Response to “Virginia Governor Calls For Inquiry Into Student Arrest” Article

On March 18th 2015, 20 year old University of Virginia student Martese Johnson was violently arrested by Virginia police outside of a bar. He was arrested by the states Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) and charged with “obstruction of justice without force, and public swearing or intoxication” (BBC, 2015). On top of this, he was beaten by ABC agents and left on the pavement with a bloody face. Patterns of this kind of violence against black people in America make it pretty clear that this is an issue of race and discrimination. Witnesses agree that the force used upon Johnson was unnecessary. This incident is not singular or random, but part of our society’s systematic violence towards people of colour, specifically perpetuated by white cops. This incident touches on two main issues in the US regarding institutionalized racism. The first issue is violence against people of colour, and the second is the mass incarceration rates of these same people and the governments desire to imprison them unnecessarily, marginalizing them further.

This case relates to so many others in recent times and reveals a much larger issue. Looking back at cases such as the murders of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Eric Gardner, Tamir Rice and so many others, the overarching theme of systemic violence against people of colour is hard to miss, yet it goes unnoticed time and time again by the legal system. Black people are criminalized by the media in a way that puts them in great danger. It is taught within our social construction that black people are dangerous and threatening to white people and therefore have become the police system’s biggest target. Then once a black person is unjustly injured or in many cases killed by a cop, they are relentlessly dehumanized by the media and the legal system in order to protect white lives and allow them to keep killing and oppressing people of colour. There is an anti-blackness that is woven deeply into the fabric of our society that most refuse to acknowledge. Because of this black people have their basic human rights stripped from them on a near-constant basis. Regarding the Mike Brown case, the fact that his murderer was not even indicted for his crime is just a testament to how unsafe innocent black people are in the US and how the criminal justice system will bend over backwards to protect white criminals. This being said, black criminals are not protected in this way.

According to statistics, more than 70% of prisoners in the US are people of colour which just proves how eminently black bodies are regulated by the government (Davis, 2015). Black people are not more likely to commit crime because of their skin colour, they are just more likely than white people to be penalized for whatever crime they commit because the government works to protect white people and punish everyone else. The rate of incarceration in America is growing at an outrageous speed and this is not just coincidental. Also, because of the privatization of prisons, corporations, as well as the government, are profiting off of mass imprisonment which just encourages a system of discrimination against already marginalized groups. Because of this, so much of America’s economy rests on prisons which in turn creates a huge need for incarceration whether it be necessary or not. This results in racialization of people of colour as well as the legal system searching for reasons to imprison people the government already wants off the street, mainly black, lower-class folk. As said in an article about the prison industrial complex by Angela Davis (2015), “the political economy of prisons relies on racialized assumptions of criminality.” People of colour are being targeted by the government and are penalized more harshly than white people when the same crimes are committed. This is a way to keep black people off the streets and feed into the white supremacy that is so prevalent in American society today. The US literally profits off of racism, which is only one of the reasons that it is an issue in need of so much attention. We are tricked into believing that this kind of incarceration system is effective and helps take crime off the street, but it does not. All it does is take black bodies off the streets and really does nothing affective to stop crime (Davis, 2015).

Both of these aspects of oppression—the systematic violence against black people and the government’s need to incarcerate people of colour to make a profit and regulate black bodies—work together to benefit a white society. Although Martese Johnson’s arrest is heinous, it is merely only a small part of a much bigger issue at hand. This one incident reflects the institutionalized and systemic racism within America, and proves that there is an issue of injustice that needs to be solved.

– EMW

Works Cited

Davis, Angela. “Masked Racism: Reflections on the Prison Industrial Complex.” Masked Racism: Reflections on the Prison Industrial Complex. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2015.

“Virginia Governor Calls for Inquiry into Student Arrest.” BBC News. N.p., 19 Mar. 2015. Web. 07 Apr. 2015.

Advertisements

Virginia Governor Calls for Inquiry into Student Arrest

A recent article by BBC News captured the incident of 20-year old Martese Johnson being involved with the state of Virginia’s Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) agents. The article uses photographs to show Johnson’s condition after the incident and includes contrasting perspectives of the incident from Johnson’s friend, Bryan Beaubran, and  ABC. The incident revolves around the fact that Johnson was allegedly “agitated and belligerent (BBC)” enough after being denied entry into a bar, that he required detainment and physical force from the ABC. It is evident that although the article provides information from a variety of sources, the validity of reason and motive beyond Johnson’s arrest remains unclear rather pointing to the arrest as an act of anti-black violence.

BBC conveys the incident in ways that reduce putting the ABC at risk. The BBC article claims “ABC arrested Martese Johnson (BBC)”. By using the term “arrested”, BBC indicates that Johnson was only arrested and nothing else happened. This indication does not shed light on the importance of the matter, showing an ignorance to the situation at hand. BBC is not focusing on what else happened such as, how Johnson was beat or the steps that the ABC took in approaching Johnson before “arresting (BBC)” him. The company chooses not to go into detail about the incident, as though nothing other than Johnson being “arrested” took place when in reality, he was brutally beat and subject to punishment for an unclear reason. BBC, for a lack of better words, sugarcoats the situation and reports the article to sound as though the ABC is not at fault, showing a bias towards the matter. Similarly to the purpose of using the term “arrested”, BBC states, “a video and photos of Mr Johnson covered in blood and being pushed to the ground were widely circulated (BBC)”. This statement ignores addressing how Johnson became covered in blood and who pushed him to the ground. By delivering the statement this way, BBC avoids expressing themselves as though they believe that the ABC is at fault in any way whatsoever. It was the doing of the ABC that result in Johnson being hurt, but BBC avoids addressing that because it brings up the idea as to whether the ABC’s actions were justifiable or not.

It is obvious that how the ABC agents treated Johnson is an example of anti-black violence. In any other circumstance, the approach on Johnson would have been considered “attack” or “harassment” but instead it is being called “arrest” because of the authority of the ABC. The ABC is powerful and due to white hegemony, they believe that they are superior to black community and individuals such as Johnson. Anti-black violence has occurred on several accounts where white people of authority harm and abuse black individuals. This is exactly what happened when the ABC agents victimized Johnson. The ABC has the influence of the mass media such as BBC (another capital corporation controlled by white individuals) supporting them by BBC not accusing them of having done anything wrong. To bring rise to the importance of how Johnson was victimized, the article stated, “Beaubrun said the police acted with unnecessary force (BBC)”. Beaubrun was the only witness at the incident. The ABC agents are supposed to “focus on alcohol-related violations but are considered state-wide police officers with authority to arrest (BBC)” as described in the article; this does not constitute that they approached him because of alcohol but indirectly says that they have others authoritative means to. The article describes Johnson as being “tackled (BBC)” and interestingly, the ABC and BBC sources did not deny that. By not denying tackling Johnson, the ABC indirectly admits to attacking him to a certain degree. The BBC described the cause of the scene, “after he was refused entry to a licensed establishment. (BBC)” This description does not justify that Johnson was agitated or needed to be detained, but the ABC further continued to beat him, because of no other reason other than the fact that he is black. This act of violence is an example of institutional racism initiated by the criminal justice system.

The oppression blacks face due to white hegemony is unacceptable. As a result of the doings of the ABC for what reason is unclear, Johnson suffered having “his face bruised and covered in stitches. (BBC)” BBC declared that, “Mr Johnson was charged with obstruction of justice without force, and public swearing and intoxication (BBC)” and was the victim of an undeserved accusation when the only lawful charge should have been pressed on the ABC for assault and battery. Johnson defends his innocence and proves himself a more righteous person than those who attacked him by saying, “I beg for you guys to please respect everyone here,” Mr Johnson told the crowd. “We really are one community. (BBC)”

WORKS CITED

“Virginia Governor Calls for Inquiry into Student Arrest.” BBC News. The BBC, 19 Mar. 2015. Web. 8 Apr. 2015. <http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-31965856&gt;.

~ JEC

Values Held by the LDS reflecting onto Utah’s Salary Inequality

According to Wallet Hub’s gender equality studies, Utah is ranked the second last state in terms of equality between self-identified males and females and is marked in the top 5 largest gaps between representation in executive positions, number of work hours, educational attainment, life expectancy at age 65 and political representation.

ABC 4 Utah News covered a bake sale being ran at Jordan high school in the state of Utah. Three female students sold cookies to males for one dollar, and to females for only 77 cents. This seemingly unfair pricing was meant to bring awareness to the gender wage gap between males and females in the United States. In the coverage, Kari Schott reveals the statistic that in the United States for every dollar a man makes, a woman only makes 77 cents. Through its report, ABS 4 Utah News focuses mainly on the controversy the bake sale brings rather than focusing on the larger issue of gender inequality that is present. This news piece fails to include any background information about the United States economy to make the piece more informative and helpful to the cause. It takes a neutral stand point on the controversy of the bake sale as a news piece is encouraged to, but contributes no depth to the argument, or attempt to explain the reasoning behind the controversy.

In Utah the average women makes 55 cents for every dollar earned by a man, explaining why the wage gap is so important to discuss at Jordan high school (Kirk). Approximately 62.2% of Utah’s residents belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), largely influencing its society with the values it holds (Canham). By considering the impact of having a strong religious presence in its body, a connection can be made between LDS values and the gender inequality in Utah.

Mormon essentialism has gone through dramatic changes regarding it’s inclusiveness. From the mid-1800s to 1978, those of African descent could not participate in LDS practices (LDS.com). This was not an uncommon theme among churches; most were segregated in the same fashion. After a revelation the church changed its ruling and “extended the blessings of the temple to all worth Latter-Day Saints, men and women” (LDS Newsroom). The church preached the teaching “black and white, bond and free, male and female;… are all alike unto God” (2 Nephi 26:33). Having members of differing races was a leap of progress for the LDS, but gender equality still had not been embodied.

Kate Kelley supported the belief that women should be allowed to be ordained priests. Through her organization “Ordain Women” she created a movement where anyone concerned with the gender inequality can raise their points knowing they have others who support this issue (Halper). She had been a committed Mormon for her entire life, until the church excommunicated her for her views (Halper).  This hegemony was decideed by a completely male panel holding a bias positionality, for they have not experienced the oppression Kate and other women of the LDS have been through (Halper). The panel was fixated on the situated knowledge of Mormon history arguing that women cannot obtain leadership positions in the church because all of the apostles were male, failing to consider the changes in gender equality reaching North America presently (Halper). In Halper’s opinion piece on the issue she questions the reasoning done by this panel. If only men are able to become priests, why does the church allow boys as young as 12 years old to be ordained, but not a grown women?

Apostle Dallin H. Oaks believes “they [women] are not free to alter the divinely decreed pattern that only men will hold offices in the priesthood.” This display of sexism reflects the Mormon church’s inability to live by their official teaching of equality of race and gender in God’s eyes. Considering this display of oppression against women in the Mormon religion, it is no surprise that the state of Utah is ranked as the second worst in the United States for economic equality between the sexes. Through an intersectional analysis of the teachings of the LDS and the Utah’s unfair economy, there is a prominent theme of discrimination impacted by the overarching Mormon history Utah holds.

— NH

WORKS CITED

Bernardo, Richie. “2014’s Best and Worst States for Women’s Equality.” Wallet Hub. http://wallethub.com/edu/best-and-worst-states-for-women-equality/5835/

Canham, Matt. “Census: Share of Utah’s Mormon Residents holds steady.” The Salt Lake Tribute. Web. 17 Apr. 2012. http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/home3/53909710-200/population-lds-county-utah.html.csp

Carlisle, Randall. “Gender inequality bake sale causes stir at Utah high school.” Good4Utah.com. Web. 17 Mar. 2015. http://www.good4utah.com/story/d/story/gender-equality-bake-sale-causes-stir-at-utah-high/10246/0gE6cCkPA0mvNkLZEjyO4Q.

Halper, Katie. “The Mormon Church Excommunicates Women For Calling Morman Church Sexist. Feministing. Web. Nov. 2014. http://feministing.com/2014/06/24/the-mormon-church-excommunicates-woman-for-calling-mormon-church-sexist/.

Kirk, Chris. “Map Shows the Worst State for Women to Make Money.” Slate. Web. 18 Oct. 2012. http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/map_of_the_week/2012/10/gender_income_inequality_maps_by_county_and_by_state.html.

“Race and the Priesthood.” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Web. 2015. https://www.lds.org/topics/race-and-the-priesthood

“Race and the Church: All Are Alike Unto God.” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Newsroom. Web. 29 Feb. 2012. http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/race-church.

“Gender Equality Bake Sale Causes Stir At Utah High” ~ Blog #3

A bake sell held by a group called the Young Democrats club at Jordan High School in Sandy, Utah, caused quite the commotion amongst the rest of their peers. Advocator Kari Schott and three other female students were selling identical chocolate chip cookies; one cookie selling for 77 cents, and one cookie selling for a dollar. The difference in price depended on the sex of the buyer, and if the buyer was a boy, they paid the latter. It was no surprise that there was a lot of immediate negative reactions from the students, especially those who were male. Minds were changed however, once Schott justified her reasoning for this seemingly unjust bake sale. The girls explained that in America, every time a man makes a dollar, a woman makes no more than 77 cents. The bake sale was not an agreement to this inequality, but a way to raise awareness to the youth of America. The gender pay gap within America and all over the world is a huge problem that women face when entering the workforce. Even with the evolution of gender equality over time, there remains a huge issue with the undervaluing of women’s work and segregation in the labour market. There were many different opinions about Schotts take on gender inequality in the US, from both male and female students. One specific point of view from a Jordan High School student Jake Knaphus was highly negative and rather shocking. Knaphus, at seeing what the girls were doing, stated “I believe in what they’re doing. I believe in their standing for a cause, but I just don’t believe the statistics they’re using are correct. I would love to have a debate with them, about what they believe in. But the fact that they tell me to go away is kind of disheartening.” If this was in fact true that the girls were turning him away without proper reasoning and discussion, then it is a problem on their part, since in order to raise this type of awareness to female empowerment, the thought process must be justified to those who do not agree or understand. However, the fact that this male student feels a constitutional right to so strongly question these girls and disregard their statistics seems to be a result of some kind of social and gender construction. This attitude of assuming the women are wrong or hiding something within their campaign could be a result of the kind of conditioning that this generation has grown up in. One in which this gender inequality exists but is generally overlooked and forgotten.

This news casting from Good 4 Utah helped further the awareness that Schott was hoping to create, however it left out a lot of details surrounding the campaign that would have helped readers and viewers to form more of an educated opinion on the matter. For example, when Jake Knaphus talks about the use of incorrect statistics. The news broadcaster never discloses whether or not he is speaking about the difference in the dollar to 77 cents ratio or if there are other statistics that the girls are using to strengthen their argument. In the video clip, Kari and her friends are handing out brochures to the students. It would greatly help to further promote their cause to viewers if there was any disclosure as to what these brochures entailed. Also, although it is true that gender pay inequality is a great problem for women in the American workforce, the hardships and inequalities faced by women facing different simultaneous oppressions is never discussed. More specifically when watching this clip, I began to wonder about the intersections faced by black women, transgender women, and women within the LGBTQ community in regards to pay inequality. The pay gap is an even more prominent issue for women facing multiple intersectionalities. In order to strengthen their argument and take a more realistic approach to their awareness campaign, Schott and the rest of the club would benefit from being more inclusive of other victims of this gender pay gap within the US.

~MMG

“Virginia Governer Calls for Inquiry Into Student Arrest” Review- ECW

In the early hours of March 18, 2015, The Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) team arrested a young black man outside of a popular pub in Charlottesville, Virginia. Martese Johnson, 20, who is a third year student at the University of Virginia, was charged with obstruction of justice without force, and public swearing and intoxication. Normally an arrest of this kind would be looked past by government officials, but when witnesses came forward and the video surveillance of the incident was released, something had to be done.

The ABC, who claim that Martese “was very agitated and belligerent” (ABC, 2015), tackled the man to the ground, where he hit his head and badly cut his face. The images and videos of the incident show police pushing Martese to the ground, as he complied and started to bleed. The ABC tried to defend their violence with claims of Martese’s aggression, but witness and photographer Bryan Beaubrun claimed that “(Martese) didn’t need to be tackled. He wasn’t being aggressive at all” (Bryan Beaubrun, 2015). Martese’s charge says it all: he was charged with obstruction of justice without force. If Martese was not showing any aggression or belligerence towards police officials, then why did they respond to him with unnecessary force?

Martese’s incident has sparked inquiry and anger across North America, as many suspect that his case is another that revolves around racial inequality. The idea that some police officials’ actions are fuelled by racism, especially directed at black people, is growing in popularity and validity. This year alone, almost three hundred black individuals have been killed due to police violence (Montgomery Advisor, 2015). These recent death poles combined with well-known cases such as Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin have sparked revolution and protests across the globe.

     The case of Martese Johnson is only one example of unnecessary police violence, and proves that change needs to take place within the walls of law officials; but how do the actions of such law officials reflect upon the society that we live in today? As much as those law enforcement officers who use force unnecessarily or act upon racist views should be punished, the incident of Martese Johnson is proof that societal reform is needed. The people who exhibit signs of xenophobia against certain races got their views from somewhere: society. In order for equality to be achieved, political change needs to occur. Education based on the principles of race and equality should be instilled in the minds of the young, and law officials who use force that is not substantiated should be punished more harshly. By letting these cases of racial violence slip by with little consequences for the perpetrators, inequalities are created because it creates the idea that black lives are not as important. This needs to stop. Societal hierarchies should not be determined by things we cannot control, such as race.

The hashtag #blacklivesmatter is becoming increasingly recognized, and will likely be a trademark of pop culture within our generation. “The #BlackLivesMatter movement began as a hashtag after George Zimmerman’s acquittal for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in 2013, and gained momentum after the shooting of Michael Brown, the shooting of John Crawford, and the death of Eric Garner, all in 2014” (Black Lives Matter, 2013). This movement is an excellent example of solidarity, and combats racial injustice not just within law enforcement, but within society.

The incident of Martese Johnson should be a wake up call for our society, as our generation has the power to put an end to racial injustice and oppression. While law enforcement should be critically examined after situations involving violent altercations, the big picture goal is to target racial injustice and racial violence within our society. Laws need to be stricter and protect everyone regardless of race, but before such laws can be successfully integrated and carried out, there needs to be a certain level of respect and equality in the world that we live in, among all people.

Martese Johnson was a victim of racial injustice, but in a sense he is lucky, because unlike many of the others, he survived. The fact that a victim of such violence should be considered lucky is extremely saddening, but if we take his instance and use it as motivation to act in ways that can prevent future generations from suffering, his story can be seen as an inspiration and a last straw before action, within the long battle against racism.

Works Cited

“Protests Target Racial Injustice, Not Police.” The Montgomery Advisor. 4 Jan. 2015. Web. 5 Apr. 2015.

“Support the Movement for Black Lives!” Black Lives Matter. 1 Dec. 2013. Web. 5 Apr. 2015.

“Virginia Governor Calls for Inquiry into Student Arrest.” BBC News. 19 Mar. 2015. Web. 5 Apr. 2015.

-ECW

Response to “Doctor Refuses Treatment of Same-Sex Couple’s Baby” Article

I read an article today based around the story of two lesbian moms, Krista and Jami, and their struggle to find a doctor to care for their young daughter. An important issue was brought to light when their six day old child, Bay, was refused care by her doctor based on the fact that she is being raised by a lesbian couple. Although it is not legal to turn patients away for their sexual orientation, it is allowed if the patient’s personal beliefs and morals conflict with those of an individual’s religion (MyFOXDetroit.com Staff). This was the case for Dr. Vesna Roi who claims that she turned the couple away for this exact reason. This leaves many people who do not conform to sexual or gender binaries out of luck and without protection from this kind of discrimination. This singular incident that Krista, Jami and their child faced highlights a much larger problem in the LGBTQ community. Their basic rights to things such as healthcare and safety are not protected the way that those of straight, cisgender people are. Religious rights such as the one that protected Dr. Roi’s choice to deny this couple of her services are absurd and unjust. While I do believe that it is important to protect people’s religious beliefs and rights for things such as veiling in Muslim religions, for example, I feel as though there should be a line drawn when these religious beliefs become discriminatory towards other minorities. It is known that the Christian bible states that homosexuality is a sin but this should not be used as a crutch to strip people of their rights. In cases such as this, religion should not be protected over the basic human rights of anybody. Regardless of Dr. Roi having an unspecified religion, it is clear that through her resignation from caring for this couple’s child that her religion perpetuates ideas of compulsory heterosexuality. While religion should be protected, these discriminatory ideals should not be, especially when it comes to healthcare and other basic human rights.

The issue does not just stop at healthcare and this article is just a gateway to uncovering other ways in which gay and transgender people are oppressed in our society. There is actually a legal defence called “gay panic defence” or “trans panic defence” which protects perpetrators of violence, including murder, against LGBTQ people. The defence claims that straight and cisgender people are capable of harming a gay, transgender or intersex person in a state of panic or “insanity” and therefor the crime may be completely justified. This kind of inherent binary thinking is used as an excuse to oppress LQTBQ people further in our society. The first state to ban this defence was California, who abolished it in September of 2014 (Malloy). The fact that it took so long to ban such an outrageous defence with absolutely no scientific backing is truly indicative of the injustice LGBTQ people face. It also is reflective of smaller injustices such as the one that Krista and Jami faced which are still very much alive today. These things not only cause harm but they just end up perpetuating more injustice and violence towards people who deserve the same rights as everybody else.

Similar to the way that LGBTQ people remain unprotected by the law, people of colour are also targeted with oppression that blatantly ignores their basic legal and human rights. Relating back to the Mike Brown case from last August, and many other cases where black people have been murdered by white cops with no consequence, both of these minorities remain unprotected by the law simply because they are not white, straight and cisgender. Because we live in such a white supremacist society, white people can get away with the murder and oppression of people of colour the same way they do with gay and trans people. And although Krista and Jami’s case can be seen as very small and not quite as harmful in comparison to the Mike Brown case, its still so important to make sure that we fix even the smallest injustices or else the cycle will never end. It was not too long ago that anti-miscegenation laws were being upheld in the United States to instate racial segregation, the same way that there are still laws today banning gay marriage amongst other injustices. The connections I am making between Krista and Jami’s case and Mike Brown’s case show how homophobia and racism are structural rather than individual and how these are just specific instances that represent the many injustices that are happening every day because of the oppressive nature of our society. These cases are just are just small glimpses into the bigger picture which is that our social construct in blatantly built to favour a specific type of person and anybody else who doesn’t fall into this strict category of what is “ideal” will face oppression and have their rights stripped.

– EMW

MyFOXDetroit.com Staff. “Doctor Refuses Treatment of Same-sex Couple’s Baby.” – Fox 2 News Headlines. N.p., 18 Feb. 2015. Web. 09 Mar. 2015.

Malloy, Parker Marie. “California Becomes First State to Ban Gay, Trans ‘Panic’ Defences.”
Advocate.com. N.p., 29 Sept. 2014. Web. 11 Mar. 2015.

Cultural Appropriation – “An Open Letter to Non-Natives in Headdresses”

It’s been approximately 19 years since the official closure of Canada’s Residential School System (RSS), but even today our Indigenous peoples continue to fall subject to forced assimilation into Western culture (AN). The Western school system presents an “us” and “them” construct, implementing epistemic racism into Canada’s education by placing Indigenous people as inferior and reinforcing the dominance of Western knowledge. Through the absence of proper education on Indigenous history, non-natives in Canadian society take away the importance of Aboriginal heritage through cultural appropriation.

According to Hookimaw-Witt the only significant difference between residential schooling and current Aboriginal education is that children are no longer displaced from their homes to attend (160). Canadian education is taught to its residents through Western practices, creating a “lack of exposure” to Aboriginal culture, leaving non-natives without the proper knowledge necessary to understand the Aboriginal culture devalued by the RSS (Hookimaw-Witt 162). To improve the impact of Indigenous methodology, the majority of influence needs to come from Canadian Aboriginal people when shaping the curriculum. By continuing to study Indigenous culture, we broaden our knowledge on their history, and learn how to improve the quality of their communities presently. This form of nation-building by refining the quality of Indigenous influence on education will lead to a better understanding between the two unique cultures, and the reconciliation of Canadian society.

Cultural appropriation occurs because of a lack of exposure the Western education system provides non-natives regarding Aboriginal culture. Non-natives lack the knowledge of what is appropriate to adapt from Indigenous culture, and what aspects should be preserved. The article “An Open Letter to Non-Natives in Headdresses” addresses the disrespect non-natives wearing headdresses brings to Aboriginal society (Apihtawikosisan). The author explains that just as Western culture has restricted wearing specific symbols unless earned by the individual, wearing headdresses is restricted to only men of Aboriginal descent who have earned the right to do so (Apihtawikosisan). Wearing headdresses as a non-native as well as creating artwork with this cultural fallacy are equally as disrespectful and are seen as mockery (Apihtawikosisan). The purpose of this letter is to inform the non-native community of the disrespect they display by thinking they have the right to redefine this symbol themselves. By broadening non-native’s knowledge of Indigenous methodologies, this appropriation can be avoided through education.

An example of historical ignorance through a form of cultural appropriation is displayed in the Royal Winnipeg Ballet production “Going Home Star – Truth and Reconciliation.” This piece was meant to reflect on the trauma caused by the Residential School System, and “serve as a further testament to healing” inspired by stories told by survivors (Harris). The piece attempts to make the audience feel as though they are part of the story themselves, Indigenous or not (Harris). The reviews of this ballet, and possibly the purpose the contributors had in mind themselves differ from this goal. Two of the primary reviews of this piece focus on the aesthetic elements instead of the importance behind its creation. A review by Holly Harris for the Winnipeg Free Press disregards the message of this piece, and superficially criticizes the plot for “overshadowing the choreography” (Harris). She continues to disapprove of the ambiguity of the plotline, complaining about the “four-page plot synopsis” provided to educate about the history of the RSS (Harris). In Robert Enright’s review, he praises the routine for “not allowing the story to overwhelm the dance,” or become “too dramatic.” Theatrics are necessary to completely depict the story of the RSS and by suppressing the “dramatics,” important traumas of the experience are left in the past. Author of “Going Home Star” Joseph Boyden talks about the irony of using European style dance to reflect on Aboriginal culture, but emphasizes that “ballet cuts right to the heart of what is most beautiful physically in humanity, and what’s most beautiful in terms of story and how do I interpret this story.” These statements create question about the intentions of the piece.  Is there anything truly beautiful about the labor the RSS has caused Canada’s Indigenous people? If the purpose of this piece was to tell the story of Aboriginals in Canada, is the most impactful way to hide the horrors and bring out what is simply more beautiful?

Without the purpose of education and reconciliation, the ballet would take aspects of Aboriginal history, and use it for the purpose of entertainment and art rather than education. The reviews mentioned appear to reassure the use of cultural appropriation because they encourage taking the elements of the story being told that are easy to understand and visually pleasing, rather than the raw story of torment the RSS had inflicted upon Canada’s Indigenous society. The lack of influence Aboriginal Canadians have on Western education is a contributing factor of the cultural appropriation they experience. There is a great importance placed on the nation-building of Indigenous society after the Residential School System had forced assimilation resulting in their loss of control, traditions, heritage and other devastating damages. Through proper education and striving towards equality in Canada’s multicultural society, the cultural appropriation of Aboriginal customs can be minimized.

WORKS CITED:

Anishinabek Nation (AN). “About Indian Residential Schools.” Indian Residential Schools Commemoration Project. Web. 9 Mar. 2015. http://www.anishinabek.ca/irscp/irscp-about-residential.asp.

Apihtawikosisan. “An Open Letter to Non-Natives in Headdresses.” Apihtawikosisan. Web. 9 Mar. 2015. http://apihtawikosisan.com/2012/01/the-dos-donts-maybes-i-dont-knows-of-cultural-appropriation/.

“Going Home Star – Truth and Reconciliation.” Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet. n.d. Web. 9 Mar. 2015.

Enright, Robert. “Going Home Star: Robert Enright’s review.” Online video clip. CBC Player. CBC News, 2 Oct. 2014. Web. Mar 9. 2015.

Harris, Holly. “Going Home Star a turning point in RWB repertoire.” Winnipeg Free Press. Web. 9 Mar. 2015. http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/arts-and-life/entertainment/arts/Going-Home-Star-a-turning-point-in-RWB-repertoire-277923622.html.

Hookimaw-Witt, Jacqueline. “Any Changes since Residential School?” Canadian Journal of Native Education 22(2) (1998): 159-70.  Web. 9 Mar. 2015.

– NH

The Intersectionality & Oppression of Transwomen of Colour – Blog Entry #2

We live in a world where it is socially and politically acceptable to lead our lives as we please without judgement, until it comes down to how we choose to portray ourselves, our romantic relationships and beliefs to the world. It is in the most intimate spaces of our lives where we are told what we are and are not allowed to do by the government and society. For many years since colonization, the world has dealt with overcoming types of oppression. In this 21st century, inequality of race and gender are stirring some of the most significant controversy, leading to murder, suicide, and exploitation in North America. While violence against blacks is a prevalent conflict in society due to white supremacy, trans womenof colour are being oppressed by other black people, demonstrating a tendency of heterosexism and transmisogyny within black communities.

Studying the oppression of trans women of colour requires an intersectional approach because black trans women are subject to racism, and discrimination for belonging to LGBTQIA+ and for identifying as women. White supremacy and corporate capitalism have inflicted racism upon the world, creating an ongoing struggle of [overcoming] the idea that white people are superior to black people — an idea which is in no way true trans women of colour are discriminated for belonging to the LGBTQIA+ for being regarded as “different” and not fitting the gender binary model. There is nothing “different” about what gender one chooses to identify as or their sexual preference. It is the people who are under the impression that they have the authority to judge others as being “different”. Trans women of colour are looked down upon for identifying and being female, as females are subject in gender inequality for being viewed as “lesser” compared to males. A recent statistic shows that “transwomen of colour are the most targeted victims of violence in the LGBTQIA+ community. Trans women make up 72% of anti-LGBTQIA+ homocide victims, and 89% of these victims were people of colour” (Cox). Trans women of colour are viewed as an inferior minority to others in the world as supported by the percentage of abuse and violence they have suffered. Black trans women deal with intersections of race, poverty, oppressive racism, gender identity and are victims of transmisogyny and transphobia.

The behaviour towards trans women of colour is an example of heterosexism within black communities because of the fact that discrimination of cisgender blacks is portrayed in the mass media as a wrongdoing of white supremacy but cisgendered blacks are also responsible for the discrimination of black trans women, which goes unnoticed. Recent cases of anti-black violence include the murders of Trayvon Martin and the Ferguson trial of Michael Brown. White supremacy was the cause of both these young men losing their lives, which caused riots across North America and liberated black communities to stand up against the supremacy. What wasn’t as publicized though were the cases of Islan Nettles and Amanda Milan, two young women who suffered street harassment and lost their lives by being beat to death by other members of the black community (Cox). The anti-black violence experienced by the cisgendered males is the same anti-trans violence they are deflecting upon trans women of colour. In honour of protesting against the anti-black violence crimes, a social media hashtag “#BlackLivesMatter” was used and started a campaign to bring awareness to the sensitivity of the crime. With that being said, how far does the #BlackLivesMatter campaign extend? It seems as though the same people protesting against anti-blackness think black lives matter only if the lives are of those who are cisgender. Reports of trans women of colour who have lost their lives are often misgendered and misnamed in mass media, which is a disrespect and disgrace to them, compared to nationally-known cases such as Trayvon Martin. This kind of behaviour shows transmisogyny and transphobia towards trans women of colour.

Feminism and gender equality need to be more emphasized in black communities in order for love and justice to be received and reciprocated by all. In a recent interview, television icon, Laverne Cox, shares her experiences as a trans woman of colour. She shared how once, two black men got into an argument over whether she was a “B – word”or an “N – word,”and another time, being catcalled by a man until the man realized she was transgender and deemed her “unattractive”. Cox was subject to racism and discrimination for identifying as trans and was considered attractive until the offender noticed she was trans, he found her gender identity was what was repulsing, showing transphobia towards her. Cox made a strong statement in the interview saying, “all black people have to realize that transphobia can’t co-exist with the fight against anti-blackness” (Cox). Cox’s point justifies this argument that if anti-blackness exists, blacks cannot be transphobic otherwise they’re fighting against the discrimination they are treating others with, thus being hypocritical. It is clear that in order to put an end to anti-trans violence and oppression against trans women of colour, the black community must “create spaces to express gender” so that individuals will not fear or endure being attack walking down the street (Cox). Cox concluded her interview with the quote, “Cornell West reminds us that justice is what love looks like in public.” One’s feelings of love towards another must not depend on that person’s race, gender identity, or sexual preference, love must be unconditional. In order to achieve justice for anti-blackness against white supremacy, society must first put an end to violence towards trans women of colour.

Works Cited:
Cox, Laverne. “Laverne Cox Explains the Intersection of Transphobia, Racism, and Misogyny (And What to Do About It).” Everyday Feminism. Everyday Feminism, 7 Dec. 2014. Web. 10 Mar. 2015. <http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/12/laverne-cox-intersection-what-to-do/&gt;.

– JEC

“Laverne Cox Speaks Out and Explains the Intersection of Transphobia, Racism, and Misogyny (And What to Do About It).” Blog #2

In a speech given by Laverne Cox, the beautiful American actress and passionate LGBTQ advocate, she shares some personal experiences of her own that truly confirm the present intersecting forms of oppression and privilege when speaking of transmisogyny, racism, and misogyny. Cox begins by recalling an encounter she had with two men when they saw her on the street and began to bicker about her sexuality. This situation was one in which Cox found herself personally facing these intersecting oppressions. She was dealing with the oppression of being transgender and the treatment from others that results from this identity. She was also facing the racialization and mysogynistic discrimination of the men using highly distasteful language. Cox’s speech continues on and she begins to recount on several occurrences of violence towards trans people. Cox, speaking about the transgender community, reveals “our lives are often in danger, simply for being who we are, when we are trans women. There are a lot of interesting identities and intersecting oppressions that make that happen.” Recalling back from slavery and lynching in US history, to the recent, local stories of transphobic violence, Cox proves why this statement and the presence of this intersectionality came to be: an unresolved continuation of America’s history of racialized violence and today’s still prominent sexist and transphobic alienation.

What struck me most when listening to Cox’s speech was her story of being catcalled on the street by the two men. From what she recounts, after the men argued about whether she was male or female, they proceeded to ask her which was correct. I found it very interesting that these men expected her to specify her gender to them and it made me wonder how they could think that asking for her identification was appropriate or relevant. This issue stems from the presence of transphobia. Since one of the men initially found Cox to be attractive, the fact that she is trans would be seen as humorous and embarrassing for him. This, in itself, is a reflection on the lack of acceptance from the general society of transgender people. This could also be analyzed as an issue with homophobia, since the humour would stem from a male thinking another male was attractive and would think this was incorrect and funny. A transgendered person’s sexuality is seen as confusing, since the majority of people have learned to reject or ignore its existence without trying to understand it first, and also as deceitful, as it goes against the common societal ‘norms.’ Because this certain sexuality is seen as confusing and deceitful, people who identify with it are not often taken seriously, and so are mocked or alienated.

The problem with today’s society is that with the presence of the media, there has become a famously understood social construction of masculinity versus femininity that people are expected to conform to. Since very few people, such as the men in Cox’s story, are not able to understand the idea of being transgender, the identities within the LGBTQ are often ignored and become excluded from the normative social constructions in a society. This lack of knowledge and understanding are then seen as alien and unnatural. From Cox’s many examples, it can be inferred that systems in society like these assumed gender roles and sexual orientations cause transgender individuals to be looked down upon.

Cox touches on a quote by Cornell West about love and refers to its absence within society, “Cornell West reminds us that justice is what love looks like in public”. To me, it seems apparent that the reason for these intersecting oppressions stems from the confusion and hatred that people feel towards those who are trans, black, and/or women. A very captivating part of Cox’s speech was when she gave her own personal theory as to why women who are trans, as well as black, deal with more of this hatred. She referred to several historical events involving racism in which the genitals of black males were cut off and either sold or pickled. Cox analyzed, “I think a lot of black folks dealing with a lot of post-traumatic stress see trans, my trans women’s body, and feel that I’m the embodiment of this historic emasculation come to life” and I completely agree with this theory. For the black men and some women, who are not transgender nor have any real understanding of it, they would see a transgender person, and immediately view them as a person giving into or agreeing with the punishment of this white supremacy by choosing or wanting to be without their male genitalia. It could be seen as an insult to those who endured this torture of genital mutilation, having people choose to make the seemingly emasculating change voluntarily, and this causes a separation between those people with the rest of society.

What is interesting about Cox delving into this history of racial violence is that she later connects and compares this information to the violence that trans women of colour experience today. This history of discrimination against black males, when listening to the stories Cox recounts, sounds outrageous and as if it would be acceptable never to today’s society. However, what people are not aware of is that there is still a prominent continuation of violence against trans women of colour. Cox further stresses, “Trans women of color are the most targeted victims of violence in the LGBTQIA+ community. Trans women make up 72% of anti-LGBTQIA+ homicide victims, and 89% of these victims were people of color.” (Cox, 2014). Since society tends to alienate those within the LGBTQ, media rarely covers the horrific events that occur to or within its community, and other people stay ignorant to them. Because of this, people are completely unaware of the levels of violence that trans women experience, and are kept in the dark about the still ever-present racial issues that trans women of colour face.

Referring to the intersection of racism and transmisogyny, Cox states, “The racial piece is actually really important, because I’ve talked to a lot of white trans women who haven’t experienced quite the level of street harassment that I have.” Facing two oppressions results in a completely different experience than facing one or the other. The fear and hatred for transgendered women of colour refers back to the absence of love and the presence of confusion. As the media continues to portray the two specific social constructions, society becomes less accepting of gender identities that fail to conform to them. The fact that Laverne Cox speaks out about this issue from a personal perspective makes it all the more inspiring and motivational. People need to understand that differences between race, gender, and sexuality should not define the way in which a person is treated or how a person treats another.

WORKS CITED:

Cox, Laverne. “Laverne Cox Explains the Intersection of Transphobia, Racism, and Misogyny (And What to Do About It).” Everyday Feminism. Web. 10 Mar. 2015.

~MMG

“Doctor Refuses Treatment of Same Sex Couple’s Baby” Blog- ECW

         In the state of Michigan there are currently no laws that protect LGBT families against discrimination or mistreatment.This is a hard lesson that Krista and Jami Contreras were forced to learn, when a paediatrician by the name of Dr. Roi, who had come highly recommended, refused to care for their baby girl, Bay. According to state regulation, doctors cannot discriminate against or refuse patients based on sexuality, but they are allowed to turn patients away if they feel that their morals, personalities or religious beliefs will interfere with the level of care that they will be able to provide. However, in the case of baby Bay, there is now way that she, as a six day old infant, would be able to present reason to believe that her morals, personality or religious beliefs would conflict with those of Dr. Roi. Therefore, Jami and Krista have come to the conclusion Dr. Roi’s refusal to care for their daughter is based solely on issues that she has with their sexuality. Jami Contreras comments: “As far as we know Bay doesn’t have a sexual orientation yet, so I’m not really sure what that matters… We’re not your patient – she’s your patient. And the fact is that your job is to keep babies healthy, and you can’t keep a baby healthy that has gay parents.”  

       The dismissal of Jami, Krista and Bay seems to be centred around the Dr. Roi’s obvious homophobia as opposed to concerns revolving around the level of care that she would be able to provide, as the clear reason for her refusal to care for Bay is that her parents are lesbians. Krista and Jami claim that they were greeted by another doctor upon their arrival at Eastlake Paediatrics, where they had previously met with Dr. Roi. The surprise doctor informed the couple that he would be their new paediatrician, as Dr. Roi had prayed prior to the appointment and decided that she would not be able to care for Bay Contreras as she felt uncomfortable for personal reasons. In a sense this adamant refusal to care for a child, who is just the same as any other, can be seen as xenophobic. This is because Dr. Roi presents a sort of fear or direct avoidance towards the LGBT family, seemingly because their lifestyle is unfamiliar, foreign or unknown to her.

     While Dr. Roi’s refusal should not reflect badly upon other paediatricians in the area, it should reflect badly upon the state of Michigan, and society in general. Krista and Jami should have the same rights as any other married couple, but the fact that they are a lesbian couple prevents them from taking appropriate action against Dr. Roi. When asked if they would be filing a lawsuit, Jami and Krista replied that a lawsuit was not an option, due to a lack of laws that stand to protect LGBT families. Their only option is to file a complaint with the state, with no guarantee that Dr. Roi will ever experience the ramifications of her misogynistic actions.

     Months after the incident, the Contreras family received a letter of apology from Dr. Roi, explaining that she should have expressed her discomfort with the family face-to-face, and that she felt she would not be able to develop a proper relationship with Bay. Dr. Roi states: “Please know that I believe that God gives us free choice and I would never judge anyone based on what they do with that free choice,” but it seems that judging is exactly what she is doing. If the couple had kept their sexual orientation a secret, there is a good chance that Dr. Roi would have happily provided care to their daughter Bay, and that fact alone is enough to call for justice. A letter full of excuses does not erase the fact that Dr. Roi embarrassed Jami and Krista, and let her own homophobic views and compulsory binary thinking interfere with her professionalism and ability to care for an innocent child, who has absolutely nothing to do with the issue at hand. What is even worse, is that Dr. Roi is allowed to be discriminatory based on sexuality, or any other personal matter.     

     Overall, the Contreras family deserves the same respect and level of professionalism as any other family, and Dr. Roi deprived them of that based on homophobia. This raises red flags for many reasons, but mainly because she is allowed to carry on as a physician in a world where same sex marriage is becoming increasingly more common and accepted. The fact that she will likely see no consequences is not just unjust for Jami, Krista and Bay, but to all families who are being discriminated against.

WORKS CITED:

“Doctor Refuses Treatment of Same-sex Couple’s Baby.” – Fox 2 News Headlines. 18 Feb. 2015. Web. 7 Mar. 2015.

– ECW