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The Next Generation


In September we brought over one thousand first year students (commonly called freshMEN at some institutions) to new student orientation.  I am part of a team of folks who teach the students about sexual violence, alcohol and diversity.  After viewing a theatrical performance, with actors who the students are allowed to question in character, the students break up into small groups with upper-class facilitators.

We gave them four scenarios to discuss if they were “bystanders” to each situation and how they would approach the situation using 3 “D’s”:  distract, direct, delegate.  One situation involved witnessing dating violence, another a potential sexual assault, another someone with potential alcohol poisoning and the last was overhearing a fellow student using the words “pussy” or “fag”.

What scenario do you think got the most push back by the incoming class?

The language one.  Many of our incoming students border between the Generation Y or Millennial generation and the new Generation Z.  Here are some comments on why THEY feel they should be able to use words like “pussy,” “fag,” and even the “n” word.

“If they say that word in a song, then I can use it.”

“It’s just a word, you shouldn’t be bothered by it.”

“Free speech.”

“I can say whatever I want.  If you’re offended, it’s not my problem.”

Boy, oh, boy have we got some learning to do!  These comments were very similar to the response to my Op-Ed, posted last week, about the Dartmouth High School mascot, the Indians.  One of the writers of their high school newspaper interviewed me about the controversy.  You can read it here.  Based on their responses to the reporter, it is clear that many of the students and some administrators are lacking in any type of social justice awareness.  No wonder the students entering as first year students don’t get language as powerful and potentially oppressive.  Their high schools could care less.

Why should I be surprised?  I learned absolutely nothing about racism, sexism, rape, etc. when I was in high school.  There was no critical analysis of the world’s problems.  I was taught what they thought every student needed to know to go to college.  Apparently not much has changed.  I have a good friend who is a high school history teacher and she constantly laments the lack of time she has to really teach young people the history of the world.  She showed them the movie Amistad and had  parents writing in complaining about how graphic it was.  It’s hard to teach about the enslavement of millions of people without being graphic.

I like to end my blog, in South Park style, with a suggestion on how we fix the problem, but in this case, I have no idea.  Transforming the K-12 educational curriculum needs to happen, particularly in respect to bullying, social justice issues, and sexual violence, but I have no idea where to start that movement.  I know that the Massachusetts Media Literacy Consortiumis working hard to get a media literacy curriculum into the K-12 school system, which would address some of those issues.

In the meantime, it’s up to parents to talk to their kids about this stuff.  If we are going to have an Indian mascot and no coursework on the Trail of Tears, we are leaving the student’s with only half of the story.

free versus  hate

Standard Times Op-Ed: End Use of Racial Slurs for Mascots

I was thrilled to get my second Op-Ed published in the New Bedford Standard Times.  

Football season: the time of year when racism gets blindly supported throughout the country. Two weeks ago, I noticed a picture of the Dartmouth High School mascot in the 99 Restaurant.  I posted on Facebook “How did I not know the Dartmouth High School mascot was the “Indians”? A former student responded that the Seekonk High School mascot, the “Warriors,” was also represented as an Indian head in traditional garb. I couldn’t believe it.

In Massachusetts, according to the New England Anti-Mascot Coalition, 43 schools have an Indian as their mascot, nickname or logo. This link provides a list of all New England schools with Indian mascots, approximately 91. ( The names of these mascots include Rangers, Tomahawks, Aztecs, Red Raiders, Warriors, Wamps, Chieftains, Sachems, Braves and Tewksbury Memorial High Schools offensive “Redmen and Lady Redmen.”

This is a timely conversation on the national stage. Announcers who work for CBS are boycotting the Washington Redskins name by refusing to use it during games. “Change the Mascot” is a national campaign to end the use of the racial slur “redskins” as the mascot and name of the NFL team in Washington, D.C.  Launched by the Oneida Indian Nation, the campaign calls upon the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell to do the right thing and bring an end to the use of the racial epithet.  A longtime NFL referee has been boycotting the Redskins, silently, for years, by asking not to be put on their games. “I think sometimes evolution is slow for some people,” he said. “But where else in America do you see that, though, the refusal to change? From Stanford on down, most everybody has changed from a derogatory name to one that is acceptable.” (

We know the slogan “think locally, act globally.”  This boycott with the NFL may not be a “global” action but it is a long overdue action. And if we can get behind these announcers, can we look in our own backyard at the institutional racism playing out in front of our children?

The word “Massachusetts” is an Algonquian Indian word from the Wampanoag word Massachuset, which means “by the range of hills.” The original inhabitants of Massachusetts were encompassed in three tribes, the Wampanoag (including the Massachusett, Nauset, Nantucket, Pennacook, Pokanoket, and Pocasset), the Mohegans (including the Nipmuc and Pequot) and the Mohican’s (including the Pocumtuc). What kind of respect do Massachusetts citizens give to their foremothers and forefathers, who lived here first, by using racist representations from the past? I shudder to imagine this same imagery being acceptable if it represented African-Americans. It wouldn’t be tolerated.

As a board member of the YWCA of Southeastern Massachusetts, our mission is to eliminate racism and empower women. One of the ways we work to eliminate racism is to talk about its harmful effects, to call it out where we see it, and to offer programs to help educate our community, like our racial justice and economic justice workshops. I struggle to see how an organization, like the YWCA, exists in a community that is using a traditional Indian headdress.

Please write to your local school boards, in Dartmouth and Seekonk, and ask them to find another mascot, one that does not offend and misrepresent a culture and a community of people who have endured enough misrepresentation.

Words are Hard to Come By

I want to write about Michael Brown and the struggle and strife in Ferguson, Missouri.  But words are hard to come by,  especially as a white person who cares deeply for social justice and hates racism.  But what can I say?  The police are racist?  That is not new information.  Black people are targeted by the criminal justice system?  That is not news, either.  The only good cops I know are the ones with a college degree.  Is that a bad thing to say?  I think all police should have degrees in sociology or psychology.  Much has been written on this topic, so I am going to include some other folks’ words that resonate with me.

USA Today reported that on average there were 96 cases of a white police officer killing a black person each year between 2006 and 2012, based on justifiable homicides reported to the FBI by local police.

 Blogger Eric Brewton, in his blog “The Game is Rigged in Ferguson,” writes

“It was Wilson who pulled his police issued revolver and fired anywhere between five and seven shots at an unarmed Michael Brown, killing him while his hands were in the air in a show of surrender. It was Wilson’s police chief Tom Jackson who took the first step towards putting Brown on trial by releasing a convenient store surveillance tape that showed the eighteen year old swiping cheap cigars and shoving a store clerk who tried to stop him just minutes before his death. It was Jackson who admitted that there was no link between that robbery and Brown’s deadly encounter with Wilson. It was the city’s mayor James Knowles, who in the wake of public unrest displayed a frighteningly high level of ignorance by suggesting the town had no racial strife when everything from traffic stops to the lack of diversity on the city’s police force would have suggested otherwise, and it was the state’s Governor Jay Nixon who was missing in action Wednesday night when the St. Louis County police force put on a performance that would have made the cops from the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago proud. Nixon’s presence hasn’t exactly made the situation better. His latest stunt, calling for a citywide curfew for it’s residents has only added to the raw anger and intense pain being felt by so many.”

In Mother Jones last week, Jaeah Lee’s article “Exactly How Often Do Police Shoot Unarmed Black Men?” contains a troubling graphic:


Who Is Shot by New York City Police?

So what’s a well-meaning white ally to do?  How can those of us committed to an anti-racist world stop violence against people of color?  What can we do to change the ways that people are socialized in our society and by our media?  I don’t know.  But I am thankful to Janee Woods for giving allies a place to start.

1. Learn about the racialized history of Ferguson and how it reflects the racialized history of America.

Michael Brown’s murder is not a social anomaly or statistical outlier. It is the direct product of deadly tensions born from decades of housing discrimination, white flight, intergenerational poverty and racial profiling. The militarized police response to peaceful assembly by the people mirrors what happened in the 1960s during the Civil Rights Movement.

2. Reject the “he was a good kid” narrative and lift up the “black lives matter” narrative.

Be mindful, political and socially aware with your language. Notice how the mainstream news outlets are using words like riot and looting to describe the uprising in Ferguson. What’s happening is not a riot. The people are protesting and engaging in a justified rebellion. They have a righteous anger and are revolting against the police who have terrorized them for years.

4. Understand the modern forms of race oppression and slavery and how they are intertwined with policing, the courts and the prison industrial complex.

We don’t enslave black people on the plantation cotton fields anymore. Now we lock them up in for profit prisons at disproportionate rates and for longer sentences for the same crimes than white people. And when they are released, they are second class citizens stripped of voting rights and denied access to housing, employment and education. Mass incarceration is The New Jim Crow.

5. Examine the interplay between poverty and racial equity.

The twin pillar of racism is economic injustice but do not use class issues to trump race issues and avoid the racism conversation. While racism and class oppression are tangled together in this country, the fact remains that the number one predictor of prosperity and access to opportunity is race.

6. Diversify your media.

Be intentional about looking for and paying close attention to diverse voices of color on the tv, on the internet and on the radio to help shape your awareness, understanding and thinking about political, economic and social issues. Check out ColorlinesThe Root or This Week in Blackness to get started.

7. Adhere to the philosophy of nonviolence as you resist racism and oppression. 

Dr. Martin Luther King advocated for nonviolent conflict reconciliation as the primary strategy of the Civil Rights Movement and the charge of His Final Marching Orders. East Point Peace Academy offers online resources and in person training on nonviolence that is accessible to all people regardless of ability to pay.

8. Find support from fellow white allies.

Challenge and encourage each other to dig deeper, even when it hurts and especially when you feel confused and angry and sad and hopeless, so that you can be more authentic in your shared journey with people of color to uphold and protect principles of antiracism and equity in our society. Go to workshops like Training for Change’s Whites Confronting Racism or European Dissent by The People’s Institute. Attend The White Privilege Conference or the Facing Raceconference. Some organizations offer scholarships or reduced fees to help people attend if funding is an issue.

9. If you are a person of faith, look to your scriptures or holy texts for guidance.

Seek out faith based organizations like Sojourners and follow faith leaders that incorporate social justice into their ministry. Ask your clergy person to address antiracism in their sermons and teachings. If you are not a person of faith, learn how the world’s religions view social justice issues so that when you have opportunity to invite people of faith to also become white allies, you can talk with them meaningfully about why being a white ally is supported by their spiritual beliefs.

10. Don’t be afraid to be unpopular.

Let’s be realistic. If you start calling out all the racism you witness (and it will be a lot once you know what you’re looking at) some people might not want to hang out with you as much. That’s a risk you’ll need to accept. But think about it like this: staying silent when you witness oppression is the same as supporting oppression. So you can be the popular person who stands with the oppressor or you can be the (maybe) unpopular person who stands for equality and dignity for all people. Which person would you prefer to be? And honestly, if some people don’t want to hang out with you anymore once you show yourself as a white ally then why would you even want to be friends with them anyway? They’re probably racists.

11. Be proactive in your own community.

As a white ally, you are not limited to being reactionary and only rising up to stand on the side of justice when black people are being subjected to violence very visibly and publicly. Moments of crisis do not need to be the catalyst because taking action against systemic racism is always appropriate because systemic racism permeates nearly every institution and community in this country. Some ideas for action: organize a community conversation about the state of police-community relations* in your neighborhood, support leaders of color by donating your time or money to their campaigns or causes, ask the local library to host a showing and discussion group about the documentary RACE – The Power of an Illusion, attend workshops to learn how to transform conflict into opportunity for dialogue. Gather together diverse white allies that represent the diversity of backgrounds in your community. Antiracism is not a liberals only cause. Antiracism is a movement for all people, whether they be conservative, progressive, rich, poor, urban or rural.

12. Don’t give up.

We’re 400 years into this racist system and it’s going to take a long, long, long time to dismantle these atrocities. The antiracism movement is a struggle for generations, not simply the hot button issue of the moment. Transformation of a broken system doesn’t happen quickly or easily. You may not see or feel the positive impact of your white allyship in the next month, the next year, the next decade or even your lifetime. But don’t ever stop. Being a white ally matters because your thoughts, deeds and actions will be part of what turns the tide someday. Change starts with the individual.

What will you do?


A Good Week for Hate

It was a good week for racism and hate.  Two so-called “leaders” decided to make public statements about African-Americans and slavery, causing a stir. The first, LA Clippers owner, Donald Sterling, in a recorded conversation with his girlfriend, Vivian Stiviano, who is Mexican and African-American, admits he doesn’t like it when his girlfriend takes pictures with black people?  WHAT????

— “It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?” (3:30)

— “You can sleep with [black people]. You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want.  The little I ask you is not to promote it on that … and not to bring them to my games.” (5:15)

“I’m just saying, in your lousy f******* Instagrams, you don’t have to have yourself with, walking with black people.” (7:45)

— “…Don’t put him [Magic] on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me.  And don’t bring him to my games.” (9:13)

Listen to the full audio here, if you can stand it.

I loved President Obama’s response, “When ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance, you don’t really have to do anything, you just let them talk. That’s what happened here.”

About the same time as Sterling was spouting his own personal racism with his mixed race girlfriend, Nevada Rancher, Cliven Bundy (I’m sorry, but doesn’t his name creep you out just a little?), was quoted in The New York Times  “referring to black people as ‘the Negro’ and recalling a time decades ago when he drove past homes in North Las Vegas and saw black people who ‘didn’t have nothing to do.’ He said he wondered if they were ‘better off as slaves’ than ‘under government subsidy'” (See ABC News story here).  Republican supporters of Bundy are quickly backing away. Surprise, surprise.

We can chalk this up to white male privilege and ignorance or we can dig deeper and examine the profound roots of racism that still cling to the dirt that is this country.  We should talk about these issues with young people and support organizations, like the YWCA, whose work on racial justice is about raising young people who do not hold these outdated, yet still so prevalent ideologies.

The YWCA’s Stand Against Racism, which took place last Friday, is a great example of how to publicly and positively address racism.


What do you to stand against racism?  Are you comfortable calling it out?  Do you tell people when their words offend you?  Do you share information about racist people like Bundy and Sterling so others are aware?  Do you boycott organizations and businesses who promote hate?  Do you work to diversity your workplace?  Your friendships? Are you a member of the YWCA?  If not, here’s how to join.

Let’s hope next week is a good week for love.

Our trip to Bricco

Last Saturday, I planned a night out in Boston for my husband’s 49th birthday.  We had planned to go to Boston to do a little Christmas/birthday shopping for a new pair of shoes I really wanted.  But it snowed.  So I decided to combine the shopping trip with a whole night out.  Plus, we had heard from an Italian waiter from Tuscany, in Providence, that a restaurant called Bricco, on the North End, had wild boar sauce.  When we were in Greve, Tuscany, back in 2008, it was one of our most memorable meals.  I made a reservation at Bricco earlier that week and booked a room at my now favorite, dog friendly hotel chain, Kimpton.  We stayed at the Onyx hotel on the north end of Boston right near TD Garden, formerly known as the Fleet Center, formerly known as the Boston Garden.  (Why couldn’t they just leave the original name alone?)

My purpose here is not to write about our night out and tell you about how great our meal was, which it was.  Instead I need to write about a moment of bystander intervention/interruption on behalf of our lovely server Carla.  We were seated, upstairs, at a 2 top.  Shortly thereafter a 4 top of two couples were sat.  They seemed a little tipsy, but we had had a few drinks that afternoon before heading out, so who was I to judge?

I overheard a conversation between our server, Carla, who I will describe as a drop dead gorgeous Asian Jennifer Aniston, and the large bald man at the 4 top.  The men were sitting on the outside chairs and the women by the window, so all of Carla’s interactions were with the men.  This conversation was specifically about WHAT her race was.  And I heard her say “I get that a lot.”  And I also heard her say, “Oh that’s ok, really,” in reference to something racist one of them said about how she “looked.”  Then, the larger bald man (this is really the only way I can describe him) reaches his hand around Carla’s back and kind of pats her ass.  My husband looks at me with his mouth open in a “WHAT THE FUCK” kind of way.  I look at him.  “Did you see that?”  He tells me he did.  I look at him and warn him, “I might have to say something.”  He smiles at me like “you go, girl.”

She comes over to check on us.  “How are you doing over here?”  I look at her.  “We are fine,” I say, “but how are you?”  She leans over and says she is so uncomfortable.  I tell her that we were too and I might have to say something to the large bald man.  She tells me not to worry about it.

Fast forward to the end of our meal.  I pay the very expensive, probably most expensive meal I have bought for just the two of us, regretting that I didn’t add another wild boar sauce to go, put on my jacket, grab my purse and take a deep breath.  I walk to the large bald man and his table, put my hand on his back, lean in and say “In the future, you shouldn’t touch your server.”

I turn and walk out mustering all the confidence I can in my short dress and new shoes.

When I get outside I tell the doorman that I called out a customer on his behavior toward our server, Carla, who was awesome, and I wanted to give him a heads up, in case the guy was pissed or gave her shit for my comment.

I’m trying to live my life in a way that I never have to say “I should’ve said something.” Or maybe I’m just getting braver as I move into middle age or maybe I just don’t give a shit anymore.   I hope they were kind to her when she had to go back to the table.  I wish I could’ve been there to hear the conversation that took place amongst the four of them after I walked out.  Did I do the right thing?

For me, watching a woman get harassed next to me by someone with more power than her is not something I can sit idly by and do.  I think if more of us had this attitude, sexism, racism and sexual violence would be less acceptable.  When is the last time you felt your heart pounding in your chest as you addressed someone’s horrible behavior?  It does get easier each time.

Does Calling Out Racism Negate it? Hardly.

Last week on Saturday Night Live Kerry Washington stole the show.  Read this article to see clips from her hosting.

Producer Lorne Michaels addresses the lack of black women in the cast through the cold open sketch, by publicly apologizing to Washington for having to play multiple black women.  This was a direct response to Kenan Thompson’s interview in TV guide where he stated that they couldn’t find any talented black women to be on the show.  WHAT? 

The article in the The Atlantic, linked below, suggests it isn’t about  finding women of color to diversify the cast.  It’s that the writers don’t  know how to write clever parts for women of color.  Even the amazing Kerry Washington played a few stereotypical roles this week:  nagging girlfriend, Ugandan beauty queen, sassy assistant.  This was all they could come up with (While it was stereotypical, I did like the parody of What Does the Fox Say?)?  The Spelman College Political Science professor piece was well written and the entire sketch poked fun at white people, which is something that rarely happens these days on SNL.  This piece, however, was critiqued for being a similar sketch to one starring Maya Rudolph.

This lack of diversity on SNL harkens back to my blog last week about the lack of women playwrights being produced at local theatres.  The men in charge of hiring the actresses of color or finding the women playwrights are so enmeshed in their own privilege and power, they don’t even THINK about how diversity would actually make their theatres, their shows, their work so much better.  We know that a diverse workplace is one that is more profitable and better overall for its employees.  Why can’t we apply that same model to the arts? 

If you google search “who are the writers at SNL” you get a list of 16 images of white people, two of whom are women. This is the problem.  As much as we can judge producer Lorne Michael’s for his lack of diversity in his actors, perhaps what happens behind the scenes needs a more critical eye.  If there are diverse actors on stage, what is the point is they are not given good sketches? 

Until white women and women of color begin boycotting or critiquing these shows in depth, there won’t be significant change.  As  Kerry Coddett points out in the The Atlantic article points, the sheer number of women of color represented on SNL from the beginning has been lacking.  To expect change to happen with such a long history of misrepresentation is doubtful. 






my feminist praxis

critical reflections on my feminist praxis: activism, motherhood, and life

The Feminist Critic

Providing weekly critiques of theatre, film, books, politics and pop culture from a feminist perspective.