The Top 10 of 2013: Change From Within’s Year in Review

Happy New Year!

2013 was a transformative year for me and my writing.  My business and my blogging have changed and grown a lot in the last 12 months.  In a lot of ways, my writing here at Change From Within has taken a back seat to my writing for larger platforms, namely Everyday Feminism and The Good Men Project, which has been cool to see. As is my yearly tradition, it’s time to reflect on my writing of the past year and highlight those pieces that were most widely-read.

Over at Everyday Feminism, three of my pieces really stood out in terms of reception and hits:

‘That’s Racist Against White People’ A Discussion on Power and Privilege was by far my most popular piece of 2013 at EF with more than 80,000 hits.

Also worthy of mention from my Everyday Feminism writing in 2013 are Intent vs Impact: Why Your Intentions Don’t Really Matter and So You Call Yourself an Ally: 10 Things All ‘Allies’ Need to Know.

At The Good Men Project, I had a few different pieces go bananas in 2013.

The Healthy Sex Talk: Teaching Kids Consent, Ages 1-21“, a piece I co-wrote with Alyssa Royse, Julie Gillis, and Joanna Schroeder, was by far my most-read contribution of 2013 with more than 1 million hits on numerous platforms.

My Open Letter to the Rapey Frat Brother and the ‘How to Get Laid’ Generation also was widely read, getting picked up by the Huffington Post.

Change From Within’s Top 10 Articles of 2013

Over here at Change From Within, the posts that were most read speak to the changes in my own work.  More and more, I have tried to highlight the writing and perspectives of the amazing people in my community, and that’s reflected in the most-read articles of the year.  4 of the top 10 articles of 2013 were composed by friends and mentors!

Without further ado, here are the top posts from Change From Within in 2013:

10. Shaking Off the “Harlem Shake” Meme – Tools for Resisting Cultural Appropriation

Screen Shot 2013-03-14 at 4.35.47 PM

After “Racism, Appropriation, and the Harlem Shake” (coming in at #2 below), lots of readers were asking questions like, “So what are we supposed to do?  How do we actually resist cultural appropriation?”  In response, I wrote out a list of simple actions that we can all take to resist cultural appropriation around us.

9.  Standing Up to Racial and Religious Profiling

Kadra Abdi

After being racially and religiously profiled by the TSA in June of 2013, my dear friend Kadra Abdi wrote this powerful call to action with ways that we all can stand up to racial and religious profiling.  Her compelling story challenges us to think critically about our own judgments and how we can be part of the solution to this pressing problem.

8.  Rethinking Lisak & Miller: Checking the Math

After much criticism for my piece entitled “Preventing Sexual Violence – Rethinking Lisak & Miller,” I wrote a piece that tackled some of the math being used in criticizing my reconsideration of the groundbreaking Lisak & Miller research.  My friend Rida helped me run some mathematical scenarios that rethink the “predator theory” for who exactly we should be focusing on in our work to prevent sexual violence.

7.  Coming Out of the Woods: On Hugo Schwyzer and Accountability

In August, Hugo Schwyzer, a man who I have defended in the past, showed everyone who he truly is: a misogynistic, racist fraud.  In turn, I owed a lot of people apologies for my defense of this indefensible man.  Here is the public version of that apology.

6. 33+ Suggestions for Action After the Zimmerman Verdict

Justice for Trayvon MartinFor me, like many people, the “not-guilty” verdict in the George Zimmerman trial was devastating.  It wasn’t particularly surprising, but it was devastating emotionally and in its wider implications.  Thus, I was incredibly thankful when my friend and mentor Daniel Escalante emailed me with a list of suggestions for action that he (and others) put together. Now, a few months after the verdict, it is good for me to revisit these suggestions and recommit to action in 2014.  I encourage you to do the same.

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All is Not Gravy – Honoring Genocide and Calling it ‘Thanksgiving’

This year’s Thanksgiving post comes from Olga González.

Olga GonzalezOlga González is an Indigenous Otomi/Yaqui woman. She holds a BA degree in Psychology/Chicano Studies and a Master’s degree in Nonprofit Management. She is a community educator and activist who strives to create a world free from oppression. In 1998, she was the recipient of the Mayor’s Award for “Outstanding Denver Citizen Committed to Fighting Against Hate.” She is a wife and mother of three beautiful warrior girls. She is also a certified personal trainer and Zumba instructor and enjoys helping people to become healthier.

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Every year on ”Thanksgiving,” I am troubled by the mass ignorance and denial of what the day actually represents.  Some people rejoice in the holiday by repeating the myth that was taught in school-the myth about a day when Pilgrims and Indians shared a meal together and gave thanks.  Nothing can be further from the truth!

“‘Thanksgiving’ did not begin as a great loving relationship between the  pilgrims and the Wampanoag, Pequot and Narragansett people.  In fact, in October of 1621 when the ‘pilgrim’ survivors of their first winter in Turtle Island sat down to share the first unofficial ‘Thanksgiving’ meal, the Indians who were there were not even invited!  There was no turkey, squash, cranberry sauce or pumpkin pie.  A few days before this alleged feast took place, a company of ‘pilgrims’ led by Miles Standish actively sought the head of a local Indian leader, and an 11 foot high wall was erected around the entire Plymouth settlement for the very purpose of keeping Indians out!

Officially, the holiday we know as ‘Thanksgiving’ actually came into existence in the year 1637. Governor Winthrop of the Massachusetts Bay Colony proclaimed this first official day of Thanksgiving and feasting to celebrate the return of the colony’s men who had arrived safely from what is now Mystic, Connecticut.  They had gone there to participate in the massacre of over 700 Pequot men, women and children, and Mr. Winthrop decided to dedicate an official day of thanksgiving complete with a feast to ‘give thanks’ for their great ‘victory.'”
Mistakes, Lies and Misconceptions about American Indian People – The Thanksgiving Myth

Most people I have spoken to stated that they either did not know the origin of the holiday or that they knew its origin, but “simply” choose to see it as a day to share a meal with their families.

I don’t understand how the history of the holiday can be ignored or how people can mentally and morally separate themselves from it.

One so-called activist even stated that she wasn’t thinking about the Indians, just about the turkey and that people needed to relax!  How can one relax when they are clearly participating in a holiday that ignores the atrocities committed against Native people!

Must be nice to be able to simply cover up the legacy of genocide in gravy!  We would not have a day of thanksgiving initiated by Nazis to celebrate the holocaust or a day in which slave owners thanked God  for their slaves.  Why, then, is it ok to ignore what happened to Native people and the very real ways in which we continue to be silenced, oppressed, and victimized in our own home?

“Thanksgiving” is a myth that ignores genocide, European colonization, and its aftermath.

It is hurtful and insulting to gloss over the historical atrocities committed against Native people and to then declare a national holiday for us all to give thanks! I would like for us to think about it and be very aware that the holiday disrespects and dishonors Native people.

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This Thanksgiving, Try Accountability with Your Turkey

“The long, dark shadow of genocide affects all of us.” – Waziyatawin, Ph.D.

I struggle with Thanksgiving as a holiday.  I simultaneously love and hate it.  I love that it brings families together and that it is a time for pause in our busy lives to give thanks for the many wonderful things around us.  Neither of those things happen often enough.

Simultaneously, though, it is a holiday that perpetuates lies and hides the genocide of Indigenous people on this continent.

The story we’ve been told about the first “Thanksgiving” is a farce.  It’s a lie that is told by a White-dominant culture to help itself feel better about the fact that we are living on lands that were stolen from Indigenous tribes through a careful process of genocide.  To better understand this lie and its implications, check out Judy Dow (Abenaki) and Beverly Slapin’s piece, “Deconstructing the Myths of the First Thanksgiving.”  It’s important that we understand the true history of what we celebrate.

As we take stock of that for which we are thankful, let us also take time to consider how we can be accountable.  How can we be accountable allies to the Indigenous people on whose land we now reside?  Here are a few suggestions for your Thanksgiving:

1.  Rather than participating in this modern form of blackface:

Taken from here.

Consider taking some time to learn about the modern-day struggle to reclaim the Wampanoag language by the ancestors of the people who ensured the survival of the “Pilgrims” and went on to regret doing so.  “We Still Live Here” is a film that chronicles this journey, one being undertaken by more and more Indigenous people around the U.S. who were forcibly stripped of their language in an act of cultural genocide.  Here’s a clip:

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Whiteness: A Matter of Degree

This weekend, I attended an incredible arts and social justice youth summit in Seattle called Amplify: Tell Your Story, Transform Your World put on by The Art Affect.  As part of the weekend, we were each challenged to create a piece of art reflecting the work we had been struggling with throughout the weekend.  I personally was doing a lot of Whiteness and White Privilege reflection this weekend, so I created the following poem.  It is my response to the oh-so-common statement by White people that “my family never owned slaves, so how am I responsible for all this stuff?”

 

“A Matter of Degree”

My Grandfather taught me a great many things.
Like the peace only found in casting a line
And how very young an old man can be.
He also taught me how to fear.

When I was probably 4 years old,
My Grandfather demonstrated
In no uncertain terms
That I am White.

So now, if you were to take your sharpest blade
And flay my fair skin
From chin to pelvis
The way that my Grandfather taught me to flay a deer
And if you were to turn that skin inside out,
Once you sorted through the blood
And sinewy pink,
You’d find a history.

My people never owned a slave,
But we still came like a lynching,
Blood on our breath,
Greed caked into our finger nails.
Into my skin is written this story,
A story as old as the hills of West Virginia.

My people were not at Sand Creek,
But we still came like a genocide,
Blood on our breath,
Greed caked into our fingernails.
Into my skin is written this story,
A story as old as the Black Hills.

My people were not at My Lai,
But we still came like Napalm,
Blood on our breath,
Greed caked into our fingernails.
Into my skin is written this story,
A story as old as the Mekong Delta.

We came, and we came, and we came . . .

This story is as vital
As the air I breathe,
At once apart from me
And a part of me.

And I must force myself to breathe in that story,
Hold it in my lungs,
Fight through the burning,
And Recognize . . .

Recognize . . .

Recognize that that which I have
Is only mine in as much
As it was build on the backs and unmarked graves
of Black, Red, Yellow, and Brown.

So while my people
Never bought another human being,
We still bought our way
Into a system called Whiteness.
And the difference
Is only a matter of degree.

Cultural Amnesia – The Sand Creek Massacre

“All citizens of Colorado . . . go in pursuit of all hostile Indians on the plains . . . to kill and destroy, as enemies of the country, wherever they may be found, all such hostile Indians.” – Colorado Territorial Governor, John Evans, August 11, 1864

Our culture is great at denial.  Well, let me clarify.  By “our culture,” I am referring to the dominant White, Christian Patriarchy that has controlled the values and direction of the culture in which we live since its inception.  Maybe, as Derrick Jensen offers in his stirring book The Culture of Make Believe, it’s more that we live in a culture where we must make believe that all is well, that tremendous atrocities have not been committed and are not being committed with blood on our hands . . . we have to pretend to be able to sleep at night.

After all, I would imagine that if you asked the average Coloradan what took place at Sand Creek in Eastern Colorado, they would not really be able to respond.  In fact, I would wager that if you asked the average American to recount the acts of genocide that had occurred in their county (considering that you’d be hard pressed to find a U.S. county where at least one Native American massacre took place), they would likely respond with confusion and indignation . . . “Genocide in my county?  No no . . .”

The unfortunate reality, though, is that the land that we occupy today is bloodied land.  The Native American population of the United States was estimated, by some accounts and measures, to be nearly 20 million, yet today there are approximately 2.5 million left.  This is no accident.  This is by the direct actions of the U.S. government and its people through direct violent extermination and through unintentional and intentional spread of disease.

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Columbus Day – A Celebration of Genocide

We’ve all heard the story.  We’ve all heard the rhymes.

In Fourteen Hundred and Ninety Two,
Columbus Sailed the Ocean Blue.

Perhaps, though, we should consider what ought to be the next couplet.

By Fifteen Hundred and Zero Five,
Columbus had committed Genocide.

So often, we have heard Columbus Day described as a harmless holiday that simply celebrates the man who “discovered” the Americas.  The holiday, though, is anything but harmless.  The dominant white culture that maintains Columbus Day has a vested interest in maintaining the narrative of Columbus as a brave explorer who was committed to furthering the European understanding of the world.  Perhaps, though, we ought to look to the man’s own words and to accounts of his journeys to better understand who he was and what he wanted in exploration (Taken from Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States):

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