T'was Election Day 2017

Virginia is unique; every year there's an election. We have an annual opportunity to set a political course. The politicians on the ballots build their platforms based on what they view as the biggest challenges facing the Commonwealth, but we give them power. This is an awesome responsibility. An informed electorate is the best defense against those who would willfully distort facts in order to gain access to legislative and executive powers.

Being an informed voter is more difficult than it use to be. There are so many negative campaign ads that trying to focus on what's important to our daily lives has become work. This is a sad reality, but it doesn't absolve us of our civic responsibility. Every voter has an obligation to the generations of Virginians who will be affected by decisions made at the ballot box.

Ed Gillespie’s plan of capping Medicaid would be bad for all Virginians, but it would be disastrous for the Blue Ridge Mountains. Medicaid provides health coverage to eligible low-income adults, children, pregnant women, elderly adults and people with disabilities. Any cuts to this program will adversely affect the lives of some of the most vulnerable citizens in the Commonwealth.

According to the “Local Department of Social Services Profile Report 2016” there 838 citizens in Bath County who were enrolled in the Medicaid program. These are our neighbors. These are the kids we cheer for at sporting events. These are the people we sit beside in church. For too long the debate at the center of what role the government should play in providing for citizens has been hijacked by people who view poverty as a sign of moral failure. Suffering economic hardships is hard enough without being stigmatized for it.

Ed Gillespie’s tax plan doesn’t make him a bad person. It just proves that he doesn’t look at the world through the same lens as a mother or father raising children on stagnated wages. In Bath County over half of the students in our schools are eligible for free or reduced lunches. Many of those same children are covered by the Children’s Health Insurance Program or (CHIP). These kids did not choose the circumstances they were born into. If you wouldn’t look a kid in the eyes and take their breakfast or lunch tray from them why would you cast a vote for someone proposing budget cuts that would effectively do the same thing?

Gutting the social safety net for the sake of tax cuts is immoral; it's antithetical to the 25th chapter of Saint Matthew and the Christian belief that what we do for the least of these we do for God. Budgets are moral documents because they set forth our priorities. I could be wrong, but I don’t think anyone can properly  pursue happiness without the necessary tools to preserve life. I don’t want to live in a society that views the needs of children as negotiable budgetary issues. Don't just listen to what politicians say watch what they do and make a decision based on what's best for the future.


America's Latest Mass Shooting

Twenty-six people were killed during America's latest mass shooting. First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas joined a growing list of places this shouldn't happen. A list that should include everywhere. This is the 377th mass shooting this year. We average more than one mass shooting a day. We have a problem that we don't seem too interested in fixing.

Writing about mass shootings got old a long time ago, but not nearly as old as our canned response to them. These tragedies have happened so often that they have become part of our life. This is the new normal and our responses have become ritualized. America's inability to respond legislatively after Sandy Hook broke my spirit, and I know I'm not the only one. I mourn those who are lost and sympathize with the people tasked with rebuilding shattered lives, but I am numb. I think a lot of us are numb. We offer our thoughts and prayers and then split into our respective corners and debate. We talk because talking is easier than acting. Talking allows us to defend ourselves and our political ideologies. Talking is our coping mechanism.




Instead of talking maybe we should address high occupancy magazines and semiautomatic weapons that can easily be modified? We look for reasons not to do this. If the killer is African-American​ their actions are chalked up to their "upbringing" or black people's "knack for committing crimes". If the shooter is Latino we can avoid gun control legislation all together by talking about building walls and banishing people. Muslim shooter's are terrorists who hate "real Americans". If the killer is white their actions said to be the result of a mental health issue; we're told it's too soon to politicize a tragedy and in a few weeks we pretend it didn't happen. All of these excuses fall short of dealing with the real issue and none of them protect us from being the victims of or affected by the next tragedy.

We have to come to grips with the fact that sending our thoughts and prayers isn't solving this problem. This doesn't keep happening because we aren't praying hard enough. Too many Christians are praying for cake, but refuse to use the eggs, flowers, oil and milk God placed in front of them. There is nothing wrong with praying, but we have to pray and then act. It's that simple. No, we can't prevent an evil person from committing murder, but we can limit the methods and tools they use to carry out their deeds. 

Playing politics with mass shootings makes us look smaller than we are. We choose to be powerless. We choose to avoid the tough work of making these killings harder to pull off. We choose to be accessories to these crimes. America is governed by laws that can be amended. We can amend laws that put us in danger, but we don't have the moral conviction to do so. We are not passengers​: we are holding the wheels of justice, but they won't turn themselves.

We Should Really Talk!

1. There's nothing wrong engaging controversial subject matter.

2. There's nothing wrong with being uncomfortable. 

3. There's nothing wrong with not knowing.

4. There's nothing wrong with admitting a mistake.

As a nation, we have never been comfortable talking about controversial issues; however, as individuals, we can work on this, but it will take deep dialogue and a lot of self reflection.

I get a few dozen messages every week from decent people hurt by things I write. This is troubling. I don't use profanity and I don't attack people- even when they attack me, but I'm still inflicting wounds on people I care about.

If I wrote an 800 word article condemning sexism it wouldn't offend people who aren't in denial about the role gender plays in society, but the same article about race has the ability to offend people. We have to get past defending ourselves when institutional practices are called into question. This defense mechanism refocuses conversations. It isn't helpful and diverts time and energy.

When the subject of toxic masculinity and rape culture come up men don't have to reflexively defend themselves from the indictments leveled at our society. Indictments against patriarchy are justified. This also applies to racism and white supremacy. Systemic racism is real; pointing this out shouldn't trigger anyone, but if you feel triggered ask yourself why? What is it about this subject that causes feelings of anxiety or annoyance?

I write about the world we inherited. I write about the gap between our beliefs and our practices. I write about things most would rather avoid. I don't lie in my writing, and any claim I make can be grounded by empirical data. You might not like the conclusions I draw, and if that's the case let's talk about it. This isn't about being right; it's about dialogue. If people who know each other can't talk how can we expect a stranger to understand us?

We have to do better. This includes me.

The Insanity of Mass Shootings


Every few weeks our lives are interrupted by breaking news about innocent people being gunned down in classrooms, movie theaters, night clubs, churches and most recently an outdoor concert. During these highly stressful times, we stop what we are doing to reflect on the preciousness and fragility of life, we offer our prayers and condolences to the families affected by the tragedy and we tell ourselves this isn’t America. We recite this claim with the convictions people give to their religious mantras. We repeat this lie hoping to convince ourselves that we were somehow different, but this is America. This is who we are and we need to accept it. Insanity isn’t just doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result. Insanity is also denying the truth right in front of us.

Violence is a constitutive part of our history. America grew out of a violent revolution and hasn’t looked back. In the Gospel of Saint Luke, we are told that we can know a tree by the fruit it produces. In America, we scorn and rebuke our rotten apples, but we refuse to indict the tree that produced them. We have to quit using the same shocked language we apply to these tragedies and come to grips with the fact that this is normal. America is, and always has been, a violent nation.

Our culture has glamourized violence through novels, television, movies and video games. The spike in mass shootings over the last decade is a generational consequence of celebrating death more than life. America’s fascination with violence consciously and unconsciously affects many of us in different ways. It starts out as innocent games of cowboys and Indians or cops and robbers. We send these same kids to schools that have canonized our nation’s most historic battlegrounds and immortalized the soldiers who fought and died on those sacred grounds. We have Civil War reenactments where we simulate the experience of being on some of America’s most deadly killing fields. For every person truly repulsed by depictions of violence there are throngs of people cancelling out their voices.

Contrary to what we tell ourselves, the majority of mass shootings aren’t committed by people with a history of mental illness. These are meticulously calculated events designed to inflict as much pain and terror as possible. Too often we jump to the conclusion that the shooter must have been “crazy.” This is disingenuous. Saying someone is crazy is an easier pill to swallow than accepting the fact that our culture continues producing more and more people capable of committing these crimes.

There are so many Americans invested in the myths associated with America that (as a nation) we can’t look critically at this problem. Too many people are working overtime to systematically disconnect these shootings from each other- and often the motives behind them. America is under siege by the threat of random violence and we won’t accept the fact that our culture is complicit in some of the carnage we have seen.

America is stuck in a perpetual cycle of grief, inaction and denial. Our politicians don’t have the courage to stand up to the gun lobby and we won’t look in the mirror. These stories start with a hail of bullets and end in death and prayers. We keep doing the same thing over and over and have the nerve to question the results.




Why is Pat Robertson Still Relevant?

“The fact that we have disrespect for authority; there is profound disrespect for our president, all across this nation they say terrible things about him. It’s in the news, it’s in other places."

Pat Robertson 

This is a prime example of why so many young people are disenchanted with the church. For 8 years President Barack Obama and his family were ruthlessly disrespected by "Evangelicals" and "compassionate conservatives"; now, we are supposed to pretend like the serial philanderer and self admitted genital grabber has earned our respect? 

Pat Robertson's political and nationalistic theology is pushing more young people away from the church than the evils he drones on about every day. If holier than thou White Anglo Saxon Protestants keep defending the daily garbage produced by the 45th president the average age of parishioners at many of these churches will rise exponentially. Your kids and grand kids are watching you defend behavior you wouldn't tolerate from them. This hypocrisy is another reason for kids to duck church.

Please, miss me with the God sent Trump argument. If God sent him, then ipso facto he also sent the guy before him and that didn't stop y'all from disrespecting him and his family.

10 months into 2017, and none of the things Evangelicals warned us about happened. Barack Obama didn't:

1. Suspend the First Amendment and take your guns.
2. Didn't round up Christians and send them to FEMA camps.
3. He didn't usher in Sharia law and force us all to convert to Islam.
4. He didn't declare Martial Law to stay in power.

Pat Robertson and a host of "Religious" celebrities spread these lies with the same vigor they spread the Gospel. All of these claims were taken very serious and all of them were ridiculous, but not nearly as ridiculous as the church defending behavior that is antithetical to the teachings of Jesus. If any of Donald Trump's most loyal defenders in the clergy behaved like him on any given day they would be excommunicated or defrocked. 

Here's some free advice: young people will respect you more if you keep it 100 in the name of Jesus. 

#BlackOpinionsMatter: Jemele Hill


Donald Trump might not be a white supremacist, but he did hire a lot of them to work in his administration. Donald Trump might not be a white supremacist, but he has demonstrated white supremacist sensitivities over and over again.

No one made him try to destroy the lives of 5 innocent black kids. No one made him knowingly lie about President Obama's birth certificate. No one made him call Mexicans rapists and murders. No one made him open his mouth and spew his anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hatred. No one made him find the good in the self professed white supremacists who terrorized Charlottesville. No one made him pardon the virulent racist Joe Arpaio. Donald Trump alone chose to do all of these things.

I stand 100% behind Jemele Hill. For 8 years "real Americans" and "Evangelicals" believed (and spread) every ignorant conspiracy theory about Barack Obama. None of them were led to FEMA camps. None of them had their guns taken. None of them were forced to convert to Islam. These lies were spread by racists at Fox news and other conservative media outlets and accepted as facts.

Jemele Hill judged Donald Trump by his actions. He has no one to blame but himself. This time last year "real Americans" loved brash outspoken speech, hated the P.C. culture and weren't snowflakes. What happened?

Jemele Hill was reprimanded for calling a spade a spade. She was hired to give her opinion, and now that her personal opinions​ don't sync up with the powers that be at ESPN  she is in jeopardy. This is a prime example of why people of color need their own platforms. "Real Americans" elected a confessed pu$$y grabbing reprobate to the most powerful office in the world, but are ready to kick an opinion journalist out of her job for tweets she made on her own time.

"Real Americans" wonder why athletes are refusing to stand for this hypocrisy. #BlackOpinionsMatter

The Democratic Party: An Uneasy Alliance

The Democratic party's inability to move past the 2016 defeat and agree upon a cohesive message moving forward has given rise to a cottage industry of "think pieces" by racially isolated suburbanites who believe the biggest obstacle to their progressive economic agenda is social justice. 


These articles get published every few weeks anywhere leftist ideas are disseminated. The theoretical underpinnings of these "progressive" screeds hinge on the faulty notion that the Democratic party could abandon issues of importance to minority communities and maintain the same level of electoral support from these constituencies. This is a fallacy. The moment the Democratic party becomes indistinguishable from the Republican party on social issues apathy and disenchantment with the political process will reduce minority voter turnout.


When well-meaning suburbanites reduce political matters connected to identity ​to an inconvenience it creates dissention where none is needed. There are factions inside progressive politics willing to wager that pushing social justice to the back burner will entice more working-class white voters to leave the Republican party. This is also fallacy. Yes, there were Trump voters who previously supported Barack Obama, but they, like many dyed in the wool conservatives, were not waiting for scholarly arguments about Keynesian economic policies. Donald Trump sold them the idea that he could end the era of political correctness and multiculturalism. We have to be honest about how appealing that promise was to people made uncomfortable by America's changing demographics.  


The Democratic party is like a community that has undergone a major expansion. It grew big, but it didn't grow closer. The smaller our circle was the more we identified with those inside it, but as our community/party got bigger we found ourselves walled off from each other living in our own insular communities. Many of the authors of these articles suffer from living in a small circle. It's hard for some of them to understand how damaging their words are. When progressives view social justice and the economic interests of minority communities as distinctly different from the economic hardships working-class whites face it almost assures both problems will continue.


Just like every family has secrets, political parties also push hard truths to the side. There are progressives asking people of color and members of the LGBTQIA community to ignore systemic racism and bigotry. These allies are asking us to place their economic program ahead of our existence in America. This approach centers white feelings. No one would tolerate a doctor telling them that ignoring their pneumonia is a viable treatment for it, yet this is how some on the left seek to treat discrimination.


The left's electoral future will be bleak if ignoring the suffering of the Democratic party's most loyal constituency becomes an acceptable strategy. Democrats already have horrible mid-term election participation. There's no need to give social activists a reason to stay home. The Democratic party has to walk and chew gum at the same time. We have to stand strong against bigoted policies while offering progressive policies that make it easier to get access to capital, education and healthcare. Justice for people on the underside of institutional racism, sexism and class structures isn't negotiable. 









Birth of A Myth and Death of A Dream

Monday was the 54th Anniversary of Dr. King’s “I have a Dream” speech. Americans took to social media and proved once again why this speech is possibly the best and worst rhetorical device for confronting systemic racism in America.

Dr. King's speech was a mix of the Bible, America’s founding documents and some of his earlier sermons. His words were seamlessly woven into a message that condemned the status quo while simultaneously offering a prophetic vision of a better day. Dr. King talked about the hope that came with the end of slavery and the heartbreak that followed when Emancipation turned into a 100-year nightmare sponsored by Black Codes, Jim Crow and the Ku Klux Klan. His words aren’t the problem; the willful distortion of those words and his legacy undermine the events of that day.

Reactionaries use Dr. King to shame those involved in protests they don’t support. This is a reflexive response. Black people are bombarded with images of MLK anytime the nation is forced to talk about race.This method of deflection does nothing to address the issues at the center of a particular conflict. Almost fifty years after his assassination there are Americans who believe Dr. King didn’t cause the kind of racial discomfort they feel about Black Lives Matter or American Flag protests.

America has an uncomfortable relationship with black activism. There appears to be two acceptable forms of civil engagement: passive or past tense. Passive activists are America’s darlings.Their soft shoeing approach to race doesn’t ruffle any feathers. Often they​ place white feelings ahead of justice. This isn’t who Dr. King was. His indictments against the America he inherited were damning. Some of his tactics were just as violent as bricks crashing through plate glass. The yearlong bus boycott he helped lead caused just as much economic damage to the bus lines and businesses in Montgomery, Alabama as a riot.

Dr. King’s murder made him eligible for America’s posthumous resurrection program. When an activist dies their message is edited and made more palatable for future generations. Their critiques of America and white supremacy are replaced by a message that asks future generations of black activists to suffer in silence or follow a set of protest requirements that assure nothing changes. In other words, you can live and be ineffective or die and have your message appropriated.

The same people who chastise Black Lives Matter for not being more like Dr. King moved the goalposts of acceptable nonviolent protest far enough to exclude kneeling in silence. There is no acceptable way to draw attention to the continuing racial disparities in America. When we boycott businesses that discriminate against us we are called economic terrorists, when we write or talk about discrimination we are called race hustlers, and when black athletes refuse to pledge their allegiance they get blacklisted. America writ large has never endorsed any protest that forces us to look in a mirror.

There is a lot to be learned from the sermonizing and writing of Dr. King. His ability to weave secular and religious texts into road maps for the future was pure genius. The hope contained in that speech will live forever. The March on Washington is an immutable part of American history. That event can’t be scrubbed from history, but it is being distorted. If Martin's dream is to be realized the myths associated with his life need to be as violently assassinated as he was.

Will Cleveland Lead The Way?

Will Cleveland Lead The way for honoring the free speech rights of their players?

by Danny Cardwell During a Monday, August 21, preseason game against the New York Giants, 11 Cleveland Browns players kneeled in a prayer circle during the National Anthem. They were flanked by another five players who placed their hands on their teammates' shoulders in a show of solidarity. The players who participated in this act of…

The March From Salem To Charlottesville

In the winter of 1692, Massachusetts Bay Colony was rocked by allegations of witchcraft. In January, a group of young girls from Salem Village claimed to be possessed by the devil. The girls were taken to a doctor who determined they had been “bewitched”. The girls aged 9 and 11 accused a local slave named Tituba of witchcraft.


In early February Tituba was arrested and admitted to being a witch. During her confession, she accused other women in the village of being witches. By May of 1692 governor William Phips established a special court to handle the trials of those accused of witchcraft. On June 2nd, Bridget Bishop was convicted of witchcraft and hanged eight days later. This was the beginning of the Salem Witch Trials.

If you travel to Salem, Massachusetts you can visit the Victim’s Memorial, take tours of the jail and visit several preserved structures in Danvers and Salem. What you won’t find are monuments built to honor the brave men who had to hang and torture the women and men accused of witchcraft. This bothers me. They were husbands, fathers, sons and brothers. They did what they had to do to protect their way of life. They are part of history. Where are their statues?

This is a ridiculous argument, but not really. The officers of the court who arrested, questioned, prosecuted and executed the accused were acting under the legal authority granted to them by their government. They are no better or worse than the Confederate soldiers who participated in the attempted overthrow the United States government.


Last Friday torch bearing mobs of white supremacists marched on Charlottesville. The pictures and videos taken that night are a visual reminders of the mob mentality, hysteria and hatred that fueled the atrocities committed in Salem, Massachusetts. Angry mobs of white men assembled at night with torches has historically ended in castrations, hangings and people burning at the stake. This assembly ended the next day when one member of the lynch mob drove his car into a crowd of people injuring 19 and killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.     

The tragic events in Charlottesville were 325 years and 573 miles removed from the Witch Trials in Salem, yet both American horror stories shared​ roots in hatred and hysteria. The people behind the Salem Witch Trials and the white supremacists gathering in Charlottesville weaponized the fear and anxiety of their allies. Once a mob is formed and inhibitions are lowered it becomes that much easier to kill those dehumanized by their ideology.  

What happened in Charlottesville was not about monuments. The removal of Confederate Monuments is to racism what not having dinner on the table is to domestic violence. Issues related to race often remain hidden under the surface; sometimes they just need a spark to remind us how tenuous our truces are. Too often we confuse the absence of large racial outbursts as signs of transcending our racial past, but this is an illusion. We live in a country that continues to struggle with the legacy of white supremacy.

Dr. Eddie Glaude writes and talks extensively about the "Value Gap" in America. The value gap is the belief that white people matter more than the rest of us. His thesis is a retelling of American history and an examination into how this belief continues to shape our society. What we saw in Charlottesville was another attempt by white supremacists to reshuffle the socioeconomic order of our society through fear and intimidation.

The scapegoating of racial, religious and sexual minorities is a necessary recruitment tool for hate groups trying to grow their numbers. The images of torch wielding xenophobes and bigots are disheartening, but not nearly as disheartening as the social media posts of seemingly normal people who have tried to justify their actions. The soft bigotry at the core of some people's need to justify and sympathize with bigots is just as damaging to race relations as walking up and down American streets with Swastikas and Confederate flags supporting them. 

We found a way to preserve​ the history of the Salem Witch Trials without canonizing the villains who committed the evil acts. 99.99% of our society can’t name one person responsible for the hangings, stoning and torture that defined that dark period of American history, yet we all know what happened. If the statues stay we should at least be honest about the terror they represented for 22% of America’s population at the time of the Civil War.

Sex, Lies And Hate


This past Monday Pat Robertson offered his Christian Broadcast Network audience a conspiracy theory, as a legitimate response, to Fox News contributor Eric Bolling’s suspension from the network for allegedly sending unsolicited nude photos to at least three female coworkers. Robertson said:


If you wanted to destroy the Fox News, you really wanted to destroy them, what would you do? Well you would send some salacious material, ostensibly from one of their popular co-hosts or hosts and you’d send it out and then get it publicized and then you have some woman complain that she had gotten this salacious material from this particular co-host.



Sadly, there are Evangelicals who will accept Pat Robertson’s theory as fact. The ungodly union between the reactionary wing of the Evangelical movement and the conservative media has produced an analytical paralysis in the minds of those who only receive information from sources inside their bubble. This paralysis obscures rational thought and hinders dialogue. It’s easier to believe conservative media outlets are the victims of a sinister liberal plot than to address the misogyny and patriarchy that seem to be constitutive parts of their political and religious dogma.

Eric Bolling’s suspension comes a month after Charles Payne’s suspension pending the findings of his sexual harassment allegations. In April of this year Bill O'Reilly was fired from the network after it was revealed that he and 20th Century Fox had been settling sexual harassment cases since 2004.  In July of last year, the recently deceased, Roger Ailes was forced to resign as CEO of Fox News amid his sexual harassment scandal involving female employees at the network.

None of this history matters. A closed mind rarely sees patterns. These sexual allegations are not viewed as a sign of a toxic atmosphere. The “good guy” is a victim of an illegitimate media. This is the kind of thinking that allows people to look at videos of unarmed people shot by police and disconnect what they are seeing from any historical context.

The allegiance some Evangelicals have pledged to the conservative media is so strong that it ignores, tolerates​ and even defends sexual assault. The "Access Hollywood" audio of Donald Trump admitting to sexually assaulting women didn't faze this crowd. Bill Clinton’s 20-year-old consensual affair with Monica Lewinsky is more offensive to many of them than Donald Trump hanging around the dressing rooms of young women or his willingness to just, “Grab ’em by the p___y.”

There are religious and secular people who, foolishly, believe these Evangelicals can be reached with better arguments. These good folks are prisoners of their own hope and optimism. There is a hatred at the core of this kind of Christianity. Pat Robertson was talking to people who spent eight years believing every nonsensical story about FEMA camps, gun grabs, Sharia law and a host of other lies fed to them by the conservative media.

In America, our hatred is often hidden behind the Bible or wrapped in a flag. More than 80% of our fellow citizens identify with some denomination of Christianity, yet the rhetoric disseminated from Christian television, social media, too many pulpits and from our elected officials doesn't comport with the gospel of Jesus. Pointing this out is useless. There are Evangelicals who believe the media is fake news, science is a form of secular opinion and universities produce more snowflakes than data. This isn’t hypocrisy. It’s a pernicious worldview that can’t be penetrated with a better argument. The church and the truth are collateral damage. 






Lil Duval, Non Binary Genders, and Questions About Rape


Fact: there are transgendered people who live in a constant state of physical and sexual terror. In the last few years there’s been an increase in gang rapes, sexualized torture, and murders of transgendered women and men. Paradoxically, all of this violence is happening at a time when more and more people are fighting to affirm the rights of the LGBTQIA community. Much of the violence and fear transgendered people are experiencing is a last-ditch effort to push them back into the closet. This violence has no place in our society.

Last Friday, as a guest on “The Breakfast Club”, Lil Duval opened himself up to the full wrath of the LGBTQIA community and their allies when he said, “This might sound messed up, but I don’t care, she dying,”. His response was to a question about a hypothetical sexual encounter with a woman who turned out to be a transgendered man. By Saturday, people who’ve never heard his name had an opinion about him and his comedy. By Sunday, there were calls to boycott “The Breakfast Club” for giving him a platform.

Washington Post / The Breakfast Club / YouTube

This controversy is playing out on social media- that’s good and bad. Social media is a great snapshot of what people are thinking at any given moment, but the caustic environment found on many platforms make civil discussions almost impossible. There are hundreds of articles and blog posts attacking Lil Duval’s words, but what’s lacking is a serious dialogue about consent and what rights a man has in a sexual encounter of this nature.

Disclaimer: I’m not attempting to defend Lil Duval or his statements.  

Central to this discussion is the question of how much information about a potential sex partner is needed in order to give consent? If someone had a history of sexually transmitted diseases do you have the right to know? If someone is married or has a significant other do you have the right to know? If someone is addicted to alcohol or drugs would that have an effect on your decision to have sex with them? If someone was born the same gender as you do you have a right to know?

Our society has no problem identifying a sex crime when the victim is a woman or child, but what rights, if any, do men have when it comes to sexual disclosure of a partner with a non-binary gender identity? I know I’ll be accused of centering the rights of men, but it was a man’s answer to this question that started the conversation. It’s possible for a CIS gendered male to hold no animosity towards the LGBTQIA community, and be upset if they were deceived into a sexual relationship they didn’t consent to. I don’t know if this factored into Lil Duval’s answer, but we can’t be so shocked by his response that we ignore what prompted it. People have a right to choose their sexual partners. This isn’t a controversial position to hold. When women aren’t given a choice, it’s rape. Children can’t consent so it’s rape, and a man who isn’t given enough information to consent is raped.

With all of the work that’s been done to educate people about sexual assault it’s reasonable to expect adults to know what constitutes consent and what’s considered rape. Sex without consent is rape. It doesn’t matter what someone is wearing, what kind of reputation they have, or if you’ve had past sexual encounters with them. Every sex act should be consented to. This isn’t complicated; unless the sex act in question is between a man and a member of the transgender community.

Lil Duval’s comments were seen as crude, crass, and offensive by a large segment of our society, but they also resonated with many of his core supporters. Transgendered people are under attack. They face threats many of us don’t see or have to worry about. Their fight is as existentially important to them as any fight anyone faces. I won’t disconnect their terror from this conversation, but we can’t allow that terror to usurp another person’s right to choose.  


Virginia Election 2017 Trump Vs. Pipelines?


The Omni Homestead resort in Hot Springs was the center of politics in the Commonwealth of Virginia. On Saturday July 22nd, the Virginia Bar Association welcomed the current lieutenant governor, Democrat, Ralph Northam and businessman, Republican, Ed Gillespie to participate in the debate moderated by “PBS Newshour” host Judy Woodruff.  
Since securing their respective party’s nominations both candidates have tried to focus their attention on what they believe to be their opponent’s biggest weakness.
The Gillespie campaign has highlighted Ralph Northam’s indecisiveness on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The lieutenant governor has tried to walk a tightrope on the Dominion Project. During his primary race with Tom Perriello, Ralph Northam opted to defer to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality as to what would be the best decision for the citizens of the Commonwealth. His well crated political answers about the pipeline have hurt him. His middle of the road approach has alienated the environmentalist wing of the Democratic party who supported his primary opponent.
Since securing the Democratic party’s nomination, Ralph Northam has sought to make this election a referendum on the Presidency of Donald Trump: whom he has referred to as a “narcissistic maniac.” The lieutenant governor has tried to link Ed Gillespie to the polices, or lack of polices, coming out of Washington D.C. His campaign even incorporated the use of a cardboard cutout of Ed Gillespie in a Facebook live video while reading the proposed GOP healthcare bill.
Both of these strategies, on the surface, are politically savvy, but the Northam strategy is problematic. Making the November election a referendum on Donald Trump is likely to fail in what is expected to be another low voter turnout election. The Commonwealth remains a purple state even though the Democratic candidate has won here in three straight presidential elections. Republicans control the state legislature due to heavily gerrymandered districts and the Democrats off year election apathy.
In the 2016 presidential election (according to the Virginia Department of Elections) 72% of registered Virginians participated. That was up one percentage point from 2012, but down from the 74% who voted in 2008. If the 2017 gubernatorial election follows the 2009 and 2013 trends there could be as much as a 30-percentage point drop in voter participation. This fact doomed State Senator Creigh Deeds in his 2009 gubernatorial race against Republican Bob McDonnell.
Ed Gillespie’s strategy of forcing Ralph Northam to go on the record about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline could prove to be his trump card (pun intended). The interruption at the beginning of the VBA debate by a young man form Loudon County is indicative of where a lot of the Bernie Sanders/Tom Perriello progressives stand on this issue. The lieutenant governor would have to get unprecedented support from the Blue Ridge and Appalachian Mountains if young environmentalist in the progressive wing of the Democratic party take 2017 off.


This election isn’t likely to turn on issues affecting the masses of Virginians. There are a lot of one issue voters who won’t concern themselves with budgets, tax policies, healthcare, or infrastructure spending. Voters who followed these candidates through their primary races likely didn’t learn anything new during this debate. For them, Saturday morning was more performance art than a rigorous dialogue about the issues. For voters tuning in for the first time the candidates painted a Rorschach of themselves and their opponent. Neither candidate improved or diminished their chances of winning in November; If you are a Republican Gillespie will do, and if you are a Democrat Northam is your guy. Both candidates looked like boxers content with letting the judges decide the outcome. A lot can happen between now and November, but the most eventful moment of this debate belonged to a young man who isn’t on the ballot.































Hating The Game: Did Michael Vick Sellout?


"First thing we’ve got to get Colin to do is cut his hair."

Michael Vick offered Colin Kaepernick some unsolicited advice as a guest on Fox Sports 1’s “Speak For Yourself”. After listening to him say, “I really think the stand that he took has nothing to do with him not having a job playing in the National Football League right now.” I was disappointed. Michael Vick was the previous owner of the shoes Colin now fills. There will be over 100 quarterbacks competing for jobs before rosters are cut and Vick doesn't think Kaepernick is better than half of them? Does he really believe 32 head coaches, 32 general managers, and 32 owners simultaneously came to the conclusion he couldn't play anymore?

Vick's words opened him up to ridicule from some of his most loyal supporters in the black community, but calling Michael Vick a sellout does nothing to address the root of Colin's problem. The NFL is ran by people who have very little, if any, vested interest in the issues he was protesting. In the NFL, the only Black Lives that Matter are the ones that are profitable. If you can run a 4.3 40-yard dash and keep your mouth shut you can do almost anything and maintain employment. 

"Listen, I’m not up here to try to be politically correct. Even if he puts cornrows in there. I don’t think he should represent himself in that way (wearing the Afro). Just the hairstyle. Just go clean-cut. You know, why not? You're already dealing with a lot.

The NFL is a meritocracy as long as you don't hurt the bottom line. Kaepernick would have been better off had he beaten up a pregnant white woman. Rapist and domestic abusers are welcomed back to the NFL because their crimes don't cost the league revenue or challenge its authority. When a player, irrespective of race, beats a woman, she's the victim. Colin's protest caused a public outcry that victimized the league. NFL owners don't suffer losses well and aren't willing to face economic backlash for signing an unrepentant Kaepernick. No one knows this better than Michael Vick.

Michael Vick had to kiss the proverbial ring to get his second chance. I'm not sure Kaepernick is willing to (publicly) do the same; his circumstances are a lot different than Vick's were. Vick was hemorrhaging money due to the termination of his endorsement deals and his Atlanta Falcons contract. When Vick filed for bankruptcy protection he owed his creditors 18 million dollars. Kaepernick, who hasn't made as much money as Vick did before his troubles, is in far better financial shape. Vick had no choice but to acquiesce. He was never going to come through his bankruptcy and get his life back together without the NFL. 

“I just think perception and image is everything. This is not the Colin Kaepernick that we've known since he entered the National Football League. I’m just going off my personal experiences. Listen, I love the guy to death. But I want him to also succeed on and off the field. This has to be a start for him."

Michael Vick gave Colin Kaepernick the kind of practical advice any public relations expert or image consultant would give him, but he did it in the company of a toxic sports personality. Jason Whitlock is less popular in the black community than Diabetes. Every few weeks he gives #BlackTwitter a reason to hate him. Vick's statements, if made to someone whose commitment to the black community is unquestionable, wouldn't have been so controversial. Vick never condemned Kaepernick for his protest. He acknowledged the reason for his protest and thanked him for doing it. Vick's advice, however pragmatic, calls for Colin's Submission. If Colin crawls back and begs for forgiveness he could make a lot of money, but that money will cost him his integrity. 

It's easy to attack Michael Vick's​ words from the comfort of a smartphone or tablet. Michael Vick was in debt, had a family to provide for, and had millions of dollars on the line. He gave the right answer for someone in his situation. If Colin wants to wear another NFL jersey he probably knows he has to “play the game”. This is unpopular, it's unfair, but it's the reality in the NFL. A man who kneeled to take a stand might have to bow to take a snap. This isn't right. He is being punished. We can hate the player, but we should probably hate the game that asks brothers to scratch when it doesn't itch.




Blacks Only?


The absence of white bodies doesn’t make a space black only. People of color have been consciously and unconsciously conditioned to see themselves as less than. Physically separating oneself from white bodies does nothing to deal with the psychological damage that comes from being inculcated with the myth of white supremacy. In every black only setting lives the remnants of an ideology that formed the desire to meet outside of the white gaze.
This paradox is often overlooked. I’m not going to attempt to solve a problem this complex in a few short paragraphs, but we need to look at this issue from multiple angles. Black people seeking to create spaces where our thoughts and feelings are a priority harms no one, yet this enrages white conservatives, isolates white liberals and progressives, and hurts black integrationists irrespective of their political leanings.
Many conservatives see black only spaces as a sign of racial hostility, but de facto black only spaces have existed since slavery. Slaves would steal away in the night to fellowship without scrutiny or violence. Today black only spaces are the result of choices rather than a historical necessity. The desire to decenter whiteness from discussions affecting people of color isn’t the same as government policies designed to limit access to opportunity.



White America is in no way negatively impacted by black only spaces. Contrary to popular belief, black only spaces aren’t a form of segregation. When an assembly ends the participants go back into a world shaped by the idea that their skin color is problematic. Simply put, black only spaces are places where black identity and intellect is affirmed. These aren’t “safe spaces”, if you make a weak argument or derail a discussion your feelings won’t be spared. Black only spaces aren’t about running from conflict; at their best, they’re about engaging conflict with people who’ve been negatively affected by the subject matter being discussed.

There have been white liberals and progressives who’ve felt betrayed by black only spaces. There are white allies who’ve worked incredibly hard to get outside of themselves to see what America looks like to people of color. I applaud their efforts and count them as allies. Ultimately, it will be white allies who stop the normalization of racism, but this reality doesn’t give them carte blanche access to black ideas and emotions. Imagine a man so committed women’s liberation that he commits himself to destroying overt and covert systems that oppress and disadvantage women, would his agency negate his manhood? Would he be allowed into the women’s locker room at the gym?
Talking about black liberation without constantly having to remind white allies of their goodness is almost impossible. Too often discussions about systemic racism get hijacked by well-meaning allies who feel the need to make sure they aren’t indicted for the crimes of others. This unintentional microaggression moves the focus of discussion from black liberation to white absolution and we’re not here for that.
Lastly, there are factions inside the black community who find black only spaces problematic. Many of them are so assimilated that they truly believe the path to black liberation is paved with conformity and kowtowing. Some of the most sophisticated defenders and deniers of white supremacist ideologies have black skin. The acceptable negro approach works on an individual basis, but it does nothing to liberate the masses. The irony of black opposition to spaces centered around blackness is that it usually comes from black people who are minorities in their professional lives and isolationist in their personal lives.
In a room full of black people, ideas grounded in white supremacist ideology are still represented. This is a fact no amount of physical separation can deny. I don’t care how “woke” someone is; once they embrace the need to constantly remind everyone they’re “woke” they’ve exhibited a symptom of the trauma they think they’ve overcome. People who don’t smoke don’t walk around announcing it every day. The only space we can truly make black only is the space between our ears and that’s much more difficult than segregating an auditorium for a few hours.

Who Will Be The Next #_________?

Acquittals for killing unarmed people of color will be to this generation what stock footage of police using water hoses and siccing dogs on protesters was to the 1960’s. Almost 54 years after the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, unemployment in many black communities is twice the national average, and law enforcement continues to disproportionately use lethal force against people of color. For all of America’s talk about racial progress the underlying disparities that necessitated the original gathering remain in place.

When America is forced to deal with race the conversations have no thematic unity. There are too many people in positions of power defending the status quo while those suffering its affects are questioning it. There are people so invested in the flag and the myth of America that they willfully ignore or disconnect the historical context events happen in. There is no gap between Jimmie Lee Jackson and Philando Castile.

America’s need to reflexively point to past achievements in race relations is a form of generational absolution. Admitting things were worse does nothing to dismantle the racism in our midst. I’m not dismissing the progress we’ve made, but the truth is: we are still as sick as the ghosts of our pasts.

After an officer is acquitted for killing an unarmed person of color social media and the blogosphere explode with new articles chronicling the pain endured by the victim’s family, and the distrust between the community and the police. Brilliant thinkers and writers parse the nuances of the latest case versus the last case in an effort to show how juries keep getting it wrong, but nothing changes. Nothing changes because predominantly white juries often go out of their way to give an officer every benefit of the doubt.

Too many Americans have a Spaghetti Western view of the world where the cowboys are all good guys and the Indians are all bad. Even when a murder is captured on video jurors find a way to sympathize with the fear of an officer (with the gun) instead of the humanity of the man or woman on the other end of it.

We are in desperate need of more cure and less diagnosis. Anyone who cares about these issues understands what’s wrong. Better training and body cameras may limit the number of people shot, but they can’t pick fair-minded juries or assure that prosecuting attorneys will put the best case forward.

America’s race problems are exasperated by a litany of false equivalences and illogical positions. Too many Americans, irrespective of race, uncritically accept (either-or) propositions that further divide us. It’s possible to say BLACK LIVES MATTER as a close ended declaration. The call to end police brutality and mass incarceration isn’t the same thing as wanting police officers harmed.

Calls for justice are not provocations, yet pointing out systemic failures has the effect of gaslighting some reactionaries. This is the minefield racial dialog takes place in. Too often people of color understand white silence as tacit approval of the behavior they see instead of a lack of courage or necessary vocabulary to engage in the conversation. This never-ending cycle breeds distrust.

Marching for justice and writing about justice will never produce enough justice. It can take decades for a society to even agree that a particular form of evil is wrong- much less work to fix it. There were enough Americans outraged by the images they saw in the 1960’s to register a dissent and force a change. I’m not advocating for another dose of “We Shall Overcome”. Those days are over, but we have to put more pressure on the District and Commonwealth Attorneys, and the juries who continue to fail us. We have to create an atmosphere so full of commonsense and righteous morality that the injustices we see can’t be explained away by people wanting to maintain their credibility.

Seperating Church From Hate


On Wednesday, June 14th, the Southern Baptist Convention approved a resolution formally distancing themselves from the alt-right. The legislation condemns, "every form of racism, including alt-right white supremacy and every form of racial and ethnic hatred as of the devil." Had this resolution passed a day earlier it wouldn’t be newsworthy, but it didn’t. The Southern Baptist Convention’s bumbling of this issue is another stain on a denomination that seems to take a step backwards for every step forward they take.

There are dozens of published statements from evangelicals who were in attendance Tuesday night supporting the first draft of the amendment, yet they lacked the sufficient will or power to push it through. It took public shaming to get the largest protestant denomination in America to disavow white supremacy. All of the work the (SBC) did in the mid 90’s to address their support of slavery and Jim Crow is undermined by the constant stream of micro-aggressions committed by the convention. The (SBC) wants to distance itself from its past, but seems unwilling to make the move from words to actions.

What happened in Phoenix is another example of the disconnect between black and white churches over racial issues. Too often, predominantly white churches take a naval gazing approach to race. Instead of working to address and rectify any role they may play in propagating racism too many seek absolution from the stigma associated with their actions. This resolution is meaningless if the church continues to remain silent about issues that affect people of color.

The German Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer gave a philosophical treatment to the difference in naming a sin and working to correct the mindset that gives rise to its existence. In his seminal text The Cost of Discipleship He wrote:

Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

This is the box Southern Baptist find themselves in. The double standards people of color see feed the distrust that ensures 11:00 am will continue being the most segregated hour of the week. As an ordained member of clergy, and a man of color in the south, I’m invested in the (SBC) coming to grips with the racism that still permeates too many of their congregations. Many of the same Southern Baptists who couldn’t find anything good in President Obama continue to find ways to excuse Donald Trump’s decadence. This convention deserves no credit for doing the right thing after the fact. You shouldn’t have to think twice about the Klan, Neo Nazis, or the alt-right.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed for his public stance against racism and nationalism. The consequences for offering a prophetic (and highly visible) witness against those evils are nowhere near as high today as they were in Nazi Germany during the Third Reich, yet too few seem willing to sacrifice their comfort and popularity to offer it.

I’m not giving up on the (SBC) writ large. There are members and member churches trying to right the historical wrongs of the institution they inherited; sadly, their work is made harder by a political leadership that appears to be more influenced by Washington than Jerusalem. If Southern Baptists are truly interested in divorcing themselves from their past they have to match their words with tangible actions.  

Voting While Black: Georgia Edition



 
FiveThirtyEight published an article by Patrick Ruffini titled Black Voters Aren’t Turning Out For The Post-Obama Democratic Party. In his piece he argued that the lack of black turnout in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District primary could be a politically disastrous sign for Democrats moving forward. His argument is legitimate but a bit shortsighted. Saying any political party would be in trouble if, demographically speaking, their most reliable constituency stayed home isn’t groundbreaking. Ruffini, like many pundits, looked at the data following the 2016 election and decided that black voter disenchantment with the Barack “Obamaless” Democratic party was the cause for the decline. Why?

Liberal and conservative pundits have written hundreds of articles about black voter participation since the 2016 election. Liberals tend to write these articles as a way of scapegoating black voters for the election of Donald Trump; while conservatives write them to deflect the impact voter suppression has had in Republican led states. Federal courts have written opinion after opinion overturning Republican sponsored legislation designed to make voting harder for blacks, but somehow this fact gets overlooked in many of these articles.

Political commentators on the right willfully downplay or ignore the effects of voter suppression. Since the 2010 mid-term elections people of color have had a number of obstacles placed in front of them by Republican led state legislatures. There’s enough Prima Facie evidence to support the claim that some of the declines since 2010 could be attributed to Republican efforts to restrict early voting while simultaneously cutting the number of voting precincts in minority districts. It’s not a coincidence that the overwhelming majority of federal cases concerning voter disenfranchisement have been filed against Republican governors and legislatures. This doesn’t explain voter decline in states that haven’t had to deal with this type of electoral malfeasance, but it shouldn’t be ignored in states like Georgia, North Carolina, and Wisconsin where the right to vote has been under constant assault.

Omission is a powerful tool. If Ruffini willfully ignored the almost decade long war waged by Republicans in Georgia against black voters he’s part of the problem. It’s disingenuous for anyone to rest the result of the June 20th special election solely at the feet of black voters. Blacks are 13.4% of a district with a population close to 700,000, but If Jon Ossoff loses to Karen Handel the story will be centered around what percentage of the black population voted.

The last three national election cycles have been defined by Republicans making voting harder for black people and Democrats blaming us for their electoral failures. Both groups are acting out of fear. Republicans are afraid of the demographic shifts that place them in electoral peril, and the Democrats are afraid of addressing their failures with uneducated white women. For all of the misogyny Hillary Clinton faced from the left this same group ignores the fact that their mothers, daughters, sisters, nieces, and cousins voted for Donald Trump in 2016 by a margin of 62% to 38%. There are more uneducated white women in America than black people as a whole, but this demographic remains free from any serious critique.

On November 2nd, 2016, I published an article titled "We Don't Owe The Democrats Our Vote!" In it I wrote:

There are people in the Black community who are ready to concede the 2016 election in lieu of more political capital in 2020. The Democrats have blackmailed us for so long with the threat of horrible Republican policies that many have stopped listening. Maybe, the best way to leverage our political power moving forward is to sit out 2016? This isn’t that crazy of a thought to someone living through hell. How much worse can life get for someone trapped in a failing neighborhood, in a failing city under a Trump Administration? I don’t subscribe to this line of thinking, but I know some very smart people of color who do. Some live in solidly blue states and some live in deep red states, but there are some in battleground states who have decided they will vote Jill Stein or avoid the long lines and stay home.

I was excoriated by many of my colleagues for introducing them to this line of thinking. The same people who’ve written dozens of articles blaming black voters for supporting Hillary over Bernie, or for not showing up in high enough numbers during the general election have avoided the real 800lb electoral gorilla in the room. No matter what happens on June 20th black voters will either be ignored or blamed. The right is more than happy to continue ignoring our needs, and the left is more than happy to blame marginal drops in black voter participation for their failures. We are damned if we do and damned if we do.   

I Support Black On Black Violence


I support black on black violence! I’m not talking about the World Star Hip Hop videos that get millions of views each month; I mean succinct, logical arguments made by any black person that systematically dismantle truncated and racially insensitive narratives parroted by another black person at the expense of our community. When black people act on behalf of white supremacy they need to be shown the error of their ways and given a chance to make amends; however, if that doesn’t work, they should be intellectually dragged throughout social media and the blogosphere as a sign of what happens to those who knowingly denigrate blackness in favor of their own socioeconomic advancement.

Every ethnic group has some internal criteria they use to create artificial hierarchies. The black community has used skin pigmentation, hair texture, and even eye color as the basis for these distinctions. The psychological effects of generational white supremacist indoctrination are so powerful that they still cause some of us to denigrate our own genetic code. The lie of white supremacy governs American society in implicit and explicit ways, but it also lives in the minds of too many black people. This cruel fact allows white supremacy to show up in places where white people are absent, and fuels the need some blacks feel to measure their intellect and success against white standards. This is a sickness many won’t be cured of. Too often the desire to be viewed as different causes fissures between individuals and community. The lies told about black people can harm members of other races, but they cripple the black people who believe them.

I understand wanting to rise above the negative stereotypes and imagery associated with black life. It’s stressful carrying around psychological baggage someone else packed for you. I’ve lived and worked in predominantly white environments the majority of my life. The temptation to succumb to the trap of white acceptance is as real as the air we breathe. No one’s ever overtly asked me to distance myself from the black community, but I’ve been in situations where the opportunity to slide into the “different than the others” category has been extended. These opportunities take the form of water cooler discussions about racial hot topics and/or other existential questions about blackness in America. You may consciously or unconsciously be asked to center white feelings about race at a time of black suffering. Almost 5 years after the death of Trayvon Martin our community should be united in saying Black Lives Matter, but too many professional blacks have retreated to the political and economic safe space called All Lives Matter.

All of the educational, political, and economic distinctions black people have created to distinguish ourselves from our community are imaginary. They have gravitas in our heads and maybe among our contemporaries, but they purchase very little in a society that stigmatizes black skin of any hue. Here’s a quick question: who had a higher net worth Walter Scott or Terrence Crutcher? It doesn’t matter because both are dead. Denigrating blackness in exchange for white acceptance isn’t a viable solution to America’s race problem. Denial can’t insulate you from racial profiling and discrimination. No level of self-aggrandizement can make someone who’s never accepted you accept you. Racism functions with or without black consent.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines an Uncle Tom as: a black who is overeager to win the approval of whites (as by obsequious behavior or uncritical acceptance of white values and goals). This term is almost exclusively used to describe the 5-7% of blacks who identify as Conservative or Republican, but the reality is: Progressives, Democrats, and non-political blacks are just as invested in the fruits of white approval. Dr. Michael Parenti once said, "a journalist who writes for a publication can write what they want, as long as what they write pleases their editor." This is analogous to the way a lot of black people conduct themselves in predominantly white spaces. We talk about freedom, but too many of our people aren't free enough to speak out against systems that disproportionately affect our community. If you willfully engage in the denial of racism or remain silent when a black voice is needed you should look inside yourself and ask what you are putting ahead of your ancestry and progeny.

My goal isn't to deflect or silence meaningful criticism of our community. I’ve intentionally avoided personally attacking my colleagues who willfully engage in this one-sided violence against poor and less educated blacks. The black community loses when our intellectuals and pseudointellectuals act like mixtape rappers. I don’t want anyone physically harmed for their beliefs; likewise, I don’t want people building and maintaining platforms on the back of black suffering. You can’t love people you constantly distance yourself from. As a community, we should welcome a variety of economic and political ideas into the conversation, but not if those ideas are focused on obfuscating the realities black people face. One sure fire way to avoid being labeled an “Uncle Tom” is to support black people in public: especially when It’s not the politically expedient thing to do.