Video Post: America’s Native Prisoners of War

I am in the middle of a very busy time with work, as I travel from state to state speaking at Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership seminars.  As such, I just don’t think I am going to find the time this week to write a new post (which is super disappointing since I know I have a bunch of new readers).  However, I wanted to make sure I still posted for the week, so I thought I’d post one of my favorite TED Talks.

In “America’s Native Prisoners of War,” Aaron Huey does a fantastic job of talking about the history and present realities of the oppression of Indigenous Americans at the hands of the White American system and government.  There’s definitely a tension (one I face in my work) of a White man speaking about (and on behalf of) Indigenous Americans and Indigenous issues, but I think Huey does a decent job of owning his place in this complex dilemma.  Please set aside 16 minutes to watch this video:


Men Lovin’ On Men: Male Expressions of Love and Affection

This weekend I got to tell some amazing men that I love them, and I got to hug them, hold them, and remind them why they are worthy of my love.

I attended the first of what will be 10 Hugh O’Brian Youth (HOBY) Leadership seminars in Tennessee, and I consider many of the men at that seminar my brothers and my friends.  There’s something about the HOBY spirit and community that always makes me more apt to openly show my love for my brothers and sisters.  But in mainstream American culture, men don’t a very good job of showing their love for one another.

In my letter to my Fairy Godson, the first thing I said to him was, “I love you.  Men don’t tell each other that often enough.  Knowing your parents, you’re going to have a tremendous amount of love to unleash on this world.  Never hold it back, no matter what anyone tells you about how men should express their emotions.”

Oooh the man hug…

Yet in my own life, I do not always show affection for the men in my life the way that I would like to or in similar ways that I show affection for the women in my life.  I end almost every conversation with the women I care about with, “I Love You!”  With the women in my life, I tend to hug them regularly, and we hold hands or show physical affection as a sign of our friendship on the regular.  With the men I love, though, I don’t tell them that I love them nearly often enough.  I don’t hold hands with my male friends or with my dad, and we don’t tend to greet each other with a hug.

Why is that?

I mean, I understand why it’s tough for most men to express our love for other men.  Dominant culture tells us that empathy, care, gentleness, and love are not masculine qualities, so from an early age, we suppress those feelings.  I can’t tell you how many times I was told growing up to stop “acting like a girl” if I cried or if I showed affection.  For many years, I kept it on the down low that I still cuddled with my mom or that I had that gentler side.

But at this point in my life, I consider myself pretty counter-cultural on most issues of masculinity and gender.  I tend to think of myself as forward-thinking when it comes to how men can and should act in relationships, and I like to think that I have made a lot of progress in overcoming some of the harmful ways that I was socialized to be a man.  So why don’t I more regularly tell the men in my life that I love them?

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Dehumanizing the Dehumanized: Denver’s Urban Camping Ban

I am officially ashamed to say that I live in Denver.

Don’t get me wrong.  I really like living here.  There are so many cool people, and the mountains . . . oh the mountains!  Plus, there’s some cool activism going on that I love being a part of.  Oh, and the weather is great!

The politics?  Not so much.  Earlier this week, the Republicans in the Colorado state legislature killed a bill that would allow civil unions for lesbian and gay couples.  As I usually do with CO state politics, I was able to say, “Well, CO state politics are shitty, but at least I live in the progressive bastion of Denver!”

Except that only a few hours later, Denver did this:

Whaaat?  Seriously?  In essence, it is now illegal to be homeless in Denver.

Now, if the “Urban Camping Ban” had been a part of a wider effort to actually offer services that get the homeless on their feet and off the street, I would probably be for it, but that is in no way the reason or rhetoric around why it was passed.  Advocates, primarily business owners in downtown Denver and our hyper-pro-business mayor, claim that the blight of homeless people sleeping in public places is bad for business.  Essentially, “People don’t want to come to my store when there are icky people around!”  Despite that wildly dehumanizing rhetoric, the ban was passed.

There are two main problems that I see in the legislation.  The first is simply practical.  Where are homeless folks to go if they can’t sleep in parks, sidewalks, or other public spaces?

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A Particular Kind of Teacher Appreciation!

Happy National Teacher Appreciation Week!

If you’re reading this, I want you to pause and thank a teacher!  Whether it’s through a text message, a phone call, a facebook post, an email, a long snail mail letter, a carrier pigeon, or a tin can telephone, take a bit of time to thank a teacher who you know is getting WILDLY rich changing the lives of young people every day.

I used to be a public school classroom teacher, and in a lot of ways, I think I was a pretty good one.  I worked hard to make lessons interesting, and my students not only learned a lot of cool stuff, but they learned a lot of important skills along the way.  No, I wasn’t the best teacher in the world, but I’m proud of the work that I did.

Most of the time.

As I reflect back over my work as a teacher, there is one area of my practice of which I’m not very proud.

I taught in a school that practiced almost total “inclusion” when it came to special education.  That means that with the exception of a few students who were diagnosed “Educably Mentally Handicapped” (a term used to describe students with severe mental disabilities), any students with disabilities participated exclusively in “regular education” classes (meaning that they were learning in classrooms with students who didn’t have disabilities).  Because our school was under-resourced and because I taught Social Studies (in which few students have special education instruction spelled out in their legal Individualized Educational Plan), I didn’t often have a special education-certified teacher in the room to help.  Instead, we had the philosophy that “all teachers are special education teachers.”

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“Invisible Oppression:” Cece McDonald and Violence Against Transgender People

Have you heard about Cece Mcdonald?

If you haven’t, you definitely need to read up on her and her case.  In short, “In June of 2011, CeCe, [a Black, Transgender Woman] was attacked while walking to the grocery store with her friends. After a group of White bar patrons shouted slurs at CeCe and her friends—calling them “faggots,” “chicks with dicks,” and “niggers”–a woman in the group smashed a glass into CeCe’s face, cutting through her cheek. A fight broke out and one of CeCe’s attackers [was killed]. The police arrived and singled out CeCe, who was seriously injured, for arrest. The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office charged her with second-degree murder.”  Since her arrest, she has been denied proper medical care and has been housed with male inmates despite the fact that she does not identify as a man and that prisons and jails are notoriously abusive spaces for Trans people (source for account of Cece’s attack and subsequent treatment).

Eventually, Cece accepted a plea bargain for second degree manslaughter (which could carry a sentence of up to 3 1/2 years in pris0n), but she has been clear from the beginning: she acted in self defense.  The man who died that night would be alive if he and his friend had never attacked Cece and her friends, and it was clear that Cece was attacked because of her race and her gender identity.

It is hard to get a clear picture of the levels of violence that Transgender people face in the United States.  After all, the Federal government doesn’t collect hate crime data on Transgender hate crimes, and few states collect any data.  Studies have shown, though, that the rates of violence against Transgender people in the U.S. are SIGNIFICANTLY higher than other forms of violence.  Plus, there is evidence to indicate that the the murder rate of Transgender people is more than 10 times the murder rate in the general population in the U.S..

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