Monday, September 23, 2019

Why I got Arrested

On July 28 I was arrested in Williston, Vermont, for blocking a road outside the ICE Data Center. This unassuming brick building is the home of a 24 hour, seven day a week hotline, where United States citizens can report their undocumented neighbors. About 400 Vermont and New York residents work at this data center, and I barely have the words to express my rage at my tax dollars being used to detain, deport, and terrorize families.

Some recent New York Times headlines about the concentration camps where immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers are being forcibly detained include  “Hungry, Scared and Sick: Inside the Migrant Detention Center in Clint, Texas,” “We’re in a Dark Place: Children Returned to Troubled Texas Border Facility,” and “There is a Stench: Soiled Clothes and No Baths for Migrant Children at a Texas Center.”

Since the revelations about these border atrocities became daily news stories, I have found myself waking up in the middle of the night, unable to sleep. The parallels between this current inhumane treatment of immigrants and the way Jewish people, Romani people, and LGBTQ people were abused, and then murdered, in Nazi Germany are just too clear. This is why Jewish people all around the United States are blocking ICE facilities, risking arrest, and chanting “Never Again!”

Yesterday, one of my students brought some visiting family members into the yoga studio, so he could show them a place where he spends a lot of time each week. As we chatted, the fact that I had recently participated in civil disobedience came up. My student’s sister said she was so upset by how immigrants are being treated, but she hadn’t “done anything about it yet.” I encouraged her to get involved, because our bad feelings about the current border policies don’t do anything to help those who are being detained and victimized by these policies. In fact, since our tax dollars are paying for these cages, razor wire, and prison guards, we are all supporting what is happening, even if we are morally opposed. And since a new poll showed that 81% of Republicans are in favor of family separations, those of us on the side of mercy have our work cut out for us.

Civil disobedience is just one way to stand up against these crimes. If you can’t imagine getting arrested, I ask you to consider what kinds of steps you might be willing to take. Maybe you don’t have a lot of time, but you have some money you could donate. The Vermont Freedom Bail Fund bails out detained immigrants so they can rejoin their families. Migrant Justice works for the human rights of immigrant farm workers in Vermont. Maybe you don’t have much money, but you do have time. Every city and state has some kind of immigrant rights network, and help is always needed. Here in Addison County, several dozen residents volunteer each week to provide transportation, English lessons, and translation services to our farm worker neighbors. 

The most important thing, if you believe in human rights for all people, is to add your voice and your resources to the fight for justice. Remember, throughout history many actions that used to be illegal were clearly the ethical thing to do. Here’s a small list of things that were against the law: helping an enslaved person escape from captivity, hiding a Jewish person from Nazis, sitting down at a “whites only” lunch counter (if you weren’t white), falling in love with and marrying someone of a different race. Many people that broke these immoral laws are now regarded as heroes when we look through the lens of history. 

And speaking of history, most of us have a lot of work ahead to better understand our United States history, and its dreadful legacy of family separation. From the moment the first kidnapped Africans were brought to this soil, wrenching apart families has been the economic engine that built this nation’s wealth. In addition to making profits from buying and selling away the family members of enslaved laborers of African descent, the forces of settler colonialism separated countless Indigenous families through boarding schools like the Carlisle Indian School. Even as recently as the 1960s and 70s, white “Christian” missionaries based in Tucson, Arizona kidnapped Apache children and arranged for them to be adopted into white families. 

In the resulting court case brought by the Navajo Nation and the White Mountain Apache Tribe, Indigenous community members testified that under tribal customary law, the individuals who created a child are not the only parents. Responsibility for the child’s wellbeing extends to aunts and uncles, family friends and grandparents. In both Apache and Navajo languages, the word for mother is the same as the word for aunt. The word for father is the same as the word for uncle. Elders relayed this in court in their native languages, and the judge ended up ruling that these children were not eligible for adoption. Even if their biological parents couldn’t care for them, they belonged with their extended families, on their ancestral lands. This is just one small example of United States’ vicious history of stealing Indigenous children away from their families.

The families suffering at the border today are Indigenous people who have every right to be here. Their ancestors have inhabited this continent for thousands of years, many generations longer than even the earliest European colonizers. The area that we now call the US-Mexico border has been traversed throughout time. Stopping these border atrocities will require us to understand our American history better, and to commit ourselves to removing the pillars of support that uphold violence and injustice. Now is the time to put ourselves on the side of love, and to be willing to take some risks, because as the Civil Rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer said, “No one is free until everyone is free.”

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Loving Your Neighbor

My friend posted a photo of two men holding up a sign that read “Love Your Neighbor. Even if they don’t: Look Like You. Think Like You. Love Like You. Pray Like You. Vote Like You. My thoughts kept coming back to this sign. Finally I had to respond, “Even if you are voting to take away my human rights, I still gotta love you?” My friend responded to my comment that he had it on good authority, based on most of the world’s spiritual traditions, that yes, I do have to love that person.

This got me thinking about power. When someone has power over, and abuses someone else, it's not only bad for the victim, it is ALSO bad for the abuser. Take the example of rape. There are many reasons why someone may enjoy inflicting sexual suffering on someone else, and my first concern would always be for the one who is harmed. How can I keep her safe? How can I help her heal? But I truly believe the perpetrator is also in need of healing. For his soul's sake, (whether or not one believes in an afterlife, or in karmic repercussions) it is not doing this human any good to be allowed to go around preying on others. So the very best way for me to Love this person, is to PREVENT THEM FROM BEING ABLE TO HARM ANYONE! 

This wealthy country was built upon the genocide of the Native people who lived here, and the stolen labor of enslaved people, kidnapped from Africa. Another way to put that is that our nation was founded on an abysmal lack of empathy, and a profound eagerness to declare nonwhite people inferior and subhuman. This willingness to inflict violence on anyone deemed “the other” proved extremely profitable. Plantation owners raped female slaves whenever they felt like it, and then sold their own offspring, routinely tearing babies away from their mothers to add to their coffers. 

This willingness to overlook our shared humanity brought immense riches, not only in the slave holding states of the South, but also to Northern captains of industry who relied on the cotton planted, tended, and harvested by enslaved people. Newport, Rhode Island was a leading port for slave ships, and the early economy of all of New England was enmeshed in the evil business of buying and selling human beings. 

In spite of the beautiful words of our Founding Fathers, “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal,” they really only meant white, property-owning men like themselves. But from the time that North America was still a colony of England, Black people fought for their rights to be free from the torture of slavery. There are over 250 documented slave rebellions in North America, and 485 recorded instances of kidnapped African people revolting on board slave ships. Of course the self-organized involvement of enslaved Black people in the Union Army during the Civil War represents a mighty force of people fighting for their right to be free.

Black women have always been at the forefront of demands for freedom and human rights. It was a Black Woman, Harriet Tubman, who in 1863 planned and executed a raid on Combahee Ferry  that freed 750 enslaved people, many of whom went on to join the Union Army. It was a Black Woman, Ida Wells, who in 1892 initiated the nation’s first anti-lynching campaign. It was a Black Woman, Fannie Lou Hamer, who helped and encouraged thousands of Black citizens in Mississippi to become registered voters, and who co-founded the National Women’s Political Caucus, an organization created to recruit, train, and support women of all races to run for office. In our own state of Vermont, our only Black female legislator, Representative Kiah Morris, has recently stepped down from her elected office after receiving racist threats.


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr famously said “The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” I love this quote, and I do think he was right, even as the current news of stepped up deportations, children in cages, and emboldened Nazis is terrifying and heart breaking. We must link arms, support one another, and seek out every opportunity to center and uplift those who have been pushed to the margins. In November 2020, Americans will be voting for the world we want to see. Will we vote into office men who want to preserve their power at all costs, or people who believe in everyone’s right to be free?

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

How I learned to Teach About Non-Binary Birds and Bees

In August of 2017, I spent a weekend in Boston being trained to teach sex education to teenagers. This sex positive, consent-based, gender affirming curriculum was first conceived of over 40 years ago by two faith communities, The United Church of Christ and the Unitarian Universalist Society. These religious organizations wanted their congregants to have accurate, age-appropriate information about sexuality, to encourage lifelong healthy decisions about sex and intimacy. The program, called Our Whole Lives (OWL), is the opposite of so-called abstinence-only teachings. Instead, we teach all about sex, knowing that people of all ages make the best choices when we have all the information we need.

The Our Whole Lives curriculum is built around three core values: Respect, Relationships, and Responsibility. The ideal is that these values guide our decision making in every aspect of life, but especially in how we express our sexuality. Looking over the OWL material as I prepare for my second year of teaching the curriculum to 7th and 8th graders in Middlebury, Vermont, I am struck by how badly I want our whole country to have access to these essential teachings.

Back in Fall of 2017, just a few short weeks after receiving our training to teach OWL, my fellow facilitator and I nervously awaited our first group of middle schoolers. We knew that most likely these kids wouldn’t be too excited to wake up early on Sunday mornings to come talk about sex with two old people! In fact, if I could travel back to my own 13 year old self, it would probably be my worst nightmare! We had posted materials on the wall, placed chairs in a circle, and put the Question Box in a prominent place. When the kids came in, we would explain how the Question Box worked. At the end of every single class, each teen would receive an index card and a pen. If they had any question at all, they would write it on the card. If they didn’t have a question, they would write “I don’t have a question.” That way, writing on the cards was something the whole group would participate in, no one would know who asked questions, and we facilitators would answer any questions from the Question Box at the next meeting.

Little did we know, as we planned our lessons for the 2017/2018 school year, that this would be the year that would see one after another prominent journalist, movie executive (the Harvey Weinstein story broke during our first week of OWL), politician and so many more, accused of weaponizing their sexuality against women in their spheres of influence. It seemed like each time we would meet, there was another story of a grown man causing terrible harm. I felt determined that these kids would know they had a right not to be treated that way, wherever they might go.

Spending time with these middle school students made me remember back to my own early teen years. Did I have caring adults who taught me that human sexuality and desire express themselves in a rainbow of different ways? Did anyone tell me it was fine to love people of the opposite gender, the same gender, or both/neither genders? Did the grown ups in my life understand that gender is NOT an either/or duality, that many humans identify as outside the gender binary? Did anyone ever tell me explicitly that if I wasn’t feeling safe, that if I wasn’t enjoying myself tremendously, it was my human right to get out of that situation, NO MATTER WHAT the other person wanted? No, I never got that. How about you, Gentle Reader?

This month is the 50th annual Pride Celebration, marking the Stonewall Rebellion, when patrons of a gay bar in NYC fought back against a police crackdown. An Elder Stateswoman named Miss Major, who was there at Stonewall, described it like this: “Looking at the riot squad was like watching Star Wars stormtroopers, but they were in black with riot gear, sticks, guns, mace, helmets, and shields. The brutalization as they moved across and down the street was like a tidal wave hitting a coastline city. It just hit and rolled over you. If you fought, you’d wind up down, and if you were down, they would keep beating on you.” 

It was queer, gender non-conforming, people of color who lead the spontaneous uprising against police brutality for these three consecutive nights, now known as the Stonewall Rebellion. It was queer, gender non-conforming, people of color who, in so many ways, brought us to this moment in history where LGBTQIA+ people don’t have to live closeted lives, have the freedom to marry, and are represented in the media. But we still have such a very, very long way to go. Trans Women of Color have a life expectancy of only 35 years old, and 57% of transgender women of color make below $10,000 a year. Miss Major is angry that all these years after Stonewall, trans people are still fighting to survive.

In many ways, today’s queer and gender non-conforming youth are growing up in a different world than the one their parents knew. If they don’t live in a religious fundamentalist community, they can be out to their parents, teachers, and friends. They can go to the prom with their sweetie, even if they both are wearing tuxes!  They can see queer characters on TV. If they feel isolated, they can be part of a group that offers online support. How much of this positive change in society do we owe to those brave drag queens at Stonewall, who had had enough of being violently targeted for simply being themselves?

The freedom to be who you are, to enjoy basic human rights and comforts, should never be denied. The middle schoolers who will take part in OWL in the coming school year are very lucky, even if they don’t feel like it when their parents are waking them up on Sunday morning. As their teacher, it is my responsibility to make sure they understand how much of their freedom to be who they are, is due to the courage of people who are still struggling to get free.


The Heavy Weight of Racism in America

My friend Andre Henry has a boulder in the back of his car. It’s a large, heavy rock, painted white. It is covered with black writing, words like “police violence, racial profiling, white fragility, and eurocentrism.” It is also covered with hashtags. Lots and lots of hashtags, each one followed by a name. Each name is the name of a Black person killed by police.

Also in the back of Andre’s car is a wagon. He uses the wagon to drag the boulder around his home city of Los Angeles. He has dragged that stone into classrooms, churches, job interviews. It is a heavy, heavy rock. But it doesn’t weigh as much as the fear that he, or one of his best beloveds, could be the next hashtag.

Andre’s boulder project reminds me of another person who decided to lug something heavy around, wherever they went. Emma Sulkowicz is the artist who was sexually assaulted by a fellow student while an undergraduate at Columbia University. When the university decided not to expel the perpetrator, Emma (who identifies as non-binary and uses they/them pronouns) created a piece of endurance performance art titled Carry That Weight.  From September 2, 2014, until May 27, 2015, Emma carried the dorm room mattress on which the assault occurred, everywhere they went on campus. The art piece includes the “Rules of Engagement,” in which Emma painted on the walls of a studio on campus the rules: that the mattress must be carried at all times when on Emma was campus, that they could not ask for help in carrying it, but that if help were offered they could accept it. 

In Emma’s words, "To me, the piece has very much represented [the fact that] a guy did a horrible thing to me and I tried to make something beautiful out of it."

I remember reading about Carry That Weight in the New York Times, while the piece was being performed. I remember being deeply moved by the image of a group of students carrying the mattress together. The mattress weighed fifty pounds- what a relief it must have been when Emma’s fellow students offered assistance!

 While art critics hailed the piece as a triumph of “pure radical vulnerability,” Carry That Weight was not without its detractors. Perhaps most notably, the accused perpetrator sued Columbia for allowing the Mattress Performance, claiming it created a hostile environment for him. I do have some sympathy for young men who are navigating college dating life while having been raised on a steady diet of entitlement and toxic masculinity. Young people need to be taught that their bodies are their own, and that when interacting with others, enthusiastic consent is the gold standard. The Columbia students who helped Emma carry the mattress included young men, young men who wanted their campus to be safe for everyone.

I asked Andre if anyone ever offered to help him pull the heavy boulder, and he said no. 

I am thinking about all the ways we have been taught that racism and white supremacy is just “the way things are.” How we have absorbed the idea that Black people living in neighborhoods with crumbling schools, instead of the safe and leafy suburbs where so many white Americans live, is somehow the natural order of things. Who taught us this? No one said it explicitly, but haven’t these messages surrounded us anyway?

What would it look like for more white Americans to take on the burden of thinking and talking about race? What would it look like to engage in conversations, and look for opportunities to educate ourselves? What would it look like to advocate for racial justice, to pay reparations, to share resources? What would it mean to take a turn dragging that boulder around?


Friday, November 30, 2018

An Open Letter to Senator Bernie Sanders


Dear Senator Sanders,

One of my husband’s favorite t-shirts bears your image, or at least an image of your wild hair, and your glasses. It also bears the number 2016, the year we hoped you would prevail in the Democratic primary, and then continue on to become our 45th president. You don’t need me to tell you that things didn’t quite work out the way we wished.

I’m writing you this letter because I was dismayed to read a quote from you that seemed to excuse voters who chose not to cast their ballots for politicians of color, like Stacey Abrams or Andrew Gillum, who were running for Governor in Georgia and Florida, respectively. In your interview with the Daily Beast you said, “I think you know there are a lot of white folks out there who are not necessarily racist who felt uncomfortable for the first time in their lives about whether or not they wanted to vote for an African-American.”

Later, in a clarifying statement to NPR, you said that any votes Gillum or Abrams lost over their race were entirely due to what you called racist campaigns run by their Republican opponents.

It seems like you are willing to characterize the campaigns as racist, but not the voters who lapped up that racism and marked their ballots accordingly.

I am writing this becauseI think you, like many older, Progressive, white Americans, seem to be on the cusp of making an important realization about white supremacy and the way it plays out in all of our lives. On the one hand, you know that racism is real, that it causes untold pain and suffering to Americans of color. On the other hand, you are reluctant to admit that you, or really any white working person in America today, is actually racist. 

So allow me to offer a little help, in the hopes that this may also be useful to other white, Progressive, Liberal Americans. We are racist! We can’t help it! We have been raised in a country that insists we are all created equal, yet patently denies equality on the basis of skin color in every institution in our supposedly democratic society. Just a quick reminder (all statistics from the excellent book by Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility): The ten richest Americans are 100% white. The US Congress is 90% white. US governors are 96% white. People who decide which TV shows we see are 93% white. Full-time college professors are 84% white. 

With all of this whiteness dominating our governmental, educational and cultural institutions, is it any wonder that biases against people of color continue to poison our minds and hearts? Think of it this way, because I know you care deeply about the environment: pollution emanates from coal powered plants, oil refineries, and manufacturing. These toxins affect our air, water, and soil, and make their way into our bodies, even affecting our DNA. It’s not our FAULT when we get sick from breathing poisoned air, we couldn’t help but absorb the pollutants into our lungs. Racism is a little like that. It surrounds us in the news we read, the curriculum at our elementary school, the movie that depicts yet another Black man as a drug addict or criminal instead of as a loving father, brilliant scientist, or caring school principal.

The pollution of racism is not only found in images depicting Black criminality, but in messages of white superiority. We are inundated with these lies from our youth until our old age, and the only way to undo some of the bias is to consciously WORK to untangle it every day. 

Bernie, I know you care deeply about people of every race and ethnicity. But you need to do a better job refining your ability to speak about these matters with sensitivity and intelligence. Yes, income inequality is terrible for almost all Americans. But it hurts people of color worse. Yes, lack of access to affordable healthcare is a travesty in this country, but health outcomes for the Black community are even worse, due to food apartheid (huge areas where no fresh food is available, often where communities of color live), as well as inequalities in treatment by biased doctors, nurses, and hospital administrators.


Please allow me to suggest the following steps to increase your racial IQ: 1. Recognize that as a progressive politician, you are not immune from bias, and you still have learning to do. 2. Hire a great team to help you learn and do better. Use some of the resources working Americans have poured into your campaign coffers to hire young people of color who can help you craft policy and write speeches. You’ve done it before! When I read the Racial Justice portion of your website, it is clear that you have some very smart people working for you. Keep diving in and learning more about how white supremacy and racist ideology hurt everyone. When you show us you are willing to do your inner work to dismantle racism in yourself, and call it out wherever you see it, even among the coveted white working class voters of America, it will be a powerful example of lifelong learning.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Seekers, Beware: New Age Spirituality Can Be Poisonous!



Let me begin this column by thanking my friend for posting a video called  “Ten pieces of Wisdom from Wayne Dyer.”  Like much New Age spirituality, these little teachings contain some truth, but I think overall they promote a dangerous worldview. That’s why I left a comment after the video saying “Deeply problematic white people words.” The yoga world is full of these harmful ideas, so I have had many years to ponder why they are so appealing and what might be some stronger, more real medicine for our troubled times. Gentle readers, will you take a journey with me through some of these aphorisms?

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Okay, let’s say I am looking at a pile of garbage. Granted, there are different ways one can look at a pile of garbage. One way would be to say, “Yikes, our household makes a lot of garbage, I wonder what we could do to produce less garbage?” Then we could start composting (which reduces one’s household waste by one third), we could start buying more food in bulk, instead of purchasing heavily packaged items, and, if we really want to become trash reducing super stars, we could start buying less stuff in general. Now these life changes, which I highly recommend, will take some effort and energy, and are sure to reduce subsequent trash piles in your house. But do they change that original pile of garbage we were contemplating? No, they do not.  

“You cannot be lonely if you like the person you’re alone with.” It is really great to learn to like, or better yet, love yourself. But isn’t it possible that some people are lonely because human beings are social animals? Our primate ancestors thrive in groups, and whether we are extroverted or introverted, a certain amount of human contact including conversation, hugs, and meal sharing seems to make life more bearable. Instead of asking a lonely person if they could love themselves more, how about we ask ourselves if there are any people we know who might like a visit?

 “Conflict cannot survive without your participation.” This is an interesting notion, and as a gold medal conflict avoider, I can see the appeal. But some conflicts are essential. As a female bodied person, I enjoy the right to vote because my ancestors didn’t shy away from conflict. Did you know that in the fight for women’s suffrage in Great Britain, in the early 1900s, many women learned the martial art jiu-jitsu to protect themselves from police violence?

 “Be miserable. Or motivate yourself. Whatever has to be done, it’s always your choice.” Really? It’s ALWAYS my choice? What about all those people in Charleston, South Carolina, whose family members were murdered while they were at bible study, by white supremacist Dylann Roof? What about the millions of children of migrant families living in fear that our next president will deport their parents? I suspect this definition of misery is a very narrow one. This is a real American “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” version of happiness. Most of us were raised with this idea, in some way. It boils down to this: “If you are miserable, it’s your own damn fault. Get up and make something of yourself.” Is this loving? Is this kind?

“Abundance is not something we acquire. It’s something we tune into.” Oh boy does this one make me mad! Does the person who came up with that idea (I’m looking at you, Wayne Dyer) know that in the United States, white people have 90% of the national wealth, and Black families hold 2.6% ? Is this because African American citizens aren’t “tuned into abundance?” Give me a break!

 “Loving people live in a loving world. Hostile people live in a hostile world. Same world.” Now I will agree that having a hostile attitude is bound to be a terrible way to go through life, and greeting my fellow humans with kindness and good cheer will make each day sweeter. But what about the terrible hostility innocent people experience every day? Was Tamir Rice hostile? (He was not. He was only 12 years old. But that didn’t stop police officers from ending his life.) So it’s a nice idea that if we are loving the world around us will be loving, but it does not take into account the evil in the world. Police brutality, abuse of children, rape. These are hostile actions that cause untold physical and psychic pain to loving people every day.

If we really want to live up to our full potential, as human beings, we are called to be honest with ourselves, and loving with those around us. Honesty means looking at all the ways we have been privileged to enjoy the life and material resources that we have. (Privileged doesn’t mean you have a trust fund, and it doesn’t mean that you don’t work hard. It just means many people are struggling, through no fault of their own.) Loving means not only being kind to those we directly interact with every day, but being brave enough to confront systems of oppression that keep people poor, struggling to survive, and afraid. Loving means letting go of the mentality that “you create your own reality,” and replacing it with a sincere desire for all people to be free.

“Go for it now. The future is promised to no one.” I think I like this one. Let’s keep it as it is.


Friday, December 16, 2016

We REALLY need a new National Anthem

Colin Kaepernick, a football player from my home city of San Francisco is in the news, and taking all kinds of heat, for refusing to stand during the national anthem.  The 49er quarterback said, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color. … There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

In his refusal to stand for The Star Spangled Banner, Kaepernick has made himself a lightning rod for the necessary discussion of race in America. He has also shed light on a little told tale of the origins of our country’s song. Settle in, Gentle Readers, this is one incredible story!

The Star Spangled Banner is a poem written by Francis Scott Key about the Battle of Fort McHenry in Baltimore during the War of 1812. This was a war our young country launched to seize Canada from the British. Although the U.S. lost that war, they did win the battle of Fort McHenry, and when Francis Scott Key saw the American flag flying above the fort, he was inspired to write about the “Land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Here’s the part I never knew. While the first part of the poem is what is sung at pretty much every sporting event in the U.S., the poem is actually four stanzas long. In the third stanza, Key celebrates the killing of Black soldiers who helped the British. An article in The Atlantic magazine tells how the British army recognized America’s weakness, slavery. British military leaders encouraged slaves, who were often hungry and clad in rags, to flee from bondage and help defeat their former masters. Some 600 Chesapeake Bay slaves joined the British Colonial Marines and marched with redcoats on Washington, DC, and Baltimore. 

At first it was single, enslaved men who escaped slavery to serve as pilots, guides, and spies. Later, whole families were making their way to British ships, whose captains promised the slaves free emigration to British colonies in Canada and the West Indies in exchange for their service.

Francis Scott Key was a slave owning lawyer. Africans in America, he said, were: “a distinct and inferior race of people, which all experience proves to be the greatest evil that afflicts a community.”

Let this sink in: The man who wrote our country’s national anthem owned slaves. This is the third stanza of our Star Spangled Banner:

No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

White Americans are long overdue in wrestling with the suffering of slavery, Jim Crow, and centuries of racism that is woven into the fabric of our country. Our founding fathers were perpetuating a great evil. Instead of admitting they were doing something terrible (owning other human beings) they projected the evil onto those “others.” This is still happening today. In the weeks since Colin Kaepernick began kneeling instead of standing up for the national anthem, 16 people have been killed by police in the United States. This is more police killings than many countries experience in an entire year!


True patriotism means holding ourselves, our government, and our institutions accountable when we do wrong. True patriotism means insisting we do a better and better job of making sure the beautiful words in our United States Constitution “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal” apply to everyone. I thank Colin Kaepernick for being so much more than a football player. By kneeling during the national anthem he has also become a teacher and a leader.