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Open Letter to President Obama: I Promise I Ain't Mad At You. You will always be #1
First of all Congratulations on your new book, A Promised Land ! It couldn’t come at a better time in our country and I can’t wait to spend an entire weekend during the holidays reading your words. You see your words have always had a calming effect on me...and well millions of us. In fact, I still take out the personal letter you wrote me when you left office nearly four years ago--and it has held me steadfast ever since. So thank you for that. While I’m glad the nation is clamoring to buy your book, I must admit that I’d wished it came out a few weeks later. You see I just pre-released White Privilege Pop Quiz: Reflecting on Whiteness, a plain spoken book with 13 chapters with 13 simple questions most White people have never asked themselves. Anyway, it’s without a fancy publisher or promotion team but it was #1 two weeks in a row on the Best Seller List at one the countries most beloved independent book Stores owned by author, Ann Patchett and Karen Hayes Parnassus Books in Nashville. Well it was until Promised Land was released! But the #1 isn't a brag about me or the book. It's an acknowledgement that people (and yes, White people) do care. That we want to be better and do more. Many have asked why I wrote it back in 2012 but never published it. After Trayvon Martin was murdered, I started musing on all the things White folks don't think about. And since I'm a filmmaker (not a scholar or an educator), the book is a reflection in plain terms what every day Whiteness means and how we don't see it. How we talk about Black poverty but not about White wealth--as if there is no correlation. How the words Black on Black crime roll off our tongues without acknowledging that White on White crime is far more common. Anyway, I'm hoping it encourages people to dig deeper and think more clearly and critically. And because back in 2012 it seemed people weren't ready for the conversation or interested in publishing, I stuck it on a shelf and started working on a film. And then, George Floyd happened and it became clear. It is time. But President Obama, please know I ain’t mad at you for bumping my little book to #2. I am honored to see my name written anywhere near yours. And although it's the holidays and you and Michelle are probably busy, Wednesday December 2nd 6 PM CST is the official release via Parnassus Books Facebook Live with Nashville Public Television's La Tonya Turner and myself. And I was thinking maybe you could tell Joe and Kamala they are welcome too! I don't mean to be mushy but I do love and appreciate you and Michelle and the hopeful breadcrumbs you have scattered throughout this nation reminding us that a promise is only as good as the one that we keep--to ourselves and everyone around us. Molly Secours is a Nashville based filmmaker/writer, sky gazing kayaker who believes in making friends with the uncomfortable.
White Privilege Pop Quiz #1 on Parnassus Books Best Seller List Two Weeks Before Official Release
White Privilege Pop Quiz: Reflecting on Whiteness is a labor of love and two decades worth of observations about Whiteness. Without a publisher, a PR firm or any marketing, White Privilege Pop Quiz has been listed #1 on Parnassus Books Best Seller List for the past two weeks--before the December 2nd official release date. Parnassus is the beloved independent book shop owned by novelist Ann Patchett in Nashville TN. In the last several weeks numerous people have asked why I wrote the book. After Trayvon Martin was murdered in 2012, I started musing on all the things White folks don't think about. All the notions about what Whiteness means and I realized that the sad truth is, we rarely think about it. Many of us think about Black poverty but not about White wealth--as if there is no correlation. We let the words "Black on Black crime" roll off our tongues without acknowledging that White on White crime is far more common. Click here to listen to the Dec 2nd, Parnassus Books Facebook Live World Wide Book Launch conversation with Molly Secours and Producer/Journalist La Tonya Turner, from WNPT Nashville Public Television to discuss White Privilege Pop Quiz. PRESS RELEASE BELOW: MOLLY SECOURS’ NEW BOOK “WHITE PRIVILEGE POP QUIZ” DRAWING EARLY NATIONAL PRAISE Renowned Nashville Writer Tests Readers With Poignant, Easy to Answer Questions to Further Racial Conversations NASHVILLE, TENN.--Molly Secours, an esteemed filmmaker, writer and public speaker based in Nashville, Tenn., has been a voice for social change for much of her adult life. She has produced more than 60 films and videos about disparities in education, criminal justice and healthcare. Yet perhaps her greatest contribution to America comes in the form of her newly-authored book entitled White Privilege Pop Quiz, a poignant, 130-page work that urges audiences to unearth their deepest biases by simply taking a quiz that reveals “White Privilege”--a term that has been thrust into the country’s consciousness due to the Black Lives Matter movement and recent social protests through the United States. The book is published by Dark Horse Books ($15.99, Nashville, Tenn.) and is available nationwide where all books are sold and at MollySecours.com/book “This book is not something you should read if you just want to appear ‘woke’ as the young people say,” said Nontombi Naomi Tutu, author/activist and daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. “If that is your aim, put it down right now. However, if you are really interested in learning how we got here, why we stay here and how we can all make it out of this system alive, this is the book for you. So get ready to be challenged, educated and inspired to make a stand against White privilege and racism.” For over 20 years, Secours has been urging audiences to look in the mirror. White Privilege Pop Quiz consists of questions and revelations that help set a context for discussing the term White Privilege. Each chapter of the book begins with a multiple-choice question meant to reveal, inform and inspire more questions about Whiteness and the system invented to promote Whiteness than you have ever entertained before. The hope is that perhaps the quiz will point readers in a new direction ---to think more deeply and behave more consciously. “Unlike a pop quiz at school, there are no wrong answers, only truthful ones,” stressed Secours, a Tedx speaker. For more information including additional praise of Secours book, visit https://www.mollysecours.com/book
Keep Swinging and Get Your Rest
For the past 5 years nearly every voice message I received from legendary baseball Scout Gary Hughes ended with one of two phrases: keep swinging or get your rest. Even though I knew he had repeated those words at least 50,000 times in the last five decades to baseball prospects--minor and major league players--I’m pretty sure he also breathed life and hope into just as many check-out clerks at local grocery stores and 7th graders who dreamed of being the next Willie Mays. While it may seem silly, I felt comforted and special every time I heard him say: “keep swinging.” And after reading the plethora of tributes since his death several weeks ago by sports writers and friends like Bob Nightengale, Henry Schulman and Mark Gonzales—not to mention the hundreds of social media testimonials, it seems everyone he met felt special. Whether you are a Hall of Famer or a 34th round draft pick, a front office worker or the guy that runs the hot dog stand in center field, Gary Hughes made you feel like somebody. And that was his secret sauce. And it is precisely why it has taken me several weeks to write about the man who seemed to know everyone and whom everyone called ‘friend.’ If someone had asked me to define a Scout 6 years ago, I would have said a Scout is someone who is loyal, trustworthy and can build a good campfire. That’s as much as I knew. After meeting Gary Hughes and literally hundreds (if not thousands) of other Scouts, I can honestly say I wouldn’t have been entirely wrong (although I’m not so sure about the whole campfire thing.) In January 2015, Dennis Gilbert, co-founder of Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation allowed me and a crew to film interviews in the lobby before the annual Scout’s benefit dinner. That evening was when I met Gary Hughes and when Scouting For Diamonds, a feature doc film about the love story between scouts and baseball, began to take shape. After meeting Hughes, I realized the story was much bigger than one relationship between a Hall of Famer (Wade Boggs) and a devoted Scout (George Digby). Hughes made me understand the romance between Scouts and baseball was wider and deeper and that while George Digby was an exceptional Scout and certainly beloved, there was a greater narrative that begged exploration. During our first interview, Hughes and I bonded over our commitment to racial equity. He spoke passionately and directly about how the game had become expensive and how unbalanced the sport was becoming. He talked about how important it is for young people without means to have access to play the game and how the responsibility of a Scout (and the game) was to be certain that economics or race did not prevent boys and girls from being seen and given a fair chance to live out their dreams. And it is the reason why his family started a non-profit called the Gary Hughes Keep Swinging Foundation. Within a few months of knowing Gary, every door in Major League Baseball began to open. When I texted, emailed or called to introduce myself and said “Gary Hughes sent me,” they often said yes before they heard the question. It didn’t take me long to figure out just how lucky I was that Dennis Gilbert had made the introduction. For the next 5 years I met and interviewed baseball legends like Willie Mays, George Brett, Tommy LaSorda, Dusty Baker, Ben Zobrist, Billy Beane and many more who wanted to talk about the impact Scouts have on the game and the players they signed. Scouts like Art Stewart, Don Pries, Mike Brito, Ralph Avila, Mel Didier, Dick Groch and yes, Gary Hughes. It became clear we wouldn’t be able to make this film without Gary Hughes and we asked him to be Co-Producer on the project. He was ecstatic and his favorite part was talking about walking the Red carpet and how proud all the Scouts would be seeing themselves and hearing their stories on the big screen. He continued to attract colleagues and friends who took an interest in the film including actors Brian Doyle Murray and his brother Bill Murray. Yes, Everyone loved Gary Hughes. In 5 ½ years there were very few days that we didn’t talk at least twice a day. Gary was patient with my lack of knowledge and challenged my assumptions about baseball and the role of Scouts. Without ever being condescending, he recommended books and articles to get me up to speed. He advised me on questions to ask players and Scouts that were likely to inspire profound responses. Hughes’s insight and commitment to Scouting and his deep knowledge of baseball was unparalleled. Having worked for over 10 major league teams in five decades, it wasn’t just the game or competition itself that he loved. To Hughes, baseball was relationships and family. Of course, he was proud of sons Sam Hughes, Yankees National Crosschecker, and Michael Rock, Visiting Clubhouse Manager for Miami Marlins and former Marlins Scout, Matt King. And yes, he beamed when talking about his grandson, Haydn King who currently plays with the SF Giants. But it wasn’t just those who are blood related that Gary felt pride for and considered family. For Gary, relationships were life-long bonds and they were many and varied. One year while shooting at AZ Spring Training I met over a dozen childhood friends of Hughes' around a campfire after a day of baseball. I learned these were guys who had known each other for over six decades and gathered every year before the season started without fail. They took vacations together and supported one another through deaths, divorces and celebrated late in life victories. These men were family. Undaunted by the trials and tribulations of independent filmmaking (which are unpredictable and pummeling), Gary’s enthusiasm was contagious and in spite of the ups and downs, he infected everyone--including former Pirates Manager, Clint Hurdle and former Red Sox President, David Dombrowski. Both of them stepped up to the plate to help us with a fundraising campaign so we could keep shooting. During the past six years, I confess to almost giving up a dozen times after one crisis or another and I would question whether or not we would be able to finish the film. And every time Gary would call and tell me to keep swinging or when he knew I needed an extra lift he'd add: "atta boy, girl." And strangely, there was something in his tone that always reassured me that everything would be alright. And it was. During these years, Gary lost Kathy, his lovely wife of 30 years while I said goodbye to both parents and a younger sister. Without any fanfare or discussion, Gary embraced me into his already large family of nine children saying “what’s one more”? After getting an ominous cancer diagnosis a few months ago, our communication lessened and we stopped talking as much about the film or the red carpet or even baseball--apart from one night when outfielder, Jo Adell hit two homeruns for the Los Angeles Angels. Gary was thrilled for Adell, because he knew “he had it in him.” And that sums up Gary Hughes. In the midst of wrestling with life and death, he reveled in the accomplishments of a young rookie who was struggling with a hitting slump—a young man he’d never met. Soon our conversations turned mostly to family and how proud he was of all his children and grandchildren and how well they turned out and what great care his daughters were taking of him. We also talked about how a major diagnosis can be like an intimate conversation with spirit and how sometimes our role is just to sit and listen. I would give anything to hear him tell another version of legendary Scout Mel Didier's cautionary tale about Dennis Eckersley's back door slider and how he helped the Dodgers win the 1988 World Series. And like all of those lucky enough to know him, I would prefer getting to listen to him say keep swinging for another 20 years. But alas, on September 19th, 2020 Gary Hughes put down his radar gun to get his rest. To contribute to the Gary Hughes Keep Swinging Foundation, a not for profit offering scholarships for minority students to attend his beloved Serra High School, click here. Molly Secours is a filmmaker/writer/speaker who fell in love with the game of baseball because of Scouts and is currently directing the feature doc Scouting For Diamonds. Upon release of the film, she plans to carry a life size cut-out of Gary Hughes down the Red carpet to be placed in the front row for the premiere. If you have a Gary Hughes tale you're burning to tell, feel free to write me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mayor Cooper, Whether a Cover-Up or Memory Loss, We Keep Receipts!
"On May 6, 2020 I contacted you to inform you a current employee of MNPD had contacted me and said they had overheard Capt. Jason Reinbold tell members of a hiring panel "I am just letting you know right now, I am the one who decides who to hire, and I am going to choose the most fuckable female, end of story. Recommend who you want, but that is who will be hired." --Greta McClain On April 22, 2020 Greta McClain of Silent No Longer TN reached out to Nashville Mayor, John Cooper to share devastating allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse within the Nashville Police Department. She was ignored. Several months later, a 45 page report was made available to the public. After both Nashville Scene & NPR reported the allegations, Mayor Cooper stated he hadn't "really read anything" about it. The following is McClain's letter to Mayor Cooper to help jog his memory. Mayor Cooper, After expressing my concerns to you many times over the past three months or so, I am extremely disappointed I have yet to receive so much as a simple acknowledgment of my emails or messages. As I have expressed to you on previous occasions, I do understand, and appreciate, the enormous pressure you and your staff are under due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But, as a former councilman, I have no doubt you were well aware the responsibilities of the Mayor’s office, and the fact you would need to have the ability to address numerous pressing issues at once. Unfortunately, you either do not have that particular, and very necessary skill, or you simply do not care about the corruption and unlawful conduct within the Metro Nashville Police Department. In the event you cannot remember the issues that have been brought to your attention, let me refresh your memory. On April 22, 2020, I informed you Capt. Jason Reinbold had shown a pattern of failing to live up ethics and code of conduct of the Metro Nashville Police Department, not to mention the expectations of all Nashvillians who expect those who take an oath to protect and serve to conduct themselves with integrity. I also provided you with evidence and case numbers regarding Capt. Reinbold being arrested for three counts domestic violence, which according to the MNPD handbook, means immediate dismissal on the first offense. I further illustrated Capt. Reinbold’s violations of other MNPD policies, including a variety in section 4.20.040 (Personal Behavior, Conduct Unbecoming an Employee of the Department), section 4.20.050 Official Obligations, and the failure of Dep. Chief Henry and Chief Anderson to properly supervise and hold all officers under their command to the ethical and legal standards set forth in the MNPD Employee Handbook. On April 22, 2020 I further notified you I had several individuals within MNPD express great concern over the behavior of not only Capt. Rienbold, Dep. Chief Henry, Chief Anderson and numerous other high ranking members of the department. On May 5, 2020 I notified you that Capt. Rienbold had violated Tennessee Code Annotated 39-17-305, Disorderly Conduct, as well at Section 4.20.040 of the MNPD Employee Handbook once again. I also brought to your attention that Chief Steve Anderson had violated 1.90.030 on many occasions. The following day I followed up with and reiterated the information I had supplied you previously. On May 6, 2020 I contacted you to inform you a current employee of MNPD had contacted me and say they had overheard Capt. Jason Reinbold tell members of a hiring panel "I am just letting you know right now, I am the one who decides who to hire, and I am going to choose the most fuckable female, end of story. Recommend who you want, but that is who will be hired." On May 18, 2020 I left a phone message requesting someone from your office call or email me and at minimum confirm receipt of the email and to let you know I had also not received any response from Chief Anderson’s office. On June 10, 2020 I contacted you and reminded you I had still not received any response from you, or from Chief Anderson’s office; who was clearly listed as a recipient on all previous emails. I also blind carbon copied various members of the Metro Council on the email. I explained to you I had conducted an anonymous survey of current and former MNPD sworn and civilian personnel and, as of June 10, 2020, I had two additional complaints of sexual assault, four complaints of sexual harassment, two complaints of gender discrimination and one complaint of racial discrimination. I still did not receive a response from you, however I did receive a call from the MNPD Office of Professional Accountability. Unfortunately, Det. Quinn stated he had no knowledge of the complaints that were filed with OPA. He could not provide an explanation of why he could find no complaints other than to say at times complaints were sent back to the precinct level for investigation. Clearly if this is what occurred, it is completely unacceptable for complaints involving criminal behavior or civil rights violations to be investigated by a Sergeant, Lieutenant or Commander. I also find it completely unacceptable that I have still not received the disciplinary files I have requested twice: the first time in May and the second time in June. I believe I, and the women who have been victimized by command level MNPD staff, have been more than reasonable, and have you given you ample time to respond. Your decision to not take this matter seriously is highly alarming. Although we had much rather speak with you regarding these issues, it appears as if that is not something you are willing to do. If that is the case, you have left us with no choice but to seek other remedies, including holding a press conference and releasing all evidence and correspondence previously sent to you. Sincerely, Greta McClain Founder/Director Silent No Longer TN Sexual Assault Survivor
When the MNPD Doesn't, We Got Your Back: Speaking Out for 25 Nashville Police Women
Just two short weeks ago my feed was filled with black and white photos of women posting selfies with the hashtag #womensupportingwomen and shouting from the rooftops. So this week, after spending hours pouring through documents from 19-25 women who’ve alleged sexual misconduct--including harassment, assault, rape and racism at the hands of co-workers and supervisors at Metro Nashville Police Department, it seemed a good time to launch a campaign to let women who feel invisible and silenced know that we got your back. I made a few calls and immediately women responded. One of the first was Grammy Award Winning songwriter, Beth Nielsen Chapman who posted a powerful message of Songwriter, Beth Nielsen Chapman solidarity on Instagram & Facebook. And it’s not just women. Men suffer in this system of complicit silence as well. Men who want to stand in solidarity with their female co-workers. Men who would never mistreat their sisters and daughters but for a system that requires their silence and cooperation. So yesterday we invited women (and men) to post 60 second messages of support and solidarity to all the women brave enough to step forward. We suggested posting 1 minute videos on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter with the hashtags #wegotyourback, #silentnolonger, #womensupportingwomen and #womenempowering. While the the outpouring of support has been incredible, the need to rally around women who can't rely on the protection of those who are sworn to serve and protect us all is disheartening. And today, I broke down at the complicity, the silence and the exhaustion these women must feel and realizing the system is far more corrupt and damaging than we were ever willing to believe. And unfortunately, we are not alone. What is happening in Nashville is happening across the country. It is understandable that some don't have the bandwidth, motivation or energy to speak up--and out--during a time such as this. And the truth is, to do so invites political and social backlash during a time when we're already feeling disconnected from one another. Systemic change is difficult but challenging racism and sexism in a culture that demands obedience and loyalty--through silence--fosters toxicity and inhumane behavior. What is also disheartening is the dearth of strong Nashville leadership with a moral compass, the likes of John Seigenthaler, Rev Will Campbell, John Lewis or John Egerton—all of whom no longer walk the streets of Music City. All of these men were unafraid of speaking up (or acting up) to challenge oppression and abuse and did so when called upon. But mostly, they spoke up and acted before they were ever asked. In fact they couldn’t stop themselves. Like John Lewis, C. T. Vivian and Dr. King, standing strong in the face of adversity was who they were. And as John Lewis reminded us over and over, it was good trouble they got into. Lately, it appears we have a Mayor who seems more concerned about good press than bad policing or 25 women alleging sexual assault and/or misconduct. His apparent lack of empathy or outrage at the alleged abuse has been startling to witness. Almost Two days after stories broke about the 25 women alleging sexual misconduct reported by NPR and Nashville Scene, Mayor, Cooper hadn't spoken publicly about the charges, the women, their suffering or his commitment to get to the bottom of the matter or demand justice. Instead, the Mayor's first remarks after being asked about the women's allegations were about the former Chief of Police, Steve Anderson. He waxed poetic about Anderson, calling him, a 'patriot', a patriot who retired less than 8 hours after the story of sexual misconduct charges broke earlier that day. Only then did the Mayor respond about the women--only to say that he couldn't comment because he hadn't read the allegations. But then, several sentences later, the Mayor insisted that not all the claims were true. After public pressure, the Mayor expressed interest in an investigation of Captain Jason Reinbold an MNPD employee who not only has a history of domestic abuse but is accused of assaulting a female MNPD employee. Reinbold recently rose to fame in May after engaging in a shouting match with a nanny who was picnicking near his house with a group of children. The Captain--who was on duty at the time--insisted the nanny didn't belong in his neighborhood and after videotaping the encounter and posting on social media, the nanny made Reinbold almost as famous in Italy as he is in Music City. Within a few days the number of complaints filed grew from 19 to 25 and following public outrage, the mayor announced there would be an investigation for one of the 25 charges, Captain Reinbold. It was to be investigated by the District Attorney's office. After more push-back, because the DA's office had already investigated the charges originally, the DA's office requested the investigation be handled by Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. Many believe that because of how closely aligned the District Attorney's office is with the TBI and Attorney General, a truly independent investigation would require an entity outside of Tennessee with no allegiance or loyalty to any officials involved. It is clear the community must stay involved and informed of this process and to be prepared to push-back again and again against a system that fosters and promotes a culture of secrecy and intimidation and a network of powerful men who have operated without challenge for decades. Power is the water in which they swim and we must clean the fish tank. To those who have already lent their voices and urged the Mayor's office to conduct an independent investigation, thank you. For those willing to add your voice, please do. Stand up for the women and men who face intimidation, silence and secrecy. We suggested posting 1 minute videos on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter with the hashtags #wegotyourback, #silentnolonger, #womensupportingwomen and #womenempowering. Let them know how amazed and in awe we are of them for stepping up and speaking out. Let them know we're all up for a little good trouble. Let them know: We see you.
We hear you. We Got your back. Molly Secours is a writer/filmmaker/speaker and author of White Privilege Pop Quiz: A test you can't fail.
Open Letter to Nashville Mayor, John Cooper: Boys Club at MNPD
Dear Mayor Cooper: I, like countless of Nashvillians are devastated by the NPR story reporting about the "Boys Club" at the Nashville Police Department. Photo by John Partipilo Unfortunately this report confirmed what many Nashvillians suspected was happening within the MNPD (Metro Nashville Police Department) and why so many have been insistent on empowering and embracing a Community Oversight Board. That 19 women seem to have had their law enforcement careers cut short and ruined by sexual misconduct while the Chief of Police (who minimized if not outright ignored their claims) retired prematurely yesterday--while enjoying full benefits--is devastating and infuriating. I understand you must be busy working to repair the damage left by Chief Anderson and I commend you for hastening his ‘retirement'. And while there are many questions worth asking, whether or not the extra $2 million dollars added into the Police department budget recently was in anticipation for a moment such as this, this is a question for another time. The immediate questions to help our community understand how 19 women's lives and careers were devastated are as follows: -Who knew about these allegations and when? -Clearly the Chief knew but when did you become aware? -When did District Attorney, Glenn Funk learn of these horrific misdeeds? -And why did it take an article in the Nashville Scene and a story by WPLN to hasten Chief Anderson's early retirement? Last week I shared with you and members of the Nashville Metro City Council, a recent article by former Chattanooga Police Chief, Fred Fletcher published by Denver Post. https://www.denverpost.com/author/fred-fletcher/ When Mr. Fletcher was Chief Of Police, he handled numerous departmental sexual assaults swiftly and effectively in Chattanooga Police Department. "It is 💯 a man problem and a man responsibility." Former Chattanooga Police Chief, Fred Fletcher: There are numerous individuals and organizations across the country who, like Mr. Fletcher, are committed to combatting sexual assault in law enforcement and educating police officers about gender equity. May I humbly suggest that the city of Nashville call upon someone who can assist us in transforming the toxic culture of the Nashville Metro Police Department before more lives are ruined. Please do not leave the Nashville community wondering whether or not you have strong feelings about this travesty and demonstrate to women that you unequivocally will not tolerate such behavior among Nashville's finest. And most importantly, the culture of silence must end. Here. Now. So let's choose a new Police Chief outside of this toxic cesspool to lead our city into better days. Sincerely, Molly Secours Photo by John Partipilo Molly Secours is a writer/filmmaker, author of White Privilege Pop Quiz: A test you can't fail and a proud Nashvillian.
White Privilege Pop Quiz: Reflecting On Whiteness
Today I'm releasing the introduction to: “The White Privilege Pop Quiz: Reflecting On Whiteness,” a book for white people who are interested in understanding whiteness, privilege and our participation in systemic racism. Each chapter focuses on seldom asked race related questions and is meant to foster conversation with friends, family, co-workers, and community members. This book was written for people who have never explored the notion of whiteness and privilege and want to work for justice and equality for a more peaceful world. It's also for those who perceive themselves 'woke' and anyone in between. ”It takes a very brave fish to point out that the water is not what it's made out to be. Molly Secours is that fish. With the simplicity of a pop quiz, quiet privilege becomes a loud declaration that it's time for real change - not a slogan, but a complete overhaul of our color-coded world.” —Peter Buffett,American musician, composer, author, producer, and second son of investor Warren Buffett. INTRODUCTION “Just because there is one Black man in the White House, doesn’t make up for the fact that there are one million Black men in the Big House.” --Angela Davis I did not want to write a book on white privilege. Well, that’s only partially true. I wanted it to be written. I just didn’t want to be the one to write it. Not just because I’m a procrastinator and perhaps a tad lazy, but mostly because I’ve seen the look on people’s faces when the words whiteness or privilege are mentioned, especially by me, a white woman living in the south. Quite honestly, I like being liked and enjoy being popular and getting invited to dinner parties, but somehow addressing the issue of whiteness and privilege tends to leave a lot of white space on the calendar. Pun intended. Besides, how dare I write a book dealing with a subject as volatile and contentious as racial identity? I’m neither a scholar nor an academic. I’m from a small town on the Canadian border in upstate New York that boasted having one African American family during the 60’s and 70’s when I was growing up. And because most of the town seemed to have a favorable impression of this one black family, I drank the Canadian-Yankee Kool-Aid and subscribed to the illusion that racial bias was non-existent in our part of the world. So yes, I am classified (and identify) as White. And because whiteness is a social construct and not biological, it means it’s not real—except for the meaning we have given it. The concept of whiteness and racial identity was invented for the purpose of promoting superiority of one group over all others. Some people refer to it as white dominance or white supremacy, but most Whites don’t think about it, we just think of it as normal. Whatever term is used, it means that by accident of birth, I landed in a world where whiteness was determined to carry value and meaning and I fell into the category that presumed superiority. The fact that I didn’t ask for it, or maybe claim to not want it, is irrelevant. In essence, whiteness is a commodity with many benefits. Before you slam the book shut let me be clear: I have great love for White folks including two White parents, four White siblings and two ex-husbands (also both White), along with thousands of White friends, colleagues and role models. I say this for anyone tempted to assume there must be an unconscious, self-loathing agenda in writing this book. After years of reflection and being quizzed as to my motivations, I’ve yet to identify an inner disdain for White people. Like countless Americans of all races, I felt anger, grief and helplessness at the death of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year old unarmed African-American teenager who was gunned down while walking home from the store. Seven years later as I update this manuscript there are dozens and dozens of names who have become examples and symbols of violence perpetrated against Black and Brown people by law enforcement. I would be remiss if I didn’t name a few who have died since writing this book: Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd are the most recognizable names because they received attention for dying at the hands of law enforcement. While there are countless others who have died anonymously, the inspiration for writing this book in 2012 was Trayvon Martin. As the Trayvon Martin story unfolded in the press, it was revealed that what initially made him suspicious to the shooter and justified his fear, wasn’t just the black hooded jacket he wore, which to many is thought of as the uniform for young men of color, but the black skin underneath the hoody. As most Americans know by now, the only weapon young Martin possessed was a bag of Skittles, a soft drink and most threatening, his blackness. When the story first unraveled in March 2012, I posted a blog in Redroom called "Take the White Privilege Pop Quiz For Trayvon Martin and For Yourself," with a link to my website where a sample quiz was posted. I requested people take the mini quiz and share the results with friends, family members and co-workers who were perhaps curious, doubtful, or even insistent that such a thing as white privilege didn’t exist. I invited those who didn’t understand how privilege might be connected to the death of young Trayvon Martin to take the quiz. From the responses that first week, it was undeniable, the sample quiz tapped a deep desire and desperate craving for a conversation, one that we, as a nation, had never had before. The White Privilege Pop Quiz is aimed at encouraging whites to explore the meaning of their own racial identity and perhaps shed light on how it is that an unarmed teenager was perceived as someone who poses enough of a threat to be suspicious and ultimately murdered.1 Intended to inspire reflection, the pop quiz might help reveal how those in law enforcement quickly characterized the crime as an act of self-defense. It might also clarify how many Whites and Non Whites are convinced that race played a determining role in law enforcement’s acceptance that Trayvon Martin posed a legitimate threat to his killer. So much so that the shooter, George Zimmerman, was neither detained nor arrested. But the Pop quiz wasn’t aimed exclusively at the Trayvon Martin travesty. There are countless situations containing the same ingredients for violence that resulted in Martin’s murder. Through his death, the 17 year-old has become a symbol of a yearning for common justice. Five days after posting the quiz on Facebook, some 2750 people clicked on the link to take the survey and today over 100,000 have taken the mini-quiz. Whenever I’ve spoken publicly about race, a question that is guaranteed to surface during the Q & A is how a White woman who identifies as a French Canadian Yankee became obsessed with racial identity and racial bias. Note: Unlike Nancy Reagan who was considered passionate about Just Say No to Drugs; When a White woman talks frequently about race she is often viewed as obsessed rather than passionate. The truth is, it wasn’t until moving far away from Massena, New York and living in larger cosmopolitan areas throughout the U.S. that I began to understand how sheltered, misguided and oblivious I was about racial identity and what it means to identify as Non-White. Having traveled internationally and living for years in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Denver, I captured a glimpse of what it means to be a person of color in a White dominated world and the social, political and economic ramifications that come with the package. It wasn’t until the mid-1990’s after moving south of the Mason-Dixon Line that I began reflecting on my own racial identity and what it means to possess whiteness. Until that point, any analysis of race and all studies of racial disparities seemed to place Non-Whites under a microscope, more or less dissecting their experiences and conditions, rather than looking at the opposite: the privileges that exist as a result of a system and culture that rewards whiteness. After becoming a residential counselor at a Nashville youth shelter at a purportedly progressive non-profit, I noticed racial disparities between the clients and the staff and started questioning why the helpers were predominately White, while the preponderance of those needing help were Non-White. I started reading every book that dealt with race I could get my hands including writings by Ida B. Wells, W.E.B. Dubois, Robin D.G. Kelley, Dr. Cornell West, Michael Eric Dyson and hundreds of others. After attending the Fisk University Race Relations Institute, I attended other conferences exploring the subject, wrote op-ed pieces and eventually became involved in witnessing racial politics at play. I witnessed first-hand in my newly gentrified neighborhood as new residents who were unaccustomed to living in a diverse community sounded alarm bells whenever young Black males walked through the neighborhood. I sat in on community meetings with residents and police as they openly profiled young Black and Brown men who wore hoodies as being suspicious all under the guise of neighborhood safety. Since hindsight is always 20/20, when reflecting back it seems I had stockpiled just enough ammunition (knowledge) to be dangerous. Angry and up for the fight, I raised one fist in the air and pointed my pen or camera anywhere inequity lurked—which as it turns out can keep one very busy looking elsewhere. Ironically, as long as the focus was over there and not on me, I was poised for confrontation. In fact, like most White Americans, I knew deep inside that being classified as White carried privileges of unearned access, even if I didn’t have the vocabulary or the willingness to acknowledge it. How can I say this? Because studies and personal experiences demonstrate what happens when most Whites are asked the question: If you could choose to wake up tomorrow a different race, would you? The answer is usually no thank you, and with those who are more truthful, the answer is probably more like, Hell no! Why? It’s certainly not because Whites deem non-Whites unattractive or inferior looking. If we didn’t find darker skin attractive, we wouldn’t be slathering ourselves with forty-dollar bottles of Black Elixir Lotion and getting sun cancer or spending billions on spray tans hoping to bronze up. The question of whether or not we would change races if we could seems to raise more questions. Is it possible the reason we wouldn’t change races is simply because of what we already quietly understand what whiteness means? Is it because instinctively we know “Membership has its privileges,” and that having darker skin and features that are not deemed European American means we would not be viewed or treated the same as we are now? That we understand without our whiteness our economic status might be affected; that all the doors that are open to us now, might not be? The intent for this book is not to make people feel bad or guilty, but to shed light on the continued and persistent conflict, confusion and resentment that arises when issues of race bubbles to the surface and more importantly, when they don’t. This book is for anyone wanting to cultivate a deeper awareness of what whiteness means and is willing to look within. This book is especially for those who haven’t given their whiteness much thought and especially for those who are tempted to put the book down and read no further. Exploring whiteness and privilege is a daunting task simply because there are so many fears working against peeking under these covers. For many, there is a fear that if we look too closely, we might be horrified that someone we don’t want to know lives within us and we will be forced to feel bad about ourselves. If this sounds overly dramatic, it is because facing issues of race head-on is emotionally loaded and why most of us avoid it. The pop-quiz is comprised of questions that help set a context for discussing this thing called White privilege and serves to help people understand what it means to possess it. The quiz is meant to dispel any mystery or skepticism about the existence of privilege for those who have never given it much, or any, thought. After all, the number one privilege of whiteness is to not have to think about it, therein denying its existence. Unlike a pop quiz at school, there are no wrong answers, only truthful ones. There is no scoring, but if you answer number three or four for most or many of the questions, there's a good chance you are someone who is familiar with White privilege and experience it on a daily basis. Each chapter begins with a multiple choice question meant to reveal, inform and inspire more questions about whiteness and the system invented to promote whiteness than you have ever entertained before. The hope is that perhaps the quiz will point you in a new direction ---to think more deeply and behave more consciously. Example: How often are your reminded about being the race with which you identify? 1) Several times a day 2) Once a day 3) Several times a week 4) Once a month 5) Hardly Ever Although the fear of feeling bad as a result of facing racial bias is not unfounded, it is purely optional. Being identified as White is not a problem per se, but rather what whiteness means in our culture and how that is problematic. So far of the 100,000 people who have taken the mini White Privilege Pop Quiz on-line, many say they found it revelatory and enlightening while others admit feeling infuriated and some even amused. I’m happy for all of the above. Why happy about someone being infuriated? Because if that person took the time to answer multiple choice questions about White privilege, they are now thinking about what it means. And whether they agree or not, it is a first step. Worth repeating is that the primacy of whiteness is a social construct and not biological. It was invented to uphold and justify a system that promoted superiority of one group over all others. Quite simply: White Supremacy. That whiteness still continues to carry this meaning suggests that unchecked whiteness (unacknowledged whiteness) continues to perpetuate systemic inequities in every sector of society. DIAGNOSING HISTORY Although internalized racial bias exists everywhere, the form in which we experience it in the U.S. requires us to examine the illness of the founding fathers to understand ourselves. In order to justify brutalizing and enslaving an entire race of people, our historical heroes collectively convinced themselves that non-whites being imported from Africa and the Indigenous People who inhabited this continent when they arrived were not fully human beings. Ponder that for a moment, not fully human… It is documented in the “Three-Fifths Compromise,” a mechanism by which the enslaved were legally declared only three-fifths of a human being for the purpose of determining a state’s representation in Congress. Imagine the painstaking calculations involved, not to mention self-delusion, required to institute such a compromise and with earnest deliberation. Some would argue that viewing racial bias as an illness is absurd and perhaps even harsh. But how else could they, the fathers of the Constitution, hold steadfast to the conviction that they were God-fearing, democracy-seeking, honorable men, while owning and brutalizing fellow human beings in the name of expansion and progress? Does this not suggest imbalance or perhaps even illness? Although we are loathe to judge our ancestors harshly for their transgressions, if we do not acknowledge the moral schizophrenia on the part of our predecessors who allowed and perpetrated the genocide and brutalization of an entire race of people for economic gain, we risk perpetual self-delusion and repetition. In other words, by ignoring the historical behavioral duplicity and a tragic breach of humanity, we risk failing to see the breach within ourselves. When we examine history textbooks that persistently characterize the extermination of Native Americans as westward expansion or minimize the brutalization of Africans for economic gain as an unfortunate chapter in our history, we must read between these white-washed words. We must ask what effect this type of sterilized and deceptive reporting has on young minds that are forming ideas about whom we are as a society, who fits in and who doesn’t, who is valued and who isn’t? Most people upon hearing of gruesome violence committed against another refer to the sickness of the act. They inquire of the person committing the act, “What happened to their humanity?” We label them pathological, evil or sub-human and many of them are locked up in prisons and institutions for their entire lives. How many history classes have you attended where an entire lesson—or even five minutes—was devoted to discussing the somewhat schizophrenic behaviors of those who penned the constitution? Yes, those famous historical figures who espoused liberty and freedom for all while many of them were slave owners themselves. At most, their moral lapses are a side-bar, if discussed at all. This omission is usually and weakly justified by saying it is unfair to judge our ancestors from modern day ethics and morals. As if 150 years ago there were different standards of humanity wherein domination, enslavement and brutality weren’t so bad. There have always been those, both Non-Whites and Whites, who were staunchly opposed to slavery, oppression and domination, and who were aware of the hypocrisy of the American Constitution and the brutal insanity of racism. And still today there are those, too many to count, who were more than willing to turn a blind eye in order to attain and maintain wealth and power. It is the denial of insane behaviors that renders us doomed to repeat them - and we have. When those classified as White enjoy the privilege of viewing history through a lens that softens the collective dehumanization of our brothers and sisters of color we, too, are dehumanized. “ Digging up all this stuff is just not helpful and just creates more hard feelings”. Why dig it all up? Few would argue that how we were raised and nurtured as children the first few years of our lives has a profound impact on our experiences as an adult. That 12-step recovery programs that exist in nearly every continent around the globe, testifies to the notion most people believe: if moving forward is ever to be possible, then revisiting the past is essential, at least for a little while. After several hundred years of operating under an insane paradigm, it is improbable, if not impossible, to escape internalizing racial bias. It is what we do with that bias after acknowledging it which matters. Guilt Trip? So yes, once upon a time some of our ancestors did some things that were…very bad. Ok, very, very, very bad. They created a system that divided and pitted men and women against one another for economic gain. They also devised a classification system that divided people into categories: those who were worthy of wealth and freedoms and those who weren’t. In order to promote a system that assigned favor and privileges to Whites, it was necessary to degrade and demonize those who were not, so that formal, systemic discrimination could be justified. “Racism was/is nothing more than a potent and ingenious tool that validated those who were classified as White,” says African American studies professor, Dr. Jacqueline Wade. In this country, even those who are considered great men with noble intentions such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and many other notables, participated in a system that denigrated humans for personal gain. Both Washington and Jefferson owned slaves up until their respective deaths. And although these uncomfortable truths are self-evident, we would rather not think about them as such. Another uncomfortable truth: We are all the result of a system that was founded upon principles that promoted occupation, genocide and domination. We didn’t create it, but we are the beneficiaries. Ouch! Although the system of legalized enslavement was abolished over a hundred fifty years ago, it is only in the past 40 some years that significant strides have been made at equalizing treatment under the law. This is good news. The not so good news is the psychological fall out of an insane system that pitted men and women of different races against one another, which has never been addressed in a systematic or meaningful way and continues to thrive under the surface. It is most crucial that we understand that our internalized and unexpressed racial biases and fears continue to prevent others from getting an education, overpopulate our prisons, and even cause unjustified deaths, as in the case of Trayvon Martin and countless, less famous, Non-Whites. My hope is that you will share the quiz with friends, family members, classmates and co-workers and that you keep the conversation going. Although I’m a big fan of waving the positive thought flag, anything that is systemic cannot be undone by discussion or positive thoughts alone. As with most things, change on the outside begins with a shift in perception—from within. If you are still reading and interested in challenging yourself in this endeavor, it is also important to remember that engaging in honest and vigorous racial discussions isn’t easy. Rarely are ideas of racial injustice exchanged without discomfort. Injecting the subject of systemic racism at a dinner party may make you less likely to be invited back—depending on the host . So be forewarned, mentioning the White privilege elephant in the middle of a black-tie masquerade fund-raiser for the local governor may come with a price. But as civil rights activist and Southern preacher, Reverend Will D. Campbell said: “Acknowledging privilege comes with a price…so what you are willing to give up?” Given the resistance which surfaces for most everyone during discussions of race, why in the world would anyone deliberately dive into “The White Privilege Pop Quiz”? What would be the worst thing you could discover? That, indeed, you do experience unearned privilege and that you are unconsciously contributing to systemic and institutional racial inequities? What if from reading the book, you were able to develop a more thoughtful, authentic and honest approach to discussing race and perhaps understand how challenging it is for Non-Whites to work with us Whites, to confide in us or to trust us to do the right things? Wouldn’t it be worth finding out how frightening it can be to live amongst those who are unconscious or in denial of the very systems that continually marginalize, if not brutalize, people of color? What if that revelation alone inspired you to commit whole-heartedly to dismantling systemic racism, once and for all. Acknowledgements There are numerous books on Whiteness' and privilege--including several by Tim Wise , Paul Kivel and Eddie Moore Jr.. And just so there is no misunderstanding, the pop quiz for Trayvon Martin was inspired and informed by many folks over the years. These mentors and teachers include Peggy Macintosh, Dr. Jacqui Wade, Dr. Ray Winbush, Dr. Eddie Moore Jr, Tim Wise, Humberto Brown, Jesse Villalobos, Dr. Robin D.G. Kelley, Francie Kendall, Victor Lee Lewis, Jorge Zeballos, Paul Kivel, Naomi Tutu, Theeda Murphy and many many others. A special extra thanks to White Privilege Conference founder Eddie Moore Jr. for his encouragement and all the Colleges and University students who’ve invited me to present the White Privilege Pop Quiz on their Campuses. White Privilege Pop Quiz is available at fine book stores nationwide. For a signed personal copy go to Parnassus Books (they ship internationally) and Amazon. Support Local Mom and Pop Books stores.
Love In The Time of Cuomo
Let me state up front. I am not a Cuomo-sexual. In spite of being amused and delighted by Randy Rainbow’s hilarious parody tribute to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, I was a little unnerved he had gone so mainstream because, honestly, I noticed him first. What I mean by that is although a Nashvillian, I’m a former upstate New Yorker from Massena, a small town on the St. Lawrence River that might have completely disappeared off the map if not for NY Senator Chuck Schumer and Governor Cuomo’s determination. Several years ago, they infused the area with millions of dollars to stave off economic collapse after massive job layoffs. Having grown up fishing for perch and walleye in the beautiful St Lawrence River, I’ve loved him ever since hearing about his fierceness to save my hometown. After tuning into Cuomo’s Coronavirus briefing today and watching him take Mitch McConnell to the woodshed for his smug and cruel suggestion that states heavily impacted by the Pandemic simply file bankruptcy, it hit me what Andrew Cuomo symbolizes and is reflecting back for all of us. On March 2nd, my East Nashville TN neighborhood was hit by a Tornado. It wasn’t just a hit. It was a thrashing of epic proportions. And it wasn’t just my neighborhood that got pummeled. The destruction was widely and randomly distributed throughout Davidson County--and spread throughout the state. As tornadoes are known to be, it was brutal, reckless, indiscriminate and merciless. It left 26 people dead and thousands of Tennesseans grieving. Neighbors and strangers from other states rallied to support and comfort residents sifting through rubble hoping to recover precious remnants of their previous lives. The exquisiteness of these compassionate acts is burned into my mind’s eye. And the patch quilt of blue tarps on roofs still barely covered is a reminder that nature is boss—and always has been. Speaking of bosses, on that very first day after the Tornado, Governor Cuomo and New York City Mayor, Bill De Blasio held a joint press conference to confirm that the first Coronavirus case was reported in Manhattan. As a former Upstate New Yorker, I watched with special interest as they reported the news calmly and reassuringly, clarifying that the woman who tested positive did not require hospitalization. The tone was concerning but not worrisome. Just three days later, as the virus started spreading quickly, Governor Cuomo began daily Coronavirus briefings to inform New Yorkers—and anyone with an internet connection-- the status of the virus. Cuomo assured New Yorkers “this isn’t our first rodeo”. His voice was calmly commanding and his tone was paternal and comforting. His use of the word ‘love’ throughout the briefing inspired tears I hadn’t been able to shed since the Tornado. Like many Nashvillians, I was too busy in my neighborhood to pay much attention to Coronavirus and thought it was merely a bad flu. Along with a couple of friends, we started running a coffee cart around the neighborhood to get to know people who were impacted and helped to coordinate temporary housing and other immediate needs. The coffee wagon served as an admission ticket into their lives and some days we were no more than a listening ear for traumatized residents who needed to verbalize ‘that’ moment just before their lives forever changed. Every day was exhausting, heart wrenching and strangely inspiring. I’d never seen so many caring people clamoring to help a stranger. It made me think of New York during 911. And it made me proud of Nashville. Each night after scanning headlines about healthcare workers fighting for our lives--and losing their own in the process, I would turn on the Cuomo briefing from earlier that day to hear his reasoned, Joe Friday “just stick to the facts” demeanor. And while his jokes may be corny, his words are heartening and uplifting. And there is something oddly reassuring that he chose Melissa DeRosa as Secretary to the Governor, a woman who delivers information with the precision of a Swiss watchmaker. The briefings were (and are) like sipping a night-time tea that calms nerves and staves off nightmares. And strangely, it's when I allow myself to cry. Since the shelter in place recommendations were announced weeks ago, finishing my baseball film was put on the back burner. Like everyone else, I’m in limbo. My days revolve around morning Cuomo briefings brimming with information, facts with difficult questions and answers. They have been the perfect counter to the sting of White House briefings that are increasingly (and alarmingly) more confusing, bombastic and bizarre. Political attacks against anyone who confronts the President with facts. And it turns out, Joe Friday is his worst nightmare. The only momentary relief seems to be when Dr. Anthony Fauci is at the microphone. And since his increased popularity (for his clear and direct reassurance) his appearances have now diminished. No longer a distant intruder, the Coronavirus has made massive house calls and most everyone I know is mourning the loss of friends and family. With over 50,000 dead, the passing weeks have revealed the insatiable longing Americans have for a compassionate voice from intelligent and reasonable leadership. And while Governor Cuomo is getting the majority of sunlight, there are other Governors around the country who are shining stars. Maryland’s Republican Governor, Larry Hogan and California Democratic Governor, Gavin Newsom are both fierce leaders of compassion and reason. And it is heartening that Governors across the country (bi-partisan) are united in their efforts to deal with a rogue Administration that is treating them like unwanted stepchildren. I’m sure Cuomo is no saint and has plenty of enemies. In fact I feel sure of that. No one can speak as bluntly and truthfully and not have adversaries. Regardless, he has served (and is serving) as father/brother/son to a nation navigating a tidal wave of confusing and overwhelming emotions. Hearing about his daughters Michaela, Mariah and Cara and their nighttime discussions, his mother, Matilda, his brother Chris and his dog Captain all make him seem accessible and charming. Some suggest it is merely political theater. Maybe that’s true. Maybe not. Without selling religion or proclaiming godliness, the word 'love' bookends all of Cuomo’s briefings. And even more importantly, love seems to be the starting and ending point of his decisions. His actions seem to match his words. And that is a rare and precious commodity in the age of 'fake news' and horrendous political partisanship. And while he’s probably too bossy to be my boyfriend, he’s just the right amount of bossy for New York and for the rest of the country. And he’s the perfect amount of compassionate for a nation desperate for tough love. So yes, Cuomo is well loved. Because he loves so well. Just the facts, ma'am. Molly Secours is a filmmaker/writer in Nashville Tennessee. And yes, she remembers Joe Friday.
Brutal Choices: Bredesen or Blackburn When the
In the last couple weeks, millions of American women (and men) were triggered by the heartbreaking and contentious confirmation hearings for Judge Brett Kavanaugh after Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee identifying Judge Kavanaugh as the perpetrator of a sexual assault when she was 15. Regardless of which side of the political aisle you subscribe to, it was brutal. Only someone lucky enough to be living in a remote cave on a deserted island doesn't know what occurred so there is little need for elaboration. In short, there was one day of testimony in which no witnesses or in depth investigation allowed, the vote was rushed through and Judge Brett Kavanaugh is now a United States Supreme Court Judge. Meanwhile back in Tennessee, several days before the vote, Democratic Candidate for Senate, Phil Bredesen, announced he would have supported Kavanaugh's confirmation. While many progressives weren't surprised, others were shocked and puzzled why he would not choose to acknowledge Dr. Ford and all the women across the country who were watching this pivotal vote, a vote that put a man on the Supreme Court- for a lifetime--who indeed very well may have committed a sexual crime. Women throughout the state were crushed that Bredesen didn't at least say: "I don't know or I need more more information." Anything but full on, 'yes.' Compounding the outrage, Bredesen's wife Andrea Conte is the face most Tennesseans think of when we hear "victim's advocate." Andrea Conte has done more for women and families who are victim's of violence than can be articulated in this essay. She is the poster woman of championing the voices of those who are often silenced. Shortly after it was announced, there was a collective gasp as if the wheels on the support bus were becoming unhinged at high speed. Along with those outraged by Bredesen's pledging support for Brett Kavanaugh, I felt ill at the news once his confirmation to the Supreme Court was announced. To soften the blow I decided to tune into Saturday Night Live for some laughs. While the opening segment was funny, the levity was short lived as I watched ad after slanderous campaign ad for Marsha Blackburn in between skits. It was horrifying. The ads were vile and while badly produced were grossly potent for the unthinking. The woman who ignited the opiod crisis by co-sponsoring a law which weakened DEA enforcement efforts against drug distribution companies--who were supplying corrupt doctors and pharmacists who peddled narcotics to the black market--was on the attack. Pandering to all things Trump, including hateful anti-immigration policies and promoting building "the wall" to keep out Mexican people, this is Marsha Blackburn. Blackburn is 'Trump's girl' and if Tennesseans want Trump on estrogen, Marsha is definitely the girl. A dear friend of mine recently told me she refused to vote from a place 'of fear’ as justification for not voting for Bredesen. And like several I've heard, considering voting for no one. And I understand. One should feel empowered and inspired by their decision. For those who want to feel radical, burn the house down and make a point about having a candidate that stands up for women and minorities and cares about the poor, yes I get it. I so understand. For those who are armored up and ready for Marsha Blackburn and the darkness that surrounds and supports her, go for it. But I question whether or not anyone is ready for the level of deviance, division and subterfuge that Ms. Blackburn has shown she is capable of. This Senate race is a challenging decision for everyone. I have just never had success voting 'against' something and know the frustration of feeling as though you must vote for the 'least worst'. Everyone must vote for who and what makes them feel good, empowered and hopeful. And while my friend is wary of Blackburn, she's so disillusioned with Bredesen pledging his support for Kavenaugh, she will no longer support Bredesen. And she's not alone. To that I say, absolutely don’t make a decision out of fear. But what about making a decision based on possibility? For me that is my only choice. I am holding my breath and voting for Phil Bredesen because he’s the best we have until some younger, more committed progressive values, imaginative, and a little less encumbered and politically entrenched politician (hopefully a woman) comes along. Beyond ‘fear’ for me, I am leaning towards Bredesen because of some of his fellow members. He will be surrounded by--and possibly influenced by--the likes of Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Dick Durbin, Amy Klobuchar, Sheldon Whitehouse and many others. The company he will keep is the bright light of his winning. Hopefully every day, he will be challenged by his fellow Senators--including some strong women-- who are truly Democrats, and true progressives. Will he listen to them? We can only hope. I've been wrong a lot, so what do I know? Not more than you. Vote 'for' what feel's right and for the person you are prepared to live with. But vote. Thank you for reading.
This Land is Your Land. This Land Is Our Land. How White Folks Can Break The Cycle & Why The Wil
Here we go again. After fighting a successful battle several years ago to preserve Studio A, a piece of local history on Music Row, Nashvillians are being called upon again to prevent another historical landmark from being torn down and sacrificed on the altar of real estate developers. We recently learned that the city is proposing to auction off (to the highest bidder) a beloved community/neighborhood park around the corner from Music Row in a neighborhood that has been wrestling with gentrification for almost two decades. This isn't an empty lot or a series of vacant houses. It's neighborhood green-space that is fully utilized by the residents of Edgehill Community. In addition to being fully uitlized and cared for, the neighborhood park is where celebrated African American Artist, William Edmonson lived and worked and is why it is considered by many to be hallowed ground. As the first African American to be given a one person show at the Museum of Modern Art--in the 1930's, Edmonson's legacy is one that bolsters and feeds the spirit of Edgehill. When you consider the Klu Klux Klan was just getting started terrorizing Black people about an hour down the road in Columbia Tennessee, this is quite significant and historical. On the same land where Edmonson created his historic sculptures, it is now where people commune, grow food, celebrate and play--in the middle of our city. While the entire 7-acre tract was not Edmondson's land, it is his homestead and he was surrounded by family members and friends, some who were ex-slaves. His studio was 'open air' and it is where almost all of his work was created which is why residents feel a spiritual connection to the land. Also significant, is the park is located in the midst of a food desert, and home to community gardens, where young children learn about growing food and where families gather to feel grass under their feet, play and celebrate. There is great concern and opposition to this 'development free for all' (as some are calling it) and perhaps a brief look at history can help explain why people are experiencing a collective shiver when Mayor Briley and city leaders talk about auctioning off their park to developers because of budget constraints. "Why not Percy Warner or another park in another neighborhood" they wonder? In 1865, after the adoption of 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which abolished slavery, there was a famous Field Order 15 issued by General William T. Sherman which set aside a huge swath of abandoned land along the Georgia and South Carolina coast where black families were promised land on forty acre plots hence "Forty Acres and a Mule"--which is a myth because it never actually happened. This gesture was considered a way to 'even the playing field' and perhaps make up for several hundred years of generational enslavement. Instead Congress allowed the Freedmen's Bureau to sell 5-10 acre tracts of land to freed slaves. The same enslaved people who had worked their entire lives for free for white people--as did their parents, grand parents and great grand parents before them were 'sold' the land. By June of 1865 after 40,000 some freed slaves were settled on what was referred to as "Sherman's Land" but only months later, President Johnson quickly reversed Sherman's Field order and virtually all plantation land was returned to original plantation owners. The prospect of owning land for people who had previously been 'owned' was empowering and transformative. That was taken away. I dare to bore you with a few historical details to point out that while White Folks received free land in the latter part of the 19th century to settle the west, Black people were mostly sold land (that was abandoned) after several centuries of enslavement only to have it quickly taken away. It is a pattern that has persisted for over a century--repeatedly and often violently. All these uncomfortable realities help illustrate how Black people have been dealing with white people appropriating land since Reconstruction. And throughout history, almost every time Black people created thriving communities, there have been attempts to destroy and curtail their progress and spirit. One extreme case in point is the Tulsa Race Riots of 1921 in Tulsa Oklahoma which destroyed what was known as Black Wall Street, a prosperous, modern, and sophisticated community that was brutally and strategically eviscerated--almost overnight. And while no one is comparing Tulsa with the recent real estate shenanigans occurring in Nashville (or calling anyone evil), there is a long standing history that makes it easier for white folks to overlook an unconscious habit of behaving in a way which suggests: "if you have something we need, we will take it"--certainly when it comes to land and particularly if you are a community of color. And here we are in 2018 where the brutal legacy of overt racism in our country has made a resurgence. And thanks to our current President, hardly a day goes by without a legislative proposition or an overt act that demonizes and diminishes the value of non-white life. While there is much to love about our growing city, Nashville has attracted real estate developers who are not connected to our communities nor do they feel an allegiance to preserving our history. For many, Nashville has received an involuntary facelift and is becoming unrecognizable. Green space is on the endangered list as numerous landmarks have already sold to the highest bidder. In the past several years we have witnessed that properties inhabited by people of color hold a particular attraction to developers and quite often the result is, once purchased people of color will soon disappear. While we have come close to losing other significant green space and land rich in cultural history several times recently, each time our city leaders underestimated the resolve of Nashvillians. People in Edgehill are thriving on the land at Edmonson Homestead and this is empowering and transformative for many--especially those who live in low income housing and own nothing. Let's break the cycle. Now. Yes, the city needs to balance the books. But at what point do we stop the practice of 'this land is your land'--until 'we' need it? Let Mayor Briley, the Metro City Council and our brothers and sisters in Edgehill Community know you feel as strongly about William Edmonson Homestead as Studio A on Music Row. Share this article and to learn more about Edmonson Homestead: visit https://www.change.org/p/mayor-briley-and-metro-council-save-the-neighborhood-park-that-includes-artist-william-edmondson-s-homesite-and-the-memorial-community-gardens-don-t-sell-to-developers Molly Secours is a filmmaker/writer/kayaker and former Huffington Post contributor and is now a firm believer in intelligent life on other planets--since January 2017.
Knock! Knock! Who's There?
Big G: Knock! knock! Little D: Who’s there? Big G: Donald, it’s me, God. Little D: Jesus wept! Big G: Exactly, Donald, exactly. It’s why I’m here. Little D: Well I’m really busy right now. I’ve got very big things...a lot of big things going on right now. Big G: Yes I know. Little D: So you’ve been hearing what they’re saying about me? Excellent! Big G: Well, yes and no. Little D: Like I said, I’m kind of in the middle of some things. Can you come back”? Big G: Well, that has always been the rumor but the fact is I’m back already, Donald. Never left. And I’ve seen everything. And I do mean Everything. Little D: Oh crap. So you know about the Russian ‘thing’? Big G: Donald, everybody knows about the “Russian thing. Little D: Ouch! What about the Golden showers thing”? Big G: That too. Little D: Oh damn. And whole Fake News strategy? Big G: Of course. Little D: So, um what can I do for you”? Big G: Do for me? That’s kind of the problem, Donald. You do know I’m God? And you know that you didn’t really win the popular vote, right? And besides, it’s not about you, Donald. And what you’ve doing sure as hell isn’t about me (pun intended). Little D: If I may interrupt you, I mean have you seen the crowd sizes? If you just check Twitter...Ok you were saying? Big G: It seems you and your friends have confused yourself with me and my ‘agenda’. So the first thing I want you to do is stop using my name for things that go against the essence of everything I’ve ever said. And Donald, how bout if you stop putting your name on everything? It’s just a little...well, tacky. And it makes you look small, Donald. Little D: No offense of course, but I think you’re wrong about that. Really. People think it’s terrific. Have you been to Trump Towers? But anyway, you wanted to talk with me about something? It’s not the wall is it? Because it is going to be fantastic. Huge. And I’m pretty sure I can get still Mexico to cough up the Pesos. Big G: Donald, Donald, Donald. Where do I start? Yes of course it’s the wall. It’s the degradation of women and non-whites, the inciting of conflict and encouraging violence against people of color, of my beautiful rainbow children, it’s about refusal to care for the sick, to have compassion for the weak and now with this for profit killing spree. It’s just too much. Even for me. Little D: But you told me to come here and.. Big G: And what Donald? Little D: To make a difference and bring people together. Big G: Yes, that’s right. And in a strange way, I’ll give it to you, you have done just that. I’ve seen people gathering in great numbers in the streets who’ve never looked at one another before. And that part is good. But there’s more coming and it’s about to step up “bigly” and you’re going to need to be ready.” Little D: What do you mean? Big G: I mean that from this point on Donald, people are going to start waking up as if someone put 1000 watt bulbs in their bedroom lamps. It’s already started to happen these last few months. But in the coming weeks and months, those you have bullied and intimidated will begin to see even more clearly. And the more people awaken the more you will find yourself in the minority. People in politics who never seemed likely candidates will spontaneously—and almost magically—become courageous. They will no longer capitulate to fear and manipulation. So I need to warn you Donald, their awakening will be your nightmare and as their hearts open to one another, this next chapter is going to be a pretty rough ride for you. Little D: But, I thought I was special. I thought I had a “mission”. Big G: Donald, you are special. Nobody will ever disagree on that. The truth is there needed to be someone who could reflect back to others the ugliness of sanctimonious self-interest. And Donald, of anyone who has raised their hands in the last couple centuries, you’ve played the role magnificently. Little D: Really? So can you like, write that in the sky or something? Big G: Really? Now, put your helmet on, my son and hang on cause you’re about to be on the other end of a divine ass kicking. Little D: So, you’re not joking? Big G: Just because I started this conversation with “knock knock” doesn’t mean there’s a funny punch line. That’s why I sent John Stewart and Jimmy Kimmel. And one more thing Donald, I’m not really white. So you need to get over that shit. Molly Secours is a writer/filmmaker/speaker who is currently directing and co-producing a feature documentary film with actor, Bill Murray and Hall Of Famer, Wade Boggs titled: “Scouting For Diamonds:The Invisible Heroes Of Baseball.” www.mollysecours.com
In The Neighborhood of Race: When Kneeling Sends Us Reeling on Facebook
I don’t know how or why but I somehow got ensnared in a Facebook conversation with someone who started out expressing sadness about her football team choosing to stay in the locker room during the national anthem before yesterday's game. And although sadness was the word she initially used, it became apparent (quickly) that being apoplectic at the audacity of the 'kneelers' might have been closer to truth. For anyone without electricity, the numerous NFL players knelt with owners and management in direct response to the President's attack on players as an act of solidarity with one another. I actually don't know this woman and tried to figure out why we were friends but as is the way with social media, she was a friend of a friend of a friend. And while usually careful about who I engage with on serious matters such as race, I noticed she identified as a 'personal coach’' and assumed perhaps it was somewhat 'neutral' territory. After scrolling through the conversation it was as if I’d meandered off on a side street, heard voices in an abandoned building and stumbled into a secret meeting. It seems there is nothing quite like the outrage of some white folks when people of color don't fall in line. The artful attempt to justify indignation by declaring that kneeling in protest confirms a lack of love for country or patriotism or lack of respect for veterans is rather absurd and would be borderline amusing if not so disturbing. The lack of comprehension that symbols aren't universal was evident and there didn't seem to be any consideration that we interpret and assign our own meaning to symbols based on our relationship to them—and experience of them. That a symbol can hold completely different meanings which invoke and often inspire different actions. One by one people of color on the Facebook thread (who had apparently stumbled on this particular page also) seemed disturbed by the tenor of conversation which condemned the kneelers as ‘bums’ and ‘thugs’ and several informed the woman she was being 'unfriended'. This was met with an eerily inaudible cheering and a dismissive ‘see ya’. This, from a ‘life coach.’ Still not ready to exit the conversation, I suggested that she and friends consider what these young men were attempting to say through their actions and pay attention to their own 'reactions' to the peaceful protest. I pointed out these young men have stood with hand over heart for thousands and thousands of games during their lives and yet at this moment in time they chose to speak peacefully through this particular gesture—for a reason. I also suggested they listen closely to what the players said. Some of the most even, calm, clear-headed and insightful comments were made by LeBron James following the President's verbal assault on them. Their actions are purposeful and intentional. And there is a reason owners and managers are supporting players and in solidarity with them. After suggesting internalized racial bias lives in all of us and that an athlete’s right to freely and peacefully express themselves is as American as apple pie, it happened. I had committed the ultimate violation by hitting too closely on the nose—if not squarely—of truth. Having used the words 'racial bias' seemed to cause an unhinging of sorts and all modulated politeness evaporated. What came next was a flurry of words about 'bitching' about a lost election, and a few insults thrown in about being a liberal and how the 'forgotten people' have spoken. And suddenly I realized where I was. I was in the wrong part of town without a GPS which is pretty much how most conversations about race tend to feel with lots of white folks To the players I say: Just keep kneeling, guys. Not half kneeling or bending. Let all the hot tempered season ticket holders huff and puff and make room for some new fans. And remember. You are employed, not owned. You are worthy. Molly Secours is a writer/filmmaker/speaker who is currently directing and co-producing a feature documentary film with actor, Bill Murray and Hall Of Famer, Wade Boggs titled: “Scouting For Diamonds:The Invisible Heroes Of Baseball.” www.mollysecours.com