The Conversations You’ll Have

I recently had a conversation with an old high school classmate about my activism and why this middle aged, privileged white woman choose to go back to school for another undergraduate degree. Why would I take on homework assignments, technological challenges, uncomfortable discussions, deadlines and a whole lot of self reflection. After all, I’m at the height of privilege as my youngest daughter will be off to college soon, my business is strong and flexible, my husband’s work is solid but winding down. When I could be off busying myself with fantastical vacations that keep my head above the fray and shielded from any suffering from others, I rightly choose to open my eyes all the more and arm myself with knowledge. Why? Because my daughters brought a sense of urgency and necessity to wake up and acknowledge the suffering and oppression of those around us. The 2016 election was devastating and while I was an absolute mess trying to understand how people I thought I knew could empower a racist, misogynistic conman, I witnessed my daughters’ friends remain composed and treat each day just like every past day in their lives. They had lived with the racism, the discrimination, the micro aggression each and every day prior to 2016. They had clarity on how our society was built and how it truly functioned. And that left me shook. How could these 16 year old kids have more awareness than this full grown ass adult? Because they are black girls.

Finding strength in my daughters and their friends, I enrolled and started a path that I cherish. The knowledge is so insanely valuable that I leave each and every class wondering why it isn’t taught in every single lower school or high school or college. When I talked to my advisor about registering for the fall semester, I specifically wanted gain more knowledge on systems of oppression. It is important to me and the work that I do with voter registration to understand the barriers that are in place that oppress anyone. So my advisor recommended this class. And she was right. What I take from this class is greater understanding of the silent and invisible barriers that continue to block the empowerment and voices of those marginalized. These barriers are so thinly veiled at times that the typical white person will completely overlook what is right before them and further, they will agree with statements that perpetuate oppression or serve as a dog whistle. As Robin D’Angelo stated in White Fragility, “progressives do the most daily damage” by not dismantling the systems oppression and instead spending their time trying convince others of their wokeness. I firmly believe that this is in part due to the lack of knowledge and introspection for some, but clearly not all. It takes work, and why should a comfortably situated person purposefully take on the discomfort and challenge how they arrived to their position in society. Suzanne Pharr spoke about the evolution of our democracy and how it “requires a struggle against discrimination based on race, class, gender, sexual identity, ableism and age – those barriers which keep large portions of the population from having access to economic and social justice, from being able to participate fully in the decisions affecting our lives, from having a full share of both the rights and responsibilities of living in a free society”. Having wrote that statement in 1996, I wonder how she feels now with the deterioration of our current political and social environment.

It is commonly accepted that the victor writes history, even if it is incorrect or white washed. But in our current world with technology at our fingertips, where race, gender, orientation, identity is theoretically not a factor, we are reminded that the platforms that are user content driven continues to perpetuate the marginalization. The Wikipedia project really drove the point home how current systems of oppression are still at play in a technological world.

So back to my high school friend and what I will do with the information gained from this class. Prior to taking formal classes I would get in to discussion on social justice issues which typically turned to non-fruitful emotion based arguments. But over time as I became more knowledgable, my discussion elevated to fact based, persuasive exchanges. I use the knowledge from this class and others to arm myself with information and work towards opening the minds of privileged white people, even those that claim to be progressive yet remain in the dark. That high school friend, he contacted me privately after yet another public, vigorous discussion about racism and discrimination. Over time I had opened his eyes on many facets of social justice and he too had started having an internal dialogue about how he contributes to systems of oppression. It’s not much, but it is a start to a long and hopefully fruitful path in dismantling systems of oppression.

Social Model Disability

Disability justice is centered on the inclusion of those most impacted by systems of oppression and their intersectionality among other marginalized groups they identify. As with many other movements, the beginnings of disability rights was centric on white, heterosexual, males that had a disability to the exclusion of other people. “Disability justice recognizes the intersecting legacies of white supremacy, colonial capitalism, gendered oppression and ableism in understanding how people’s’ bodies and minds are labelled ‘deviant’, ‘unproductive’, ‘disposable’ and/or ‘invalid’” ( It is important to incorporate disability justice into accessibility laws in order to combat the erroneous equation of legal opportunities to actual access to equal opportunities. This requires societal awareness that challenges discrimination, implicit bias, and marginalization of those society deems as “other”. For too long, intersectional disabled people have been subjugated to other marginalized groups while their disability was simply a nomenclature within that group (Bryan, pg 465).

The 1960’s ushered in a series of social justice movements across the U.S. Diversity across all groups contributed to this monumental task yet many of these movements ultimately became centered around white males. The uprising brought awareness of the marginalization of segments of society to the average American and enabled the pathway to a legal equality for some of these segments. For the disabled community this meant that they would be recognized as having the right to access, education and more, but it would be focused on their physical limitations as compared to a society and infrastructure that is centered around abled bodied people. The medical model of disability is an important part of the equation to equality that gives discriminated people a legal outlet to enforce laws but it frames disability as a function that they need to be fixed. The medical model has imitations by the way it shapes the conversation of impairment around the concept of disability as barriers because of the impairment (Barnard Center, 2017). An alternative approach is to flip the conversation and highlight the disability within society while amplifying the abilities of those with impairments.

It is important to move the responsibility of overcoming barriers from the individual with impairments to society and ultimately dismantle the “attitudes and physical barriers imposed on them by society that prevents them from achieving their potential” (Shape Arts, 2017). The way that society treats ablism is similar to how we do gender, as a social construct. Our current social construct is to marginalize people with impairment and subsequently minimize or erase their stories. The social model of disability will amplify their voices and their abilities.


Barnard Center for Research on Women, My Body Doesn’t, Oppress Me, Society Does, May 9, 2017,

Shape Arts, Social Model of Disability, November 28, 2017 (

The MSM vs Harriet

The weekend approaches and naturally presents as a good time to take a look at the new movie releases. I scan the movie listings and notice that it is on par with most weekends. I can choose between the white guys that overcome wealthy car manufacturer, or the three women that fight crime where they show diversity but never tackle it, or the crazy white guy that torments a community, or the slap stick funny white guy with the black side kick. Not a lot of diversity or uniqueness. But this weekend a movie stands out because it is not only highlighting the strength of a black women but it is even directed by a black woman. I look at the reviews of Harriet and find that most of them find fault with either the casting of a Nigerian woman in the lead, or claim that the movie falls short significantly in part due to the “white savior” in the story. But is this truly how the movie represents or is this a misrepresentation by the media?

A movie that I was excited to watch became less enticing as I read review after review about the faults in the screenplay and casting of Harriet. As a feminist, I didn’t want to support a film that either misrepresented black women or perpetuated the white savior nonsense. Time and again we see black women represented as hyper sexual, physical, uneducated and out of control. Rarely do we get to see a film that portrays black women as a source of strength, intellect and serious perseverance. But then I came across a review from Ms. Magazine that was essentially a 180 degree difference from what I read in the mainstream. How could this be the case? Perhaps it has to do with the divisive culture in our current political climate that continues to magnify the white nationalist platform. As it turns out, the studio releasing the film is owned by Comcast and is “in partnership with the Trump administration to chip away at civil rights protections” (Hobson). This disparity in viewpoints highlights the power of media bias and the perpetuating of colonialism mentality. This power and influence is so strong that even a chapter of the NAACP canceled a viewing of the movie.

In the release of this one single movie we witness the power of the media to perpetuate colonialism by devaluing a black women that is historically significant, attempt to erase her story, and they cloak their racism around false accusations against the movie, the director and actors, while using their platform to manipulate audience attendance to ensure a failure at the box office. It is still a rarity to have true representation in entertainment but when it is achieved the results are typically on point. Harriet appears to be authentic and persuasive which presents as a threat to the images portrayed and valued by those in power. A move to not only continue the misrepresentation of black women but to also harness and deter future interest in black centric movies, the media giants opted to take this film out at the knees to maintain order in their colonized society.


Hobson, Janell. “Who’s Afraid of Harriet Tubman?”, Ms. Magazine, November 5, 2019

Resistance to Institutional Rules and Regulation of Online Platforms

Segments of our society assume that our culture embraced a post-racial community after the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This monumental legislation marked the legal end to segregation and discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion or national origin. While overt discrimination became illegal as a result of this Act, it also ushered in a new type of racism that proved to be a pervasive and subtle type of discrimination took the lead and “enabled systems of oppression and disenfranchisement to remain intact while making public acknowledgement of race and prejudice a social taboo” (Noble, pg 244). This new style of discrimination and racism came in the form of linguistics codes with a “nod here, a wink there, and a subtle change in intonation all mark opinions and thoughts on race” (Joesy, 2010). Jump forward to the advent of the internet and the perception that it provided a “color-free” community and we soon see a new dynamic unfold that negatively impacts marginalized groups with misrepresentations and stereotypes amplified in a new medium.

Much of the content on the internet is driven my users that participate on platforms such as facebook, instagram, twitter and many more. These are simply platforms that give users a space to share their thoughts and images to the world and provides the opportunity to give users a space to expand their community and reach others that lie outside of their own. These platforms can be a great source of pedagogy and can connect users across the globe. However, the monitoring of these platforms for hate speech and deleterious misrepresentations is controlled within each company and their operating procedures while being weighted against profit maximizing decisions. Many of these companies outsource the monitoring and provide guidelines to recognize harmful images or speech. Even with guidelines in place, it leaves much of the discretion to the individual that has their own implicit bias that undoubtedly plays a role in their decision making process. What is clearly a harmful meme or picture to one person, can be shrugged off as just having fun to another. This has empowered some segments to step in where the companies have shirked their responsibilities.

Marginalized groups have been reclaiming identities on the internet by using the same mechanisms used against them to “critique and speak back to the (mis)represenations in the media” (Tanksley, pg 246). Black women and girls are notoriously presented in a negative manner in the media yet they have created a dialogue online that empowers and reclaims their identities. This is a significant movement that will hopefully insulate young black girls and women against “extensive exposure to raced and gendered stereotypes, or microaggressions” which can lower their self-esteem (Noble, pg 252).

The regulation over online spaces is in constant flux. Our political landscape continues to change and our online presence is shaped by these rules and regulations that seem invisible to the user or content provider. Hate speech, racist tropes and misrepresentations are abundant in online platforms and have been on the rise with the current political atmosphere. Where racists tropes were once suppressed to a wink or a nod, there are now full blown harmful stereotypical racists images and words in online platforms with the goal of taking us back in history. “The internet doesn’t reflect reality anymore, it creates reality” (Kakutani, pg 88).


Josey, Christopher. Hate speech and identity: An analysis of neo racism and the indexing of identity. Discourse & Society, 21(1) 27–39, 2010, Champagne, USA.

Kakutani, Michiko. The Death of Truth. New York, Tim Duggan Books, 2018.

Noble, Safiya Umoja, and Brendesha M. Tynes, editors. The Intersectional Internet: Race, Sex, Class, and Culture Online. New edition edition, Peter Lang Inc., International Academic Publishers, 2016.

Wikipedia and Identity Safe Spaces

Gender reveal parties have been all the rage but they seem to be on the decline. With my niece expecting her second child, I was anticipating another one of these parties. This time around it was a simple announcement of “We’re having a girl!”. I kept my thoughts to myself that I was glad she chose a low-key event that did a little less gendering. But what was super impressive was when my brother sincerely pointed out that while we know the sex we don’t know the gender. This comment was from an ex Southern Baptist missionary. So how did someone like himself go from a strict literal-interpretation-of-the-bible guy to someone that is becoming educated in all things that have been dubbed as sinful from his community? He learned by talking with people and looking online in the privacy of his own home to find another viewpoint and educate himself.

The subtitles of what we read impact our implicit bias. ”Also known as implicit social cognition, implicit bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner” (OSU). The information that we take in silently and pervasively shapes our attitudes towards others and most often in favor of ourselves and our groups. But, our implicit bias can be modified which stresses the importance of written material.

Wikipedia provides a platform that incorporates policies that help minimize or possibly alter ones implicit bias by presenting gender neutral language. This helps readers by inviting them in to read material that is free from microaggression or as an introduction to more suitable verbiage that they may incorporate into their own dialogues. These policies also opens the door to editors and content providers to participate in a welcoming environment where they won’t have to push for equality.


The Round House

Indigenous people in the United States of American experience a unique style of systemic marginalization that dates as far back as the first treaty between them and the U.S. government. Treaty with the Delawares of 1778 was one of the first treaties signed and essentially recognized a nation-to-nation relationship that would theoretically set the framework for other tribes and recognize them as a sovereign state. Native American tribes viewed themselves as a sovereign state that is able “to manage their own affairs and exist as nations that are recognized as having control over their own destinies” (Lee). Conversely, the United States government viewed them as a U.S. tribal sovereignty which means they are “domestic dependent nations that exist within the boundaries of the U.S. and that they are wards of the U.S., even though they may operate and manage some internal tribal affairs” (Lee). To add further confusion in legal jurisdiction, there is no common practices defining the interactions between the federal government and individual tribes which leads to diverse rulings and outcomes.

In 1887, the Dawes Act was passed and offered tribal members the opportunity to acquire land in exchange for U.S. citizenship. The stated goal was to ease relations between the two entities but a more sinister calculation was embedded in this Act. “By granting citizenship to those who took the land, the hope was that they would be less communicative and accepting of tribal government — that exposing Natives to the “civilized” white culture would leave them more accepting of it and lead to better U.S. and tribal relations” (Picotte). The end result of this Act was to decimate indigenous culture, land, and language by recognizing individuals instead of tribes. It pitted tribes against each other, situated individuals on land that was not consistent with their tribe, sent children to boarding schools where they were assimilated in to white culture, and decreased the acreage that belonged to indigenous people. The devastation to tribal culture and longevity was documented in the 1928 Meriam Report and paved the way for government intervention to offset the disastrous impact of the Dawes Act.

The Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 was nicknamed the “Indian New Deal” and attempted to rectify many of the wrongs from 1887 and build upon the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924 which granted citizenship to the remaining indigenous people. “The act sought to reverse the government’s long-standing policy of forcing Indians to abandon their culture and assimilate into American society by allowing the tribes a greater degree of self-government and encouraging the retention of historic Indian culture and traditions” (Longley).

This convoluted path to current day Indigenous peoples’ representation within the US was on display in the 2018 elections. Just before the 2018 elections in North Dakota a new law was passed that would require Indigenous people to provide a street address on a government issued ID in order to cast a ballot. The new law impacted local, state and federal elections because the tribe followed federal election requirements. This disenfranchised Native Americans in this region, in part, because their housing is not situated in a similar manner of having a street name and number. Post office boxes are used for mailing purposes. Secondly, Native Americans overrepresent the homeless populations and do not have a physical mailing address (Domonoske). In the past, they have relied on tribal documents to verify their qualification to vote. Tribal leaders and youth activist rallied around their community to find temporary solutions.

It is easy to see that America’s Indigenous people are systematically marginalized, yet one area that continues to be overlooked is the violence against girls and women in this community. The complex history of sovereignty and jurisdiction complicates an underfunded and undervalued crisis. In 2016, there were 5,712 classes of missing or murdered women or girls but only 116 of these cases were logged in to the Department of Justice database (Lucchesi, pg 2). The danger to these girls and women is happening in real time and their erasure is perpetuated by the lack of media coverage and the lack of data gathering.

Currently, there are only seven states that have a task force to address the needs to make lives safer for Native Americans (Edwards). The majority of Indigenous women currently live in urban areas, off tribal land. When a crime is committed to one of them, it highlights the failings in past treaties as jurisdiction can be a grey area, data collection is complicated by non-tribal name changes from settler days, and media coverage is non-existent or at best scant and racially biased to place blame on the victim. Law enforcement’s lack of willingness to track data is indicative of larger institutional structural inequity. “The challenges and barriers in accessing data on this issue from law enforcement severely impede the ability of communities, tribal nations, and policy makers to make informed decisions on how best to address this violence.” (Lucchesi, pg 21). All these types of barriers contribute to their erasure and thus the level of violence is not truly reported or understood.

Louis Erdrich wrote a beautiful but gut wrenching story that displayed these dilemmas and educated the reader with the unfolding one family’s story. She provides the detail of their lives that are a mosaic of faulty treaties long ago, with current day clutter cropping up to muddy the picture of an all too true description facing many in Native American communities. Understanding the historical features that are woven in to this story makes it all the more enriching.


Domonoske, Camila. “Many Native IDs Won’t Be Accepted At North Dakota Polling Places”. October 13, 2018.

Edwards, Melodie. 7 States Step Up Efforts To Fight Violence Against Indigenous Women. July 23, 2019.

Lee, Murray. “What is Tribal Sovereignty?” Partnership with Native Americans, Sept 9 2014,

Longley, Robert. “Indian Reorganization Act: A ‘New Deal’ for American Indians” July 3, 2019,

Lucchesi, Annita and Echo-Hawk, Abigail. Missing and murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. 2016,

“The Meriam Report”. July 7, 2010,

Picotte, Tristan. “The True Impact of the Dawes Act of 1887”. Partnership with Native Americans, February 7, 2017,

Doing Gender

We all “do” gender. This was a nuanced concept that has taken me a while to dissect and embrace the idea that we are “born sexed but not gendered” (Lorber, pg 322) and the subsequent years of socialization in our culture will develop our identity along gendered lines. When it is really broken down into smaller segments, then we realize that it is not so nuanced but actually overwhelmingly in our lives to the point of not seeing the forest for the trees.

It is not uncommon for baby girls to come home from the hospital in a pink outfit with a huge bow on her head signaling everyone in sight that this is in fact a girl. She goes home to her carefully decorated room that is emblazoned with sugar and spice and everything nice. It is quite the opposite experience for the boy that goes home to his room that boldly advertises a sports team or big wheeled trucks to represent the presumed rough and tumble nature of the little boy. The reality is that all these characterizations are not for the child, but for those around them to help categorize how this new person will fit in to the world around them.

It is our human need to categorize and label people that thrusts our social constructions of gender upon the baby from the start and then follows them as they grow into an adult. “Gendered social arrangements are justified by religion and cultural productions and backed by law, but the most powerful means of sustaining the moral hegemony of the dominant gender ideology is that the process is made invisible” (Lorber, pg 323). It is these invisible social constraints that attempt to keep us in our acceptable lanes of how we dress, how we act, who we date, what we study, and if we have a career. But the lines between these lanes are becoming worn and vague as more people blur the lanes by living outside of socially constructed gendered norms.

Karen Ross is one of these people. She is currently the Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. The field that she has excelled at is one that is dominated by men and continues to be “a good old boys network” that has relied on the socially constructed gender norms to perpetuate male power in this field and resist female contributions. Her page on Wikipedia is rated as a stub article that is of low importance and is lacking links to her credentials. Representation matters and it is important to keep her information current in order to accurately reflect women that successfully moved in to male dominated careers. The information that I would add is a link to her current appointment in 2019 as the Secretary of the California Food and Agriculture. I would also propose an addition to her article that expands on programs that she has developed while in office.

Adams, Maurianne, Warren J. Blumenfeld, Carmelita R. Castañeda, Heather W. Hackman, Madeline L. Peters, and Ximena Zúñiga. Readings for Diversity and Social Justice. New York: Routledge, 2010. (pg 321-326)

Karen Ross,

Karen Ross 2019 appointment,

Karen Ross program,

Online Spaces and Lateral Violence

Whiteness is a socially constructed category, just like any other racial category. However, the deconstruction of whiteness in the US does not follow the same dissection as that of other races. Instead, whiteness is used as a standard of normalization and characteristics of whiteness are considered to be representative of the typical human, void of racial constraints. This normalization skews the narrative from white activists in applying their world view across other races or segments that are marginalized as opposed to providing space for them to tell their story and their world view.

The online platform has given rise to the theoretical opportunity for marginalized groups to equally broadcast their stories. But there is a difference between theory and reality. The reality is the continued perpetuation of white supremacy as the standard, omissions of the voices and stories from women of color, and the backlash towards women of color to suppress their voices. In “The Trouble With White Feminism: Whiteness, Digital Feminism, and the Intersectional Internet”, Daniels gives three examples to illustrate the online world is not an equal opportunity forum. What is astounding is the aggressors in these instances come from liberal progressives. Dr. Robin DiAngelo states in the video “White Fragility” that this segment is probably the most dangerous in subverting the dialogue about racism. It is this lateral violence of harassment, discrimination and bullying from white feminists that emboldens white supremacy and diminishes the voice of color.

Lean In is an online movement and self-help book that was the brainchild of Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook. Her assessment of the equality disparity for women is because of women and their individual choices. This is the old trope of victim blaming and pulling one’s self up by their bootstraps. She erases all responsibility to the systems in place that perpetuate the disparity and firmly places the blame on the individual woman. In order to combat this failing, Sandberg joined up with Girl Scouts to launch a campaign that would reframe the word “bossy” to mean “leader” so that young girls would have a positive self image and thus be in a position to assert themselves and create their own successful path. This issue with this campaign is that it mostly speaks to white girls as this segment of society is less likely to see themselves as leaders. This is a prime example of using whiteness as the standard and ignore the systemic problems that prevent girls of color to rise in their future careers.

One Billion Rising (OBR) is a campaign to bring awareness to the massive number of women and girls that are subjected to violence across the globe. It was started in 2013 by playwright Eve Ensler of The Vagina Monologues. The objection to this campaign is not its inception, but rather the date picked to hosts the campaign actions. February 14 has been the day of recognition for Indigenous and First Nations women in Canada since 1990. By occupying this date, OBR is talking over the voices and platform of the indigenous women. This is a common move in white feminism that again upholds the platform of white supremacy that elevates their causes and diminishes the voices of color. When confronted with the conflict of the dates, OBR spokesperson invoked a common white fragility response of defensiveness and victimhood and shed her share of “white tears”.

In 2013, two white feminists created a report about the online revolution in feminism and presented the material as intersectional and inclusive. The goal was to create a model for collective change in feminism through a shared vision of change. But White feminism was inserted into and throughout this piece of work by assuming the normalization of white women as the basis while ignoring the voices by women of color. The result is a study that essentially looks at white feminism online and misses the mark on a shared vision for change (Daniels, pg 53).

Online platforms can be instrumental in creating the shared vision of change for feminism. But, the onerous is on White feminist to recognize and confront their racism and biases, as well as those around them. DiAngelo lays out a list of assumptions that white feminists should adopt in order to interrupt their own racism. While this may put white people in a place of uncomfortableness, it is an important step in dismantling one’s own apathy and creating a pathway towards a shared vision of change.


Daniels, Jessie . “The Trouble With White Feminism: Whiteness, Digital Feminism, and the Intersectional Internet.” The Intersectional Internet: Race, Sex, Class, and Culture Online. New edition edition, Peter Lang Inc., International Academic Publishers, 2016.

DiAngelo, Robin. White Fragility. Boston : Beacon Press, 2018

DiAngelo, Robin. White Fragility.

Summary: The Social Construction of Difference

The social construction of difference is a categorical system used to artificially define people. There is a baseline of “normal” in the US. This typically includes categories such as white, male, able bodied, heterosexual, Christian. Anyone that identifies differently from any of these normal groups is considered outside of the norm and labeled as “other”. The reason this distinction matters is because these categories and normalizations are created to support power dynamics. People benefit from identifying as normal because of how society reacts to them. This benefit is referred to as privilege. 

Privilege allows “normal” people to go through life with general acceptance from society based on socially constructed categories. The “normal” segment of society is able to present their authentic self and use their identify as proof of their credibility.

Oppression is the opposite of privilege and occurs to those that fall outside of “norm”. Oppressed people are denied access to opportunities that are granted to those in power simply due to socially constructed labels such as race, gender, sexual orientation, class, age, ability. It is easier to identify oppression than privilege. Oppression is the exclusion or conditional acceptance. People are more apt to identify when they are kept from opportunities but not when they are included unconditionally.

Wheel of Privilege and Oppression

It is clear that the social construction of differences is used to divide people between privileged and oppressed. Differences between people is easy to identify. The conflict is when we choose to use these differences to perpetuate power dynamics that benefit some and hinder others.