Policy Inequality

Protests can’t be peaceful if the police are there

I am an ordained minister. I have been attending and participating in protests in Minneapolis, Chicago, and now South Florida for 10 years. My first protests were in response to the Church of Scientology and its abuse of church members as well as evidence of shady financial practices that should result in its religious charity status being revoked. Among us were a bunch of white kids wearing Guy Fawkes masks playing meme music like “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley and “Still Alive” from the Portal video game franchise. We didn’t block the street or sidewalk. We had permits to protest and use sound amplification devices. The police rarely showed up and if they did it was only to remind us of the terms of our permit.

Experiences like this one led me to believe that as long as we obeyed the law and had our permits in order, the cops would be on our side. I didn’t question this assumption until I attended a protest in Chicago for organizers who were arrested and falsely charged with terrorism charges (and eventually released due to public pressure). Admittedly, I don’t remember much about the circumstances around this protest, but I do remember that it seemed  strange to me. We were advised on what to wear, how to approach the police line, and that we shouldn’t smoke cigarettes because they might use the butt to arrest us – even though littering isn’t an arrestable offense in Chicago.

And again, when I protested for energy solutions and utility rights, we were, what I would describe as, the epitome of peaceful. We even did the electric slide (energy is basic a right…electric slide; get it?) at an intersection in the Chicago Loop. After a while we were told to disperse, some did, but a crowd of people remained, including a handful of ministers and a rabbi. The cops then brought in a giant van and proceeded to arrest everyone who was still at the intersection. The scene was calm, orderly, but almost unnerving in the way it happened. I was left wondering: Why did they arrest those folks? What did they accomplish? How did it protect me and my community?

Occupy Chicago was a real eye opener for me. I had heard rumors that Chicago police were especially brutal, but did not truly understand the terror or what this meant until I saw the way they arrested protestors, tore down tents, dragged people down the street, and so much more. It seemed clear to me at the time that the cops were more invested in protecting capitalism, buildings, and tourism than they were with actual human life or freedom of speech and assembly. This was just a few years after the 2008 Housing Crisis. My generation was promised that if we went to college, got a degree; we could be successful homeowners who lived out the American Dream. Occupy was a declaration for many young people that we knew that promise was a lie. Why did politicians send the police in riot gear when they could have made sweeping reforms to provide economic relief for students, low-income housing, increased SNAP benefits (aka food stamps) eligibility and funding?

When protests for justice in the name of George Floyd started up around the country a few weeks ago, it wasn’t a question of whether I should attend but whether I could given the pandemic raging around us. I have spent the last three months trying to set an example for others by wearing my mask everywhere and keeping a safe social distance. Experts have suggested that wearing masks and keeping a distance can mitigate risk. I also knew that open-air transmission of COVID-19 is significantly lower than indoors, but shouting and coughing caused by teargas would certainly increase communicability dramatically. All that in mind, however, I soon became aware of the most radical display of police activity and violence at the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests that I’ve ever heard of. It looked like a warzone and solidified my belief that protests can’t be peaceful if the police are there.

Protests tend to feel a lot more dangerous with cops staring down at you dressed in full riot gear, eager to agitate, and decorated with rubber bullet or pepper ball guns slung over their shoulders. In Florida, cops have not hesitated to use riot tactics on unarmed, peaceful, protestors. Police are also on video arresting people who were speaking their mind (note: being offensive is not a crime), firing tear gas (a tactic banned by the Geneva Convention), and pelting citizens for simply standing on their porch. In Orlando, the protest looked more like a block party than an uprising until cops showed up and used dozens of cans of teargas on the crowd. The panic is palpable, even when simply watching the video. People don’t show up to protests hoping to get into a confrontation with the police. They go hoping that showing up will put pressure on their elected officials to give them the justice they deserve.

It’s clear to me that the response to protests is essentially cops living out the fantasy that they are warriors. It’s an open secret at this point that police are effectively trained to think of themselves as soldiers, and that violence or killing is both necessary and good (CW: video report contains graphic footage of police brutality and police shootings). They believe themselves to be the Thin Blue Line between order and chaos, but it seems more likely they are the vanguard for that same chaos.

Pop Culture Gaming

A is for Animal Crossing, B is for Black Lives Matter

Dropping just as most countries started going into serious lockdown, Animal Crossing: New Horizons could not have come out a better time. The franchise’s latest version, made available for Nintendo Switch players worldwide on March 20th, quickly became a quarantine favorite as players around the world traded in visiting their friends in real life for visiting each others’ islands. The idyllic vibes, amplified by a light, soothing soundtrack and family-friendly animation, served as the perfect escape for existential dread.

But as quarantine becomes the new norm, we can’t just escape reality anymore. And even Animal Crossing knows it.

As the mass uprisings against police brutality began in response to the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Animal Crossing fans who could not physically join protests found ways to support the movement through the game. Players painted “Black Lives Matter” signs to spread across their islands, and even held virtual protests with other players.

Fanpages such “Animal Crossing struggles” on Twitter halted all game-related content for two weeks to amplify Black voices and organizations, and has continued to intersperse protest and donation information after resuming its usual content flow. Accounts like animarx.crossing on Instagram, which usually focuses on humorous commentary on capitalism through screencaps from the game, have also switched up their focus and created Black Lives Matter resources highlights on their profiles.

As the game likes to remind us, though, money speaks the loudest – Animal Crossing is definitely a great example of the predatory nature of capitalism, to be discussed at another point. As protest discussions and conversations about Black Lives Matter and abolishing the police started picking up steam in Animal Crossing fandoms, this was a lesson the popular “Nookazon” fan shop learned the hard way. Nookazon, the largest player-driven marketplace for items in the game, faced strong backlash for banning posts with “BLM” or “ACAB” (“All Cops Are Bastards”) from its central Discord server. While the site later apologized and issued a statement in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, players have left the group en masse for other sites, like The site, which made their support for Black liberation clear from the start, continues to have a banner at the top of their homepage calling for donations to community organizations.

This isn’t actually the first time that players have used the game to get political – Animal Crossing was actually removed from Nintendo’s e-Store in China in April, after Hong Kong protesters started using the custom design and artwork features to bring their democracy protests in-game. It’s another example of the ingenious ways organizers have adapted to keep their movements going in the middle of the pandemic.

It’s also not terribly surprising. At the end of the day, part of Animal Crossing’s appeal is the fact that it’s meant to be as inclusive as possible. There are virtually no social rules in Animal Crossing, except looking out for your neighbor. The game’s completely customizable elements make it a haven for self-expression, to the fullest degree.

If you can’t be yourself in Animal Crossing, where can you be?

Alas, the Animal Crossing fandom is likely not going to end up dramatically radicalizing most of its community members – as much as I wish it were the case, you can’t just gather resources to craft an anti-racist at your DIY bench. That said, movements are most sustainable when we start to ingrain their practices and principles into the little things in our everyday lives. So whether that’s setting up recurring donations to your local mutual aid and bail funds, switching up your fitness gear purchases to support Black designers, diversifying your Spotify playlists, or yes, even just engaging in conversations about systemic racism in an Animal Crossing Discord server, keep up the momentum, and don’t forget that even on your fantasy island, Black lives matter.

LGBTQIA+ Celebrities Race Pop Culture

How Billy Porter and Justice Smith are saying “Black Trans Lives Matter”

Earlier this month, Billy Porter took to Instagram to demand that black trans and queer voices be included in the Black Lives Matter movement.

Porter is the first openly gay black man to win an Emmy Award for his lead role in Pose, a TV series about New York’s City’s queer ballroom culture. Since the killing of George Floyd, the attacks on other black Americans have gained public attention. Porter demanded that the public give the same attention to Iyanna Dior, a black trans woman assaulted by almost 30 men during one of Minneapolis’ peaceful protests. A viral video captured how the men beat Taylor, screaming homophobic slurs at her before she managed to escape.

Porter’s video condemns the bystanders who did nothing to help Taylor, “the black community’s relationship with the LGBTQIA+ community is appalling at best and eerily similar to that of white supremacists versus black folk.” He continued highlighting the hypocrisy of those in the black community that do not include violence against the black LGBTQIA+ community in their advocacy for black lives. “The tragic reality here is that black trans, as well as gender non-conforming, women and men are being killed in the United States by cis black men to such a degree that it is nearly the worst emergency for trans women on the planet.” Porter reminds audiences that the trans and queer black community is more inclined to experience violence than the rest of their peers, even at the hands of other minorities.

Porter’s sentiments were echoed days later in a post by actor Justice Smith, best known for his roles in The Get Down and All the Bright Places. Smith wrote about his experience at the New Orleans Black Lives Matter protest which took place June 6, 2020. 

In an Instagram post, Smith wrote, “As a Black queer man myself, I was disappointed to see certain people eager to say, ‘Black Lives Matter,’ but hold their tongue when trans/queer was added.” He cited the killing of Tony McDade, a 38-year-old black trans man shot and killed by police in Florida on May 27, 2020. McDade was killed only two days after George Floyd, whose murder inspired numerous protests across the country and even around the world.

The Human Rights Campaign lists McDade’s death as the 12th violent death of a transgender or gender-nonconforming person for this year alone. Tony McDade’s murder, like the attacks on so many other members of the black LGBTQIA+ community, remains largely underreported. The circumstances surrounding his death are unclear due to the police still reviewing evidence. Smith compares the lack of solidarity towards McDade to white oppression, suggesting minorities have been conditioned to appeal to whiteness. This is evidenced by the long history of white colonialism around the globe, from enslaving black people to the enforcement of European beauty standards to this day.

Smith continued his post by stating, “the revolution is not about appeal. It is about demanding what should have been given to us from the beginning. What should have been given to Black, queer, and trans individuals from the beginning. Which is the right to exist. To live and prosper in public. Without fear of persecution or threat of violence.”

Less than a week after Smith’s post, the Trump Administration announced on June 12, 2020, that it would be eliminating the protections for transgender patients. These protections were created in 2016, during the Obama era and kept transgender people from discrimination when seeking health care. To reverse these protections is, at best highly irresponsible and at worst, endangering lives already. Transgender and gender-nonconforming people are already at more likely to experience violence than their peers and to deny them access to healthcare during a global pandemic is incredibly evil.

On June 14, 2020 thousands of Black Trans Lives Matter protestors gathered around the Brooklyn Museum in New York City. Protesters centred black trans women, demanding justice for the largely ignored killings. The very next day, the Supreme Court ruled to protect LGBTQIA+ Americans from job discrimination. Although it isn’t the same legislation, this critical decision protecting the queer and trans community from workplace discrimination may be able to stop or limit the Trump Administration’s plan to reinstate gender discrimination in healthcare. 

However you feel about celebrities, it is important to note their immense platforms and potential influence. Billy Porter has an Instagram following of 1.5 million followers. When he and Justice Smith share their concerns on social media, they have a much bigger audience than you or I do. In an industry as hyper controlling as Hollywood, I for one am glad celebrities are going off-script to raise awareness on important issues.

By asking their audiences to become more politically conscious, Porter and Smith are doing stardom right.

TV Shows Movies Pop Culture

21 movies and shows you can watch to understand how racism works

If you’ve had the privilege of never experiencing discrimination or if you are a POC who doesn’t fully grasp the history and weight of racism, now is not the time to burden your black friends with the task of educating you, even if you have the best of intentions.

Now is not the time to be asking for free emotional labor from the black community, many of whom are already under emotional duress from the events of the past weeks. Racism has been long established as a tool of oppression on a global scale that it’s contributed to generational trauma. In fact, it’s been more than established, racism is a learned behavior that has been protected and enforced to this day. So while you’re donating and signing petitions, here are some works that break down systematic oppression.

1. Who Killed Malcolm X? (2020)

Malcolm X
[Image description: Malcolm X standing at a podium, arm raised over microphones] Via Who Killed Malcom X?
This Netflix mini docu-series is on the assassination of Malcolm X, a prominent black American Muslim Civil Rights Era activist. The series outlines some alarming evidence regarding his assassination in 1965 and explores the conspiracy that he was killed by white supremacists with the help of the government. After the docu-series was released earlier this year, the murder investigation of Malcolm X was put under review. 

2. When They See Us (2019)

When They See Us
[Image description: A detective points a finger at one of the Central Park Five in an interrogation room] Via When They See Us 
A true-crime mini-series, this is the story of the Central Park Five, five teenagers falsely accused of the assault and rape of a white woman jogging through Central Park. The show follows their trial and wrongful convictions. 

3. 13th (2016)

[Image description: Angela Davis, prison abolitionist, speaking in an old court room] Via 13th
Named for the 13th Amendment which abolished slavery in America, this documentary film traces the connections between the rise of mass incarceration in the United States and the justice system. It proves how slavery is alive and well in modern times through the prison-industrial complex and the disproportionate convictions of minorities. Netflix even uploaded the film in full to YouTube, so it would be accessible to everyone. You can watch it right here

4. American Son (2019)

American Son
[Image description: Kerry Washington looking at a cell phone in horror with an FBI agent and a police officer] Via American Son 
Starring Kerry Washington, this film follows a mother anxiously waiting for news on her disappeared son in a police department. Racial tensions are discussed through conversations with her ex-husband, a white FBI agent. He is just as concerned for their missing son but doesn’t understand his ex-wife’s fear of police.

5. If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)

Beale Street

This film tells the story of Tish and Fonny, sweethearts since childhood, and of the racial discrimination they face. From being denied rent by New York landlords in the 70s to Fonny’s wrongful arrest after being falsely accused of rape. The film discusses abuse of power by the police as well as the flaws in the justice system.

6. Imperial Dreams (2018)

Imperial Son
[Image description: John Boyega sitting with friends, looking at something out of view] Via Imperial Son
Starring John Boyega, this film is about a reformed gangster, returning home after serving time in prison. Imperial Dreams discusses mass incarceration, racial profiling as well as the rehabilitation prisoners need after being granted their freedom.

7. Dear White People (2014)

Dear White People
[Image description: Tessa Thompson and cast staring directly into the camera] Via Dear White People
Later also adapted into an amazing Netflix show, this comedy film details the many microaggressions Black students experience at a fictitious Ivy League. The lead Samantha White, played by Tessa Thompson, is a frustrated student who begins a radio show to call out white people for their racist behavior.

8. The Great Debaters (2007)

The Great Debaters
[Image description: Denzel Washington and cast sit attentively, one holding a vintage camera] Via Great Debaters
Denzel Washington plays a debate coach at a HBCU during the 1930s in the Jim Crow South. He is determined to elevate his team of students to the same stature as their white opponents. This film discusses the racism and segregation found in academia as well as the violence experienced by black students in the American South.

9. Seven Seconds (2018)

Seven Seconds
[Image description: A detective stands a snowy, blood spattered hill with the Statue of Liberty in the background] Via Seven Seconds
This show is about the hit and run of a young black boy by a police officer and how members of the Jersey City Police Department scramble to cover it up to “protect their own”. This limited series is crucial in understanding the way a police force operates like an elite gang, abusing their power and carrying out injustices.

10. The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2019)

The Last Black Man in San Francisco
[Image description: A young man stares up at a Victorian style house] Via The Last Black Man in San Francisco 
Jimmie Fails and his best friend Mont Allen spend their days roaming San Francisco, musing over the city’s changes due to gentrification and how it’s affecting the community. Jimmie dreams about reclaiming the Victorian house he grew up in and sees his opportunity when the current owners have a dispute over the estate.

11. Selma (2014)

[Image description: Crowds of marchers cross a bridge to advocate for black voting rights] Via Selma
A historical drama, Selma follows the voting rights marches lead by the revolutionary Martin Luther King Jr. in 1965. Directed by 13th’s Pea-body award-winning Ava DuVernay, this film centers on the political tensions and various threats King faced while organizing a march to register black voters in the state of Alabama.

12. BlacKkKlansmen (2018)

[Image description: Split screen of the conversation the Colorado Spring Police Force’s first black officer] Via BlacKkKlansman
Directed by Spike Lee, this film tells the story of Ron Stallworth, the first black officer in the Colorado Springs Police Department. It details the racial discrimination Stallworth faces from his coworkers and the undercover operation he begins to infiltrate a local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.

13. Do the Right Thing (1989)

Do the Right Thing
[Image description: A white man confronts a younger black man in Brooklyn] Via Do the Right Thing
Another directorial piece from Spike Lee, this classic dramedy outlines the rising racial tension in a Brooklyn neighborhood. The film focuses on the ethnically diverse neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant and the violence that erupts as summer temperatures rise.

14. The Hate U Give (2018)

The Hate U Give (2018)
[Image description: Amandla Stenberg, playing Starr, hands raised in surrender] Via The Hate U Give
In this masterpiece film adaptation of the novel of the same name, after witnessing her childhood friend being murdered by a police officer, sixteen-year-old Starr, played by Amandla Stenberg is swept up in the national news coverage of the killing. Starr must decide if pursuing justice is worth destroying her carefully crafted image at her mostly-white prep school and having a police target on her back.

15. Whose Streets? (2017)

Whose Streets? (2017)
[Image description: Ferguson protestors standing with arms raised and megaphones] Via Whose Streets? 
This documentary follows the murder of Michael Brown and the Ferguson uprising. After Brown was killed by a police officer, Ferguson. Missouri was engulfed in protests and riots demanding justice. Documenting the protests this way, on camera, was intended to show what was really going on as print journalism was lacking in their coverage as the events in Ferguson unfolded.

16. I Am Not Your Negro (2016)

I Am Not Your Negro (2016)
[Image description: A black man stares skeptically into the camera, surrounded by white men] Via I Am Not Your Negro
Inspired by James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript, this film breaks down the history of racism in the United States by examining civil rights leaders like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, the documentary voices Baldwin’s personal thoughts on the American civil rights movement.

17. Freedom Writers (2007)

Freedom Writers (2007)
[Image description: A white teacher stands directing a classroom full of multiracial students] Via Freedom Writers
This drama film focuses on the lives of a highly diverse student body at the once prestigious Woodrow Wilson High School. Set two years after the Los Angeles riots, racial tensions are at an all-time high among rival gang members who attend the school. Freedom Writers outlines the racism and prejudice found among various ethnic minority groups.

18. Hidden Figures (2016)

Hidden Figures (2016)
[Image description: Taraji P. Henson, playing a black female NASA mathematician, stands in an office full of white men] Via Hidden Figures
Detailing the work life of the black women who worked at NASA during the Space Race, this film exposes the racial and gender segregation that dominated the space agency. Starring Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monàe and Octavia Spencer, the Academy Award-nominated Hidden Figures describes the life and important work of three black female mathematicians who rose above their white male peers’ perceptions of them.

19. Just Mercy (2019)

Just Mercy (2019)
[Image description: Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx tensely sit in a courtroom] Via Just Mercy
Starring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx, this film follows the pro bono work of Bryan Stevenson, freshly graduated from Harvard law and determined to free Johnny D. McMillian, a death row inmate who was coerced by police into confessing to the murder of a white woman. The film outlines discrepancies in the legal system and how it upholds racial bias in murder cases.

20. Get Out (2017)

Get Out
[Image description: A conversation between two of the film’s characters in a forest] Via Get Out
Written and directed by Jordan Peele, this psychological thriller follows what happens when Chris Washington, played by Daniel Kaluuya, learns a horrifying secret about his white girlfriend and her family.

21. Zootopia (2016)

[Image description: Judy Hopp, a rookie police officer confronts fox Nick Wilde] Via Zootopia
Lastly, this animated film educates audiences on discrimination and racial profiling. Following a rookie cop on her dreams of serving and protecting, Zootopia shows how perpetuated prejudice feeds into a flawed justice system. A perfect movie to use when educating the little ones on racial inequality.

Do you have other suggestions? Let us know!

USA Race The World Policy

Here’s a list of reforms that are the direct result of ongoing Black Lives Matter protests

For the past few weeks, the United States has been rocked by protests calling for justice against the victims of police brutality and racist policies that have been built into the very infrastructure of the country. The violence inflicted on Black bodies by systemic racism has been ongoing for centuries. George Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minn., which closely followed the reprehensible murders of Ahmaud Arbery on February 23, 2020 and Breonna Taylor on March 13, 2020, sparked massive outrage from the public that has positively affected dialogues around racism, law enforcement, and policy.

Cleveland, OH mayor, Frank Johnson, and Boston, Mass. mayor, Marty Walsh, have both declared racism a public health crisis. Racism is not solely an ideology; it is policy. Access to housing, jobs, health care, and education are all determined by racial policies. Change in legislation is the only thing that can combat this.

Ibram X. Kendi states that in order to produce racial equity, we must be actively antiracist and change and abolish policies that promote racism, for racism is inherent in the system and racist ideologies stem from racist policies. These nationwide protests have done just this; in only a few weeks, protests have powerfully impacted policy-making.

While Breonna Taylor’s murderers have yet to be arrested, the Louisville, Ky. metro council unanimously voted to pass “Breonna’s Law” on June 11, 2020 which effectively bans no-knock search warrants in the city. Breonna, 26, was fatally shot eight times by Louisville police after they forced their way into her home while she was asleep with her boyfriend on the basis of a no-knock warrant. The police officers raided the wrong home, a full ten miles off their target, and the person they were searching for had already been detained by the time police entered Breonna’s home.

“Breonna’s Law” is one of many small-scale and large-scale policy changes that will ultimately pave the way for an antiracist system to be in place. Here are some other reforms that have been addressed or initiated as a result of the demands and actions that have been made possible by declaring #BlackLivesMatter.

Minneapolis has decided to disband its police force and rebuild a new law enforcement, among other things.

On June 7, the city of Minneapolis announced they will dismantle their police force and rebuild law enforcement – a decision made following public pressure to “defund the police,” a movement that promotes the reallocation of police funding toward more community-building services. Police budgets are sometimes exorbitant; the Minneapolis Police Department budget is $1.6 billion. “Defunding” their police force would mean taking a portion of that budget and putting it toward things like training mental health professionals, public schools, and social workers. Providing more funding for these services would also reduce crime and poverty in the long term. Camden, N.J. initiated a police reform seven years ago that is similar to what the “defund the police” movement calls for. The city disbanded its police force in an attempt to root out corruption. Camden was one of the most violent cities in the country, but their community based reforms caused the crime rate to drop by 42%.  

Minneapolis public schools have already taken one measure of reform: terminating their contract with the Police Department following George Floyd’s death. Citing a difference in values, the school board unanimously voted to end their relationship with the MPD. Portland and Denver public schools have followed suit, and many school districts across the US are considering the same.

New York announces new disciplinary measures.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced a reform measure that would make disciplinary records for police public, ban chokeholds, make race-based 911 calls a hate crime, and require the NY Attorney General to act as an independent prosecutor for police officers accused of murder. Chokeholds were already banned in New York in 1993 according to police protocol, but this is now coming directly from the government and would criminalize this use of force. This is a four-step policy enactment entitled, “Say Their Name,” rhetoric taken directly from the language of protestors.

Some states are implementing policies that hold the police accountable.

The Phoenix, Ariz. City Council will be funding $3 million to a new police civilian oversight board; the Lincoln, Neb. Police Department has signed an agreement with city community members to create a “Hold Cops Accountable” initiative in which monthly town halls will be held for city residents to provide feedback for police. In Texas, the Austin City Council has cut budgets for hiring new cops and cut funding for weapons used against protestors such as tear gas, which is already banned by the Geneva Convention, and rubber bullets. A number of cities around the country are also introducing bills to ban tear gas, rubber bullets, flash-bang grenades, and bean-bag rounds.

In addition, Minneapolis and other cities around the country, such as Washington, DC, Chicago, and more, have banned neck restraints and the carotid control hold. In many areas, like Aurora, Colo., Reno, Nev., and San Jose, Calif., it is becoming policy that police must also now give warnings before shooting and officers are required to intervene if they witness another officer using excessive force. It is unbelievable that these policies were not in place all along.

Congress is making moves to target police misconduct.

On the larger scale, on June 8, Democrats in congress revealed a legislative bill that would reform police as we currently know it. This bill would ban chokeholds at the federal level, make it easier to sue police officers who abuse their power, and get rid of qualified immunity.

Military leaders are delinking themselves from racist symbols.

The US Marine Corps and Navy finally officially banned the display of the confederate flag in public and in workspaces. The Army is also considering this policy. There is now a movement to rename confederate military bases and while Donald Trump has outright refused this demand, military leaders are still considering it.

Racist statues across the globe are increasingly being torn down.

On a different level, confederate and racist symbols around the country are being torn down and effectively banned by protesters, even governments. The tearing down of confederate monuments has been ongoing for a number of years, but the Black Lives Matter movement has inspired an urgency and devotion to these acts. On the University of Mississippi campus, a confederate monument was painted with the words “spiritual genocide” and red handprints. The statue of confederate General Williams Carter Wickham was torn down by protestors in Richmond, Va. Also in Richmond, a statue of Christopher Columbus was set on fire then thrown into a lake; and in Boston, a statue of Columbus was beheaded. Lawmakers and government officials are promising to get rid of certain racist monuments and symbols. For example, the mayor of Birmingham will be tearing down a five-story monument dedicated to confederate troops despite backlash from the Alabama Attorney General. Mayor Jim Kenney of Philadelphia, Pa. has taken down a statue and removed a mural of Frank Rizzo, a former Philadelphia mayor whose racist policies led to the violent policing of Black and minority communities.

#BlackLivesMatter protests in the US has had a global impact. Countries like New Zealand and England have been actively protesting racial inequity, as well. Statues and monuments are also toppling in England, including one in Bristol of Edward Colston, a 17th-century slave trader, and one of Robert Miligan in London, who was a slave owner.

We are witnessing the largest changes in policy at the local level, which has the most impact on the success of individual communities. Ferguson, Miss. just elected their first Black mayor, Ella Jones, six years after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown and the grand jury’s refusal to indict the white officer who killed Brown incited protests and uprisings. Jones ran on a platform of inclusion and her election is a symbol of hope for Ferguson and the country as a whole.

In short, antiracism must be embedded into the system through policy. And that change in policy can only come from the people who practice anti-racism themselves. So let’s keep going. This is only the beginning. Keep signing petitions; keep donating; keep educating yourself and others about racial inequity; keep people accountable; keep information flowing through social media and other digital media platforms; keep protesting. It is working. Things are changing. Continue to be antiracist.

LGBTQIA+ History Coronavirus The World

50 years later, the legacy of Pride lives on

The New York City Pride parade has been cancelled for the first time since its origin 50 years ago. In-person events that were scheduled to take place June 14-28, 2020 are in the process of being reimagined virtually as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Pride is a staple in New York City, as it has been since the Stonewall Riots prompted a revolution in June of 1969. The fight for gay-rights as we know it was born and catalyzed here. America in the 1960’s, and in the decades that came before it, was not at all welcoming for those in LGBTQIA+ community. In New York, any inclination of sexual activity between people of the same sex in public was considered illegal. That is, hand holding, kissing, or even dancing. This antiquated and ridiculous law was not overturned until 1980 when the People v. Ronald Onofre case was decided. 

These times were also riddled with discrimination and a series of raids among other forms of abuse on prominent gay bars and clubs in Greenwich village. Such spaces were some of the only places where members of the community could seek refuge and were finally able to express themselves openly without worry. Nonetheless, police brutality on the basis of sexual orientation and just plain bigotry was awfully common during these raids.  

On the night of June 28, 1969 obvious tensions arose between the two groups, and the patrons bravely decided to fight back against the police at the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar that was one of the few of its kind that opened its doors to drag queens. Notably, the first bottle of the uprising, which lasted six whole days, was thrown by a Black transgender woman, Marsha P. Johnson. The protesters were met time and time again with tear-gas and physical altercations with the police, but they persisted. Those in the street are said to have been singing slogans similar to the ones that we hear today like “gay power” and “we shall overcome.” 

It would be an injustice to ignore the contributions of the Black community to this iconic moment that started a resistance.

This moment sparked the beginning of a modern resistance that is beautifully laced with love and versatility. 

It would be an injustice, however, to ignore the coincidences of this past that align with the current civil rights demonstrations happening across the world, declaring defiantly that Black lives matter. Both movements continue to feature a spotlight on recognizing basic human rights while also condemning police practices that terrorize the communities they are meant “to serve and protect.” So much of American history is patterned with this same struggle, consistency, and perseverance. Not to mention that it was, in fact, Black women who spearheaded this revolution 51 years ago, and 51 years later Black women are again at the forefront of a movement seeking to eradicate systemic inequality. We must not let this go unnoticed.

The year after what has come to be known as the Stonewall riots, June of 1970, marked the first ever Pride parade in New York City. Though it took a long time to come, the LGBTQIA+ community has certainly overcome much of the hate and marginalization that has been thrown its way. But, they’re still fighting. To this day, new non-discrimination protections are being fought for and passed all because of their constant effort and strength. 

Since then, New York City and its Pride parade has been a proven safe-haven for vulnerable and battered communities alike. It is a time for people to come together and celebrate themselves as phoenixes who have risen way above the ashes while also acknowledging the slashed history that they are eternally attached to. 

Just last year, New York City hosted world WorldPride and some 2 million people were in attendance. This in and of itself is a testament to the impact that the revolution has had, and continues to have, all over the world. Such ever-clear and unrelenting perseverance is nothing less of an inspiration. 

Today, as the coronavirus runs its raging course throughout the United States, New York City has been noticeably hit the hardest. With nearly 212,000 confirmed cases and over 20,000 deaths thus far in the City alone, New Yorkers are being urged to remain full of the hope and drive that makes us so thick-skinned in the first place. But, this is not an easy feat, especially given the turmoil that seems to be slowly encapsulating every bit of our daily lives. Once again, we have set out in a movement that looks to challenge history and change it for good. For the LGBTQIA+ community, that anxiety is heightened tremendously. 

The absence of the iconic Pride parade will certainly have a dramatic financial impact on the people and businesses that have come to rely on it. Not to mention the mental toll that will surely come along without a break from mobilizing, resource, or strategy efforts concerning the ongoing, and seemingly never-ending, fight for equal rights. It is certainly an all-hands-on-deck sort of thing. This fight is fought every single day, with the smallest actions sometimes making the most noise, and none of it should go unnoticed. 

The contributions that the LGBTQIA+ community has made to both the City and to the greater struggle for equality are undeniable. So, the decision to cancel Pride this year was not easy. But, it was definitely necessary. However, just because the pandemic prevents us from physically coming together this year, it does not mean that the spirit of Pride in New York City won’t be felt just the same.

An online Global Pride will be broadcasted for 24-hours straight on June 27, starting in the east and moving west. Each local or participating pride chapter is hoped to have an allotment of 15-minutes of airtime each, depending on individual time zones, for performances and speeches by grand marshals. This is a community that has always come together in the face of adversity and this year is no different. My wish is for this to be yet another example of the LGBTQIA+ communities resilience that should be honored and remembered, especially in a context of human rights.

TV Shows Pop Culture

Why I’m finally breaking up with Brooklyn 99

The first time I watched Brooklyn 99, I was packing up my life to move across the country after graduating from college. Feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of the task in front of me, I’d texted a friend asking for light-hearted, background-esque show recommendations to stream while I packed. While I wasn’t a fan of Andy Samberg at the time, I generally trust this friend’s taste more than most others’, so I decided to give it a shot.

I binged all 5 then available seasons in a week.

I had quickly fallen for the goofy, enthusiastically reckless Detective Jake Peralta. Even more so, I couldn’t get enough of his equally charming fellow detectives’ antics. Over the last two years, I’ve probably rewatched the entire series at least 6 or 7 times. I’ve held my breath for them during intense cases, I’ve laughed with them during their annual Halloween hijinks, I’ve frequently nearly cried with them at their weddings. No matter how dire the situation, I always knew things were going to work out one way or the other, and I was rooting for them.

[Image Description: A white detective dressed in plain clothes, a jacket and tie, enthusiastically announces the Easter-Valentine's Day-Halloween Heist while standing next to his captain, a Black man dressed in a white button down and tie]. Via NBC.
[Image Description: A white detective dressed in plain clothes, a jacket and tie, enthusiastically announces the Easter-Valentine’s Day-Halloween Heist while standing next to his captain, a Black man dressed in a white button down and tie] Via NBC.
Which is exactly why I can’t love this show anymore.

Brooklyn 99 is arguably fairly progressive, especially with regards to the representation offered by the characters: about half of the main leads are people of color, and precinct Captain Holt’s (Andre Braugher) identity as a gay Black detective in an interracial relationship is at the center of multiple episode storylines. The show also made headlines in its fifth season when Detective Rosa Diaz (Stephanie Beatriz) came out as bisexual. The highly emotional storyline, based on the actress’s own coming out, served as a critical moment for queer representation, particularly for queer children of immigrants who have struggled with coming out to their parents.

As someone who is always trying to be socially conscious and advocate for justice, I always felt a little guilty telling people how much I loved B99, particularly when one friend refused to take my recommendation because as an abolitionist, he was uncomfortable that it was a cop show. Even then, I didn’t listen, and instead tried to justify it to myself by pointing to the aforementioned representation, and the snippets of real-life issues it injected in targeted episodes. Look! I would say. They did an episode on racial profiling! They openly discussed the complex realities of reporting sexual assault! 

[Image Description: A distraught white, brunette woman sits cross-legged in sweatpants and a blue T-shirt with an open binder in her lap as her white partner reaches over to hold her hand and comfort her]. Via NBC.
[Image Description: A distraught brunette woman sits cross-legged in sweatpants and a blue T-shirt with an open binder in her lap as her partner reaches over to hold her hand and comfort her]. Via NBC.
Yet even as the show tries to have the tough conversations, it will always remain a fantasy – one where the cop is always the hero to root for, one where the line between “good cop” and “bad cop” is clear, and one where the defense attorney character can be a brilliant, sexy love interest. It is still written off for defending exclusively ruthless criminals. Forget that it’s become abundantly clear that the “good” and “bad” distinction between cops is arbitrary when the entire institution of policing is rotten at its core. Forget that public defenders are frequently the last hope for numerous people of color who are disproportionately criminalized by our very broken American “justice” system. In the fantasy world of Brooklyn 99, systemic racism’s role in police brutality is a one-episode story arc – not the inherent foundation of an institution with its origins in the slave patrols.

To their credit, the cast of Brooklyn 99 has attempted to demonstrate the same minimal self-awareness that their show has. In the wake of uprisings in response to the racist police murders of Ahmad Arbury, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, cast members donated $100,000 to the National Bail Fund Network in support of protesters. But it’s not enough.

No matter how much the cast donates as reparations to society, the point remains that shows like B99 quietly causes significant harm. By painting cops as flawed but still ultimately heroes, Brooklyn 99 will always offer reform and redemption as an option. This is especially harmful right now, when we’re increasingly having conversations about how reform is ineffective as a solution versus the defunding and abolition of police. As long as the show refuses to reckon with the fact that police brutality is not just a problem with “a few bad apples,” viewers will continue to have an example for “Not all cops!” too.

Brooklyn 99 has been a wonderful escapist fantasy that’s kept me entertained through multiple turning points in my life, but more critical consumption of our media is long overdue – and unfortunately, a show that glosses over the reality that police are agents of a white supremacist state, not the heroes, just doesn’t make the cut. As much as I’ve loved it, I can no longer deny that this show only serves and protects the reputation of an institution upholding white supremacy.

If only they could’ve been those rival firefighters or those wholesome, underfunded US Post Office workers instead.

USA Race Policy Inequality

When it comes to activism, what is the true definition of silence?

Following the eruption of public outrage on social media which ensued after George Floyd‘s death, I took a break from my personal platforms, but I felt weak for doing so.

As a journalist and a Black woman, I believe that it is my job to consistently contribute to the current civil rights discussion in my country. But within a week I had seen one too many comments questioning the value of my people’s lives and I could no longer mentally take it anymore. It wasn’t the overabundance of police brutality videos or injustice that weighed on my mind either.

As sad as it is to say – I’ve already seen and experienced those types of things first-hand and I’m used to seeing content like that.

What I couldn’t handle, on the other hand, was the ignorance and hatred. I couldn’t bear to read rebuttals to the absolute fact that Black Lives Matter.

I took a break from my personal platforms, but I felt weak for doing so.

But as I logged off for a few days, phrases such as “silence is violence” haunted me. Was my temporary absence from social media silence? Was I supposed to push through and continue to speak out despite the toll it took on my mental health? I was still consuming the news. I was still reporting on my community. I was still speaking about the issue on webinars yet I wondered if, in a way, my inactivity on social media was wrong. I felt guilty. 

That’s the thing about silence during this time: There’s more than one definition to the term, considering the multidimensional social, political, and cultural curve balls being thrown at us daily.

 Eric Brock Jr., a 19-year-old activist, told me that he too felt pressure from social media to always post, but was taking time off to grieve from the traumatic state of the country. He said that from such pressure, he was compelled to write a disclaimer to his audience that clarified his inactivity. Silence to him runs deeper than consistent activity on social media platforms, especially for Black people. 

“The Black community is not a monolith and it never has been,” he said to me. “We express things in different ways and some people need time to heal.” 

Posting a black square means nothing if you aren’t actively fighting for change offline, too.

Brock says that he does understand how silence can be compliant towards racism for non-Black people though, especially when they have not stepped up their efforts offline in being an ally or contributed to the conversation at all. This becomes particularly dangerous when we see social media users engaging in performative activism online without doing the actual tactical work offline needed to make real change.

We saw this with Instagram’s ‘Blackout Tuesday‘ challenge which aimed to bring awareness to the Black Lives Matter movement. Users posted black screens in an attempt to show their solidarity to the cause.

However, the challenge’s execution essentially drowned out necessary information from the movement and, in my opinion, was used as a performative way for some to show others how good of a person they are.

Posting a black square means nothing if you aren’t actively fighting for change offline, too. It also doesn’t somehow give you an advantage over someone else who may be supporting the movement in different ways than you expect them to. 

But with this in mind, astrologist Tyler Massias said to me that he does think that content outside of activism at the moment can be unsympathetic and distasteful. He said that non-Black people who don’t focus their platforms on the Black Lives Matter movement are practicing a privilege that isn’t afforded to Black people in America. 

“Throughout history, our [Black people’s] existence has always been viewed as subservient. We are always having to think about it and speak about it,” Massias told me. 

And activist Alexis Glasglow, a tireless protester in her Florida hometown, knows exactly what it means to dedicate all of her time both mentally and physically to the movement. She mentioned to me that seeing people’s inactivity on social media can be aggravating at times. 

We have to find things to smile about throughout the day and allow ourselves the time to grieve and heal. 

“You see people doing all of these things and then you also see people that you know, and who you can name, who haven’t said anything or even reached out to you,” she said to me. 

But while social media is a great place to start, it isn’t the only way to use your voice. Glasgow said that people can call out racism as they see it within their communities, attend demonstrations, and sign petitions just to name a few ways to get involved offline. 

As a country, we’re going through a lot right now and we can’t always realistically be our most vocal selves 100% of the time. The consistent exposure to Black death, Black trauma, ignorance, and racism weigh heavily on any average person along with a deadly pandemic that still affects the world too.

We have to take breaks occasionally. We have to find things to smile about throughout the day and allow ourselves the time to grieve and heal. 

Just as our stomachs need food to eat, our minds need care and attention as well in order to continue the Black Lives Matter movement and change the world.

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Here’s why it’s important for celebrities to show their support for #BlackLivesMatter

Across the U.S., and even in many other countries, protesters have taken the street this week to rally against widespread police brutality, systemic racism, and to call attention towards the insufficient charges brought against not only the killers of George Floyd but also the killers of countless other Black victims of racial injustice. In every city protesters have been met by the local police force, in addition to the national guard, all making use of blunt, violent, and instigative tactics. Social media has also been full of callings for change, spreading knowledge or resources, and pointing out the many hypocrisies within our current system. Some of it, however, is performative. This means that some people, often celebrities, may be posting just to give off the allusion that they care, when in reality it is just empty support. One example is with the Glee star Lea Michele. Earlier in the week she tweeted this:

She was immediately met with backlash from a former co-worker who proved that her intentions could not possibly be genuine when those words did not reflect her actions in reality.

It also seems that Lana Del Ray has spoken out in support of the movement just days after posting one of the most problematic statements I’ve read in awhile that promotes a white-washed version of feminism. News flash: if your feminism isn’t intersectional we don’t want it.

Other examples of performative behavior appears through donations. I have seen some celebrities proudly post their $50 dollar donations to community bail funds, which is not a lot of money at all considering their celebrity status. In fact, I have even seen my own friends, who are 20-something years old and unemployed, donate more money. This kind of demonstration of support is insulting to the #BlackLivesMatter movement because celebrities are the ones with privilege and capital in our society. Yet, in cases like this, they are refusing to use it, even though they say on social media that they are all for equality and justice. #openyourpurse.

What I find to be the most dangerous, though, is celebrities who have not spoken up at all, or even worse, spreading the wrong message. Most of these people have a gigantic following, making the impression that they leave on the people that are influenced by them noticeable. It is an unfortunate truth, but celebrities set an example for A LOT of people on these kinds of things. So, it is important for celebrities to use their privilege wisely in times like these. They also need to show their activism, and then act on it, because they are the ones with the money to financially support a movement. In addition, celebrities, especially white celebrities, should make it their mission to amplify Black voices at this time, instead of raising their own. Let Black people grieve, vent, scream, and mobilize. It is up to the celebrity to make an effort to elevate their words because celebrities have the audience and the means to do so. And, let’s not forget that while at protests that same advice applies because white celebrities have the privilege of getting out of an arrest situation without serious repercussions, for the most part.

Among them, however are some celebrities who are doing it right. They have taken their actions way beyond social media and are showing their support for the #BlackLivesMatter movement through large donations and in person activism. I will say that this is by no means a celebration of these celebrities or celebrity culture, but rather a recognition of what should and could be done if done right. To be fair, I am also wondering where all those celebrities are who made the entire world cringe when they sang Imagine in March thinking it would cure coronavirus.

Halsey helped treat people at protests who have been injured after being shot at with rubber bullets.

Cole Sprouse was arrested while protesting in Santa Monica. He also bailed out a lot of protesters who were arrested with him.

Ariana Grande has been active in the spread of resources, donated to bail funds, and attended protests in Los Angeles.

Nick Cannon has been protesting in Minneapolis all week wearing a sweatshirt that reads, “Please. I can’t breathe.”

Timothée Chalamet attended protests in Los Angeles, signed positions, and donated to various organizations.

J. Cole has been attending #BlackLivesMatter protests since 2014.

Aminé, an American rapper, is protesting and has been actively pointing out injustices.

Jaylen Brown, a professional basketball player for the Boston Celtics, drove 15 hours to protest in his hometown of Atlanta.

Pedro Pascal has repeatedly been attending protests and demonstrating widespread support.

Jane Fonda has been fighting for this cause since the 1960s and is widely known as an ally to the Black Panthers.

John Cusack is known for his progressive ideals and has been attending protests in Chicago.

Kendrick Sampson is on instagram showing wounds after being shot at with rubber bullets.

Tinashe has also been vocal through activism and by attending protests.

Justin Timberlake donated to the Minnesota Freedom Fund

Chrissy Teigen and John Legend made a $200,00 donation spread across 3 organizations. 

John Boyega is showing support all the way from the U.K. 

Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds donated $200,000 to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund

Colin Kaepernick, NFL player and leader in a protest movement against police brutality and racism by kneeling during the national anthem at games, established a legal defense initiative for protesters. He will be providing free legal compensation for Minneapolis “Freedom Fighters.”

These are only a handful of the celebrities that have spoken out and make a commitment to justice. They are not special, or needing of praise. In fact, their actions should be the standard. It is a shame, but not surprising, that other celebrities aren’t not taking advantage of their privilege is beneficial and productive ways. It is all of our duty to take care and to take a stand against the hate that is seemingly all around us. Check out our action guide if you want to know how you can demand justice for George Floyd by taking an active part in eradicating racial injustice. Read it, follow it, share it, and encourage your friends/family to do the same.  

USA Editor's Picks Race The World Policy

Here’s how you can demand justice for George Floyd

On Monday, May 25, George Floyd, a 46-year old African American man was murdered in Minneapolis, after being handcuffed and pinned to the ground by a white police officer, who pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for at least seven minutes.

That same day a video of his murder made its way around every corner of the internet, echoing his heart-wrenching plea, “I can’t breathe.” 

We have heard those powerful, terrifying, words before. In 2014, Eric Garner, stammered in-between struggled breaths “I can’t breathe.” He was murdered by being choked to death by a white police officer. He had been stopped by the police for selling loose cigarettes on the street in New York. 

Prior to Monday’s incident, a shopkeeper had called the police complaining that Floyd had used an allegedly forged check to pay for his items. After this reckless display of power and privilege which resulted in complete suffering, Officer Derek Chauvin, who pinned Floyd down with his knee, has since been fired along with the two other officers (names have not been officially released, but another has been ID’d as Tou Thao) present at the scene. But this is not nearly enough action to heal a centuries-old deep wound.

Minneapolis is the largest city in Minnesota with one of the deepest racial chasms in the country.

“They treated him worse than they treat animals,” said Philonise Floyd, Mr. Floyd’s brother, via CNN. “They took a life — they deserve life.” Floyd had worked in a restaurant but lost his job during the pandemic.

Minneapolis is the largest city in Minnesota with one of the deepest racial chasms in the country. This city, which has been painted with segregation for nearly 400 years and is subject to overtly devastating gentrification, is not foreign to police brutality or Black Lives Matter protests. In 2016, Philando Castile was pulled over and fatally shot by the police in the nearby suburb of Saint Paul. 

Floyd’s death is not an isolated incident according to recent weeks, either. It follows on the heels of the murder investigation of Ahmaud Arbery and of Breonna Taylor. Their deaths echo patterns of police violence against unarmed Black people.

It reminds us of the all-too-familiar Central Park incident from a couple of days ago when a woman named Amy Cooper was caught on video threatening a Black man because he asked her to put her dog on a leash. “I’m going to tell them there’s an African-American man threatening my life.”

These are not empty words, futile threats. A Black person’s life has easily become contingent on the words of a white person.

Outrage over Floyd’s murder and other inequalities have resulted in built-up anger and despair and sparked protests this week as protesters gathered in the street for multiple days, demanding police accountability and an end to the injustice that they face every single day in the hands of systemic racism.

A Black person’s life has easily become contingent on the words of a white person.

Many protesters clashed with the police who were spraying them with tear gas and rubber bullets, which later led to the onset of burned buildings and widespread looting after a local Target turned away protesters in need of milk to ease the burns that they endured from being doused in blinding tear gas.

Late Thursday night, President Trump ordered the deployment of over 500 troops from the Minnesota National Guard to the area after protesters set the police precinct in which Floyd died while in custody on fire. 

That is a call for brutality from our own President.

Jacob Frey, the mayor of Minneapolis, said the officers’ termination was “the right call,” but many are demanding he push for more severe consequences for the police. Here’s how you can help Floyd’s family and advocates demand justice.

Donate directly to George Floyd’s family.

There are multiple fundraisers being held for George Floyd’s family. His brother Philonise Floyd has organized a fund to cover funeral and burial expenses and to support Floyd’s family as they continue to seek justice: donate here. His sister Bridgett Floyd is raising money to help support George’s daughter Gianna: donate here. NOTE: These are the two official links, anything else is not going towards his family.

Donate to help bail out protestors being arrested for demanding justice, support the ongoing fight against systemic injustices, and stand against racially-motivated acts of police brutality.

There are a number of organizations already on the ground, and we have them laid out for you to take action immediately. 

The Minnesota Freedom Fund is a local organization that pays criminal bail and immigration bonds for those who cannot afford them. They’ve been providing protestor bail support to those arrested in the demonstrations demanding justice for Floyd. Donate here.

Update: Since protests have become nationwide, here’s a comprehensive list of bail funds per city.

The MFF is also encouraging donations to Black Visions Collective’ Movement and Legal Fund, a Black, trans, and queer led organization based in Minnesota supporting the protests; Reclaim the Block, a Minnesota org that lobbies for defunding the police and re-routing funds to affordable housing, health, violence prevention, civil right and renter protections; and Unicorn Riot, a non-profit media organization dedicated to fair, on-the-ground reporting on civil disobedience, police brutality and white supremacy. Several others include Reclaim the Block, United We Dream, National Bail Fund, and MPD 150.

Make a video of yourself calling for the police officers to be charged.

Color of Change is also calling for personal video testimonials condemning Floyd’s death and reiterating their demands to be used on social media to create public pressure. You can find details on submitting the video on the petition website.

Make calls and write letters directly to District Attorney Mike Freeman and Mayor Jacob Frey.

Applying pressure through every channel is crucial. Call DA Freeman at (612-348-5550) and write Mayor Frey here to demand the arrests and charging of the police officers. The petition can double as a script.

Sign the #JusticeForFloyd petition.

Use your privilege.

 Whether you’re white or a non-Black person of color, be sure to call out those around you making racist comments. The burden can’t be on Black people to explain/teach those around them about systemic racism and police brutality. Recognize your privilege and use it.

Be sure not to ignore what’s happening because it makes you uncomfortable. Your white skin means you are never going to be a target, keep that in mind. Use it to your advantage, and for the right reasons.

If you are a non-Black POC, stop ignoring the anti-blackness in your community.

While it is easy to point fingers at the white majority, it is rather important to acknowledge the anti-blackness that exists in other minorities and communities.

Amidst the discourse regarding the Asian cop in the video of Floyd’s murder and the revelation that the store owner who called the police on Floyd was an Arab Muslim, it is time that we acknowledge the racism existing within our own groups, and how this is absolutely not the time to measure one’s pain against the other because this isn’t some sort of fucked-up pissing contest.

Support #BlackLivesMatter.

You do not have to wait for death to remember that this is an ongoing fight. Support the movement, uplift the voices of activists, and make sure that your support is consistent and sustained through action at all times.

Educate yourself – then pass it on.

Read books like How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi , Black Feminist Thought by Patricia Hill Collins,  The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander.  Encourage children and young adults to read books about activism, race and social justice movements. If you have access, check out articles by scholars like Angela Davis, Toni Morrison, and Audre Lorde. Listen to podcasts like NPR’S Code Switch Pod Cause, and About Race. 

The burden can’t be on Black people to explain/teach those around them about systemic racism and police brutality.

You could also read up on the history of the country, of social justice movements that have existed before, and how this fight for justice did not start with a hashtag a couple of years ago. Learn about policy changes that could be made and understand that it is a deeply political issue, and keep that in mind when you vote in elections.

Check out this comprehensive anti racism educational resource guide put together by Sarah Sophie Flicker and Alyssa Klein.

Give emotional support to those that want it.

Check in on your friends, your Black relatives, friends, colleagues, neighbors. Make sure they are okay. This is a very vulnerable time for a lot of them, so be there for them. Show your support.

For those that need it, here are some resources. However, this is not a decision for anyone other than the person going through it to make.

Protest while protecting yourself.

Cover your face, cover your tattoos, take out any identifiable piercings, wear masks, cover your hair, turn your location off, make sure they cannot trace back to you when protesting. Protect yourself.

Be thoughtful about sharing images and videos of police brutality.

While the widely shared video of Floyd’s murder has been institutional to the protests, do keep in mind that it is triggering. There’s also much discourse on the ethics of sharing a video that adds to the sensationalizing of Black death and bodies. If necessary include trigger warnings.

There are also multiple artworks created in honor of Floyd and the protests, feel free to share those – with credit – share resources and news pieces as a show of support.

Sharing recognizable images of protesters could put them in danger.

Protesters put much on the line when they march forward to demand justice. While we support their bravery, do keep in mind that their lives could very well be in danger due to their participation in riots and protests. Protesters could be defying their families and might not be comfortable sharing their identity with the world or putting their personal and social lives in jeopardy. The threat to their lives and wellbeing is very real because when reposting Black faces and bodies at protests, it becomes easier for the oppressor to identify who was present.

Police can use those images, too, for the purpose of scapegoating and to press charges down the line. So, if you are present at the protests, and record yourself talking, make sure to blur the face of any person in the background before you post unless they gave you explicit consent to be featured. We are unfortunately aware of what can happen when such images are misused and fall into the wrong hands. After the 2014 uprising in Ferguson, many movement leaders were arrested, jailed, and even killed.

Make sure to fact check – especially the legality of things – before sharing information, resources, etc.

It is so easy to get swept up under fake news, and we know that now more than ever. While anger, frustration, and grief could make us say and share information on social media, it is deeply important to fact-check yourself and understand the legal consequences of your actions.

These words need to be louder, they should reflect in actions, whether it’s monetary support or physical protests.

At the same time, know your rights. Did you know that the First Amendment protects your right to assemble and express your views through protest? Understand how the law could protect you and exercise those rights.

It is natural – and completely okay – to get wrapped up in grief. But as allies, if you wish to make a change, your activism needs to be louder than mere words, hashtags, tweets, and Instagram stories. These words need to be louder, they should reflect in actions, whether it’s monetary support or physical protests.

We live in a time where silence is a privilege and might seem like a safer, easier option, but your silence actually protects the perpetrator, the murderers, and the white supremacists, while those like Floyd are not allowed to even breathe.


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Here’s the graduation advice nobody will ever tell you

I never thought I’d be writing a letter to college graduates, but considering the world that we live in today, and the many terrifying fears I remember going through in the day of and weeks/months/year after graduation, I think it’s definitely more than time for me to plunge into this.

I’ll lead with a disclaimer: take these nuggets of advice and see whether they apply to your life. Not everything will.

I’m not a fan of writing blanket statements, and hell, it’s okay if you’re not in the place many are today. If so, kudos!

1. I know everyone and their mother is already asking what your next steps are, and it’s probably reached a fever pitch, now that you’ve got your diploma in hand.

Here’s the truth: if you don’t know yet, that’s okay. One of life’s biggest secrets is that even the people asking you don’t know what their next steps are. Hell, sometimes they’re just asking in a desperate attempt to get some sort of advice or validation about their lives.

Another secret: once you graduate college, life is fluid. You don’t have to do what others are telling you. Which leads me to my next point…

2. Everyone has a plan for your life post-graduation – but the only one that has the real power is you.

I get it – I’m the oldest child of parents who have big, big dreams for my siblings and myself. I faced a lot of heated discussions the weeks leading up to and following graduation, all of which had the same tone: why aren’t you doing anything with your life?

 Know what that means? It means that your value is inherently determined only if you’re doing what your parents/relatives/friends/strangers deem to be appropriate. And that’s a load of crap.

Know that there will be a different future out there.

It’s a known fact that I worked at Princeton University for two years after graduation, but the thing I didn’t tell those who knew me was that I worked in Staples, struggling to apply to jobs and keep my head up, for the summer following graduation. I had even put in an application for a second job at Chipotle when I received the job offer from Princeton.

I do want to make this clear: in no way did my time at any of the three locations matter more or less than the other. Ultimately, it came down to keeping my head up, surviving incoming bills, and trying to still go after my dreams.

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I was okay with every moment, grateful for the opportunity – even if those who knew, weren’t – because I knew that there’d be a different future out there.

3. Your life in the year after graduation does not determine your worth or future or opportunities. 

Yeah, we all know about that wunderkind that’s got four incredible job offers, acceptance at five Ivy Leagues and a Truman Fellow. Want to know something? They’re just as unsure and insecure about what’s going to happen next, just as you are. And that’s okay. 

The reason “roadmaps” after college don’t really work is because – to be frank – you don’t know how your self and life will shift and morph and grow post-graduation.

You are incredible, no matter how you might feel right now.

What intrigued you during college won’t make you blink in the year after, or five years after. I graduated with a minor in education studies.

Newsflash: I haven’t really used it since then, but that’s okay.

I take it for what it was.

4. It’s okay to be afraid of what happens next.

I’m going to repeat it, just in case you haven’t really understood it: it is more than alright to be afraid of what life looks like ahead.

The biggest crime you could commit in this scenario is to let that fear hold you immobile, hold you back from trying. Don’t let that happen.

Throw yourself into things that just might pique your interest. Try out that internship, pick up a job, do what you can to remind yourself of your value – but don’t give up.

It is okay to be afraid of what life looks like ahead.

Don’t let the fear swallow you up – and if it does, confide in a friend you trust, a mentor – or a therapist.

5. The best part about being done with college is you now have the ability to make your life truly your own.

Regardless of whether you’re back living with your parents, crashing with friends, or living on your own, this is it.

This is life. You’re in full control.

No matter what people might tell you/advise you/berate you/try to drag you down – you’re the one in the driver’s seat. Never let someone strip you of that power. You are incredible, no matter how you might feel right now.

Buxom Cosmetics

You have your whole future ahead of you, to make of it what you will.

And that, that is truly empowering. I promise you.

But sometimes it’ll be lonely – which is okay. Hit me up on Instagram if you want to talk things through – even though I graduated years ago, I believe in helping those who need it.

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Coronavirus Policy Inequality

South Africa’s military-patrolled lockdown conjures up Apartheid aggression

Imagine it is 1952 in South Africa. A Black woman is hired as a domestic worker for measly pay by a white family. Every day she travels on foot from her township home to her employee’s home in an affluent suburb. One day, however, she forgets her ‘dompas’. A familiar police officer dressed in blue stops her close to her destination. He demands the paperwork that she does not have on her. “He should know me though,” she thinks to herself, “I’ve travelled this path every day for the past few years.” There is no further discussion. He merely grabs her by the arm and throws her to the ground while screaming slurs. A van pulls up and she is flung inside the back of it. She is arrested for being Black in a white space.

These stories seemed like exaggerated creative tales of a time long past. Apartheid is at times spoken about as if it happened centuries ago. Yet, the democracy I currently live in is only 26 years old. In the age of COVID-19, it is an unfortunate fact that we are hearing reports of the occurrence of similar police brutality. The circumstances are different – elitism, instead of racism, is the spurring factor. However, the underlying aggression faced during apartheid is now resurfacing (or perhaps was always present but is now more blatant than ever).

South Africa is currently in a military-patrolled lock down to slow the spread of COVID-19. It began on Thursday, 26 March 2020 at 23:59 and was intended to last for three weeks. It has since been extended for another two weeks, then reduced to a level 4 lockdown as of the 1st of May, with certain restrictions loosened such as the allowance of food deliveries. The South African National Defence Force and the South African Police Service have been deployed to patrol the streets to enforce the rules of this lock down. With this decision, the government inadvertently reintroduced apartheid aggression within the public.

As reported by UN News, the Director of Field Operations and Technical Cooperation for the UN Human Rights Office, Georgette Gagnon, has spoken out against South Africa’s “heavy-handed” and “highly militarised” security response to the virus: “We’ve received reports of disproportionate use of force by security officers, particularly in poor and informal settlements,” she said. “Rubber bullets, tear gas, water guns and whips have been used to enforce social distancing in shopping lines…and outside their homes.”

During apartheid, in keeping with their agenda of racial segregation, there was a formation of ‘townships’ – a section of society allocated for the residence of people of color located a distance away from white areas. The entire non-white urban population was forced to live in townships through the enforcement of the Group Areas Act of 1950. If a person of color was found in a white area without a ‘dompas’ (a document proving that a person was a worker needed in a white area),  severe punishments such as beatings and imprisonment were carried out.

This system of housing carried over into post-apartheid South Africa. Many poverty-stricken people (55% as of 2015 according to SA’s Poverty Trends in South Africa report), due to generational poverty, continue to live in these townships. And with 79% of the population comprised of black people, townships mainly house this race group. Thus, this becomes a calculated move to separate poor black people from rich white people.

In the age of Covid-19, this national lockdown has called for the public to remain indoors. But this is not as simple for township residents as it is for others. Townships consist of small, unhygienic, and architecturally poor infrastructure. Large families physically cannot quarantine themselves in small spaces. Furthermore, many of these families’ incomes have been stripped due to the closing of businesses. With people starving, the idea of them leaving their homes in search of food is not an unrealistic one.

This rehashing of apartheid aggression through police brutality appears when people leave their homes. Once again, economic injustices sustain social injustices. There have been multiple reports on how police brutality is on the rise during this unsettling time in our lives. As reported by IOL, “According to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) statistics, there have been two deaths in police custody…The stats also indicated that there were 11 cases of discharging an official firearm and 14 cases of torture, assault and corruption. There is also one case of rape by a police official.”

Such a case illustrating police brutality is that of Collins Khosa. He was a resident of the township of Alexandra in Johannesburg, who was beaten to death by soldiers in April 2020 during the lockdown. Khosa’s life partner explained that the now-deceased victim was not breaking any lockdown regulations when soldiers confronted him for drinking an alcoholic beverage in his own yard. He was subsequently assaulted while officers of the Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) stood by and “facilitated” the soldiers’ assault on Khosa, according to court papers. He later died in his bed as a result of blunt force trauma.

It is an inconvenient truth for many South Africans to face, however, the feeling of apartness between citizens of our country still lingers even after 26 years of democracy. Whether it be due to racism, sexism or elitism, South Africa faces many socio-political issues that arise due to a system of segregation that has yet to be dismantled.