Friday, March 28, 2014

White Men on the March

Participants at the recent White Man March showed again that it’s very difficult to see hierarchies when one is on top. Their theme, “Diversity = White Genocide,” and their remarks about the threat of the loss of white culture, show they are oblivious to how dominant white males are in our country.

Charlotte has been involved with a citizen planning committee for a local park for almost two decades. Nearly twenty years ago, a suggestion was made that the committee partner with indigenous people who had been ignored so much that a major newspaper reported and most people believed that they were extinct. During the initial discussions within the all-white committee, one white man expressed his concerns that if we just met with the Indians, we had to be careful that the history of the white settlers was not lost.

Our local area is full of white male history – not only in the recorded history of our area, but in the names of towns, human-built structures, and natural areas. (How did they reproduce if there were no women around, because they are rarely mentioned?) And yet, when mentioning an indigenous person, the white man’s immediate response was to worry about the monopoly of white male history and recognition. 

The White Man March produced more responses through a Twitter hashtag mocking the marchers, #WhiteManMarchProtestSigns, than people attending the march. Our favorite came from Charles@Ugaries:

"What do we want – EVERYTHING. When do we want it – STILL"

Friday, March 21, 2014

Fred Phelps – When Hierarchies Hide Behind Religion

Fred Phelps Sr., the founder of Westboro Baptist Church, passed away, and with him, hopefully, will weaken one of the best examples in recent time of using religion to shield actions that build hierarchies.

He and his church are famous for picketing funerals of gay and Jewish people, including that of Matthew Shepard in 1998. Westboro had no problem adding a soldier killed in action, or a movie star, or an innocent child victim in a mass murder to the church’s picketing calendar.

Just a few weeks ago, the church members went to a University of Missouri vs. Tennessee men's basketball game to protest football player Michael Sam's announcement that he is gay, but students at the university blocked the church members by forming a human wall. 

Even though Mr. Phelps used his church to justify his hate, groups such as The Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center saw through his use of religion to justify building hierarchies. The SPLC called the Westboro Baptist Church, "arguably the most obnoxious and rabid hate group in America."

Friday, March 14, 2014

Being Rich Doesn't Mean Knowledge about Other Issues

In his article, "Stop Listening to Rich People," Matthew Yglesias argues that just because people make a lot of money in business, we should not assume that they have any special insights on any other issues.

Yglesisas is responding to a letter written in the Wall Street Journal by venture capitalist Tom Perkins in which he "parallels fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its 'one percent,' namely the Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the 'rich.' "

"Who better to solve the world's problems than the people who benefit from the status quo?" asked one person who commented on the article. 

In the U.S., we look up to people with a lot of money – even though the image of the 1% is probably slipping. Still, the super rich often expect and are given higher status on other hierarchies that are not based on accumulating wealth. In our hierarchical society, we are trained to transfer status from one hierarchy to another, even if the criteria used to establish the hierarchies are not related.

Yglesisas is correct to remind us not to assume that rich people have expertise in any other subject besides making money. We need to make a point to scrutinize or even ignore their comments on social and political issues.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Men Step Up for Boys

Obama announced a $200 million, five-year initiative, "My Brother’s Keeper," to help black youth, particularly black boys, who are more likely to be suspended from school, less likely to be able to read, and almost certain to encounter the criminal justice system as either a perpetrator or a victim.  

The president called for action from business leaders, members of religious groups, actors, athletes and anyone who can intervene in the lives of black men before they veer off course. He also challenged black men to do better themselves, and said they must not make excuses for their failures or blame society for the poor decisions they have already made.
We are glad to see a focus on helping males in America. 

For decades, women of all races have advanced the opportunities for girls and we’ve seen girls excel in education and careers. At the same time, few men have stepped forward to focus on the plight of their male children. Boys are often left to struggle to make healthy choices without the strong guidance from fathers and community programs, lacking the support girls have enjoyed from their mothers, aunts, and many other adult women. 

Obama’s remarks and his initiative are a step in the right direction.