Racial Justice Round-Up #8: Pre-Inauguration Edition

As we prepare for the Inauguration tomorrow and all that accompanies that, here are a few articles you may want to spend some time with...

3 Reasons Why Calling Bigots "Uneducated" is Counter-Productive - In our public discourse, those who hold racist views are often mislabeled as "uneducated."  This article explains why doing this not only doesn't move us forward, but also reinforces the systems of oppression we seek to break down.

If You Only Watch One Moment from President Obama's Farewell Speech, Make it This One - President Obama said many powerful things in his farewell speech, but what he had to say about "minority groups voicing discontent" was spot on.  The relevant comments begin during the 22nd minute of the video.

White Jews, Whiteness and Anti-Semitism - Covering a topic that has become one of the focuses of my work these days, this podcast digs deep on the intersections of whiteness, Jewish identity, anti-semitism and racism.  Though-provoking, to say the least.  The website also has links to several articles mentioned in the podcast which are well-worth the read.

Deciding to Lead with Love, Despite an Enraging Political Climate - This piece released over the weekend by Rinku Sen, Executive Director of Race Forward, challenges us even amongst these times when there is so much to be angry about, to lead not only with our anger but also with love.

Do you hear trembling of Jews? - Written by a rabbi from the midwest, this op-ed compellingly points to the intersections of the rising wave of anti-semitism with ongoing acts of violence towards Muslims, immigrants, and People of Color.

The Tree of Getting Free

On November 9th, in an effort to process my thoughts on the outcome of the election, I wrote a post about the interrelatedness of the oppression of (white) Jews with the oppression of many other groups in American society.  Since then, I've been doing a lot of thinking about how best to help others understand this concept so that they can see the shared root of our struggles and connect across lines of difference to work for justice  

In my training work, I've found that pictures can often explain a concept in ways that words can't - and that they're more memorable.  I woke up on Thanksgiving with the idea to create a visual representation of this idea and what came out of it is the image you see here.  This "Tree of Getting Free" depicts how racism, xenophobia, and Christian hegemony (and all of the oppressions related to these) all come from the same root, which is white supremacy.  When we hear white supremacy, we often think only of men in white hoods.  When I use it in this context, however, I'm suggesting that white supremacy isn't just those overt acts of hatred. It is the entire system of policies, laws, customs, and beliefs that our society was established on which have continued over the course of our country's history and set white, Christians (especially white Christian heterosexual cisgender men without disabilities) as the norm and establish negative consequences for anyone who doesn't fall into that category.  It's a system that we're all a part of, not because we choose or want to be, but because it permeates the very fabric of our society.  In order to address all of the oppressions at the top, we need to get to the root of them - and the best way to do that is to come together with other communities and fight together for safety and justice.

You may notice that around the tree is a vine with some other forms of oppression such as homophobia and transphobia.  While these types of oppression don't grow from the same root, they are symbiotic and often occur with racism, xenophobia and Christian hegemony and visual portrayal that didn't include these, seemed incomplete.

Hopefully this visual illustration is helpful to you in exploring these concepts.  Feel free to leave a note in the comments if you have any feedback on it, as it's a work in progress.

"The Tree of Getting Free"

"The Tree of Getting Free"

Racial Justice Round-Up #7: Thinking, Talking, Doing

This week's round-up I'm looking at how we think and talk about issues related to racial justice and what we DO about them.  Read on for some great articles in both areas...


How We Think and Talk About Racial Justice

'Alt-Right' Is Not a Thing. It's White Supremacy - This article calls into question the widespread use in the media of the term 'Alt-Right,' making the case that this is simply a "re-branding" of white supremacy - one that makes it more palatable to the mainstream.

Why Our Feminism Must Be Intersectional (And 3 Ways to Practice It) - This one straddles both categories, actually.  It provides an brilliant and accessible introduction to what intersectionality is and why it matters and then provides three key ways that people can practice it.  The article focuses on intersectionality from a feminist perspective but the learnings are applicable across the board.


What We Do

Weekly Acts of Resistance - Want to take action in response to the hatred and threats to your values happening on the national state but not sure how to choose between the many options of actions out there?  This website provides four actions each week that you can take and instructions on how to take them.

Opportunities for White People in the Fight for Racial Justice - This website, which originated as a Google Doc, has a whole host of actions in a variety of categories that white people can take to work towards racial justice.  

The Safety Pin Box - I'll let their description speak for itself: "Safety Pin Box is a monthly subscription box for white people striving to be allies in the fight for Black Liberation. Box memberships are a way to not only financially support Black femme freedom fighters, but also complete measurable tasks in the fight against white supremacy."

Parenting for the Resistance - A concrete action that parents can take to support their kids in standing up to the hatred and bullying that they may encounter.

This Researcher Programmed Bots to Fight Racism on Twitter.  It Worked. - For those looking to take action on social media, this article describes the findings of a researcher who sought to discover what types of interventions and from whom are most likely to decrease racist behavior online.


And then, one last piece for inspiration.  This poem may need to be printed and hung on my wall so that I can refer back to it when things get tough and I need to be reminded of why we'll win.  I was going to include a few lines here to give a taste of it's amazing-ness but there are just too many to pick from - so just go read it y'all.

Racial Justice Round-Up #6

Following the election, there has been a deluge of writing on topics related to racial justice. Here are just a few pieces to check out...

Five Ways White People Can Process Their Emotions Without Bringing the White Tears: This article beautifully balances the need for white people to be able to feel the emotions that come up for them in the context of racial justice work with the negative impact those emotions can have on people of color and provides concrete suggestions for how to avoid that negative impact while still feeling those emotions.

Please Don't Ask Black People to Empathize with Trump Supporters: There has been a lot of writing about the need to empathize with the experiences of alienation that led some white people to vote for Trump.  While there is important work that needs to happen there, this article makes a strong case for why asking Black people (or any of those targeted by his rhetoric) to do that is problematic.

Ready for Thanksgiving Conversations with Trump Voters? This Guide Can Help: For those who will encounter Trump voters at their Thanksgiving meals and are in state to actually engage in constructive conversation, this article provide suggestions and a link to a conversation guide that can help.

Why Jews Have a Special Obligation to Resist Trump: Powerful piece from two amazing Jewish leaders on why "American Jewish organizations can't pretend this is business as usual."

A Time for Moral Grandeur: Beautiful post by Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg on why "never again" must mean now and why we must take courageous action to stop the rising tide of racism and hatred being empowered now.

"The Interrelated Structure of Reality"

“In a real sense all life is interrelated. All [people] are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be...This is the inter-related structure of reality.”

- Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail


Many of my friends and teachers today have noted the importance of time for mourning, for sitting shiva, and allowing the feelings that accompany last night’s news to be felt.  I am very much there on an emotional level, and yet throughout this morning I’ve also been visited over and over again by thoughts about how we move forward in general, but especially as white Jews; thoughts that relate to the words of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr quoted above.

Over the past few decades, the privileges of whiteness and affluence have meant that many white Jews in the United States have experienced a time of unprecedented safety and success.  For many, this has made it easy to forget a fact that has remained true throughout that time. That is that the same ideology that is leading to the oppression of our Black, Muslim, Latinx, immigrant, queer, trans, female and more neighbors, also targets Jews.  It’s an ideology that believes that white, Christian, American-born straight men have supremacy over all others - some call it white supremacy, but that erases some of its complexity, I believe.  

The hateful rhetoric of our president-elect started by targeting Black and brown communities and continued in that way for much of the campaign. Many, really most, American Jews and Jewish institutions turned a blind eye to this bigotry because at that point it did not target Jews. However in the closing days of this election cycle, the inevitable antisemitism began to emerge.  Inevitable because of the linkages described above.  Because antisemitism, unlike many other forms of oppression, functions by making Jews look powerful rather than powerless, it’s sometimes hard to see it - but it was vividly there in the campaign’s words and ads in these last days and weeks.

Whether it’s conscious or not, I can see an awareness of this antisemitism in the reactions of my Jewish friends and colleagues - their expressions of fear, of wanting to hold their children and families close, their moves to prepare their passports and be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.  These are trauma responses, born out of thousands of years of persecution and seared into the brains of Jews around the world, even those who have never experienced anti-semitism personally before.  

However, flight is not what will save us.  What will save us is coming to understand the fact that the threats to our safety that have suddenly become so apparent are bound up with the threats to all of our neighbors who whether because of the color of their skin, their religion, country of origin, or sexual or gender identity are considered “other.”

Now is the time for us as a Jewish community, particularly white Jews, to acknowledge that the threats to others as we enter this new chapter of our history threatens us as well.  Having acknowledged this mutuality, we must then begin the difficult, complex work of sharing our stories and fears and hopes, of building strong and authentic relationships with other oppressed communities that can weather the challenges ahead, and of beginning to plan together across lines of religious, cultural, racial and other difference what we must do to make this country safe for all of us.  Because as Jews, we will only be safe when all of our neighbors are safe too.  As April Rosenblum says in “The Past Didn’t Go Anywhere,” “true Jewish liberation..is incompatible with the oppression of any other group.” Trying to address antisemitism without addressing the underlying ideology that leads to it is like pulling the weeds growing in your garden without removing the roots.  The weeds may disappear for a time, but they will return.  Getting to the shared roots of our oppression and all these other forms of oppression is the only way we can create the country and world that we all want and need. So, let us begin...



More than ever

Today, more than ever, we need to talk about race.  While I've taken a hiatus from this blog for the past six months, I'm going to be returning to it to both share the writings that I come across on these topics, as well as my some of my own thoughts - starting with reactions to last night's election outcomes and what they mean, especially for white Jews.

Racial Justice and Joy

Over the past couple weeks I've been doing a lot of thinking about joy - how we choose whether to focus on joy or pain, what it takes to choose joy and the role that joy plays in our ability to sustain work for justice.  In thinking about that, I realized that much of the news and reporting out there about race and racism is about what's not working, what's wrong, what needs to be fixed.  While that is clearly important information to disseminate, since many Americans, especially White Americans, aren't aware of those realities, it's also important that the realities of what's great, what's working and the joy that is happening around racial justice be shared as well.  So, with that in mind, this week's post (and maybe those to follow) will be focusing on what's working, rather than what's not.  If you have come across other great articles about what's working and the joy of this work, leave a link in the comments.

Black Excellence is 8 Black Women Making History by Earning Their PhD Together - These eight women served as champions and supports for one another as they pursued their PhDs in education at Indiana University, in a program that few women of color had previously graduated from.  

MacArthur Foundation Bails Out Jurisdictions That Jail Too Many - This well known foundation will be distributing at least $1 million dollars to almost a dozen areas to incentivize reducing their prison populations.

Homeless Court Removes Housing, Job Barriers for People on the Streets - Sonoma County's Homeless Court gives alternative punishments for infractions that would otherwise result in a fine that these individuals couldn't pay - keeping them from getting housing or a job.

How One Mississippi District Made Integration Work - A success story about one school district's unique approach to integration that has demonstrated success over decades.

President Obama Reaffirms The Potential of Boys of Color in Powerful PSA - This article introduces and links to a PSA that aired recently sending the message that we believe in the futures of young Black boys.

Facing Race Issues in the Classroom: How to connect with students - An inspiring article about how one school district is approaching the achievement gap and racial bias in the classroom by engaging students in the process.

Racial Justice Round-Up #5: Videos, Allyship and White Privilege

Just one more day to get the "early bird" rate for my upcoming DC workshop "Exploring Racial Bias as White Jews".  Click here for more information and to sign up.

A lot of amazing media - both videos and articles - on racial justice came out this week.  Here are some key pieces:

Traffic Stop:  A video animation produced by StoryCorps that tells the true story of a Black college student, son of white parents, who was stopped by police and severely beaten because he asked to see a warrant.  

Ten Rules:  A video made by Mt. Olivet Baptist Church in Columbus, OH outlining ten rules that Black youth should follow if stopped by the police so that they get home safe.  It's enraging and heartbreaking that this video has to exist.

In Wake of Trump Rally Violence, Dr. MLK Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail" More Relevant than Ever:  Journalist Shaun King draws parallels between the criticisms being directed at the protesters of Trump's rallies with similar criticisms that White clergy directed at the nonviolent protests of the Civil Rights movement - and underscores the urgency of continuing to speak out against bigotry.

8 Pitfalls to Avoid When Being an Ally to Jews of Color:  This is a concise article that outlines some of the major roadblocks White allies come up against when doing racial justice work - within or outside the Jewish community.

Love While Challenging Racist Behavior: This post shares an example of a group situation where a racist statement was made and provides concrete tools for how to manage this type of situation as a facilitator.

The Black Lives Matter Founders Are Among the World's Greatest Leaders: Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi were included in the 2016 Fortune Magazine list of "World's Greatest Leaders".

White Privilege in America Means No Consequences:  This article can be summed up by this quote from its conclusion..."To be white and do wrong in America is to do so without any real consequences or repercussions to the race. To be black or brown or Muslim or an immigrant in America, and do wrong, may cause problems for millions."

Data Shows 3 of 5 Biggest School Districts Hire More Security Officers Than Counselors:  This article explores new data that shows that many of the biggest school districts in the country have much higher student to guidance counselor ratios than student to security/police officer ratios and calls into question the efficacy of that prioritization.

Teaching #BlackLivesMatter:  This is a website from SF Public Schools that includes lesson plans and resources for teaching about #BlackLivesMatter.

Why Jews of Color Like Me Feel Unsafe After AIPAC's Applause for Trump:  This is an important op-ed that calls into question the White Jewish community's commitment to racial justice, based on Trump's reception at a large convening of American Jews last week. 

Concerned Student 1950:  This documentary was created by University of Missouri students to show what happened behind the scenes to bring together the protests there last fall that led to the resignation of the university's president.

Racial Justice Round-Up #4: Race, Class, Education and Incarceration - Plus an upcoming training!

Lots of great reading and resources this week!  

Also, if you haven't yet heard, I'm hosting a training called "Exploring Racial Bias as White Jews" on April 17th in DC.  If you're interested in attending, you can click here for more information.

The Counted: People Killed by Police in the US:  This is an in-depth interactive tool that provides data on all of the people killed in the US by police in 2015 and 2016.  You can sort by race/ethnicity, state, gender, age and more.  There are also pictures and short summaries about each victim.

How Black Middle-Class Kids Become Poor Adults:  Based on several recent studies, this article lays out statistics that show that even when black families are able to move into the middle-class that the rate of "downward intergenerational mobility" is much higher for them than it is for whites.  

Donald Trump's Hateful Rhetoric is Contaminating America's Children:  This opinion piece asserts that the bigotry which Trump regularly articulates is and will continue to be mimicked by children and played out in schools and on playgrounds and may have effects that continue far beyond this election season.

You Can't Ignore Racism and Raise Anti-Racist Children: A mother shares the story of how she dealt with her daughter bringing home a book with racist imagery from the school library - and why having frank conversations with children, especially white children, is so critical to combating racism.

Formerly Incarcerated Moms Fight for Reforms to Save Families: This article outlines a few pieces of legislation that advocates, including formerly incarcerated moms, are fighting for to make sure that more mothers don't lose their children to the system simply because of their incarceration.

The Unchecked Racism of the Left and the Platinum Rule:  This author outlines the ways that subtle racism plays out on the left, using the presidential campaign as an example, and introduces the idea of the "Platinum Rule" - do unto others as they would have done unto them, rather than the oft quoted "Golden Rule" which assumes that we all want and need similar things from others.

How the Media Gets the Narrative on the White Working Class Totally Wrong:  This piece suggests that the often cited idea that the white working class is "America's perpetual bigot class" is actually a form of classism that ignores the racism present in all white economic classes as well as the ways that the white upper and middle classes actually have more power to perpetuate institutional forms of racism than do white working class folks.

How Can White Teachers Do Better by Urban Kids of Color?: An excerpt from a book, this article delves into the ways that white teachers unknowingly perpetuate racial oppression in the urban schools within which they teach and what can be done to address this.

Racial Justice Round-Up #3 (plus an article from me!)

This past week, an article that I wrote on the importance of addressing issues of racial bias in the Jewish community was published by eJewishPhilanthropy.  You can read "Addressing Racial Bias is a Form of Jewish Engagement" here.

Some other interesting articles I came across this week include:

7 Things to Remember If You're A White Person Dating A Person of Color:  A very accessible article about the ways that racial dynamics play out in intimate relationships and concrete things to think about if you're a white person in a relationship with a person of color.

18 Books Every White Ally Should Read: A suggested reading list of books that can help deepen one's understanding of whiteness, systemic racism, and the national policies and history that have led us to where we are now.

Black Jews You Should Know:  The first of a multi-part series highlighting the lives of black Jews.  Spoiler:  A star from the Broadway hit Hamilton is included in part 3.

50+ Picture Books about Mixed Race Families:  A list of books for kids featuring mixed race families.

How Trump Happened: An in-depth article that analyzes how racist dynamics, especially related to Obama, have contributed to a situation where Trump's racist rhetoric can gain as much traction as it has.

Trump Supporters Aren't Stupid: This article provides a thought-provoking analysis of the ways that classism against poor white folks reinforces racism against people of color by denying dignity.

Also, if you'd like to get these posts by email when they come out - you can now sign up for that at the bottom of the page.

Racial Justice Round-Up #2

Here are a few articles and podcasts on race, racism and racial justice that I'd encourage you to read...

On Being: The Resilient World We're Building Now: An amazing episode of On Being featuring Patrisse Cullors, one of the co-founders of #BlackLivesMatter, and Robert Ross, a public health expert on the impact of childhood trauma, discussing issues of resilience, wholeness, trauma and growth.

Miss Sick of This vs Mama Cool: This incredibly heartfelt, vulnerable article shares a black mother's story of reacting to an incident at her daughter's school and all of the trauma it brought back for her.

Biden: Trump Makes Us Face Our Racism:  There has been a lot of writing this week about what Trump's wins on Super Tuesday say about racism.  This one specifically shares Vice President Biden's perspective on this issue.

Donald Trump and the Death Knell of White Supremacy: This is another one on the topic of Trump and racism; an optimistic view of how the hatred that Trump is surfacing may lead to change. 


Racial Justice Round-Up #1

There are so many great articles out there being written about racial justice and related issues.  Here are a few that I came across recently that I recommend:

"The Good Enough," Anti-Racist Parent - An article not about giving ourselves a pass to not engage in this work, but about giving ourselves compassion that we can do what we can only do what we can do within our personal constraints and also that we're going to make mistakes and that's part of the process.

How to Talk to Your Kids About Race - A blog post with some straightforward, concrete tips for engaging in conversations with your kids around race and racism.

A Black Police Officer's Fight Against the N.Y.P.D. - And for something completely different, a NY Times article about an officer that is trying to change the system from the inside, at great personal risk.

Introducing "We Need to Talk...About Race"

I'm excited to introduce my new blog - We Need to Talk...About Race.  Here I'll be exploring issues related to race in the United States, racial justice, anti-racism and how to teach kids about all of these topics.  

I spend much of my free time reading articles related to these issues, so among other posts, I'm aiming to include a regular round-up of thought-provoking articles I've come across recently that I want to make sure others know about.

I look forward to sharing with you and hearing what you have to say as well!