this moves the needle forward. It’s insulting to think that praise and acknowledgement are satisfactory substitutes for institutional and cultural change. People clamoring to be mentioned in the footnotes of someone’s IG feed don’t get to lead the conversation on how to solve issues that are rooted in this country’s racist past, especially if they can’t identify what actual problems are.

updated 8/5/2022

Not F. Scott Fitzgerald…

For what it’s worth … it’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit. Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people who have a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.

– Eric Roth (screenwriter, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)

I’d Prefer Unisex Bathrooms…but

it’s got to make sense

The rights of transgender individuals to use the bathroom which aligns with their gender identity has become a major hot button issue in the past few years. I didn’t have much cause to think about it until recently, when I saw a sign posted at a local YMCA that states that individuals are allowed to use the bathroom which correlates with their gender identity. Again, I never thought about it until I was on line with my daughter for the bathroom at another (different) location and an individual dressed in women’s clothes and wearing a wig, was on line ahead of us. No one said anything. No raised eyebrows or exchanged glances, or at least none that I noticed. The individual went in, went out and that was it.

Maybe because I live in a very liberal city, maybe because I’m woman and the bathrooms are typically multi-stalled or maybe because it’s not that big a deal, but I think unisex bathrooms are a reasonable way to be inclusive and respectful towards everyone. Who knew that ‘Ally McBeal’ would be way ahead of its time? I thought about this and wondered, what about locker rooms? The reality is, not everyone is a decent human being. If the YMCA’s policy allows access strictly based on self identity, then you make the grave assumption that everyone is going to be forthright and honor the spirit in which the provision was made, but we know that’s not the case.

My issue is that in an effort to be on the right side of history, politicians are putting the cart before the horse, causing anxiety and resistance to what is an important cause. Unless re-design happens within the necessary areas to make it more amenable for everyone to use, everyone shouldn’t use them.

How the Left Was Won

…by (gulp) learning from the President

It seems as the campaign trail moves closer to 2020 and the likely Democratic nominee appears less obvious, the realization that a Trump repeat is on the horizon strikes fear into my heart. I fear what ignorance and intolerance at the head of a nation will do for another four years. I remember thinking, not long after he was elected, that he would be impeached. Now, I see that less as wishful thinking and more evidence that those in government, who are left leaning, have lost their way and their guts. And the way to get back on track? Take a page from the President.

Trump’s ability to say whatever, regardless of its lack of accuracy, honesty, consistency or diplomacy, is completely antithetical to what we expect (or used to expect) of elected governmental officials; men and women, who come election time, sing sweet sounds of debt elimination, insurance for all and more and better jobs; each speech and soundbite is finely tuned to elicit the greatest number of cheers (plausibility, be damned).

I listen to a variety of Democrats discuss issues ranging from #MeToo, to reparations, student debt, climate change and immigration. I hear a lot of solutions, but what I don’t hear a lot of is booing.

There’s no way that anyone is going to say what is desirable at all times. Is no one willing to deliver some hard truths? That the conversation on reparations is thoughtful, but just that: a conversation; that Medicare for All is not possible because too many private hospitals and private insurance companies are in the back pocket of too many legislators so anything that would eliminate or minimize their business isn’t happening; that giving healthcare to illegal immigrants solves nothing and is offensive in light of the fact that there are American citizens who go without on a daily basis.

Trump taught us that you can say a whole lot and still galvanize your base. With no political experience or couth, this man ascended to the highest office in the land and he did it unapologetically, saying some difficult things. How much more successful would a gifted public servant be, if they would do the same, coming from a place of knowledge, respect, authenticity and experience. The problem with the Left is they’re busy catering to a vocal and savage minority who have mastered the art of attention and know how to capture wandering eyes, and damage careers with one public misstep.

But the win lies in the hands of a silent majority: people who don’t care about what’s trending or trendy and don’t agree with what going on, but who say nothing for fear of reprisal. Their vote goes to the person who has the courage to say what their thinking and the leaders on the Left have to get a clue quick or else…many of us are going to live again with what we’re dreading.

And Down Will Come Tati?

A Red Flag Review of Viral Video

+Never have I been more grateful for my sloth in posting an article as I am today; when news broke last week of ‘Bye Sister,’ (YouTube makeup guru, Tati Westbrook’s video about James Charles), I wasn’t ready to give something off my cultural radar 43 minutes of my life, but when I finally did, Charles decided to release his own video (also over 40 minutes) clarifying the incident which led to their very public blowup.

When I heard what was going on from my preteen cousins, I was put off by the fact that a grown woman was coming for someone nearly half of her age. It felt cruel and juvenile. What’s worst was the almost celebratory energy surrounding his downfall. Westbrook’s accusations that Charles was manipulating straight men into thinking they were gay and using his fame and power to strong arm people into having sex with him rang false to me. Mind you, he’s only 19. Teenage boys trying to have sex by any means necessary is not unfamiliar to me and while not always savory, it isn’t exactly predatory (unless we’re talking about the underage). Her comments were inflammatory to say the least and led to an unprecedented 3+ million subscriber drop for Charles which included celebs like Kylie Jenner, Kim Kardashian West and Ariana Grande.

But lo and behold, in the midst of the smoke, a clearing: ‘No More Lies‘ dropped Saturday and in it Charles refutes all the claims made by Tati, point by point and in the process, earned over a million subscribers back. If ever there was a case to be made for not rushing to judgement, this is it. Initially, I was going to make a point by point comparison of their videos, but I decided to just focus on the red flags in hers, specifically the points she made that had me going, ‘Hmmm, say what now?’:

🚩 she doesn’t just spill the tea, she scalds with it – Anytime someone tells another person’s story, my red flag antennae go up. Tati told all this boy’s business, including how she and her husband helped up his earnings per video from $90 to $2,500. She mentioned a million dollar deal that they helped negotiate for him. She discussed private conversations she had with him, one in particular in which she said, ‘I told you this is not good and you could have your career destroyed.’ Considering the effects of her video, I wonder now if that was a threat or a warning? 

🚩 details, details…except when it comes to her – Another red flag: vagueness. From what I take from both her and Charles’ video, this situation was triggered by his posting an ad for Sugar Bear Hair, a competitor to Westbrook’s Halo Beauty. She was understandably upset by his decision, but her explanation for why she needed to address this publicly is not as clear. She says that she could have just stopped talking to him, but decided to address it through YouTube because she ‘didn’t feel safe talking about this privately’ and didn’t want her words twisted and used against her. She wasn’t clear about why she felt afraid which leaves viewers to come to their own (likely, not good) conclusions. It’s a serious case of allowing people’s tendency to presume the worst do the work for you which is a nasty passive aggressive tactic.

🚩 all good, all good…except for him – I found it peculiar how Tati described James’ ‘unwilling’ pursuits as individuals ’emerging into adulthood who don’t quite have everything figured out,’ but neglected to see that those words fit Charles to a T. She opens her video with clips of praise for Charles, describes herself as a role model, talks at length about the amount of help she and her husband gave Charles, even stating that her role in their relationship was more from a parental stance, but would you raise an eyebrow or a glass at a ‘parent’ that shades their ‘child’ in the most visible way possible? Are we happy or horrified when we spot a parent spanking their child in the street? Warning sign: self righteous shading is a one dimensional justification for a personal takedown; it sounds a lot like, ‘I’m such a good person because (I do this, I don’t do this, people tell me so) and this person over here is bad because (they do this, they don’t do this, people say so)’. Checking people from a pedestal is a MAJOR red flag. Checking people who are unrelated to the issue, as she did Charles’ mother, another violation. In the video, Westbrook mentions that Christie (James’ mother) said to her, ‘thank you for looking after my boy.’ After listing his ‘flaws’, she claps back, ‘ok, I’m handing that back to you.’ As if playing mentor is akin to guardianship. The unmitigated gall is jaw dropping.

🚩 what it looks like and what it is are two different things – towards the end of her video, Westbrook gets into the ad that started it all and her beliefs that she didn’t really think Charles was in danger, that if he was in danger, he could have left and that the deal with Sugar Bear Hair must have been in the works because companies don’t just have contracts laying around to give to people. All valid assumptions, but still, conjecture at best. She has no credible reasoning for thinking that his story about linking up with SBH at Coachella was untrue other than her feelings and that’s fine, but that doesn’t make it lie. 

As it stands now, ‘No More Lies’ has racked up over 29 million views in two days. It didn’t make YouTube’s trending list, which is weird considering the numbers. Checked it today and he’s been flagged for a copyright claim which might explain why his video is not on the list and interestingly enough, Tati’s game changing ‘Bye Sister’ was unlisted (meaning that you won’t find it in searches, but you can watch it if you have the link or in my case, have watched it already and it’s in your viewing history). Considering how detailed and proof riddled his response video is, I wonder who would benefit most from its reach being limited? And to not break my own rule and be vague, I’ll answer my own question: Tati Westbrook.