Sorry Not Sorry that I am Harping on the Disenfranchisement and Death of People

Writing
Have had multiple left-leaning activists try to silence me, since it seems it will continue and I have more important things to do, I’d thought I’d make some general statements so that you all will step your game up and at least make it  interesting for me.
 
 

The following are pretty representative of the kind of messages I get on the regular.


“I’m not trying to shut you up but I don’t understand why you harping about class so much, aren’t there more important things?”

“Aren’t you engaged in class warfare?”

“I think poor white people should just stop whining”

“We understand you are emotional right now, should you be writing this stuff?”

“Most people already understand this stuff, do you need to keep talking about it?”

 


Here is my response:

        1) I’m not just trying to reach the people you think are worthy of speaking to, and that construction is so elitist, I suggest you reflect on it for a while.

         2) I’m “harping” on it because I am still seeing Establishment elites making that claim and the problem with that claim (AS I HAVE MADE CLEAR THROUGHOUT MY WRITING) is that it lets the rich have a scapegoat and lets them off the hook for what they did to us. It also provides the left with a nice bit of schadenfreude when they see Trump fucking over the poor, which makes them feel like they don’t have to actually help those people, even though those people are dying. I know this because I’ve seen them post a bunch of times about how funny it is that we will suffer under Trump, and they continue to do so. I explain all of this in these posts.

         3)  If you REALLY cared about bringing socialism to the people you’d spend your time doing what I do, which is trying to help poor whites understand that they are ALSO oppressed and need to work with their families and neighbors to challenge the power structure. The fact that you self identify as a leftist but don’t get why that matters suggests to me that maybe you should be spending some more time learning from me and reading and a little less time gaslighting me and wasting my time. And I will add that NONE of you has been a more successful activist than me, so I’m not sure why so many people assume they have the right to tell me what to do.  I don’t try to go around bragging about my accomplishments because it wasn’t how I was raised, but I challenge you to find someone our age on the left that has done more work to successfully challenge the power structure. Maybe instead of lecturing the person who made it possible to talk about class on elite campuses, and the person who demonstrated the ability to close the achievement gap with culturally relevant pedagogy, and the one person that came from the poor that also has the research and analytical abilities to lay this all out, you should try to learn from me. You know why I’m not a household name? I was so surgical with stuff at Stanford that no one even knew what I did until they started researching my work years later. If you graduated any time after 2006, and you are first generation or low income at an elite institution, there is one direct line you can trace back to the supports you have now. And like all the roads in Rome they lead to one bad bitch. The reason you don’t know this is because I do my work to empower others and get stuff done, not to be cool on social media. Still don’t believe me? Go say my maiden name on the Stanford campus to any administrator that was there between 2006-210. My actual students will happily vouch for the rest. So please stop telling me what to do, unless you are, I dunno, Pope Francis or something.
               4) I’m a big girl and I’ll decide what is worth my time, if the left doesn’t like it I guess they can try a little harder to silence me, because these bullshit little messages that attempt to guilt me aren’t working. You want to actually help the poor? Then maybe you should be doing something worth your time, and actually help us when we speak instead of telling me how to talk.
            5) I’m talking about this because the media narrative matters and it matters that we have evidence. For many years, rich people have heard what I said and denied it with the words, “but you don’t have evidence.” Considering that we are talking about the death and disenfranchisement of people, I’d say that’s a pretty distasteful response. Now I have the evidence and they can’t deny it on empirical grounds so what do they do instead. They gaslight me and then try to co-opt me by turning my focus elsewhere. One wonders what could possibly be more important than getting to vote and not dying, but let’s talk about what a dick Trevor Noah is instead.
       6) I’m glad you have finally come to understand my value in solving other problems, perhaps if you had made such an offer sooner and had offered me math and science classes in high school that co-option strategy might have worked. Unfortunately, we are far past that point and I’ll write about whatever I want. Because the day that Trump got elected on your watch was the day a new sheriff came to town and she is a harpy cunt who doesn’t care what you think.






        

     In the efforts to gaslight me, some have asked if I am stressed. OF COURSE I’m stressed, I’m a human being and not a robot. You’d be stressed too if you were trying to do all this stuff with what is going on in the world. But let me tell you something else, I’ve always been stressed. The last nine months were the first time I experienced life that wasn’t stressful. So I’ve been stressed the whole time and you know what? I’ve managed to accomplish quite a lot in that time.
        You don’t think I was stressed when my 3 grandparents died my senior year and I still managed to get FLIP off the ground, put on a theatrical production, graduate with a high GPA and speak at a pro-immigration rally? That was pretty stressful. Going to school hungry as a kid after having not slept so I could protect my body was pretty stressful too.  Closing the achievement gap and teaching anti-racist pedagogy at a title one school while my body literally fell apart was also stressful. I’ve been stressed and I’ve still managed to do lots of things very successfully. So if you are really concerned about my stress you will fight with me to change those things because no one should ever have to be under the stress I’m under and then have to contend with the feelings of the people who supposed to helping her on top of it.
       I posted this knowing there would be social costs for a reason. One, I wanted you all to finally see the kinds of messages I receive on a near daily basis. The left has gotten away with doing these things because I have taken their bullshit for the team, but it has become quite clear to me that they don’t care about the team at all and that they don’t deserve to be in charge. I kept silent about the voting suppression that happened in the primaries during the general election at the request of other leftists. I’ve been quiet about class because other leftists told me I was racist otherwise. I have kept my mouth shut about the sexual harassment and abuse that left leaning partners and classmates have done to me over the years to help keep the team together. I’m not doing it anymore, I’m not backing down and I’m not shutting up.
          Someone complained that I don’t provide actionable solutions, so I’d like to take the time to re-state some possible solutions that are a better use of your time than telling me how to talk.
1) Feeding the homeless
2) Learning from the homeless, from the poor, from women, from Black people, first nations, and queer people
3) Elevating those voices by promoting them where and when you can and that includes social media but also at the dinner table
4) Spreading and shouting the truth and learning to be open to criticism
5) Reading
7) Reading to illiterate adults and kids
8) Calling the women in your life to telling them you value and love them and will fight Trump’s assault on them
9) Supporting progressive businesses with your money
10) Helping to organize unions
11) Helping to organize the working classes and giving them the opportunity to be read and heard.
12) Getting involved in local civic organizations
13) Learning about local politics and becoming engaged in them
14) Talking to vets and listening to them, then lobbying your politicians to meet their needs
15) Organizing or participating in boycotts
16) Focusing on raising your kids to be better people and to be strong enough people to make the world better than the one we are giving them
17) Volunteer in classrooms, help teachers with the grunt work of teaching, advocate for higher pay
18) Demanding affordable housing
19) Fighting for paid leave for all
20) Working to change male culture so that we have healthy masculinity and men worthy of the title “American.”

 

                You don’t get to kill and exploit us and then tell us when we can talk about it. My friends don’t treat me this way and I don’t care about your opinion. If you want to be down for the struggle ahead and you aren’t already on the team or poor, you are going to have to do A LOT of work to prove yourself to me and my people. I don’t trust you and I don’t know why you think you deserve it. You’ve been drunk at the wheel for years and I learned that you can’t trust delusional alcoholics to act like adults. I suggest that you recognize how effective it is for you to keep talking and shut up until you are ready to help us.
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How To Be Healthier*

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*Spoiler alert, it involves people having more resources.

Unless your mother was some kind of kitchen Goddess who didn’t work, if you are poor, chances are fairly good that you have pretty limited access to healthy food. Unless you somehow attended a really great school or maybe if you were lucky enough to live in a major city, chances are also fairly decent you didn’t have the ability to exercise either (those of you who think walking is “free” and “easy” have never been a young teen girl in the hood). The end result of these two conditions being that there is a high risk of obesity. Now, if on top of those two things you also had a physical disability like I do, it’d be pretty easy to understand how I gained so much weight after I got injured and was no longer teaching. And gain weight I did. I won’t be posting any numbers of how much I weighed and lost because 1) this isn’t about that and 2) I haven’t owned a scale but in the intervening time between this year and the last I went from a size 16 to a 6 bordering on a 4. Considering that a year and half ago, I was in a wheel-chair this is somewhat miraculous so I wanted to talk about how I did it because the context matters.

I’m physically healthier and in less pain, which was my goal but I’m not going to pretend I’m not vain and a saint and don’t appreciate the side benefit of how much better I’m treated when I’m thin. So how did I do it?

The answer all people will tell you is hard work, discipline and routine and those are all true in my case. I built an exercise routine that I am now in the habit of that was safe for me and I watched what, how much and where I was eating.

But this oversimplifies and obscures the discussion, making it easy to dismiss things like “food deserts” and “access to resources” with lectures about trying super hard.

What I did anyone could do with enough time and money, but I would never have been able to do it, if I didn’t get out of teaching and North Highlands.

Why?

1) I had to have access to good food and transportation. The nearest grocery store with lots of produce is several miles away and I was too sick to manage the shopping and cooking, making me reliant on others and what was available, which was mostly processed food.

2) I literally did not have anywhere to really maintain yoga or walk to in North Highlands

3) My stress levels needed to decrease for my pain to decrease for me to exercise, which wasn’t going to happen with the way I was living.

4) I didn’t have access to pain management and medical care that allowed me to exercise.

5) I now have access to medical marijuana, which allowed me to get off the opiates, which has allowed me to exercise and eat better as well as solving most of my stomach issues. 

Now that I’m able to actually “take a break” (thanks to the socialism of marriage) and have access to all the food and medical care I need, I’m able to be healthier, in less pain, and happier with myself. But we never talk about the context that is required to achieve that goal or the fact that it’s a collosal waste to have people like me suffering when they could be functional and healthy. And it’s also a very costly one, because so many of my catastrophic injuries and problems could have been avoided with access to resources, thereby decreasing the burden of my medical costs.

And here’s the fun secret: there’s really no reason we can’t all have these things. We just choose not to evaluate how we design out cities, provide medical care or distribute food. 

Or we can keep shaming people on the Internet. That seems to be working.

Why I Never Cry

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My mother used to laugh at me when I cried. Weakness was the cardinal sin in the house. Before you think my mother is a monster, you should know the reasons. My mom was afraid, afraid that her sweet, sensitive, intellectual daughter would get eaten alive in a cold world that had eaten her alive. She did what she thought she had to do to save me from a world that would punish me for weakness, for tears, for over sensitivity. I look back on this now and it is easy to be angry, I’m angry for every tear I never got to shed and for the years I’ve spent thinking of myself as cold, unfeeling, and indestructible. I’m angry that those words came to define me more than my intelligence, or my kindness or my deep sense of loyalty and love for others. But most of all, I’m angry because I can’t tell my mother she was wrong. The world was every bit as cold and unfeeling and dark as she made it out to be and I needed to be strong enough to survive. But most of all, I’m angry because instead of working towards creating a world where she would have been wrong I’ve been simultaneously encouraged to be tough and unfeeling while having my anger thrown back in my face as some sort of explanation for the cold world I was facing.

 

As a little girl, I used to walk around after the rainstorms and pick up worms and put them back in the ground. Teachers often put their most challenging students next to me because they knew I’d help without judgment. I readily went hungry to feed other kids. I cried at the end of books like the Outsiders and I hated bullies with a passion. This is the part of me that I’ve always loved more, that I’ve always wanted to just be able to inhabit at all times. But I didn’t have that option because I was born a soldier in a war against my own people and I don’t just mean poor people, I also mean people who feel things and intellectuals, and artists. People who are different. People for whom this is going to ring painfully true. I mean the war the hunts the better angels of our nature and calls hope unrealistic. I didn’t ask to be a soldier in that war. Had I been born into circumstances where I didn’t have to fight, I’d be sitting in a science lab somewhere peacefully living my life with calmness and joy. Instead I’ve spent the last 28 years holding back tears and playing the role of the warrior and I’ve done a damn good job, I know because some people have gotten the mistaken impression that this is all that I am and that this is what I want.

 

I often wish now that I had the capacity to make my emotions visible, because then maybe people would have known when I was struggling. Then maybe I could have demonstrated my human failings. Then maybe I wouldn’t be so tired from having to act all of the time. People are surprised when I need help, people will often push me past my limits because my pain isn’t visible to them, they don’t see the way I’ve been trained like Pavlov’s dogs to fear demonstrations of weakness. They don’t know how many times my sweet, vulnerable, sensitive nature has been violated, destroyed, and mocked. They don’t know how exhausting it is to keep lugging this sword everywhere. They haven’t had to pick up the pieces when I’ve needed help. They haven’t had to rock me to sleep or get me through my panic attacks. And they don’t know that I’ve been hiding all of this not for my benefit but for everyone else’s. Because what happens when I have opened up? When I tell people about my life and what I’ve been through, it causes them pain. It makes them uncomfortable. It is hard for them to hear. It makes them feel bad. So I hide everything to avoid being a burden to anyone, because I’ve existed in a world where I have to justify my existence. I have to be of some use or I risk losing everything because I have been entitled to nothing.

 

So they say I have a bad temper. They talk to me about my language instead of asking how I’m doing. They pick fights with me without considering how much I need to hear something positive. They tear me down to build themselves up. They assume that I don’t need to hear anything positive because I’m so strong, I must already know! They think this is fun for me. That this constant struggle is a lifestyle I enjoy that is a completely authentic choice. I didn’t get the choice about my activism, I had to do it to survive in a system that’s been trying to kill me since I was born. They call me a bitch. They expect me to have perfect super human strength at all times. They demand I do things they themselves can’t do. Then they question my sanity instead of questioning the sanity of the world that made someone so sensitive so shut down.

 

And this is one thing when the “they” don’t know me. When they know me from my writing or the internet or when they have just met me, but what hurts the most is the people who do know me. The people who have watched me bend over backwards and sacrifice my body for my students. The people who I have cared for, the people I have fought for, the people I have tried to protect. It’s the people who I have seen me with animals and with books in my quiet hours who haunt me the most. Because I know they love me, but they don’t love the part of me that needs to be fed because that person stands at odds with the person they need me to be and they haven’t considered what I need.

 

But I can’t be that person anymore, because that person was destroying herself. What I can be is wonderfully loving, gentle and kind. Maybe that’s the only way to do my part to make it such that little girls don’t have to be told their sweeter nature is a life threatening liability.

A Short, Noncomprehensive List of Taboo Jokes that I Find Funny

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Recently, someone mistook me for a fascist and questioned whether or not my social justice values somehow were mutually exclusive with having a sense of humor. I find this to be a disgusting allegation that I refuse to stand for, so I present to you an bibliography of  just some of the jokes about race/gender/sexuality etc that I find funny.

 

Carlin breaks it all down for us

Louis CK explains white privilege

Paul Mooney educates the people

Key and Peele demonstrate the absurdity of Nazis

Key and Peele educate the masses

A PSA on assumptions and stereotypes from Key and Peele

Louis CK explains how real the struggle is

Amy Shumer and gangbang philosophy

Amy Shumer makes domestic violence funny

Monique, just generally being amazing

Basically the entire South Park collection but especially the last few seasons

Jessica Williams breaks down catcalling

 

I hope we’ve all learned an important lesson today. You can be funny without being an asshole. You can support social justice without banning speech, which is just being a different kind of asshole.

 

 

Playing Thought Police and Other Oppressive Ideas

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When there is a law on the books, this is an easy and measurable target to combat. When my great grandfather went to school, they could keep him out by virtues of laws targeted at Indians and mixed-raced kids, so they just got to keep him out of school legally. By the time I came around, they had to get more creative and do things like have counselors tell me I didn’t need to go to college and wrote complex, arcane zoning laws. Either way, we got locked out of education but the fight was different. It may seem that challenging that de jure is easier, or that this is a sign of a lack of progress but the simple fact remains that I graduated from Stanford, my great grandfather didn’t because the binds of culture don’t have the same enforcement power as the bounds of the law and the state. It may seem like police brutality has gotten worse, but so far as I can tell, it hasn’t changed in my mom’s lifetime. I mean, lynching was legal when my great grand-father was a kid. IT WAS LEGAL FOR PRIVATE CITIZENS TO HUNT DOWN AND PUBLICLY HANG THEIR NEIGHBORS. The sad fact is: that is the first time it’s felt like a viable target because things have changed so much. Many people had to fight over many generations to get rid of lynching and because of that we now actually ask ourselves whether its ok for the police to kill and especially disproportionately kill, poor people, for trumped up reasons. I, too, am deeply disturbed that it has taken this long. These de jure changes have only happened relatively recently and our culture reflects the fact that while extremely critical in shaping culture and bringing justice, changing the law is a necessary but insufficient condition for ideological liberation. Most of the work we are doing now is in this cultural realm, which is both less powerful and more nebulous to counteract, namely because it is really hard to make people think what you want them to think and its also ethically problematic to even try to do so and comes with the inherent risk of oppressing the thoughts of others.

 

So the question becomes, how do you effectively change culture without turning into some sort of Orwellian nightmare? The good news about cultural change is that unlike the laws, this is something over which each individual and collective has a say about because culture is essentially the things we do on a day to day basis to live our lives. Cultural change happens both at an elite level with scholarly work and at a sort of kitchen table level and its something that all people can exercise their agency in and for which all people can be included. So how do you change the thoughts so that expression changes in a way that’s empowering, rather than oppressive? Well, how do we shape thought now? How do we socialize humans to have certain beliefs, practices and expressions? We need to take a human and raise them to be a certain kind of human. Sounds kind of a lot like education, doesn’t it?

 

Here’s the secret about really good activism: we all have to be educators. Harriet Tubman said, “I freed a thousand slaves and I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.” Changing the thoughts of both the masses of people and the ruling classes are essential to any liberation, but it turns out that there are some really good ways to teach and socialize and that we know a lot about this because our species is uniquely good at it. I did this at a professional level as a government and history teacher and I’ve learned some key things along the way.

 

  • You cannot control the thoughts of others
    • I know you want to. I know it would be easier. I know it is frustrating and exhausting but its not going to happen. Even under the Nazis people resisted, and we don’t want to be Nazis. Some people, like myself, will resist attempts to control thought on the principle of the matter regardless of what the rest of the belief system is.

 

  • People don’t learn to change thoughts and thought patterns without a whole lot of trust, love and respect
    • I wouldn’t let someone who I didn’t think trusted, loved or respected me play around with my mind either and I certainly wouldn’t trust an abuser’s opinion on politics

 

  • Although you cannot control the thoughts of others, the thoughts of others will surprise you in really wonderful ways
    • I’ve seen racist, aggressive little white boys turn into little mini-Howard Zinn’s in a semester in classes with 35 kids. I’ve seen kids who were illiterate and easily tricked into bad behavior by their horrible classmates become well spoken and confident individuals in a year and I’ve watched a large number of quiet Latina girls become not-so quiet Latina boss bitches. My babies are ridiculous but here’s the fun fact about them: they weren’t special and they are everyone’s babies, your babies are ridiculous too. The trick is though, that you have to believe that about them before they will believe it about themselves. That’s part of leadership. Trust the people.

 

  • You can love people for who they are, or you can hate them for who they are not

 

  • People are actually really good at identifying bad logic
    • Most people just don’t know this is what they are doing because they haven’t been given the academic vocabulary to identify it, but when someone says something didn’t “feel right” about an ad or argument, what they mean is that they identified a strand of shitty logic, when you give people the vocabulary to identify it they do with stunning accuracy. Even 15 year olds.
    • If you violate the trust of the person who you are trying to educate by using misleading or poor reasoning they are either going to lose respect for you, thereby meaning you will never be in the educator position again OR they will assume you don’t respect them and they will stop listening. This is a good human trait; we should be glad that people intuitively don’t trust bad logic.

 

  • All cultural production is a form of argumentation
    • This is a broader philosophical point, but my point here is that our actions and expression reflect our beliefs unless we are talking about basic survival. It’s the moment when we have choices that we start exercising our belief systems. As one small example, everything that currently sits in my shower is “organic” and “natural”, I blame this on sensitive skin, but I also just get to exercise my preference for ethical companies with my purchases (and presently have the freedom and privilege to do so). This fact becomes even more obvious when we talk about the things like writing and music that we typically think of as high culture. If artistic production weren’t reflective of belief systems, you wouldn’t have people studying the humanities.

 

  • If you can’t support your argument with good logic, including evidence and reasoning you don’t have an argument
    • This was a classroom rule and the thing that kids most feared I’d find in their papers. But it stems from this, if I can’t explain why my ideas are the best and why I deserve leadership then I lack the legitimacy to be in that position and my arguments aren’t as good as I think they are. The Catholic Church thought they were doing the right thing too, which is why it was so dangerous that they punished people who questioned their actions because it made it much easier to do the wrong thing. Mao thought the Great Leap Forward was going awesomely because his underling feared the consequences of questioning the party line. Worst. Famine. In. Human. History.

 

Taking all these points together, I hope you see where I am going with this. We need to focus our efforts on positively changing thought patterns and empowering people to do so. This makes us educators, and we fortunately actually have a lot of knowledge about how to socialize people. People will be able to make up their own minds when they’ve been given the habits of mind and information to do so and we can help facilitate that by making sure that the arguments we make are as tight and widespread as possible while resisting the urge to call for thought police.

 

Seriously. I see any calls for thought police and that’s when I start to worry that I need to leave the culture.

It never ends well for those of us who question things.

Social Change Requires Love

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Growing up I was something of a freak of nature trying to fit into a world that really wasn’t designed for me. Because of my family situation, I learned quickly that I was reliant on the generosity of others and this posed a pretty serious problem. Humans don’t seem to be designed to accept freaks of nature, it is the unknown and I was scary. So I had to be kind, I had to be soft and I had to be willing to see the beauty in everyone around. A sense of superiority was not an option and I was quick to disabuse people of the notion that I thought highly of myself. What resulted was a complicated status, I was the friendly and lovable alien with tech secrets. In this role, in having to find ways to connect with people, I ended up doing a lot of teaching. People trusted me more than their teachers in a lot of cases. If you had a question, you asked the walking enclicylopedia. I learned that people genuinely don’t know anything beyond what they are taught by their limited interactions with adults, and that adults are just the sum of their limited knowledge. I learned that most people were malleable and that when they believed something wrong, it was not willful ignorance in most cases and that in most of those cases where it was, the willful part came from pain. With the exception of those with real power who stand to gain from falsehoods and who have control over culture, most people just need to be taught differently.

I took a US history class while I was at Stanford that was popular with non-history majors. One day we were talking about why learning history mattered and I said that it served as the foundation of culture. I pointed out that the Black Panthers weren’t in U.S. textbooks and someone was appalled that I suggested they should be. And all across America millions of kids were never being given the option to make that decision. History is one of the most regulated and fiercely fought over areas of K12 education and for good reason, it has the potential to be the most subversive and most destructive subject because it is the subject through which we learn who we are as a culture. History has always served this function, the Bible is a collection of histories constructed to tell people where they came from and where they are going, that’s why access to the Bible and reading brought about the Enlightment, because for the first time people had the choice in how they interpreted source material. History teaches us citizenship and values. And most people never get to take it a level where they learn that it is a construct, so they learn to see the histories they are given access to as immutable.

Racism is a construct, that’s what it means to be an -ism. It is a world view about how the world works and should work. It is a lot easier to get people go along with your ideology if they are taught that it is just “nature” and are never exposed to the fact that people constructed it. Institutions reflect our beliefs, so by the time most people become adults, they’ve been indoctrinated at every level to believe in particular ideologies. Adults can relearn but 18 years of programming is hard to undo, much harder than simply changing the culture and education at an earlier age.

As I entered the classroom I met kids who had been indoctrinated with a lot beliefs and a lot of kids said, “well, no one explained it to us before.” Maybe if you had met some of my white boys before they met me you would have railed against them, calling them bad people and lecturing them on how evil and ignorant they are and they, out of natural self preservation would have rejected you. But I didn’t approach my work that way, they were all my babies, equally innocent, equally in need of love. I repeated over and over again:

“This isn’t your fault. You didn’t create this, but my job is to prepared you for the world you enter. To give you the information so you can make the choice. It is your choices that matter.”

I never met a kid who left my class ignorant and several of the kids, whose views I vehemently opposed personally when I met them are now hardcore activists in college and life. And the lesson here is that the ideologies we are fighting against can be beaten, that most people are good people and that education is critical.

But the lesson here is also that love is critical in the work we do. And so the fiery militant became a loving teacher and in that sense, my children gave me more than I could ever give them. And I’m hoping that you will take what I’ve learned and learn it sooner and faster than I did and spread the word.

Because if we had an army of lovers the conversation would change much more rapidly that any of us can imagine.

When you encounter someone who is ignorant, embrace them, love them in the way they should been loved and weep at their chains until they can unlock themselves, because love is really the most powerful force I’ve ever seen.

How to become revolutionary

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We need to have some clarity about our goals. The goal of social justice is to work to end human suffering and ensure equity of opportunity. The goal is not to get a resume boost, or to fulfill some inane rite of passage in college or to get revenge on anyone. If those things are your motivation then you aren’t fighting for social justice. Our responsibility is to be aware of when and where people are going hungry, facing violence, denied opportunity or sick without care. It doesn’t matter what the person looks like, talks like, acts like, or who or what they identify with, if they are suffering our job is to investigate the reasons and try to alleviate it. The vast majority of people on this earth are suffering and sometimes they don’t look, talk, or think the way you expect. That’s because the vast majority of people at elite American universities (the kind that construct culture and knowledge) are not people who have suffered. And I don’t mean in the sense that they don’t look like people that have disproportionately suffered in this country, you have to have actually suffered or been denied access to count. There should be no more taking on experiences that you don’t actually have. If you haven’t suffered or been denied access then you are privileged in this world.
The role of government is to ensure that we can collectively take better care of each other in an organized fashion than we could living on our own. If the government isn’t doing that, it’s not doing it’s job and we should work to reform it. But that doesn’t make government inherently bad, I don’t want to live in a place where there is just chaos and neither do you. So maybe lay off the promotion of anarchy, it’s just stupid.

The most important thing I learned from history is that there are universal lessons that can be drawn to learn about human behavior but that it’s impossible to graph history onto to now. We are not living in the time of slavery or the antebellum south, this isn’t Jim Crow. Injustice now is happening now and we need to deal with the particulars of it, and also to acknowledge and celebrate our successes. To make the claim that nothing has changed is not only stupid, it is also insulting to those who came before you. You don’t need to take a history of injustice and graph it onto another to legitimize it, injustice is injustice and telling the real story of it is sufficient.

History and life experience have taught me how much I can’t know and how much what I read can be wrong. What we learn in classrooms often only reflects the known reality of teachers and those teachers are rarely truly representative of the world. You should be suspicious of all knowledge and quick to listen to others whose experience differs from yours. You have so much to learn and you will for the rest of your life, and if you cut yourself off to knowledge now, cut yourself off from anything that doesn’t reflect your worldview you are going to be blind to a wide portion of the world. We have to all stop rejecting anything that disagrees with us without investigating it but most importantly, we have to stop punishing those in the community who question or think differently than us. When we do that, when we control stories and speakers we don’t like but who come to us from a place of seeking justice, we are no better than the oppressors. I’m not asking you to listen to privileged douchbags who promote Ayn Rand, though you should listen to them so we can effectively counter their arguments, but I’ve seen people and I have personally, been ignored or demeaned in the social justice community because the party line was questioned.

We are exercising our intellectual privilege in a way that is destructive. We need to work to practice what we preach everyday. For me, free speech, maintaining the values of the Enlightenment is the best way to ensure justice. And I’m not Eurocentric about that, as you look through history the strongest societies are those that value reason and truth, if we misuse statistics or intentionally deceive, even when it furthers our cause, it is wrong. And it won’t serve us in the end because it will just give the people who don’t want us to succeed more fodder to challenge us. But also, it just creates an environment where we can’t see what is actually going on because people will be scared to contradict us. It also makes it such that we will miss out on the best ideas and creativity because that only happens in an open environment, and if we are not open minded the creative minds will go elsewhere. It is fundamentally conservative to demand that people stick to the party line.

  • Now, the world is complex and we need experts, I happen to be most knowledgeable about class and particularly poor white people and living in multi-cultural suburban ghettos but that doesn’t mean that I believe that the people I am most knowledgeable about and closely tied to deserve anymore help than anyone else whose suffering and I’m not going to sacrifice the well being of others to serve my group. I have a responsibility to fight for injustice without regard for the identity of sufferer. I am not going to take food from one starving group to feed another and if you are making people starve for any reason you are in fact part of the problem. Making other people starve or suffer to benefit your group is not a revolution, it is just more of the same. Real solidarity means that we fight to end suffering and inequity for ALL people.

Ok, but how are we going to do that? We need to do it in an organized fashion because our goal is not to prove how clever we are or that we are super revolutionary but to get those nice people who are just trying to go about their day to care enough to make life difficult for those people who actually have the power to do anything. You don’t do that by burning things down in most cases. Which is also destructive and unhelpful for the children who live in that community. I know because I’ve been that child and I’ve been around those children my whole life. No child has ever been uplifted by violence and no community is built by violence. Violence is traumatizing and I find it ridiculous that a group of adults can say to children, “hey it’s ok, we were mad” as an explanation for mass violence.

You also don’t make things better by inconveniencing, nice, working class people if they or the thing you are disrupting isn’t the problem. If BART is racially segregated then you should protest BART. If you want to protest Caltrain because it’s crazy expressive and it only exists because people in Atherton are racist and classist, then be my guest. If the freeway is part of an apartheid regime and you want to hold it up then have at it. However, if these things have nothing to do with the problem at hand and you are just protesting on them because you are starting the revolution or whatever then you need to stop. In the case of police shootings, police and the communities they think they work for are the problem, so maybe protest outside police stations, or the capital where drug laws are made (and if you aren’t fighting in part to end the war on drugs, you need to stop until you understand why you need to be doing that) or outside Lulelemon or for the love of god, at least have the decency to shut down the 280. We’ve reached this point where we read a little bit about the Civil Right’s movement of the 50s and 60s and copy something and think we are done. But that movement was disciplined and organized and cared about being effective and their audience. When the problem was the buses they protested the buses. When the problem was interstate travel, where they were literally banned from traveling interracially, they protested interstate travel. Right now, the problem is the cops, so maybe we should be focused on getting that message out instead of worrying about what is going to be cool on TV and Twitter.

And let’s get clear about something else. You are not revolutionaries. You are not changing the world with your protest. At best, you are making things a little bit better in your corner of the universe. If you assume anymore than that not only will your precious heart be broken but you will be insulting the people who matter. You will be insulting the community you claim to be fighting for because they’ve been fighting this their whole lives without a choice. You will be insulting the people that quietly do the hard work day in and day out, the stuff you never hear about, that never shows up on Twitter. The people who heal the sick, feed the hungry and educate the children everyday who are never acknowledged and who don’t have time to show up to your protest because they are working. Real social change is hard and takes time and dedication, it means that you have to accept defeat every single day no matter how bad things get and still get up in the morning and try again. Protests can help, and some protests can be wildly effective but even the Montgomery bus boycott took a year of planning and a year of execution. They aren’t really going to change anything overnight and especially when they are aimless and poorly organized and just inconveniencing the people you are supposedly trying to help. Poor people, the kind who are most likely to face police violence ride the BART and drive the 101 and the I-80. They take those modes of transport after long days of feeding people, maybe even the kids at Berkeley and Stanford, and healing the sick, and teaching and keeping the city going while you tell people how cool you are on Twitter. Now all you’ve done is pissed them off, how likely do you think it is that they are going to take you seriously when you walk into their community and talk about revolution? The problem isn’t the people on the 101, the problem is people in rich areas like Atherton, Palo Alto, and the surrounding areas of the Berkeley campus, who day in and day out decide that they would rather have more than any human being could possibly use while other people around them go hungry. And if you learned that, the poor would trust you a lot more and then you could roll up your sleeves and do the hard work everyday to make things a little bit better and plant and tend seeds that will someday, if you are lucky, if they survive the winter and people trying to cut things down, help to really change something. Then, when you are focused solely on ending suffering and ensuring equal opportunity, and you do the hard work every day without hope of reward, and you’ve done it for a long time, then maybe you can call yourself revolutionary.

There is NO Excuse for Being a Douche- A Cheeky Title for a Serious Thought

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“Heather, you have to remember that everyone around you is wounded and suffering.”

“So am I and I don’t treat people like shit.”

“Yeah, but not everyone’s brain works like yours.”

I have a firm and deep commitment to the belief that nothing justifies treating each other poorly. In fact, I believe that if humanity shifted its thinking from “I was hurt so I’m going to hurt others” to understanding that nothing justifies hurting each other the world would be a different place. But when I first heard this from my own mother as she rationalized the abuse my family had put me through over the years I was stopped in my tracks. This happens to me a lot, the discussion gets ended because my brain is not replicable, but the thing is, I don’t believe that my brain has anything to do with it. It makes it easier for me to process pain, for me to reach the right conclusions faster but it also makes it easier for me to rationalize my own evil behavior. How do I know? Because of my mom. I’m not saying my mom is evil, but I am saying that she has made a lot of choices out of spite that hurt people and my mom is incredibly gifted, maybe not to the degree I am but she is a member of MENSA. History is littered with brilliant people who did very bad things to each other. The reason I’ve reached these conclusions has a lot to do with being very systematically oppressed for most of my life and my gentle nature, but I am human and I have a dark side too and when I had to face that piece of myself I realized that I had a choice. I chose the better angel of my nature. That is a choice that we all can make and must make if we ever want to move forward as a society.

I’m not saying that I don’t understand anger, and how abuse and oppression warps the soul. I understand it to a level that few will ever know, because I saw it personally when I was a child. I have great compassion for people who have suffered and their anger. But at the end of the day, we still have to hold people accountable because it is still a choice. There are so many problems on this earth because people are trying to act out their suffering on each other instead of trying to heal. The abuse, oppression and the pain I have suffered makes me angry, and I’m not sorry for that. Anger is not inherently bad, there are things it would be nuts to be not be angry about, but our response to anger can be good or bad and it is a choice. It’s not an easy choice, but it is still a choice.

My stepdad left a note this week explaining that he’s been yelling about me and kicking me out because he has “a chip on his shoulder.” You see, my family has come to expect me to accept whatever they dish out, because for a very long time I thought it was my job to absorb all anger because I have a larger capacity than they do, but the problem with this is that it is destroying me, healing no one, and is what keeps us in the endless cycle of poverty and drug addiction. I know too that my brain has very little to do with it because there is another one of me in my family, my brother. My brother is very intelligent and artistically talented, and he was severely abused when were kids, especially by my older sister who took her anger out on us. My brother and I both have made the decision to not allow our pain to be an excuse to hurt others and our brains are very different. We are the members of the family that end up having to absorb everyone else’s suffering. This is what makes me not buy that it’s about intelligence, because everyone in my family is smart but two of us choose, consistently to be kind. It also sells everyone else short. It is oppression by virtue of low expectations. All of us have the capacity to do this and when we pretend we don’t we deny the best pieces of humanity, our free will. I’m not religious, but I do think that people misinterpret the phrase, “made in God’s image.” What this means is that we have the power to create, to choose our lives and society, to bring life into the world, and yes to destroy; it all comes down to what we decide to do with it.

I want to live in a world where people say , “bullshit” anytime someone tries to rationalize terrible behavior. There are moral absolutes. It is ALWAYS wrong to hurt innocent people. Can you imagine how different things would have turned out in Germany, if instead of saying, “our economy sucks, lets find a scapegoat and someone to take our anger out on” they had focused their resources on providing for everyone? Imagine how different the world would be if poor white people didn’t take their anger out on poor minorities, if wealthy minorities didn’t take their anger out on poor white people, if men didn’t take their anger out on women, and if parents never took their anger out on children. What would the world look like if we all adopted the ideology that hurting people isn’t ok and that there is no excuse for it? How different would things if we held each other accountable to treating each other well? If we accepted no rationalization for hurting people? There have been human beings around the world and throughout history who have done just that and they accomplished some of the greatest progressions in humanity. If people can do it during the Holocaust and slavery then you can do it too. We’ve been through worse than this and if some people hadn’t chosen to do the right thing we wouldn’t exist.

We are better than this and I don’t believe anyone who tells me otherwise. I believe that because I am alive, and a woman and I can vote, and I’m not an indentured slave, and I don’t work in a factory, and I have medical care, and if someone hurts me there are some pathways for recourse, and I received a free public education, and I went to Stanford. All of this is made possible by the people who came before me and said, “there is no excuse for dehumanization and I’m prepared to put myself on the line to prove it.” There is an accountability that is lost when people don’t live in communities. Where I come from, if your friend is doing something morally reprehensible you have an OBLIGATION to intervene, and that’s why my friend group is full of a bunch of kids who have been wounded but tried to make the best of it, because we don’t accept that from each other.

But if you are battling demons, and if you don’t have that community, and your brain isn’t mine and your life experience isn’t like mine what can you do? For me, when I want to learn, I do research, and I would suggest with starting with the biographies of some of the inspiring historical figures. If research isn’t your thing, then think about the people who have been kind in your life. Do they have pain? Yes. Are they still kind? Yes. Ask them why. Talk to people about that choice and how they overcome their suffering. Ask yourself what supports you need to be accountable? Talk to a therapist, or a priest, or a wise elder about it. Send me an email and I’ll set you straight myself. But above all else, don’t relinquish your humanity and sell yourself short by giving up on the best of yourself.