THE FOURTH OF JULY
In the past Independence Day has been a time for celebrating all the gains made over the years. It was a time to enjoy the work done by others to further combining our differences and similarities. It was a time of joy. Not this year. July 4, 2017, is almost a time of mourning. This is a time when we must do as Coretta Scott King said and remember, “Freedom and justice cannot be parceled out in pieces to suit political convenience. I don't believe you can stand for freedom for one group of people and deny it to others.” If one group’s freedoms are threatened then all are in danger of having their freedoms revoked.
We must educate ourselves to advance the independence of all. Maximilien Robespierre told us, “The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant.” It this time we are fortunate to have more technology to ascertain the truth. We can Google to learn as much or as little as we want. We can search to find out what the opposition thinks and is preparing to do to curtail our rights. We can be vocal. For as Audre Lorde said, “Your silence will not protect you.” Shall you remain silent while your brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers and all other relatives of our human race be enslaved or will you stand up and fight for justice for all? July 4th is a celebration of independence but for whom?
What does July 4th mean to marginalized people; those threatened with deportation; LGBTQ people whose rights are being stripped; the killing of the Voters Rights and the Affordable Care Act? Nothing. The only way to celebrate by agitating. No, this July 4th is not a happy occasion. It is a time not to worry but to fight. It is a time to gather together and fight. It is a time to not worry about diversity but inclusivity. It is a time to march, write, protest and if a necessary storm the gates of the "halls of justice." Only by coming together can we make America great. Not great again because it never was but it can become great. It can become the “land of the free and the home of the brave."”
My question to you is what are you doing to effect change?
To All Happy Pride:
It is Pride weekend and all will be celebrating and that’s good, however, many will feel unaccepted in the LGBTQ community. With all the pain experienced over the years and the hostility foisted upon my community, I find it unconscionable that any group who has been marginalized can, in turn, exclude their brothers and sisters.
Audre Lorde expressed this feeling. Tom Clayton in his piece “Gay Will Never Be the New Black: What James Baldwin Taught Me About My White Privilege” quotes Lorde who said, “[W]hen I, a Black woman, saw no reflection in any of the faces [in the lesbian clubs of New York] week after week, I knew perfectly well that being an outsider in the Bagatelle had everything to do with being Black.”
There are hard-core lesbians who reject those not like them. I understand the fights you went through and the degradation heaped upon you yet now is not the time for separation. There is no time good for separation. In numbers, there is strength and power. Allies are a necessity in any struggle and yes, we are in a war to keep the benefits we’ve gained. The current administration is doing all it can to destroy years of progress. And although I am concerned about the actions it’s taking I am more disturbed by the comments and actions of my community.
Patriarchy still reigns in both white men and those of color. What I’ve heard is particularly “white” LGBTQ people are distancing themselves from people of color. We cannot have this. Either we stick together or we’ll die one by one. No one will go back into the closet after tasting freedom. What I worry about are the isms that are part of the LGBTQ community. Sexism and racism cannot be tolerated at a time when we are all vulnerable.
Todd Clayton states “white people feel cheated.” The society in which they were born is supposed to be secure but it is not because of their sexual orientation from Clayton’s “Gay Will Never Be the New Black: What James Baldwin Taught Me About My White Privilege.” What this signifies is the need for coming together. The pretense of superiority gets no one anywhere once sexual orientation is found out. He goes on to quote Baldwin with, “the gay world as such is no more prepared to accept black people than anywhere else in society.” This is significant in the myriad of struggles going on now.
No one battle is more significant than another. They all derive from a system designed for the so-called superiority of “white people.” These skirmishes proclaim if you’re not “white” and a heterosexual male then you’re nothing. So, let’s unite and destroy racism, sexism and any other that is divisive. Pretending things are fine is like putting one’s head in the sand against a storm. Won’t work.
“Your silence will not protect you,” Audre Lorde.
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
This section of Emma Lazarus’ poem from New Colossus, I interpret to mean all are welcome. If they are then America is not a melting pot. That would mean people forget their heritage and become a homogenized culture. We are not. Take New York City for example. It is a very diverse city with parades that celebrate: Chinese Lunar; St. Patrick’s Day, Greek Independence, National Tartan Day, Persian, Puerto Rican, Philippine Independence Day, Gay Pride March, and of course the Caribbean Day Parade. Now this is a small sample of the people who populate New York City. Of course, with parades there is ethnic (a word I hate) food neighborhoods.
But to classify NYC as a melting pot is ludicrous. People haven’t given up their heritage because they arrived in the United States except those that came bound in chains. And even the formerly chained find ways to revel in the history they have been able to extract. Since 1968 Harlem has hosted the African-American Day Parade to highlight their history and salute African people throughout America and the world for their outstanding achievements.
These various groups make up a city of seven to eight million people. Why do you think these parades take place? To celebrate the heritage intrinsic to the group. Watching any of them one realizes most people came here for a better life (whatever that means to them). And yet most still think of themselves as Americans. Parades symbolize the legacy, heritage and symbolism of respective countries and ideas within the American society.
America as NYC is a stew with each group adding its own special flavor. We need to remember as immigrants (which we all are) that we bring a special essence to the American soil. But we don’t need to be nor are we all alike.
The Trump administration's plan to remove LGBTQ demographics from the National Survey of Older Americans is a disastrous step backwards. It denies the worth and existence of this group and as David Stacey, head of policy for Human Rights Campaign told the Associated Press, "If you deny the problem exists by not having the data, it certainly makes it easier to pursue the policy you prefer without regards to reality." It also forces people to hide and deny who they are. How so you may ask? According to Meredith Lillie in her article VISIBILITY IS THE KEY TO SUPPORTING INVISBLE DIVERSITY, shares her ideas on how a person in a heterosexual relationship shows it, “…engagement and wedding rings, family photos, conversations about family, weekends and anniversaries, reference to husband or wife and bringing them to work.” This is an open picture. If Trump has his way seniors and younger LGBT people will not have the same freedom. She further states regarding the workplace that fear of finding out will hamper productivity. Taking this idea and expanding on it they and especially seniors may not seek life-saving medical help because they may have HIV. They will have to be circumspect in their relationships to get housing, transportation and even psychiatric help.
Is this a path to remove other groups? The removal of the LGBTQ demographic was the only one taken off the survey. All seniors need to be counted to receive the necessary services of health, housing, and food however, LGBTQ seniors may have more pressing needs since they may be more isolated. Eliminating this demographic query might leave many without access to adequate help. Serving a lifetime sentence of discrimination has left many in this group at or below the poverty level. Past discrimination affected the ability for advancement or for some any meaningful employment thus leaving LGBTQ with less personal resources. This again diminishes the quality of access to necessary assistance.
In a letter to the editor to the Advocate Michael Adams, CEO of SAGE also responded to these cuts. He said, “Caring about our LGBT seniors means making sure they have access to publicly-funded senior services, which can literally be life-saving.” Some seniors live isolated lives and that may be on purpose however, many LGBT seniors have been rejected by family so their isolation is that much harder. Where do they turn if not to places which have their best interests at heart? All seniors need not only care but a sense of community. Places like SAGE gives them that. Their dignity remains intact and they’re free to be who they are.
Removing questions related to LGBT seniors may have a “chilling effect on our community,” (Cooper). How you may ask? “It will force people to hide. To be ashamed. To be fearful.” The closet door that was forcefully opened by all the heroes and heroines will not only be closed but nailed shut. SAGE says, “There are more than 3 million LGBT older Americans who often confront severe challenges.” These elders are more likely to live alone and be single (2x) according to SAGE and 3-4 times “less likely to have children help care for them…” This means our senior population will fall through the cracks with no chance of survival.
Fighting this planned disaster is the focal point of all LGBT advocates. If the Trump Administration is successful seniors today and in the future, will be invisible. If not seen then they don’t exist. The Annual Program Performance Report for Centers for Independent Living revised a draft and excluded a question on sexual orientation. Kelly Mack said, “the sample size insufficient to be reliable.” Advocates question Mack’s data claim. She is spokeswoman for the Administration for Community Living a division of HHS overseeing the two surveys. So the administration has decided to delete questions about sexual orientation from both the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants and the abovementioned survey.
Interesting that Kathy Greenlee who was HHS’ assistant secretary for aging under President Obama states, “I view this as a policy change, not the end of a pilot,” as Mack claims. It is a direct strike at a segment of the population some wish did not exist or would just disappear. Ms. Greenlee also said, “… the addition of the LGBT question was never envisioned as a temporary entry.” From that I gather the Trump administration has done an about face on protecting the rights of LGBT seniors. My question is what group next?
Seniors are the reservoir of information of a time when life was different. They hold the keys to the fights that were engaged for all rights. Denying one group will if not destroy it however, it is denying the war fought for inclusion. We are a diverse society and yet inclusion seems to be something sorely lacking here. This is a fight because if one group gets excluded then as I asked above who’s next? It is not about my group being more oppressed but about the dignity of all seniors. The Trump camp has shown it cannot be trusted to keep its promise. Adams states, “Our first indication of where this president’s idle promises were headed came in January.” What they did was remove any mention of LGBT rights from the White House website then followed that despicable act with the deletion of the Office of National AIDS policy page. What the administration is doing is erasing a segment of the American population one heinous act at a time. Each year more people reach the age of sixty which of course means more LGBTQ seniors. Where will they go for help on housing, transportation, medical conditions and other services if not counted?
One final note, will the newly disenfranchised LGBT seniors be accepted in centers that cater to heterosexuals? Will we be allowed to discuss our lives in group discussions or in personal conversations or will it be we let you be here but don’t care about your struggles? SAGE is an example of openness. It sees people as just that people. One is not told you don’t belong because you’re not like us (LGBTQ). It works to foster an atmosphere of acceptance, love, compassion and encouragement.
Adams, Michael. Who Would Go After LGBT Elders? The Trump Administration The Advocate 2017
Lillie, Meredith. VISIBILITY IS THE KEY TO SUPPORTING INVISBLE DIVERSITY January 19, 2017 http://diversityinclusion.com.au/new-blog/2017/1/19/visibility-is-the-key-to-supporting-invisible-diversity
Sedensky, Matt. Federal surveys trim LBGT questions, alarming advocates Associated Press 2017
As I wandered around Greenwich Vilage I caught the sounds of chanting. Where, why and who? Then down they came turning into The Avenue of Americas toward 8th Street.. Who you ask? Women. Thousands marching togeethr to protect the rights of all As I watched I saw an array of inspiring and thought-provoking posters. It wasn't only women marching. Men joined the cavlacade of marchers sporting posters like "I support women's right to choose." Men carried their children up high and walked holding their hands.
The most intriguing sign said. "Resistance is Fertile." It made me laugh as I remembered in Star Trek the Next Generation the Borg saying "Resistance is Futile." However, looking at this new incarnation what does it mean? My take is resistance will grow like a well-watered plant. As more ideas crop up to eliminate the hard-fought rights more people will resist and take to the streets.
Resistance is a seed that will continue to grow forcing Congress to realize we are not lambs led to slaughter. We wil irrighate the seed of resistance by demonstrating, marching. protesting and writing our Congress representatives, newspapers, each other and blogging. Each and every acto of the-man-who-is-not-my-president and his minions will be scrutinized, disected and eventually destroyed.
We of a certain age remember pictures of hoses and dogs turned on Civil Rights protesters.
Those of an age earlier remember the holocaust and the internment of the Japanese. Going back others will remember women bieng spat on and attack as they sought their rights. And stepping back to the War Between the States people can read about the Riots of 1863 when blacks were lynched by stirred up crowds. So no we won't forget the pain of the ancestors who knew oppression is oppression is oppression. Many of us will become dead martyrs rather than lambs led to slaughter. Nothing, and I mean nothing lasts forever. Think about the Berlin wall.
Keep marching, protesting, demonstrating and fighting for the rights of every person in the United States and the world. History will remember you.