Some news stories that caught our eye this week:

These middle school girls are fired up about a dress code that makes them go so far as to cover their shoulders but doesn’t mention boys at all.

Michelle Obama gave a very candid speech on the realities of being black in America at Tuskegee University’s commencement.

The US is one of only two countries in the entire world that doesn’t offer paid time off for new mothers. John Oliver tries his best to wrap his head around this dispiriting fact.

Some news stories that caught our eye this week:

When praise turns into pressure. Mo’ne Davis is getting kudos for forgiving the man who called her a slut. But what if she hadn’t?

Sarah Silverman likes us! Thanks for tweeting our Rape Prevention Tips post, Sarah.

“I don’t say anything. I listen.” That’s the excellent Gloria Steinem when asked what she says to black women who feel excluded by feminism.

Some news stories that caught our eye this week:

Ashley Judd talks about the response she gets when she pushes back against online harassment: “I brought it on myself. I deserved it. I’m whiny. I’m no fun. I can’t take a joke. There are more serious issues in the world…. Grow thicker skin, sweetheart.”

A new book tells the stories of women in the Zapatistas movement: “The [Zapatista army] has always had a clear commitment to women’s right to participate at all levels, and Zapatista leaders insisted on this from the very beginning. In spite of some men’s resistance, there was a strong response from women who wanted to be involved, who wanted to see a change in their lives.”

Of all the critiques of Starbucks Race Together initiative, Tressie McMillan Cottom’s is my favorite: “There is little reticence about race. My students love to talk about race…. They like to talk about the latest race films. This semester it is Selma. Last year it was Django…. Old people in diners tell me about Obama’s race problem. People on the train to the airport talk to me about Ferguson…. People talk about race to me but they rarely talk to me about racism.”

I showed my friend a picture of this billboard and asked her “What do you think about this?”

PLU-billboard

I had actually passed the billboard on my way to do an errand and it just nagged at me. On my way home, I pulled over and took the picture. I kept wondering, why is this black woman responsible for ending hate speech?

My friend struggled to put into words why she thought the message was off kilter. Another friend walked by and commented, “But look, what do you expect? This is the Lutherans.”

Hey, hey, hey. I was born into a Lutheran household. And probably would have been raised Lutheran except the (married) pastor came onto my (married) mom, and she wasn’t having it.

No. I was raised Unitarian which instilled a world view that nobody, not even the Lutherans, but  especially not the Unitarians, are off the hook in the daily grind to end racism.

And clearly, Pacific Lutheran University does not want to be off the hook. Good on them for getting out there and splashing a message on a billboard. This takes a lot of courage, because you have to know that (a) you are going to draw out the haters; (b) the chances that you are going to get the solution to racism right on a billboard hover somewhere around zero; and (c) since you can’t get it right, you are going to hear about it.

In a nutshell (which is almost as bad as a billboard) here’s what I think about it. Individual black women can stop saying hateful things to one another, but they do not (as just one example) set the salary scale. White people do. So it’s really a matter of figuring out how to get white people to stop saying hateful things to people of color—and then get white people to stop thinking hateful things about people of color—and then get white people to stop paying black women a lower wage than white men for doing the exact same job.

PLU is educating a lot of white people who are going to graduate into a whole lot of power to actually DO something if they understand what the real solutions are. It would be amazing to give every student a sophisticated, multi-year, down and dirty academic challenge to understand the roots, trunk, and branches of racism.

I set out to critique the critique—meaning the overabundance and corrosive nature of the criticism that flies through the internet when any individual or institution tries to say something to oppose racism, sexism, and homophobia.

And look what I did. I criticized.

I’m left wondering what the role of honest and kind criticism is. How do we fan the flames of understanding and creativity? How do we say “Hey, PLU, excellent effort. Keep going.”

Some news stories that caught our eye this week:

Another Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue is at your grocery store. Here’s some great practical suggestions for how to talk about its objectification and sexism with your kids.

Why have I never heard of Dr. Pauli Murray?  A queer black woman who graduated at the top of her class from law school in 1944, she wrote “the Bible for civil rights lawyers”, co-founded the National Organization for Women, and was the first African-American woman to be ordained an Episcopal priest. Wow.

Jessica Williams is hilarious… and seriously smart. Check out her clear and level-headed response to “supportive” advice on her next career move.

what-are-you-afraid-of-in-2015

I am not typically drawn to sensationalist articles titled “What Are You Afraid Of?” Mostly, because I already know.

But when Parade Magazine fell out of the Sunday paper last week, there was a cool cartoon on the cover so I flipped to the article.

Here are a few of the things you should and should not fear in 2015:

Flu not Ebola

Domestic violence not serial killers, pedophiles

Heart disease not Mercury in fish

Not getting enough dietary fiber not gluten

The re-appearance of measles, whooping cough, and other preventable diseases not vaccine side effects

Texting while driving not air travel…”

Note that domestic violence is number two on what we should actually fear.

Long before we feared flying in airplanes, long before airplanes, it served us to be afraid—of other animals that might eat us, things that go bump in the night, impending hunger or thirst. All this surviving through the millennia has landed us here—as beings with hyper-reactive fear centers in our brains that override rational thought.

But we humans are fortunate to also have lots of brain architecture dedicated to rational thought. This gives us access to things like ideas about what is right and wrong. About the differences between healthy and unhealthy relationships. And about how to survive domestic violence or stop perpetrating it.

I’d like to suggest an alternative to the fear framework that recognizes the wide open spaces of the fully evolved human brain. How about…

Use your gigantic pre-frontal cortex to:

Outsmart sexism instead of fearing that violence against women is inevitable

Outthink racism instead of fearing that racial stereotypes are real and/or irreversible

Promote peace and prosperity instead of fearing that there simply is not enough to go around

Think, plan, and act instead of fearing that nothing can be done.

Some news stories that caught our eye this week:

When survivors tell their stories, they can seem cold or indifferent, get details wrong, or be unable to remember everything that happened, which is then used as a reason to disbelieve them. But these are all common, predictable responses to trauma.

Become a Racial Transformer today! “Racial Transformers don’t fixate on who’s a racist or whether someone intends animus. For they know that the deepest racism lies not just in the hearts and minds of individuals, but in the roles and rules of big institutions.”

Two powerful stories of abortion, pregnancy, and parenthood: “I had such severe postpartum depression that I was afraid my baby’s head would fall off.” And “I really was not prepared to quietly accept a bunch of non-Black people using my race to guilt me out of getting an abortion.”

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