I wanted to share a very fascinating article on race and privilege focused on the reality TV show ‘The Bachelor’. I believe it is very relevant to our work.

For those who are unfamiliar, the show focuses on a bachelor or bachelorette who starts at the beginning of the season with a pool of 20-25 potential romantic interests. Over the course of several weeks, the bachelor/ette whittles down the pool of candidates until their one true love remains (or something like that).

One interesting (and important) quirk of the show is that the bachelor/ette for the following season is selected from the top 2-3 finalists from the precedeing season. While this gimmick is probably great for ratings and maintaining interest in the show, it has pretty significant consequences along racial lines. (more…)

Slave Taxes, Race and Class

Wanted to share a fascinating article on the lasting imprint of slavery on Alabama’s revenue system and structural fiscal problems.

Key takeaways for me:

First, obviously slavery was a huge part of the Southern economy — indeed the US economy — and as such it played a huge role in state taxation. As the article notes, in the mid-1800s slave taxes accounted for more than half of state revenue in Georgia and nearly half in Alabama. You’d be hard pressed to find a closer tie between race and tax policy. (more…)

#IdentityPolitics, What @BernieSanders Should Have Said…

I want to be the second Latina senator in US history, any tips?

Rebecca, first let me respond to the question in a way that you may not be happy with… I actually hope you’re not the second Latina senator, I hope you’re the 14th or 15th Latina woman to enter the Senate. I hope that Hispanic and Latino Americans — Latina women in particular — continue to assert themselves politically, continue to make demands of power and continue to influence the future course of this country. So while I do hope you get there eventually, I hope in the meantime many more open that door as well.

And then, let me say, that if the Senate looks anything like it does now, when you get there, you’ll be surrounded by colleagues that reflect very little of this country. They’ll have come from more privileged backgrounds, they’ll be predominantly men, and they’ll be predominantly white. And with that, they’ll likely not have had any of the experiences that you’ve had — even your colleagues from your own political party — their view of this country, and indeed the world, will have been shaped by vastly different experiences.

And because of that, my advice to you, is that time after time, vote after vote, hearing after hearing it will be critical for you to pair your identity and your experiences and your voice and your passion with the all-important principles of standing up to the oligarchy, of pushing back against the moneyed interests, of looking out for those who have never been given a voice.

I think we can all agree that diversity of race and ethnicity, of religion, of gender, of sexual orientation, and of economic class in government and in the halls of power is critical in creating a legitimate and inclusive democracy — but it must be paired with the progressive ideals of making this country more fair and more prosperous for more people and not only the wealthy.

And that’s the struggle, Rebecca, the struggle for this party to not only lift up more diverse voices, to push more voices from the margins to the center, but to ensure that those voices — all voices —  are speaking up for the things we know are important.

Boldly Going Nowhere. Star Trek and the Limits of Hollywood’s Imagination

(Spoilers for the new film abound)

For me, Star Trek has always represented a very specific future. A future that had potentially outrun so many of the ills of present day society and, in specific, the ill of white supremacy. I won’t lie and pretend that this is an ideal that any of the series’ presents in a very strong manner — Deep Space 9 perhaps came the closest to presenting this by showcasing a complex Black captain/father/partner as the lead — but it was an ideal that I allowed myself to fantasize as living just beyond the screen.

And so as Chris Pine, Karl Urban, and Zachary Quinto stood triumphant near the end of the most recent installation to the Star Trek macrocosm, Star Trek Beyond, I realized that while the universe I had conjured in my head was potentially beyond white supremacy, the one that was depicted on-screen in front of me most definitely was not. In fact, this future seemed worse than the present — it felt almost like a dystopia. (more…)

Thoughts From The Past Few Days

For a few days now, I’ve been trying to assemble my words into a coherent narrative to help make sense of the last few days. I still have nothing entirely complete (and certainly nothing profound). I have shards of thoughts — bits and pieces of emotions and ideas that rise to the surface and then recede. I’ve tried to grab a few of them to share here. Be gentle.


“We feel powerless.”

Something I’ve known for a long time (but never completely verbalized) finally cemented itself in my mind this past week. To be African-American in this country is to feel — and often to actually be — nearly powerless. In a recent piece Michael Eric Dyson summed up this feeling:

Day in and day out, we feel powerless to make our black lives matter. We feel powerless to make you believe that our black lives should matter. We feel powerless to keep you from killing black people in front of their loved ones. We feel powerless to keep you from shooting hate inside our muscles with well-choreographed white rage.

This powerlessness is nothing new. Throughout history, be it through police shootings, lynch mobs, the chain gang or the chains of slavery, black bodies have always been subject to the fear, anger and disgust of white people.

At all times we know that our achievements live under the ominous cloud of white supremacy. That despite our best efforts to build strong families, strong communities, viable businesses and stable wealth, when the rain comes — and the rain always comes — our works, our livelihoods, indeed our lives are at risk of being washed away. No umbrella has ever protected us, no amount of prayer or patience or respectability has spared us. There has only ever been the flood.