Philando Castile: What Part Do You Play and What Are You Doing about It?

First, watch this video. Warning: he says some swear words.

Now, take a minute to think about the following questions, keeping yourself, your experiences, and your actions in the center. Don’t think about how “they” are, think about how YOU are.

  • Where do you see yourself in his words?
  • What work will you do to change it?

The part of it that resonated with me the most when I watched it the first time was about how we’re taught to fear black people. Now, my experience was of growing up in a mostly black neighborhood, and for most of my life, if you told me I was afraid of black people, or prejudiced, I’d laugh it off at best, if not get defensive and pissy. I can see now, and think back to times in my youth (or even today still) where that manifests itself and I perpetuate that fear of the black male. It’s not a conscious thing and when I feel it rise I check myself and think it through, trying to harness it so I can wash it out.

What work will I do? I think the internal work, calling myself out anytime I feel blink reaction swelling up, is a big part of it. I think if more people did that internal work we could make some progress. Externally I try to be there to hold space for POC when I’m asked – and stay away when I’m not invited. I try to increase awareness in my fellow whites by creating or sharing provocative content that hopefully gets people thinking, and, more importantly, try to have these kinds of conversations in person with my friends and loved ones.

I never feel like I do enough – because I don’t. There’s an intersection here with my white male ego. It thinks I should be able to fix it. It doesn’t like feeling powerless. It wants to be a hero and swoop in and save the day. It doesn’t want to admit that this is bigger than me.

It is though. It’s systemic, pervasive, ingrained. I cringe when I hear people say, “Nobody’s born racist.,” because while that’s a nice sentiment if from the moment you’re born you’re told that a jolly fat man comes down the chimney once a year you believe it’s true until you don’t anymore. You stop believing it when your intellectualism starts to set in – that is, when you develop the ability to separate emotion from rationality. You think, “It’s not physically possible for one person to do all that, and then what about the flying reindeer…”

But for some reason as a culture white people are not able to exercise intellect around race. The idea that all, or most, black men are dangerous criminals is just as ridiculous as the Santa story, yet we allow ourselves to continue believing or accepting the excuses we’re given. Tamir Rice was a little boy playing with a toy in a park. Philando Castile was a beloved public school employee riding in a car with his family. Charleena Lyles was a pregnant single mom who called the police because she needed their help. All of three of them were killed for being black. There’s no other explanation. Not when we see white people resisting arrest, punching cops, brandishing knives at them, or murdering multiple people of color in a church and then get arrested peacefully and taken out for burgers.

White people, we have to say the words out loud in public: They were killed because they were black. That’s a known-known. Say it over and over to everyone whenever it comes up. We have to accept that that’s the way our society is. We can’t live in denial anymore. We have to get to work on it. No more excuses. No more “I’m not racist because I blah blah blah…” If you don’t talk about it in rational terms and accept your own complicity, then yes you VERY are racist.

I hope that you’ll answer the above questions for yourself. Journal about it. Talk about it with your partner or a friend. Start to deconstruct this for yourselves and then turn the corner and start doing the work of dismantling it on a larger scale. That can take many forms and I’m sure there are people right here in this community who will join you in the work.

The Resistance According to Elizabeth

On February 4th, Elizabeth Warren gave a speech that could go down as a defining oratory here at the outset of our resistance to the Trump Regime. Inspiring words from the Senator from Massachusetts.

I’m going to cut to the chase: We’re gathered today in Baltimore during a moment of crisis – for us as progressives, for us as Democrats, for us as Americans.

We’re in a moment of crisis, and I want to talk honestly about it. Let’s start with a simple fact: Our moment of crisis didn’t begin with the election of Donald Trump.

We were already in crisis.

We were already in crisis because for years and years and years, Washington has worked just great for the rich and the powerful, but far too often, it hasn’t worked for anyone else.

We were already in a moment of crisis because for years and years and years, the economy has worked just great for those who have already made it, but far too often, it hasn’t worked for anyone else.

We were already in a moment of crisis because for years and years and years, we’ve been living in a nation where opportunity is quietly disappearing. A country that is giving fewer and fewer kids a real chance to succeed.

We all know that this country was never perfect. That systemic racism, sexism, homophobia, and bigotry meant opportunities weren’t spread equally. But over the past generation, we made a shift – a shift from a country bending in the right direction to one where the door to a better life – to a middle class life – has been getting further out of reach with every passing year.

For a long time, I have shouted from every rooftop I could find about how the middle class was on the ropes. How it was evaporating. How if we weren’t careful, it could be like the Arctic ice – melting every year, until it’s gone completely, never to return. And make no mistake, as the middle class melts, the opportunities for the poor shrink to the vanishing point.
People don’t just wake up one day and elect leaders like Donald Trump because hey, “everything is awesome, but what the hell, let’s roll the dice and make life interesting.”

No.

People don’t elect leaders who break all the rules – who violate all the norms ― when things are going pretty well.

They don’t elect leaders who campaign for office by attacking communities of color, or religious groups, or immigrants, or women when things are just swell.

No.

Men like Donald Trump come to power when their countries are already in deep trouble. When the economies of their countries are deeply flawed. When people in those countries start to lose hope for a better future and start looking for someone to blame. And men like Donald Trump rise when those with money – and power – get a little worried about their own privileges and decide to help out one of their own who promises to look out for them.

In November, America elected Donald Trump.

Yes, the Russians helped.

Yes, the FBI director helped.

Yes, he lost the popular vote by three million.

But we cannot let ourselves off so easy. Not as progressives, not as Democrats. The excuses end now – right here in Baltimore. We hold ourselves accountable.

And we need to figure out what comes next.

There are some in the Democratic Party who urge caution. They say this is just a tactical problem. We need better data. We need better social media.

We need better outreach. We need better talking points.

Better talking points? Are you kidding me? People are so desperate for economic change in this country that Donald Trump was just inaugurated as President, and people think we just have a messaging problem? What planet are they living on?

This is bigger than talking points and tactics, and yes, even than Twitter.

This country is in an economic crisis. For more than 30 years, working families, middle class families, poor families, students, seniors have been squeezed harder and harder, and now they are at the breaking point.

Republican politicians have pushed one policy after another that has favored the rich and powerful over everyone else, and far too often, Democrats have gone right along. And no matter how extreme Republicans in Washington became, Democrats might grumble or whine, but when it came time for action, our party hesitated and pushed back only with great reluctance. Far too often, Democrats have been unwilling to get out there and fight.

That ends today. It’s time for Democrats to grow a backbone and to get out there and fight.

It’s up to us—the progressives. We need to make very clear that we, as progressives, as Democrats, as Americans, stand for a BOLD, progressive agenda. Stand for REAL solutions to this crisis. Stand for changes that will make a difference in the lives of millions of people. We need to make clear we will fight.

What do we fight for?

We fight for basic dignity and respect for every human being—everybody counts. All people are entitled to be treated with respect.

We fight for economic opportunity – not for those at the top, but for everyone. We believe that every one of our children deserves a fighting chance to build a real future.

We are not the minority party. We are the opposition party, and we need to talk about the key difference between us and them every day—and we need to say it in the plainest possible way:

Donald Trump has stirred ugly racism, sexism, and hatred in this country, and the Republican politicians smiled and climbed right into bed with him. That stink will be on them for decades to come. The national party that embraced bigotry. To every person in America, we need to say loud and clear: You don’t like how women are treated? Or Latinos? Or Muslims? Or African Americans? Always remember that the bigotry stirred up by Donald Trump is perfectly ok with the Republicans in Washington. They will confirm his Attorney General, they will look the other way on religious bans, they will shuffle their feet over a Supreme Court nominee who thinks employers should decide what kind of birth control women get. Republicans are afraid to stand up for what is right. Afraid to stand up for basic American values.

Well they can nurse their fear. We are not afraid. Democrats are the party of all the people – every single one. We believe everybody counts and everybody gets a chance. Nobody – nobody – gets cast aside. That’s the difference between Republicans and Democrats in Washington.

And one more: Donald Trump and the Republicans in Washington are on the side of the rich and powerful, and they are using every tool of government to help them get richer and more powerful. To every person in America, we need to say loud and clear: You think Wall Street has too much power in Washington? You think giant corporations call too many shots in government? You think billionaires get all the breaks while your family has to watch every nickel? Always remember: the Republicans are not on your side. They’re rushing to unleash the big banks. They’re rushing to gut the consumer agency that has forced banks to give $12B back to customers they cheated. They just pushed a backroom deal for giveaways to big oil companies and another for giveaways to investment advisers who cheat seniors. They’re ramming through a cabinet of ethically challenged billionaires with long histories of grinding working people into the dirt. And the corporate CEOs and the Wall Street bankers and the lobbyists are so happy they are doing little money dances in the halls of Congress.

The so-called “leaders” of the Republican Party can keep their rich friends.

That’s on them. But what’s on us? We need to be the party of hardworking people – every single one. We need to be the party of every family and every small businesses and every person who hasn’t made it yet. We need to be the party of every person who believes we should all get a chance to build something for ourselves and our families.

We need to say what we believe in, then we need to fight for those beliefs.

The world has changed a lot over the past few months, and let’s be honest – there’s no hotline number we can call to learn how best to deal with rising right-wing extremism in this country. Like a lot of you, I’m still finding my way, finding my footing, day by day, step by step. We make mistakes. But with each passing day, we learn.

The lesson of history is that when faced with a danger like Donald Trump, opposition needs to grow. Opposition needs to be focused. Opposition needs to be bold. Most of all, opposition needs to be willing to fight.
Things are moving fast, and time is running out – for us to grasp what has happened, and for us to make clear ― in every way, from every mountaintop we can – that we will fight back.

A Muslim ban? We will fight back!

Ripping health care from millions of working people? We will fight back!

A Secretary of Education who doesn’t believe in public education? We will fight back!

Giveaways to giant banks so they can cheat people and blow up our economy again? We will fight back!

A budget director who wants to cut Medicare and Social Security? We will fight back!

A Supreme Court nominee who will take away women’s rights? We will fight back!

You bet we will fight back! And you better believe we’ll keep fighting for our progressive agenda.

Next week, many of us in this room return to Washington. Eyes will be on us. We do not control the government. Many times, our side won’t win.

But we have our voices.

And we will add our voices to the voices of millions of people in this country who are standing up to say that the character of this nation is not the character of its President.

No. In our democracy, We the People decide the character of this nation.

When we protest, when we make phone calls, when we carry signs and ask questions, when we make our voices heard – that is when we affirm our uniquely American character. We will resist every single effort to make America into a small and spiteful place. We will resist every injustice. We will resist every effort to divide us. We will resist every effort to disgrace our Constitution. We will resist every single step toward the takeover of our government by billionaires, bankers and bigots.

This is not the moment we asked for, but it is the moment we have been called to. This is our test.

The hour to fight is upon us – and we are ready. We will fight back, side by side. We will fight back.

Olympia needs to be a Sanctuary City

This has been kicked around and side-stepped by some, and though we’re making progress toward it, thanks primarily to Councilmember Bateman’s strong advocacy, our city council needs to know how we feel.

Here’s a small task, that will only take you a minute.

Copy and paste the following message into an email and send it to: citycouncil@ci.olympia.wa.us

Members of City Council,

The election of Donald Trump has made many of our citizens afraid. Afraid for their safety and afraid for their livelihood. We need to send a message that everyone is welcome here and everyone is safe. Please adopt the following points, in a resolution, to send a clear message that the city of Olympia stands for love not hate, inclusion not exclusion, and that we stand together. Thank you.

1. Our city will not assist or cooperate with any raids or detentions or deportations of any immigrants. This includes assistance of local law enforcement or providing data to the federal government.

2. Our city will not cooperate or assist with registration and surveillance programs of Muslims, or any attempts to make our friends, neighbors, and loved ones the enemy.

3. Our city is a safe zone for all immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQ people, women, and anyone fearing persecution from the Trump regime.

4. Our cities reject any effort to criminalize or attack Black Lives Matter or other organizing for social justice, as Trump has suggested he might do.

Rob’s Voter Guide for November 2016

It’s that time of year again and your ballot will be in your mailbox very soon. People always ask me for a little insight into how I feel about the candidates and issues on the ballot, so here’s my guide to voting in the upcoming election. If there’s something on your ballot that I didn’t cover here, it’s probably because it’s not on mine, feel free to ask me to weigh in on your local races, and I’ll do my best.

STATEWIDE BALLOT MEASURES

I-1433: Raise Up Washington – VOTE YES – This is all about raising the minimum wage to $13.50 (over the next four years) and guaranteeing paid sick leave for all employees. I’ve been advocating for $15 an hour, and I still think we need to boost it to at least that eventually, but for now, $13.50 will do. Getting the paid sick and safe leave is an important piece of this and why you should vote for it now.

I-1464: Integrity WashingtonVOTE YES – If you’re a Bernie supporter and followed his campaign then you’re familiar with the issue of getting big money out of politics. This initiative, while not perfect, gets us started down that road by creating “Democracy credits” that you would be able to “spend” on candidates of your choice, as well as strengthening enforcement of current campaign finance laws.

I-1491VOTE YES – A no brainer for me. This will keep guns out of the hands of people who demonstrate a high risk for violent behavior. It’s targeted to help prevent suicide and mass shootings, by letting families who see warning signs access an Extreme Risk Protection Order that would remove the person’s firearms. A good step.

I-1501VOTE YES – I’m voting for this because it DOES increase protections for seniors, who are the most vulnerable to identity theft and consumer fraud – BUT –  let’s be honest: this isn’t about seniors. This initiative is a yet another battleground in the epic war between the SEIU and the Freedom Foundation. Pure and simple.

I-732VOTE NO – This is a fairly divisive one. The intent is to address climate change by creating a tax on carbon pollution. The reason I’m voting no is because it ignores the financial hit that people of color, low-income, and working class people will take as a result. Good intentions, imperfect execution. We need a better, more inclusive plan than this one.

I-735VOTE YES – Without getting too technical, this sends a message that the State of Washington supports a Constitutional amendment that would overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United ruling that said that money (campaign donations) is free speech, and that corporations are people with a right to that speech. Sounds dumb, huh?

Advisory Vote No. 14 & 15VOTE MAINTAIN – These are two of those stupid advisory votes that Tim Eyman got us where we have to give a non-binding vote to any bill the legislature passes that closes a tax loophole or raises revenue. A waste of time, but that’s Tim Eyman.

Constitutional Amendment #8210VOTE YES – This one is kind of obscure, and relates to the redistricting – which I have a LOT of opinions about. This will shorten the amount of time the commission has to complete their plan, and give voters more time to give feedback. So I guess that’s ok.

FEDERAL

PresidentHILLARY CLINTON – I’m a progressive, a lefty, a liberal who has been a Bernie fan for over a decade now. I remember how excited we all were when the first non-major party candidate was elected to the US Senate… Anyway… I don’t have a candidate in this race that I can really get excited about. Jill Stein and the Green party are ALL SORTS of problematic. Johnson and the Libertarians are cuckoo-birds. Trump is half PT Barnum and half Andrew Jackson. That leaves Clinton, who is not going to burn our country down. I’d let her borrow my car without fear that she’d crash it. Or, as The Stranger put it, “Vote for Hillary because she’s not a crazy fascist racist rapist* sexist pile of orangutan shit threatening to destroy our democracy.”

So, it is what it is.

US SenatorPATTY MURRAY – Murray has been around a long time and usually doesn’t do anything terrible and does some really cool stuff from time to time. Plus Chris Vance is not really a serious candidate and he’s an icky conservative.

U.S. Representative, 10th Congressional District – DENNY HECK – This is another race where I’m forced to vote for a conservative Democrat because the opposition is a nutter.

STATE

GovernorJAY INSLEE – Invoking the Nutter Clause again. Also, Jay Inslee isn’t the worst, isn’t the best, but he’s a dedicated servant and has been for a long time, and I think he really does try in his way to move the needle.

Lieutenant GovernorCYRUS HABIB – This one is a full-throated, happy hearted endorsement for me. The job of the LG can be to push for change and fight for things. Cyrus Habib will do that. He has a record of fighting for progressive causes and for people who are marginalized by the system.

Secretary of StateTINA PODLODOWSKI – It’s time for a change. Kim Wyman has shown herself to be a Trump supporting [I was quickly corrected that indeed Wyman has disavowed some of Trump’s statements], anti-voting rights conservative. Podlodowski promises to bring more people into the process who are traditionally left out by fighting for postage free ballots, automatic registration, etc.

State TreasurerWRITE IN ERIC MILLER – I’m not one to usually write in a candidate. I’ll typically be able to find a reason to vote for one of the options. Often it’s just that they opponent is less awful. In this race your two choices on the ballot are SOOOOOO bad that I just can’t pick one. Miller isn’t going to win – because he isn’t on the ballot. But I’m writing him in anyway. The lesser of two evils is Davidson, who is on record saying he’s voting for Trump. If you aren’t disavowing The Donald, you don’t get my vote.

State AuditorPAT MCCARTHEY – Jeff Sprung was the best candidate in the primary. We should be voting for him right now. Unfortunately, as happens in politics, the best candidate sometimes loses in the primary. Miloscia is an anti-abortion social conservative and McCarthey is well qualified to do the job.

Attorney GeneralBOB FERGUSON – Ferguson is a prosecutor, which makes my spidey-senses tingle, but he’s endorsed by a lot of good unions, NARAL, Planned Parenthood, etc – and he’s up against a cuckoo-bird libertarian.

Commissioner of Public LandsHILLARY FRANZ – This is another one I’m excited about. Franz has shown that she’s going to move us past the old-school environmentalism that is holding us back and lead with an Urban Environmentalist focus. She is exactly what we need in this position right now.

Superintendent of Public InstructionERIN JONES – I endorsed Jones in the primary because I felt she was the right candidate for the job. I still think that. She caught a lot of scrutiny because of some comments she made about LGBTQ students in our schools. It was an awkward answer to an awkward question, and she definitely has some self-work to do on that issue. I also know about her that she was on the board of the Girl Scouts of Washington when they passed the first-in-the-nation trans-inclusive membership policy, allowing trans girls to join. She also took a young man into her home whose parents threw him out for being gay. To me, actions speak louder than words. It is so easy to flub a question, but you can’t fake putting in work.

Insurance CommissionerMIKE KREIDLER – He’s done a tremendous job so far fighting for consumers against health-insurance companies. Let’s not let him be replaced by a pro-business Republican.

22ND LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT

State SenatorSAM HUNT – Sam has been around awhile and is well-respected in political circles. I see him out and about in the community a lot, and spends a lot of time supporting non-profits that I support also.

State Representative Pos. 1LAURIE DOLAN – Coming from Spokane, Dolan knows how to deal with Republicans, a skill that will come in handy in our gridlocked statehouse.

State Representative Pos. 2BETH DOGLIO – She doesn’t have an opponent, but if she did, I’d probably still be endorsing her. I’ve met her, spoken to her about different things, and I can say that I like her, and I agree with her. She seems kind and thoughtful, two of the highest traits in my book.

Thurston County Commission, District #1JIM COOPER – I could go on for a while about why I’m voting for Jim, but here’s the nut: he speaks out when he believes in something, he always leans toward compassion, and he never stops learning. He’ll serve us well at the county.

Thurston County Commission, District #2KELSEY HULSE – Like with Cooper, there are a lot of reasons to vote for Kelsey. She’s another candidate I’ve met and spoken with a bit. She’s friendly, easy-going, funny, charming, smart as hell, well-spoken, and she’s a progressive candidate up against a very conservative, old-school former sheriff who is a Republican but isn’t brave enough to run as one so calls himself an “independent” – whatever that means.

STATE SUPREME COURT

State Supreme Court Justice, Position #1MARY YU – Mary Yu embodies everything we need in electeds, particularly on courts. Not only is she the first openly gay, and first woman of color, and the first openly gay woman of color to serve on the court, she’s been an outspoken champion of reforming our justice system, particularly the juvenile justice system with the goal of zero incarceration, and wants to see mental-health and drug treatment provided instead of locking those folks up.

State Supreme Court Justice, Position #5BARBARA MADSEN – *nutter clause* Let’s be real here. Madsen defended Washington’s Defense of Marriage Act, saying in her argument that it was, “essential to the survival of the human race and furthers the well-being of children.” That’s bullshit, and she wouldn’t be elected to anything if it were up to me. That said, crazy must attract crazy, because her opponent is worse and would do worse.

State Supreme Court Justice, Position #6CHARLIE WIGGINS – This race is kind of a toss-up really. Wiggins wins for experience and devotion to ethics, but Larson isn’t a terrible nutter or anything.

THURSTON COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT

Thurston County Superior Court Judge, Position #1CHRIS LANESE – You couldn’t really have a better choice for judge than Lanese unless Mary Yu was running against him. Harvard grad, served on the Pro Bono and Legal Aid Committee, and works for justice and equality in the courts.

Thurston County Superior Court Judge, Position #7JIM FOLEY – I know Jim Foley, and I think his courtroom would be the most fun courtroom you could ever imagine. Jim is wise, and has a good heart. I also have a bias against prosecutors becoming judges. I just don’t like the idea of it. Skinder is well regarded for his work in the community advocating for crime victims, so maybe he might be an exception. I’m still voting for Jim Foley.

OLYMPIA BALLOT MEASURES

City of Olympia Initiative #1VOTE YES – This is another enthusiastic endorsement for me. Not only are some close friends involved in managing this campaign, but it sets the groundwork, if successful, for a statewide income tax. It will also pay the first year of college tuition for Olympia students. Opponent of the initiative, Kris Goddard has said that it will “literally bankrupt the City of Olympia” – well… that’s LITERALLY not true, and a tad hyperbolic. If you don’t listen to any other endorsement I’ve made, please listen to this one and vote yes on Initiative #1.

 

 

If you read this far, I’m REALLY proud of you and I wish I could give you one of those little “I Voted” stickers. Hit me up if you have any questions, concerns, comments, or whatever. Cheers!

We Need Better at City Hall

In the week prior to what was touted as the biggest storm since the early 1960s, community leaders approached Olympia City Manager Steve Hall to implore him to open a city facility for storm relief. Hall had a different reason to say “No” everyday. “The storm isn’t going to be that bad”- “We can’t cancel programming at the Olympia Center on such short notice” – “It’s too great a liability for the City to take on.” Apparently, Hall values human life less than imaginary legal liability.

Probably two dozen times in the days I spent at First Christian Church staffing the emergency storm relief shelter, I was told some version of, “What you all are doing is a blessing.”

What does it say about our community that so little is considered a blessing? We threw together some donations and places on a hard floor for people to sleep because our city, specifically our City Manager Steve Hall refused to even consider stepping up. This is not a blessing, it’s a shame. We should be ashamed, and we should ask ourselves a serious question: Is this the kind of leadership we want at City Hall?

If you’ve never been to, or spoken at a City Council meeting, make this Tuesday your first. Please. This storm passed us by and spared innocents from its wrath, but we could be searching for bodies right now of people turned away from shelter, turned away from society.

We can do better. We can BE better.