I speak Hindi, I am Hindu, and I’m an American: Fighting “Little Things”

Cultural ignorance slows the progress of social justice.

nikkis-photo.jpgGuest Contributor:  Nikita Srivastava, (’19)

As a minority woman in the United States, I am often defined by the color of skin. Although I take pride in my heritage, it is not the only thing that defines who I am. I find myself explaining who I am (or what defines me) more often than my white peers. Not only is this common in social settings, but professional settings as well. What makes matters worse is that my concerns about cultural ignorance are dismissed as “little things.”  Continue reading “I speak Hindi, I am Hindu, and I’m an American: Fighting “Little Things””

I speak Hindi, I am Hindu, and I’m an American: Fighting “Little Things”

#BlackWomenAtWork

Daily microagressions go viral. What’s your story?

It’s hard to pinpoint which incident was worse. Bill O’Reilly admitting that he simply tuned out Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) because of her “James Brown wig?” Or, Press Secretary Sean Spicer publicly admonishing American Urban Radio Networks reporter April Ryan for “shaking her head” at a recent press briefing?

Many African American women shook their heads in recognition.  To them, Waters and Ryan merely were experiencing a typical day on the job.  And, a hashtag was born.  Black women made visible the myriad ways race and gender converge in their work lives, manifesting in microaggressions to be ignored and endured. From embodying the stereotypically “angry” Black woman:

to standing in sharp contrast to society’s images of what Black women can do for a living:

I had my own #BlackWomanAtWork incident a few weeks ago.  I was teaching a Family Law class of about 20 students on property division upon divorce.  Suddenly, a student–not enrolled in the class–opened the door and took a step across the threshold. Aware of 21 pairs of eyes staring at her, the young woman asked, “Is this a class?”  I assured her it was and she backed out of the room.  We all were thrown by the intrusion but I couldn’t help wondering if this student would have behaved the same way if one of my white male colleagues had been standing at the lectern.

So what?  I admit that’s a tempting response. After all, I know I’m a professor. Just like the women quoted above know their own accomplishments can’t be diminished by someone’s innocent mistake.

 

But, the reality of the mistake itself is telling. Why is the default nurse “a blonde lady”?  The assumed attorney white?  It reminds me of a conversation a friend once overheard at the gym:  a little girl looked at the sports page of the Washington Post, pointed to a photo of a Black man, and asked: “Daddy, is he a criminal?”

Racial and gendered assumptions run deep in our society.  If we learn anything from Maxine Waters and April Ryan about this ongoing problem, it’s that we must keep calling it out even as we go back to work.

What’s your story?

#BlackWomenAtWork

Black Feminist Futures Ahead

February 24 Symposium features Dr. Tanisha Ford and discussions about Black feminist theory in higher education, activism, and popular culture.

Building upon the voices of millions of women who, just about a month ago, made clear their opposition President Trump’s call to misogyny, racism, and xenophobia, UC Women’s Center hosts a symposium this coming Friday, February 24 at Tangeman University Center entitled:  Creating Black Feminist Futures.  The Center for Race, Gender, and Social Justice proudly co-sponsors this event.  Continue reading “Black Feminist Futures Ahead”

Black Feminist Futures Ahead

Breaking the Mold?

Melania Trump’s actions suggest she may not be a traditional First Lady.

Could Melania Trump be challenging the traditional First Lady script?  She’s living in New York with her youngest son and recently declined to accompany her Japanese counterpart Akie Abe when she was visited Washington.  Is Mrs. Trump planning to remake the East Wing?   Continue reading “Breaking the Mold?”

Breaking the Mold?

Marching Ahead

Reflections on the Women’s March and What Comes Next

One week later, the Women’s March on Washington (WMW) keeps moving forward.  Women and their allies marched in all fifty states and around the world—over 600 demonstrations including an estimated 3 million people. All signifying their opposition to the Trump Administration’s agenda of hate and division.  The organizers have made clear, this movement is just getting started.

I participated in Cincinnati’s Sister March, where I was delighted to see current and former students, members of my church, colleagues, and friends.  We came from different walks of life, but shared a commitment to social justice. Two alums with whom I marched, Rebecca Zemmelman (’16) and Laura Thudium (’16), share their reflections on the March and what should come next below. Continue reading “Marching Ahead”

Marching Ahead

Feminism, Whiteness, and the Women’s March

The Women’s March promises an inclusive feminist movement. Thank goodness.

ashton-tuckerGuest Contributor:  Ashton Tucker  (’18)

Suffragettes Frances E. Willard, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.  21st century celebrities Amy Schumer and Lena Dunham.

What do these women have in common?

They’re all, inexplicably, feminist icons.  Maybe inexplicably is the wrong word.  Although each certainly has advanced or continues to advance womanhood in one way or another, their racism, either intentional or unintentional, often goes unnoticed.  They engage in white feminism – a form of feminism that operates as if the experience of white women is universal and that race and class are just added levels of oppression, as opposed to intermingling with gender.  The Women’s March on Washington has given me hope that women are embracing difference and inclusion in meaningful and powerful ways.  Continue reading “Feminism, Whiteness, and the Women’s March”

Feminism, Whiteness, and the Women’s March

“Pussy Riot” for Inauguration Day: It’s all about the Beer

Cincinnati Law alum Jen Cuesta (’14) talks about brewing beer for social justice.

So, I’m scrolling through my  FaceBook feed the other day and came across an article about women brewers combining efforts to create a “Pussy Riot” beer just in time for the Trump inauguration.  I just knew—OK, I hoped—one of my former students was involved.  And I was right! Jen Cuesta (’14) is a lawyer by day, brewer by night.  With friends Kate Power and Betsy Lay in Denver, Colorado, she co-founded Lady Justice Brewing (Lady J),  one of the brewers toasting to a better world as the 45th President takes the oath of office.

lady-justice-featured
Kate Power, Jen Cuesta, and Betsy Lay/Photo by the American Homebrewers Association

Lady J is a “philanthropic brewery”– 100% of its  profits for the new beer it debuts at tomorrow’s event, “Making Noise:  A Pussy Riot Beer,” will go  to the ACLU.  I was curious about how a recent law graduate wound up brewing beer for social justice on Inauguration Day, no less.  So I contacted Jen. An edited version of my interview follows.

Who and/or what is Lady Justice Brewing?

Lady Justice Brewing is a philanthropic brewery that donates all its profits over costs through a grant-making process to Colorado-based community organizations that promote the status and opportunity of women and girls. Lady J is also a L3C, a limited liability, low-profit company. It is a new tax designation that combines different parts of a for-profit company with the charitable goal of a non-profit. Continue reading ““Pussy Riot” for Inauguration Day: It’s all about the Beer”

“Pussy Riot” for Inauguration Day: It’s all about the Beer

Tyra’s Christmas

Governor Kasich should end Tyra Patterson’s 22-year wrongful incarceration.

For the twenty-second consecutive year, Tyra Patterson will spend Christmas in prison for crimes she didn’t commit.  It’s time for Governor Kasich to grant this woman clemency.

northeast-ohio-pre-release-center-cc30078da0b50e9aIn 1994, when she was 19, Tyra was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  In the wee hours of a September morning, Tyra and her friend took a walk and wound up embroiled in a robbery that ended in the murder of 15-year-old Michelle Lai.  Tyra left before any gunfire; but police arrested and subjected her to abusive questioning.  By the end, they had a confession.  A false one.  Tyra wasn’t the only young woman who succumbed to the state’s will.  Holly Lai Holbrook, the victim’s sister, says police and prosecutors were intimidating and urged her to say what was necessary to put Tyra behind bars.

But the truth that Holly shared at the scene was that Tyra was a bystander.  That Tyra played no part in harassing, stealing, or shooting that took her sister.

Now, after living with the contradiction between what she said in court and what she told the police that night, Holly has come forward to recant her testimony, even going so far as writing a letter to Governor Kasich. Continue reading “Tyra’s Christmas”

Tyra’s Christmas

Rise Up!

Talking back to post-election hate speech.

I walked into my office one recent Monday, coffee mug in hand and noticed the red light signaling that a voicemail awaited me.

Has it started already? 

That morning, my op-ed about post-election acts of hate on college campuses appeared in the Cincinnati Enquirer.  The piece discussed incidents at universities in Illinois, California, and Pennsylvania, complete with hypertext links,  and explained why, contrary to conservative pundits, student fears were based on reality and not a temper tantrum about Trump’s victory.  I praised institutions for taking action and argued that Mr. Trump’s campaign rhetoric gave license to  misconduct targeting people of color, Muslims, and frankly all the groups the candidate insulted and denigrated on his way to the White House.

Based on prior experiences, I was braced for negative responses from conservative readers in the comments section.  In truth, I had planned to avoid those like a Ted Nugent concert.  But, a voicemail?  Readers usually never called to complain. Maybe I was overreacting.  I decided to listen.

It started off innocuously enough.   Continue reading “Rise Up!”

Rise Up!

Mourning in America

Making sense of the election.

I had a dream.

On election night, a bright blue map would emanate from my flat screen TV.  We’d be elated by news of Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress.  From sea to shining sea, the results would repudiate Trump, his hate-filled campaign, and drive a stake in the heart of the Southern strategy of using race to leverage working class white votes.

We know how that turned out.  On Wednesday, I could barely bring myself to work.  Heart heavy, I felt as if I’d experienced a death.

What’s bugging me now is the attempt to negate the implications of Trump’s bigotry for the outcome.   For example, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof says we shouldn’t label Trump supporters as racists:  “many are good people who had voted for Obama in the past.”     Maybe they’re not, but they supported a racist, sexist xenophobe. Continue reading “Mourning in America”

Mourning in America