A Q&A with Rich BlintBaldwin’s consistent and insistent interrogation of how the mythology of race, class, and power operates in America to blind and divide us is singular in its analytical depth, sweep, and emotional power. His work reads as a kind of prophecy simply because he was clear about how profoundly dangerous it has always been for Americans not to confront the truth about the violent racial history of the country. His work must be read as testimony, as, yes, a secular witnessing to the serious perils of indulging in the American fiction of “whiteness” and its purported superiority.
By Eileen Truax“Numbers are not looking well.” This was the welcome phrase that I got just a minute after I arrived to the Election Night Watch Party organized by a group of academics in Downtown Los Angeles. Electoral results were falling state by state, and the evidence started appearing before our eyes: Donald Trump, a man who verbally attacked Mexicans, immigrants, Muslims, journalists, women; the one who promised to build a wall in the border and to deport eleven million undocumented immigrants, was about to become President Elect.
By Gail Forsyth-VailOn November 3, 2016, more than 500 clergy from many faith traditions gathered at Standing Rock in support of the Sioux Nation’s protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline. As part of the day of witness, Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) President Rev. Peter Morales was one of seven denominational leaders who read statements repudiating the 1493 Doctrine of Discovery, a papal bull which offered the rationale for the colonization of the Americas and other countries by European Christian powers. By virtue of the Doctrine, Christians were given the legal right to take, colonize, settle, and extract resources from land belonging to those who were not Christian. The statement Morales read, adopted by the UUA General Assembly, called for Unitarian Universalists to learn about the doctrine and its ongoing impacts, not only on indigenous peoples, but on the political, legal, economic, and cultural systems in the United States, in local communities, and in our congregations.
By Daisy HernándezI don’t know how to talk to my parents these days. Mami didn’t vote for Trump, but when I told her my outrage the day after the election, she said, “The man hasn’t even taken office yet. Let him take office.” I initially took her defense to mean that like my father, she had voted for Cheetoh, since she usually follows Papi’s lead.
By Rev. Dr. William J. Barber IIEarly Wednesday morning, after running a controversial campaign that was even endorsed by the KKK, Donald J. Trump thanked his supporters for victory and promised to be a president for all Americans. A shock to almost every pollster and political pundit, his victory has been heralded as an unprecedented political upheaval. But the reactionary wave that swept across America this past Tuesday is not an anomaly in our history. It is, instead, an all too familiar pattern in the long struggle for American reconstruction.
By Sharon Leslie Morgan and Thomas Norman DeWolfDeep, authentic relationships with people we’ve been raised to see as “other” are key to understanding and reversing the impacts of racism and other forms of intolerance and inequity, and the misuse of power, and privilege. For the two of us, there is solace in knowing that someone shares our beliefs and commitment to social justice. We have built a friendship over the years that helps sustain us. We can talk with and lean on each other in times of madness and sadness, as we did on election night and surely in days to come.
By Rev. Elizabeth M. EdmanIt should be a shock that those who enthusiastically claim the mantle of Christianity would reject peace as part of a knee-jerk hatred of LGBTQ people. The degree to which this is an affront to Christian mission cannot be overstated. Yet this is fully and completely the “fruit of the spirit” of queerphobic proclamation. It gestures powerfully toward the theological and ethical vacuousness of such teachings and goes a long way toward explaining the crisis in credibility that plagues the contemporary church.
A Q&A with Mary Frances BerryDonald Trump is emphasizing the possibility of voter fraud because if he loses he may want to challenge the election. The most obvious way to do that is to charge fraud. The conventional wisdom that there is little or no voter fraud is not quite accurate. While there is little in-person fraud that can be prevented with ID laws, the more pervasive fraud involves misuse of ballots and other kinds of vote-buying. This is what I call suppression of voter choice on the cheap. Studies and news accounts usually examine only the lack of a large number of prosecutions. The problem is that in most cases of vote buying, local prosecutors refuse to prosecute mainly, I believe, because buying votes is common, and indeed, they themselves—as well as local judges—may have bought votes to get elected. In a close count of electoral votes, this type of fraud in one state could make a difference.
By An Xiao MinaIn a democracy, memes reflect the sheer diversity of opinions and voices of the people, from right, left, and center alike. And in a democracy where the majority of people use the Internet, we should expect to see more memetic discourse on serious issues, as the artifacts of Internet culture spill over from social networking platforms and into our physical world and newscasts.
By Steven HillSocial Security is not going broke, not by a long shot. The Social Security Board of Trustees released its annual report to Congress in July 2015, and among all the tables, charts, and graphs in that big fat report, it would be easy to miss the most important take-home message: Social Security is one of the best-funded federal programs in US history. That’s because it has its own dedicated revenue stream, which is composed of the insurance premiums paid by every worker (deducted from our paychecks by what is called “payroll contributions”), which are automatically banked into the Trust Fund. Even the Pentagon and the defense budget do not have their own dedicated revenue stream.
Throughout this election cycle, we’ve seen the rise of the radical right reminiscent of the pull of ultraconservative organizations from the past; increasing calls to prevent new immigrants from entering our country; increased calls to improve gun control legislation; a resurging wave of religious intolerance against Muslim Americans; and nationwide protests imploring racial justice and economic progress. These issues and others that have made headlines in the news have become focal points in this year’s presidential debates. To help inform the conversation about these topics, we’re recommending a list of titles from our catalogue.
By Dennis A. HeniganFor the first time since 2000, the Presidential election promises to be pivotal for the politics of gun control. Both for supporters of stronger gun laws, and for “gun rights” partisans, the stakes could not be higher. It was not long ago that the political death of gun control was accepted as an incontestible truth by pundits of every ideological stripe. For the Democratic Party, although much was made of the alleged impact of the gun issue on the Gingrich takeover of the House of Representatives in 1994, the real turning point was the 2000 Presidential election.
By Kay WhitlockThe August 2016 announcement by the Obama administration that it will phase out or “substantially reduce” contracts with private prisons to house federal prisoners provides a master lesson in the political benefit of the magician’s art of misdirection. Hailed by many as a definitive step forward in criminal justice reform and a severe blow to the continuation of mass incarceration, the focus on private prisons hides more than it reveals. It raises false hopes, offers false promises, and points many who want transformative change in the wrong direction.
By Roxanne Dunbar-OrtizThe first international relationship between the Sioux Nation and the US government was established in 1805 with a treaty of peace and friendship two years after the United States acquired the Louisiana Territory, which included the Sioux Nation among many other Indigenous nations. Other such treaties followed in 1815 and 1825. These peace treaties had no immediate effect on Sioux political autonomy or territory. By 1834, competition in the fur trade, with the market dominated by the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, led the Oglala Sioux to move away from the Upper Missouri to the Upper Platte near Fort Laramie. By 1846, seven thousand Sioux had moved south. Thomas Fitzpatrick, the Indian agent in 1846, recommended that the United States purchase land to establish a fort, which became Fort Laramie. “My opinion,” Fitzpatrick wrote, “is that a post at, or in the vicinity of Laramie is much wanted, it would be nearly in the center of the buffalo range, where all the formidable Indian tribes are fast approaching, and near where there will eventually be a struggle for the ascendancy [in the fur trade].”
By Bill Fletcher, Jr.Graduate students have been attempting to organize labor unions for decades. Until recently, those at private universities and colleges have been blocked from unionizing largely due to a Supreme Court decision from 1980, NLRB v Yeshiva University, that placed graduate students into the camp of managerial personnel and, therefore, ineligible for unionization and collective bargaining. The National Labor Relations Board has shifted the entire discussion with a decision affecting Columbia University graduate students. Just recently, Yale University students filed a petition for union recognition.
By Dennis A. HeniganThe suggestion of politically-motivated violence against public officials is terrifying on its face, but it is certainly nothing new. Indeed, Trump’s comments are a specific application of the “insurrectionist” view of Second Amendment rights that has long been a core tenet of the ideology of the National Rifle Association and the far right. According to that view, the overriding purpose of the Second Amendment is to guarantee the populace the arms it may need to resist government tyranny.
By José OrduñaOne convention featured the jingoistic speeches of retired generals, and ex-CIA director Leon Panetta, of protestors chanting “No more war!” being out shouted by people chanting “U-S-A!” The other convention was the Republicans’. As a Mexican immigrant naturalized as a US citizen in 2011, this is the second US general election for which I am eligible to vote.
By Steven HillSocial Security will always have somewhat of a perception problem among younger Americans. For a certain number, it will always be viewed as “money for old people who get it from the government.” For people of any age who are working and having taxes deducted from their paychecks, Social Security is a benefit for someone else—elderly retirees. But at some point in their life, those people will no longer be able to work, and, like any type of insurance, Social Security will be there to protect them with “wage insurance” from a complete loss of earned income. Social Security is self-insurance in that way, that is, protection against the risks we all face due to old age, disability, or death. That’s a point that must be brought home to every new generation of young Americans.
By Ginny GilderMarching into Opening Ceremonies is a big moment for athletes all over the world, a public, and oh-so-welcome acknowledgement of the extraordinary effort and amazing accomplishment required to land in the middle of this global phenomenon. Unquestionably, it’s the right time to extol the assembly of top athletes, to marvel over their histories and imagine what lies directly ahead in the next sixteen days of Olympic competition. But it’s absolutely the wrong time to characterize the efforts these elites have made to reach the top echelons of their various sports as some kind of sacrifice.
By Melinda ChateauvertHysteria Alert! We’re heading into another international sporting event, so the predictable, hysterical, and utterly fantastical stories about international sex trafficking are on the rise. We heard this claptrap about “sex tourism” two years ago when Brazil hosted the World Cup, when some NGOs claimed “40,000” women and girls would be involved. Time Magazine’s numbers were moderate compared to the exaggerations made by others. They claimed 250,000 children would be working the streets during the tournament—or one in every sixty-eight adolescent girls in the country.