Category Archives: Society

But I Want Them to Live

Today is Trans Visibility Day. I see you. I love you. I am here for you.

These past few months have felt like a dark time for the trans community. I’m sorry.

We’re in a place right now where attacks on the LGBTQ community, and specifically trans folks, are coming fast and furious. Not just from a minority of bigots and haters, but from state governments and seemingly an entire political party. Not just a few red states (where these bills are passing and becoming law), but nearly the entire country.

I’ll say this as simply as I can: This is a civil rights issue. Some people want to deny LGBTQ people their civil rights because they some how think that’s wrong or feel threatened by it. But it’s discrimination, it’s rooted in hate, and it’s evil. It’s anti-American.

And no, I don’t care about your religious exemption or your fake concern for women’s sports or your gross and wrong conflation of abuse and homosexuality (ready for “grooming” to become the new scare-word?). There’s no excuse for hate.

Here’s why I think this issue is so simple: Kids are dying.

You either care about those kids and want to see them live, or you don’t.

Continue reading But I Want Them to Live

An Inspiring Quote in a Troubling Time

The news is really hard right now (as if it hasn’t been for months and years and… oh). Russia invaded Ukraine. Texas is trying to bully trans kids. People are trying to ban books and pretend racism wasn’t so bad and doesn’t exist today.

It’s just a lot.

It’s hard to focus, it’s hard to work, it’s hard to stop doom scrolling. (guilty)

When that happens, I find it best to focus on small acts of love and kindness.

So among other things, I shared this on social media today from my West St. Paul Reader accounts (nothing gives me more joy than using my platforms to be a positive voice):

“I could not look my granddaughter in the eye and tell her things needed to change but do nothing to change them.”

-KaeJae Johnson, the first Black candidate to run for municipal office in West St. Paul
Continue reading An Inspiring Quote in a Troubling Time

Rally for Trans Kids in Hastings

I went to the Rally for Trans Kids in Hastings today, in response to the bigoted hate poured out on Hastings school board member Kelsey Waits and her family by a ‘concerned parents’ group in the community. The group outed Waits’ 8-year-old trans child and has created an environment so hostile the family doesn’t feel safe and had to move.

Waits said it best in an MPR interview:

“Transgender kids are the most at-risk kids in our schools for suicide. Almost 50 percent of transgender students will attempt suicide, and that’s in Minnesota and nationwide. And what research is starting to show is that by supporting these kids, you decrease their risk of suicide. You’re saving their lives.”

Continue reading Rally for Trans Kids in Hastings

West St. Paul’s Black Lives Matter Mural

So my city, West St. Paul, made the New York Times this past week over a Black Lives Matter mural that has to come down for violating city ordinance. Then another Black man was killed by police in Minnesota on Sunday, Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center. Last night we had a metro-wide curfew.

It’s been a week. In the midst of a pandemic. After a summer of already doing this. During a trial where we were already reliving last summer.

I drafted a whole post about the mural controversy. It feels kind of pointless now.

But I’ll say a couple things…

I have rather ragey feelings about Black people killed by police.

I have rather mixed feelings about the mural.

Protest sign: "Matter" is the Minimum
My son and I attended a protest supporting Black Lives Matter at the Minnesota State Capitol in June 2020.
Continue reading West St. Paul’s Black Lives Matter Mural

Cory Booker: George Floyd Is a Referendum on Us

A couple weeks back Senator Cory Booker appeared on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert to talk about George Floyd and the protests and the reaction. It’s an incredible interview and I encourage you to watch it.

The whole interview is about half an hour, but there’s about a 15-minute chunk that gets away from the current politics and focuses on racism and this moment in America that is just powerful stuff.

Booker and Colbert have been discussing the protests in Washington D.C. and how President Donald Trump cleared out Lafayette Park for a photo opp, and Colbert asks what it’s like in D.C. right now and if this is a harbinger of things to come. Booker launches into a very personal and emotional response that is worth your time:

Continue reading Cory Booker: George Floyd Is a Referendum on Us

Ruth Richardson: A Story I need You to Hear

Ruth Richardson is a state legislator in the next town over. I’d vote for her if I could, but she’s not in my district. I’d vote for her because she is a giant of strength and conviction.

In the aftermath of the George Floyd murder, she shared a very personal story that I need everyone to hear. It gets at the heart of how things are different for Black people in America.

Richardson had to tell her Black son, Shawn, not to go for a run in the neighborhood: “I had to tell my little boy that you can’t run in our neighborhood.”

Continue reading Ruth Richardson: A Story I need You to Hear

George Floyd Aftermath

This morning our family went down to Minneapolis where George Floyd was killed. There’s basically a shrine at the corner of Chicago and 38th that’s blossoming with art and signs and flowers. It felt like visiting the Lynching Memorial, somber and quiet.

We also drove down Lake Street and saw the devastation from the looters.

It’s been a bit wild to see the near-universal condemnation of Floyd’s death and seeing protests erupt in hundreds of cities and all 50 states. It’s like we might actually reach a moment where change happens.

Our family also marched in a protest on Sunday. I carried a sign that said, “No more white silence,” because I’m so tired of white people (myself included) not being outraged about ongoing racial oppression.

Doing church while making my protest sign.

But as we’re a week or two removed from Floyd’s death and the violent riots, I’m wondering if I should have encouraged white people to be silent in a different way. I’m starting to see more and more white people speaking up on social media. Some are encouraging, and some less so.

It’s very obvious right now by what people say and what they don’t say where they stand. There are a lot of people who passionately proclaim, “Don’t tread on me,” who have been silent about literal tyranny in our streets. There are people who bemoan the violence and looting, but say nothing about police killing an unarmed black man in the street. And there are lots of white people with plenty to say who have done very little listening to the black community—or at best have cherrypicked a few conservative black sources who reinforce their racist ideas.

We see you.

Look, I don’t have a lot of answers here.

But I am seeing a lot of deeply white conversations about racism, and that’s a good sign that you’re missing something.

Listen to black voices experiencing oppression.

Don’t dismiss them when you find something uncomfortable or an idea you disagree with. Don’t throw out your ‘what abouts.’ Don’t throw up your own offenses—you being offended about the tone of the conversation or an accusation or a metaphor you don’t like pale in comparison to the real injustices the black community face on a regular basis.

This is hard work we have to do right now. I’m amazed at some of the progress we’ve already made—arrests, charges, national protest, etc.—but we have a long, long way to go.

As Ibram X. Kendi says in his book How to Be an Anti-Racist (a hard, challenging read), “There is no neutrality in the racism struggle.”

Or if Kendi is too “radical” for you, how about a fluffier source for the same idea:

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” –Bishop Desmond Tutu

Oh, Minneapolis

What a crap week. It’s bad enough dealing with a pandemic and all the stress and worry that entails. Then police violence and the murder of George Floyd. Then tear gas and more violence and more death and Minneapolis burning. I don’t have the words.

(Speaking of words, people like to quote Martin Luther King Jr. about non-violence, but he also spoke about riots. Some context on those comments is especially helpful.)

Since I don’t have words, two songs come to mind this week.

Let the People Be Free

The first is a protest song by Jayanthi Kyle called “Hand in Hand.” It was written in 2014 and, because of course, the lyrics are still quite relevant:

The day’s gonna come when I won’t march no more
But while my sister ain’t equal & my brother can’t breathe
Hand and hand with my family, we will fill these streets …

Mr. Policeman
I can’t breathe
Lay down your weapons and your badges and listen to me

Jayanthi is also in a chorus group called Give Get Sistet that’s pretty amazing. Nobody is doing performances right now, cuz pandemic, but they’d be an ideal group to bring in right now.

Oh, Minneapolis

The other song I thought of was Ben Kyle’s “Minneapolis.” The lyrics aren’t nearly as applicable, but the mournful “Oh, Minneapolis” captures about how it felt this morning to see images of the city smoldering.

O Minneapolis,
I saw you and Saint Paul kiss
Neath the moonlight in a Mississippi mist
Never saw a thing as beautiful as this
Oh Minneapolis

Rain down, purple rain (I wanna hear the sound)
I wanna feel the royal rain on me
I wanna feel the holy water running like a holy stream
I wanna be baptized in the city in the Mississippi

A Moment in Church: Women, Kavanaugh & Proverbs 31

I had a moment at church last week. The reading was Proverbs 31, and I had to read it to the congregation. Just a few days before, at book club, I listened quietly while we discussed two books on feminism. Proverbs 31 came up and the women in the room expressed frustration with the expectations that passage has put on them.

So, this frustration fresh on my mind, I had to step up to the podium and read Proverbs 31. For those who don’t know, it’s the account of the nearly perfect woman. In many Christian circles it’s held up as the example women are to aspire to. Continue reading A Moment in Church: Women, Kavanaugh & Proverbs 31

Asking the Right Question About This Moment in History

I’ve written about politics a lot lately. Most of it is hyper-local politics, because I feel like anything else is just noise, but locally I can make an impact. But I’ve been reluctant to write about national politics. It’s just so divisive and I feel like I’m only adding noise.

But I’ll do it now because this is one of those moments.

Before I get into it though, I want to refer back to a post I wrote on Inauguration Day. I talked about how this did not feel like “normal” political division. Trump ushered in something new. I have disagreed with the “other side” before, but I have never felt so alienated in my own country. (That’s certainly a statement of privilege, and I own that.)

So while I talk about current political issues, I urge you not to dismiss me as partisan hack whining that his side is losing. This is something much bigger than that.

What Would You Do?

Recently during a family vacation my family went to the National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, D.C. This is a fantastic, gut-wrenching new museum on the National Mall that everyone needs to go to.

Part of the exhibit included a lunch counter where you could sit down and work through a survey about the civil rights movement on a touch screen.

The questions often felt unfair. We know the historical outcome, so of course we know the “right” answer. Continue reading Asking the Right Question About This Moment in History