I’m Still With Her

Hillary’s admirers think she doesn’t get credit for her relentlessness, that she gets overshadowed by politicians who can give a better speech but don’t know how to get anything done, that she gets dinged by a press corps that loves to talk about optics but isn’t particularly interested in how policy gets made.

Some of this is fair; some of it isn’t. But the reason it’s important is that relentlessness is core to Clinton’s theory of change. If you want to know her plan for being a good president, it’s actually pretty simple: Read everything, learn everything, work with everybody, and never stop trying to push the ball forward. That may sound obvious, but it’s actually a sharp change from recent presidents and current candidates whose theory of change relied on the power of oratory to mobilize citizens to demand new policies.

Bill Clinton explained Hillary’s political style perfectly — but disguised it as a love story

I’ve had this conversation with a lot of people about Hillary Clinton for two reasons: 1) I believe it’s true of her and 2) I work in the slow, deadly details of social change (well, court reform, but they overlap quite a bit).

When I talk to my friends about being burned out at work (which happens, unfortunately) or when I talk to my colleagues about the next steps in a policy change or when I try to get my donors excited about some marginal improvement we’ve made somewhere, this is the context of what I’m saying. Policy is hard and it’s so slow, most of the time, people don’t see the change.

Then, suddenly, a bunch of people jump on the bandwagon and something, which has taken you years or decades to research, design, and advocate for, just seems to happen. But that is not true at all.

It’s not fair and it’s cold comfort, indeed, to people suffering injustice at this minute. But it’s a critical understanding for someone in charge to have.

Fear, Hate and Facebook

gavinNTo which I add:  And it’s important to note, given the fear of immigrants and people of color–as well as the ignorance of cultural history–on display at the convention, that Freddie Mercury was born Farrokh Bulsara to parents from the Gujarat region of India.

He was not Christian, either.

There is so much upsetting here, so I’m going to focus on this ability and need to dehumanize and subjugate people of color, queer people, and women by denouncing them and their needs and their humanity while simultaneously using their art, their labor, their skills while opposing the policies and systems which might enable those without power and privilege to thrive.

The GOP is so happy saying you, gay man who is foreign from one of those places, believing one of those religions have no value and don’t deserve anything society can provide, but aren’t you happy we like your little song enough to use it?


The unspoken word in “Black lives matter” is not “only”–it is not “more”. If there is an implicit modifier in the phrase, it is “also“. If, when you hear the words “black lives matter”, you also assume an unspoken word, such as “more” or “only”, it’s a good idea to ask yourself why.

Please, sit quietly, nonconfrontationally, and completely honestly with yourself and walk through why this is your reaction. Bluntly, and knowing no-one is going to hear your thoughts or judge you for them, honestly learn why you respond to the statement “Black lives matter” as though it were “only Black lives matter” or “Black lives matter more”.

If you get no further than “BUT all lives matter, that’s why ‘black lives matter’ has an unspoken ‘more’ in it”; or if you can’t come up with a better explanation than “I’m not included in the statement ‘black lives matter’, so it must mean ‘only’ “, I’d suggest you need to keep thinking.

“Think”–the strongest admonishment I grew up with. “Why aren’t you thinking?” And “this is not about you”–the best advice I grew up with. These are your guides here, when you ask yourself why you think “Black lives matter” is a threat or an insult to you or why you dismiss it as something that does not concern everyone.


Is Elena Smiling?

“We add that, when directly asked at oral argument whether Texas knew of a single instance in which the new requirement would have helped even one woman obtain better treatment, Texas admitted that there was no evidence in the record of such a case.”

Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt, No 15-274, p. 28 (Breyer, J.)

Not “did it?”, but “could it have?”, and the answer is No.

As the Washington Post put it: Supreme Court rules against Texas and for science in abortion case


A Friend of a Friend Made this Handy Venn Diagram



Senators that voted against background checks and against LGBTQ employment discrimination and who receive campaign contributions from the NRA.

(original download link; imgur link that is much easier to read)

It is not an accident that we have so many gun deaths in the United States and it is not acceptable. It’s also not a mystery how to stop them. We need–at a  minimum–strong gun regulation or, as I believe, we need a complete ban on private firearm ownership in the United States.

But we also need people to withdraw support from politicians who preach hate, discrimination or the Us/Them dichotomy that allows acceptance of exclusionary policies, that promotes a culture in which it is acceptable to afford some people less than the full measure of their humanity and the dignity owed them for that humanity.

Privilege is a Privilege


Reconstructing the Dreamland: The Tulsa Riot of 1921: Race, Reparations, and Reconciliation by Alfred L. Brophy and Death in a Promised Land The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 by Scott Ellsworth. Eyewitness account.

Even if you are the most progressive, most egalitarian white American who ever lived, even if you were born with nothing, worked hard to change that, and succeeded, this is some of the history which gave you–a white American–a headstart.

It’s hard to reconcile that with the knowledge that you worked hard, that you are smart, that your road was not easy and never sure. But you can. Because you work hard, because you are smart, because you know how to travel roads that are not easy.

And once you’ve reconciled this–or perhaps to help you reconcile this–you can work for remediation.

Because you know how important it is to benefit from your own hard work and your own smarts–no matter who you are or what you were born with.

And you owe this to your communities, to the people this history harmed, to the people still harmed by this history. My privilege–your privilege–was not earned; it was bought with this history of injustice and hate and harm. The debt requires your hard work.

Memes, Context and Unguarded Places

13245432_193001741094399_2178145280221345906_nAttributed to Eris Koleszar and it quite nicely summed up the discomfort I felt when I saw the original meme. Many of the comments on the edited photo also quite nicely summed up the discomfort I felt seeing who chose to share it.

One of the things that is easy to forget about the internet is that people who don’t know you, who can’t hear your tone of voice; who don’t know how you live your life or how you treat the friends, enemies and strangers you encounter every day; or have any context at all for your comments see the comments you make.

This means–more often than not–the unknown person on the internet who sees your comments also sees unintended subtext or unexamined subtext (often resulting from unexamined or privilege). Perspective is personal and it is an impossible task to live every moment or to choose every word with a complete–or even skillful–understanding of every perspective someone might bring to your words or actions. Sometimes, you’ll be confronted with a meaning in your words you had no idea was there. But it is. And when someone shows it to you, you should try to understand how it could be there without you meaning it or why it could harm someone you’ve not consciously meant to harm.

It’s not always possible to anticipate this. It is, however, always possible to learn from it when it happens.

When I saw the original meme, I was surprised that the thoughtful woman who had shared it (a woman who is responsible for my understanding of intersectional feminism, for a little perspective here) had missed the othering subtext. But I realized that my friend was only seeing the part of the graphic that said “I don’t give the slightest concern to who is in the bathroom with me, as long as there is parity in the facilities and I don’t have to wait twice as long to pee because I’m using a toilet, not a urinal.”

I realized this because I know her and am familiar with her perspective. (<–that, by the way, is the privilege at work–the luxury of being able to reduce the entire issue to the convenience of peeing now, as opposed to the safety of peeing now)

The meme was–to the mind of a hetero-normative, cis-gendered, graduate-level-educated, middle class American woman–a statement of exasperation that she’s supposed to worry about people with penises in the bathroom, when most of the time she’s aggravated because she can’t get into any bathroom at all. And I had that moment of recognition at the sentiment because while I don’t have any problem with sharing a public bathroom or a locker room with a transwoman and can’t think of a reason why I should care that there is a transwoman in the bathroom or locker room with me, that does not mean there is no there there. For me, transwomen in the bathroom is not a problem, and I will happily oppose attempts to make it a problem, but that does not relieve me of the responsibility to consider my words before I attempt to deflect the suggestion that no problem exists.

So when Eris Koleszar (whom I do not know–I choose the “she/her” pronoun both because the name is a woman’s name–to my knowledge–and because the one reference I saw to her was a mailto link with the phrase “contact her “. I apologize if that’s incorrect) reacted to the meme and made explicit the harmful subtext in it, she was not making a fuss over nothing. Koleszar was not being over-sensitive, nor making up an insult to react to. The re-made meme simply exposes the subtext that a wider context brings to the original expression.

I saw many people accuse the remade meme of making mountains out of molehills. Of missing the intended subtext. Of creating hate where none was intended. Which the remade meme simply does not do.

And, to my original point, people who think the exposure of unintended subtext is an attack on their character are wrong. They must stop reacting that way and do the difficult work of setting aside their own ego in order to listen.

No-one is capable of never making a mistake, of never speaking unguardedly. We will all sometimes miss the alternate meaning of our words, no matter how kind or progressive or successful our actions when we are being intentional. If you’ve got privilege of any kind, you will speak from a position of privilege at the wrong moment. When that happens, acknowledge it; learn from it; and continue trying to do better. If you’re calm, respectful and willing to listen, not only will you better understand the world around you, but you’ll better understand yourself and how the world has shaped you. You’ll have more to offer someone whose difficulties don’t resemble your own and be better positioned to solve your own problems without unintended harm to others.