Establishment Democrat?

I was taking a break from blogging, even though I was still commenting on Facebook, because I felt my rants were becoming unproductive. I wanted to take some time to channel my anger into things not related to Trump. I wanted to take some awesome vacations, including planning a rim-to-rim hike of the Grand Canyon in the coming weeks. I’m going to vlog about it, so make sure to follow the adventure of two brown girls taking on the western wilderness! After reading David Atkins piece on Washington Monthly I had some thoughts that I wanted to share, so here it is the first one after my hiatus!

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I absolutely agree with Atkins the false and never-ending Hillary vs. Bernie political proxy war within the Democratic Party is unproductive and quite damaging and in general purity politics accomplishes nothing. But the problem I had is that this piece in itself had a lot of the bad faith arguments that each side says the other uses in bad faith.

Example 1: It conflated all opposition to Sanders and his wing of the party as establishment. There are a lot of people, young people of color, at least in my small universe who are making some incredibly progressive smart, well-thought out points against the “Sanders” platform (e.g. see recent twitter thread by Samuel Sinyangwe or Joy Reid’s discussion with Symone Sanders on Pod Save America). I will add the caveat that I was very vocally opposed to Sanders during the primary but I think we can all say that I am not establishment anything. For example, there are lots of older progressives in the South who are probably way more progressive than the millennial class warriors, especially white ones. Just in my experience alone, older Democratic folks in my family were generally not in favor of Bernie. My dad, who is retired and still has to work a few days a week because his social security is not enough to cover the sky-high rent in the DC area, is hardly “the establishment,” but he didn’t support Bernie. Older, non-white voters like my dad tend to be extremely pragmatic and promises like free college just sounded too pie in the sky. Not because they don’t believe it’s a good idea but because they didn’t hear any solid ideas on how that would become reality.

I will say that the racist supporters of Bernie are not just wannabe pundits on social media. During the middle of the primary, two friends of friends, both white men including one who has a fairly senior position at Moveon.org, both dismissed the exact point I made above because “voters, especially minority voters, are not as educated on policies that benefits them.”

“Voters, especially minority voters, are not as educated on policies that benefits them.” 

Nothing irks me more these days that false equivalence because they are counterproductive and extremely dangerous. I think our country is in part here because the media promotes false equivalencies. Did Atkins really compare Deval Patrick being the Managing Director of Baine Capital as the equivalent being the head of the NRA? The current nut wing NRA?!? It’s hard to take any point made after that illogical comparison. Also, I don’t ever think the Democratic platform should be bankrupt Wall Street, mainly because what comes after Wall Street goes belly up… This is not to say we can’t ask questions about candidates past experiences or choices but we can’t make it a litmus test either.

My last annoyance with this piece… the lack of understanding of the Bernie supporter. I think just as easily blame poor hillbillies for the rise of Trump we paint Bernie supporters as struggling millennial working three jobs to pay off their student loans. Again, in my experience during the height of the primary I had to try hard to miss huge Bernie signs on windows of condos easily approaching a million dollars in neighborhoods that pushed out black working class people. In this context, I just couldn’t help literally rolling my eyes when Atkins claimed class warriors are anti-charter schools. Sure some might be but again in my experience my wealthier, white progressive friends who supported Bernie are ardent supporters of charter schools and in fact take full advantage of them and turn a blind eye to how, at least in DC, the charter school movement has rapidly entrenched segregation and created a two tier school system.

The overall point of the article was solid. Both the Hillary and Bernie sides need to move on past the campaign and need to stop in bad faith claiming the other side is acting in bad faith. I agree meeting in the middle is necessary. There are many, many voices of color diagnosing the problems of 2016 and offering wonderful ideas for moving forward. I am all in favor of listening to them. In fact, I stopped blogging because I needed to rant less to get past my own knee jerk anger at anyone who even sort of mentioned reaching out to Trump voters to listen and learn from people way smarter than me. Read the Atkins article if you want, but I’d recommend so many other voices (e.g. Cornell Belcher, Mitch Landrieu, Justin Gest) including voices of color that are accurately diagnosing the problem of 2016 and are articulating a sustainable way forward.

Who Gets Empathy in Trump’s America?

As a country, we seem to lack of empathy for a lot of people. Some argue Trump supporters deserve empathy, while others say they deserve to suffer the consequences of their actions. But all the conversation centers on whether or not Trump voters deserve empathy. I ask what about the millions of people who are suffering the consequences of the selfish and racist decision of Trump voters. Do they not deserve our empathy? If we had to choose, who deserves to get the little bit of empathy that currently exists.

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Who’s the Snowflake Now?

Conservatives claim liberals only pursue causes that spare them hurt feelings, yet they spent much of Super Bowl weekend whining about mean commercials that challenged their political viewpoints. They also elected a President that is only driven by his feelings. What gives? Hear my thoughts about it.

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Permanence of Racism and the Hope of Resistance

There are no more patriotic people in America today than black, brown and Muslim people. Period.

Over this past week, many immigrants, most undocumented, are taking part in the #daywithoutimmigrant strikes. Last month, Yemoni bodega owners in New York City conducted a strike by closing their stores, which are normally open 24 hours/7 days a week (if you want to hear more about my thoughts on the bodega strike, watch this video). In my last post, I wrote about the importance of elevating voices of color as this administration’s onslaught against them intensifies. And ordinary people of color are raising their voice, telling their stories, and demanding the justice they deserve. To do all this in face of such hostility is the mark of true patriotism.

Let’s be honest, to be a person of color in the United States right now is to be continually disappointed, frustrated, hopeless and even scared. This is not to say that some minority communities weren’t already feeling this way before the rise of Trump. However, now we all feel it and feel it intensely. The Trump administration has made it a cornerstone to dehumanize people of color by painting with broad strokes very dark views of all of us who do not fit their narrow definition of American – white, heterosexual, and Christian. We know that they are attempting to codify hatred into laws and aspire to erase social progress made within the last 50 and even 150 years (if you want to learn more about this threat, Jamelle Bouie’s recent article on government by white nationalism is an excellent start).

As the Trump drumbeat goes on and we read about inhumane treatment by people with power whether it’s a five year old being handcuffed by Customs and Border Patrol agents or ICE agents conducting horrific raids in immigrant communities, how do we continue to feel empowered and raise our collective voice?

In an effort not to feel paralyzed by the hopelessness and fear that I’m feeling, I recently dusted off one of my favorite college textbooks, “Faces at the Bottom of the Well.” Through a series of short stories, Derrick Bell, a long-time civil rights lawyer and the first tenured Black professor at Harvard Law School, argues racism is a not a passing phase but an “integral, permanent, and indestructible component of [American] society.” He further argues that any judicial and legislative victories that moves us closer to social progress and a more equal society is a necessary mirage that helps maintain the racial hierarchy. While this might sound utterly despairing, I’d argue it’s a blueprint for understanding and ultimately surviving Trump’s America.

When you look through Bell’s prism, the arcs of America’s history fits into the pattern he describes. The end of slavery made way to nearly a century of brutal Jim Crow laws. The successes of the Civil Rights Movement ushered in the Raegan movement, which was white folks lashing back with anger. So it’s fitting the racist undercurrent that is ever present in American society would produce a virulent nationalism that narrowly defines who is an American after eight years of social progress by the very presence of a remarkable first Black President (who we are not likely to again see the likes of in our lifetime). And of course the man that would replace him would be a blatantly racist and ignorant man with a small ego that validates the superiority of whiteness. It’s also not surprising then that thirty years after being rejected for federal judgeship, Jeff Sessions would not just be confirmed as Attorney General but be portrayed as a civil rights proponent. It should shock no one that this cabal of white nationalists are redefining not just the power of the executive branch but who deserves the protections guaranteed in the Constitution.

Bell also argues that judicial and legislative progress can and must occur because a system of racial hierarchy can only survive if there is a mirage of equality as evidenced by small victories. We saw that with the Muslim Ban, a discriminatory executive order that barred entry into the country citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries. The order was wide-reaching applying not just to refugees and valid visa holders but permanent residents and dual citizens as well. As if on cue to perpetuate a mirage, the courts delivered a temporary victory with a stay of the ban. However, legal scholars have pointed out the shaky legal ground of these decisions (if you want to read more on this, check out Jeffrey Toobin’s breakdown of the legal arguments). Judicial intervention in the Muslim Ban demonstrates that the law can expand ever so slightly for justice to prevail occasionally. However, the entire episode of the ban also demonstrates that social progress just as slowly as it expands, it can also constrict quickly and without warning.

“Our story is less of success than of survival through an unremitting struggle that leaves no room for giving up.” – Derrick Bell

You’re probably asking, if this is a natural progression what is the point of resisting? Why should communities of color put themselves at risk to make their voices heard?

Bell, without hesitation, would argue we keep fighting, just as he always chose to fight. He argues that simply acknowledging the permanence of racism itself is liberating. So, it’s comforting to me to know that Trump’s America is not just a phenomenon that began with him or will end with his short- or long-lived presidency. The ugly racism was always fermenting, so this acknowledgement can become the driving force to push against the boundaries of racism that lead to meaningful social change.

I also take inspiration from Derrick Bell’s life which was a permanent struggle against racist structures at enormous personal cost. Early in his career, before the civil rights movement was a movement, he resigned his job at the Department of Justice rather than renounce his NAACP membership. He gave up his deanship at the University of Oregon Law School because the school did not make a commitment to hiring more Asian professors. Similarly, he lost his tenured job at Harvard Law School because he took a stand against Harvard Law School’s abysmal record of hiring women of color.

I also take inspiration from the actions of vulnerable communities that are fighting back against this administration. Some are big with a lot of attention but others are small acts of resistance that take place every single day and are equally important.

The hope and survival guide I find in Bell’s work is the importance of “survival through unremitting struggle.”