Why I don’t need Black or LGBT people to fight for my rights

Like a whole lot of other people this past Sunday night, I watched the Oscars. And like many women, I felt a swell of inspiration when Patricia Arquette used her moment in the spotlight to bring attention to gender pay equality. “To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights! It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America!” It was an impassioned plea, and as the camera panned the crowd, you could see women of all races rising to their feet and cheering her on.

(This was also this moment, which looks like Jesus is watching her from afar, that I am still giggling about. But I digress.)

Jesus is always watching you

I appreciated Arquette’s call to action. I’m never annoyed when someone wants to use their platform for social justice issues, and I agree that it is completely ridiculous in this day and age that there is still such a disparity in working wages for men vs. women. I admire Arquette’s desire to advocate for this issue, but unfortunately some of her message was undermined a few minutes later, when backstage she said the following:

It’s time for women. Equal means equal. The truth is the older women get, the less money they make. The highest percentage of children living in poverty are in female-headed households. It’s inexcusable that we go around the world and we talk about equal rights for women in other countries and we don’t. One of those superior court justices said two years ago in a law speech at a university that we don’t have equal rights for women in America, and we don’t because when they wrote Constitution, they didn’t intend it for women. So the truth is even though we sort of feel like we have equal rights in America, right under the surface there are huge issues at play that really do affect women. It’s time for all the women in America, and all the men that love women and all the gay people and all the people of color that we’ve all fought for — to fight for us now!

Now, I think Arquette probably had the best of intentions in this impassioned plea. I believe that she’s probably living a life in which she is attempting to be an ally to all marginalized groups. But we all have blind spots, and we all know that intention and effect are not always the same thing. And unfortunately , the effect of her “callout” to LGBT people and people of color was to alienate and dismiss. Particularly as she stood on a platform of privilege at the Oscars that has so often alienated people of color. Especially this year. (Parading out every actor of color they could find to present awards did not negate the fact that Selma was so categorically snubbed.)

I consider myself a feminist, but I don’t believe it’s appropriate or timely to tell other groups that experience discrimination that it’s OUR time, or that this fight is one they must take up. Here’s why:

The struggle for equality for people of color and the LGBT community is still ongoing. These are not issues of inequality that have been solved by any means. While it may be time to fight for equal wages, it is also still very much the time to fight for racial equality and LGBT rights. Asking marginalized people groups to help, as if their time has passed, is dismissive.

Black women and LGBT women are already heavily involved in feminism. As my friend Heather said, in a post called “Patricia Arquette wants people of color to fight for women. What have I been doing?”:

To be told that, as a woman of color and a bisexual woman, I have not been doing enough for “women” – by which I can only assume she means “white women” – in the quest for gender equality is not only incredibly hurtful to those of us who check many boxes when it comes to identity, but also a harmful point of view. In saying that people of color and LGBT people need to now support white women in their fight for equal pay continues the deep rift between women of color feminists and their – our – white counterparts.

While I certainly don’t have the statistics to back this up, I can anecdotally say that my black and LGBT friends seem even more engaged in gender equality issues that my white friends.

There are far more women who can join the fight without singling out women of color.  Women make up about half of the population in the US. It’s estimated that about 3.5% of the adult population in the US are LGBT, and about 12.6% of the population is black.  If anyone needs a call-out for standing up for women, it’s other white women sitting in the privilege seat. But to challenge minority and marginalized groups as the people who need to carry the mantle does not make sense, when there are so many others who can pick up the cause.

There is already a well-documented tension between feminists and black women.  As Nyasha Junior says:

“When white women say “we,” the side-eye from African American women swiftly follows. African American women have had a stormy relationship with the notion of women’s rights. Arquette’s remarks are another reminder of the many reasons why some African American women do not identify themselves as feminists. The link between the term “feminist” and white women’s activism on behalf of other white women is such that some African American women shun the label, though they may be deeply committed to women’s equality.”

The struggle for people of color and the LGBT community is exhausting. People who are already constant advocates for their own marginalization are likely worn thin, and may or may not have the energy to champion other causes, which is their call and their right to opt out.

I am grateful for the many women of color and LGBT women who are working hard to champion their gender, but I will never place expectation on them to put that cause over the other intersecting issues. Instead, I will do my best to advocate for women but also to be an ally to other marginalized groups, without getting into some kind of oppression olympics that asks one group to set aside their struggle for my own.


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#TBT: Class-O-Meter


On Thursdays I resurrect a post from the archives. This one was from December 2009.


HOW TO GAUGE HOW CLASSY YOU ARE



Deciding to take a flask to Medieval Times to avoid paying $8 for rum and coke: -2 points

Having your husband tell you this is totally inappropriate, and then doing it anyway: -2 points

Event you are taking said flask to is a birthday party for a child: -10 points

Event you are taking said flask to is at 3:30 pm: -20 points

Flask is from Pottery Barn: +6 points

No funnel for the flask: -2 points

Using a Target medicine dropper as funnel: -2 points

Rum was purchased in the airport in Haiti: -4 points

Previously incredulous husband is the only one to actually use the flask: +10 points

Blogging about taking a flask to Medieval Times: -2 points

Being too tired to do the above math or establish credible baseline number to appropriately gauge how classy you are, since you already know the answer is NOT AT ALL CLASSY: -2 points


Conclusion: The $8 margarita was good.

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What I want you to know about surviving a “failed” adoption placement

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest post is by Jill

First of all, I don’t really like to use the word “failed” when talking about our experience, but I have no idea what other term to use since “failed match” or “failed placement” are commonly-understood terms in adoption lingo. But in no way do I consider what happened to my husband and me a failure, even though things didn’t turn out as we hoped.

I want you to know that even though the social workers at our agency described this particular situation as high risk, we found it impossible to guard our hearts. They didn’t even want to involve us until after delivery, but the expectant parents really wanted to meet us first. We said yes! After all, if I were in their shoes I would sure as heck want to meet us first. We met them the very next day and immediately clicked. Dad had an amazing sense of humor that I will never forget. Mom was absolutely beautiful, and we discovered our shared love of dancing. I could hardly contain my incredulous joy when we found out their baby girl was due in a week and they wanted us to be her parents.

She arrived into this world just a couple of days later. I cried when I found out she was here. We were so scared and nervous – after all, our social worker had said she thought once they met her they would decide to parent.

Two days later, after the papers were signed and we held her for the first time, all bets were off. We completely let ourselves go and fell in love with her immediately. Tears sprung to my eyes the first time I held her, but the waterworks really started when I saw my husband hold her for the first time. It was the moment I had been hoping for and dreaming of for years. I felt my heart explode with joy as I watched my husband visibly fall in love with this tiny little being we hoped would become our daughter.

Two days later we signed all the adoption paperwork, and fumbled as we dressed her for the first time, marveling at her tiny toes and full head of dark hair. It felt so surreal as we all drove to the hotel where we’d spend our first week or two as a family of three while we waited for the ICPC paperwork to go through. I couldn’t go more than a couple of minutes without taking yet another photo of her.

We settled in quickly, and had to run a few errands since we only had the bare essentials. I finally allowed myself to peruse the baby aisles in stores and place items into my cart. We ordered her crib. Strangers approached us to say how amazing and beautiful she was. We beamed. Everything she did made me proud, even if it was just a burp. I loved her from the second I saw her, but I was actually starting to feel like mom now. With every second, hour, and day that passed I loved her more and more, even though just a second, hour, and day before I wouldn’t have thought my heart could contain any more love than it already did.

On the fifth day our agency called us. I answered the phone more excited than ever, thinking it would be the call letting us know that we could take her home, but it wasn’t. We were at her first doctor’s appointment and our pediatrician had just walked into the exam room when we found out her parents had a change of heart, that she wasn’t meant to be ours. My doctor hugged all of us and cried with us. I was adamant that we went through with the appointment. She was the most precious little being, and I wanted to make sure everything was ok with her first and foremost. 


Back at our hotel we had three hours with her. We took turns going through her things, packing everything up, and holding her. I cried until I didn’t think it was physically possible to cry more tears, but more tears kept coming. As she napped on my chest during those hours I talked to her the whole time. I told her how much I loved her and would always love her. I talked to her about all the things I hoped she had a chance to do, and my wishes that she have the most amazing life. I told her how everyone wanted her, how much she was loved from the second she was born, and how much she had changed our lives. I thanked her for showing my husband and I what it felt like to be parents and for being such a good little teacher. We both stroked her face, hair, arms and legs, trying to memorize each and every tiny detail of her. We took photos and videos. We fed her one last time. Changed her one last time. My heart crumbled into a thousand tiny pieces when they came to get her. After she was gone we both held on to each other like we were drowning. I have never seen my sweet, sweet husband break down like that before or since.

It’s only been a few weeks. I still think of her as my daughter and probably always will. Every day I look at her pictures and watch the videos we took. It’s like she is frozen in time for us. I know she is a happy, healthy baby and her parents are taking good care of her and loving on her so much, but to us if feels like she died.

I want you to know that we discovered we are stronger than we ever thought we were. I want you to know that if we had a chance to do it over again we’d make the same decisions. We would open up our hearts to her completely, name her, and share our immense joy with close family and friends all over again. I completely understand, respect, and honor her parents’ decision. We knew this could happen and was a risk inherent in domestic infant adoption, but it was all so hypothetical until it was actually happening to us. I didn’t realize it could hurt quite this much.

I want you to know that my biggest, most immediate fear was that I could never ever love another baby as much as I love her. I was scared that we would guard our hearts too closely and that our fear would keep us from moving forward and becoming parents. But we are moving forward, slowly and steadily. Other families that have experienced similar losses and gone on to adopt their little ones give me hope and faith that one day we will have a family, that we are meant to be parents to someone forever.

I want you to know that we are not angry at her parents. I find it impossible to be angry at someone for wanting to parent the child they gave birth to. But she will always have a special place in our hearts. I will always wonder what she looks like as she grows up, if she is happy and healthy, if she becomes a dancer like her mom or develops a wacky sense of humor like her dad. I wonder if she will ever find out about us. Probably not, but I still wonder. I will always wish her the ultimate happiness and joy in life. I will always love her and think of her as my daughter. I will always be so immensely grateful for the five days we spent with her, and how she changed our lives.

Goodbye sweet, precious Nell. We love you forever and ever.

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Wednesday's Child: Olivia & Ashley


Every Wednesday I feature a child recently highlighted by a local Wednesday's Child newscast to share the stories of children from around the country who are waiting for a family. My hope is that this can broaden exposure for the children highlighted, but also serve as a reminder that these children represent thousands of children currently in the foster-care system. Perhaps their stories will inspire you to consider opening your home to a child needing a family. For more information and to learn about other waiting children, visit AdoptUsKids.




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Best children's books for Black History Month

Black History Month is almost over . . . have you taken the time to talk with your kids about it? Books are such an easy way to introduce the conversation. I've rounded up a great list of books for kids of all ages that explore race and history in the United States in age-appropriate ways.

Black History Month is coming to an end soon but now is still a great opportunity for parents to talk to their children about race, civil rights, and the history of African Americans. The following are some books for children that provide historical context to the history of black people in our country, as well as highlighting many of our nation’s black heroes. I’ve listed them in order of maturity, starting with simple picture books for young children going up to chapter books for teens.



Amazing Grace

Grace loves to act out stories. This cute story is about a girl named Grace who desperately wants to play Peter Pan in her school play, but is told she can't because of her race and gender. It's a great simple story of rising above prejudice.


If A Bus Could Talk: The Story of Rosa Parks

In this book a bus does talk, and on her way to school a girl named Marcie learns why Rosa Parks is the mother of the Civil Rights movement. At the end of Marcie's magical ride, she meets Rosa Parks herself at a birthday party with several distinguished guests. Wait until she tells her class about this!


The Story Of Ruby Bridges

This story follows six-year-old Ruby Bridges and her family in 1960 as a judge orders Ruby to attend first grade at an all-white school, Ruby faces angry mobs of parents who refuse to send their children to school with her. Ruby's story of courage, faith, and hope is a power historical lesson.


100 African-Americans Who Shaped American History

This resource book offers brief biographies of African American educators, entertainers, inventors, authors, athletes, and others who have made important contributions to American life.


Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Told from the perspective of Dr. Martin Luther King's sister, this picture book biography brings his life and the profound nature of his message to young children through words from some of his most beloved speeches to tell the story of his life and his work in a simple, direct way.


A Chair for My Mother

This is the story of a family pulling together after a fire destroys their home and possessions, Rosa, her mother, and grandmother save and save until they can afford to buy one big, comfortable chair that all three of them can enjoy.


Rosa

This book is an inspiring account of an event that shaped American history, as Rose Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama, city bus. Rosa Parks is still one of the most important figures in the American civil rights movement. This picture- book tribute to Mrs. Parks is a celebration of her courageous action and the events that followed.


A Kid's Guide to African American History: More than 70 Activities (A Kid's Guide series)

This book covers a wide range of historical African Americans, such as the first man to die in the American Revolution, the inventors of peanut butter and the portable X-ray machine, and the first person to make a wooden clock in this country. It's a great resource for parents and teachers interested in fostering cultural awareness among children of all races. The book also includes more than 70 hands-on activities, songs, and games that teach kids about the people, experiences, and events that shaped African American history.


Drylongso

This is the story of a family suffering through a drought, helped along by the mystical Drylongso. who teaches them the secrets of finding water hidden in the earth.


The Gold Cadillac

A personal, poignant look at a black child's first experience with institutional racism, this story follow two siblings as they travel from Ohio to Mississippi. As they travel deeper into the rural South, they encounter suspicion and anger, and for the first time in their lives, the children know what it's like to feel scared because of the color of their skin.


Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt

This books recounts the story of Clara. a seamstress who dreams of a reunion with her mother, who lives on another plantation. Clara overhears two slaves talking about the Underground Railroad. In a flash of inspiration, Clara sees how she can use the cloth in her scrap bag to make a quilt with a map of the land that will bring freedom.


Through My Eyes

This book is a more mature telling of the story of Ruby Bridges. In 1960, surrounded by federal Marshall's, Ruby walked through a mob of screaming segregationists and into her school.


Sounder

Sounder follows the faith of a poor African-American boy in the 19th-century South. The boy's father is a sharecropper, struggling to feed his family in hard times. Night after night, he and his great dog, Sounder, return to the cabin empty-handed. One day, they return home to the smell of ham cooking . . . but after a visit from the sheriff his life takes an unexpected turn.


Let the Circle Be Unbroken

Let the Circle Be Unbroken is a story of a small Mississippi town in the 1930s, and the struggles of its black community. Picking up where its precursor, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, leaves off, Mildred Taylor recounts the trials of this small community through the characters of the Logan family.


Bud, Not Buddy

This story for more mature readers tells the take of 10-year-old Buddy, who decides to go in search of his father.


Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

Another book for more mature readers, this is the story of one African American family fighting to stay together in the face of brutal racist attacks, illness, poverty, and betrayal in the Deep South of the 1930s.


Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

The famous abolitionist provides graphic descriptions of his childhood and harrowing experiences as a slave in this narrative biography. Published in 1845 to address doubts about his origins, it remains a powerful story of this influential man.


Chains (Seeds of America)

This book opens on the Revolutionary War, as thirteen-year-old Isabel begins a fight for her own freedom. Promised to be freed upon the death of their owner, she and her sister instead become the property of a cruel couple with no sympahtyl. When Isabel meets Curzon, a slave with ties to the Patriots, he encourages her to become an instrument in fighting for the revolution. This story illustrates the lengths we can go to cast off our chains, both physical and spiritual.

Do you have any book recommendations for educating kids about African American history?

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