Tag Archives: equality

We need to talk about white privilege

We need to talk about white privilege.

We need to talk about white privilege because many people refuse to believe it exists. I know white privilege exists because – and it has taken me a long time to feel I can admit this publicly – I perpetrate it. We need to talk about white privilege because I feel more uncomfortable when walking down the street at night among black hooded boys, than among white hooded boys.

We need to talk about white privilege because I have been the victim of crime twice – and both times the perpetrators were white. We need to talk about white privilege because once I was in a potentially dangerous situation where a drunkenly out of control homeless (white) person was pushing me for money, and a black man helped me out. Yet, I still feel safer surrounded by white people in some low income areas.

We need to talk about white privilege because even the people who know it exist sometimes respond with ‘and who is committing the majority of the crimes, huh?’. I don’t need to know who are committing the crimes, I just need to know that there are black people out there who would never commit a crime, but live under the constant suspicion that they will.

We need to talk about white privilege because even the people who know it exists sometimes respond with ‘so what? Can’t ‘they’ pull themselves out of it, and rise above it?’. Yet Psychological Science knows the effect of a single instance of telling someone that they are less likely to be successful at a task do drastically reduces their success. Yet people are growing up in constantly being told that they are more likely commit crime, they are less likely to finish school, they are more likely to have a broken marriage….

We need to talk about white privilege because we accept that it is a dreadful thing to do to raise a child telling then that they won’t succeed, and we love public health messages which tell us that if women are told their capabilities are limited their success will be limited, but somehow it is OK to tell whole races of people that their capabilities are limited.

(Above is an embed of the famous Verizon ad encouraging women, but if it doesn’t display, you can see it here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XP3cyRRAfX0)

We need to talk about white privilege because women need positive messages, support and encouragement,to overthrow unfair expectations, but I am told that colors need to stop making excuses.

We need to talk about white privilege because I am so damn sick of hearing about black-on-black crime without hearing that 84% of US murdered white people* are white on white (http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/htus8008.pdf). And that’s not the damn point anyway.

We need to talk about white privilege because I don’t want my son growing up in a world where people are treated differently because of how they look.

We need to talk about white privilege because that in no way takes away from rich privilege, or male privilege (or sometimes female privilege), or Christian privilege, or high IQ privilege, or having a PhD privilege.

We need to talk about white privilege because it is oppressing people, and people are dying because of it.

Please, let’s talk about white privilege.

This was a very hard post to write, and I am really worried about a backlash. But I don’t want to be someone who buries this in the sand, and won’t acknowledge it, and let’s it continue. I want to talk about, understand, and remove white privilege.

* Thank you to my friend Robert for correcting the original statement.

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How this right-wing Christian Tory girl ended up supporting Obama

… Or [alternative title]:

“I am sorry I was an ass-hat for the last 6 months”.

But it takes me a while to get to that part in this post. Patience if you will, please.

So, back in good old Blighty, I was actually noticeably right-wing. I was a Young Conservative. I dated a former Young Conservative. I was devastated when he broke my tax-reducing, spending-cutting heart. I cried when “New Labour” got in. I rejoiced when they were out (although not at the coalition replacement). I… OK, OK, you get the picture. So, it seemed clear to me that when I moved to the US, although I liked Obama as a person, I would support the Tory-party allies: The Republicans.  Right? Right?

No. I don’t so much hate them, as actively fear Romney becoming President. I cry at the thought of it. That’s one helluva turnaround in less than three years. So, I began to ask myself: why? How the heck did this happen? How did it happen living in Alabama (although, living in Alabama was probably causal, but that’s not the point of this post). While vaguely pondering it, I did notice other people making the same switch. Fellow displaced Brits looking confused and perplexed and going “hang on, when did I become a leftie?”. Indeed even the Tory party in the UK is struggling to love the Republicans: Cameron is trying to repair relations with his ‘sister’ party, but keeps making clear statements against Romney-Ryan.

How did this happen? I was genuinely curious. After much thinking and mulling and chatting and yelling and crying, I believe it came down to this: in the UK a lot of the ‘social’ policies are pretty done – yeah we tweak them, yeah there are groups asking for more, yes there is inequality It’s no wonderland). But it not on the same scale as the US. The decision, when voting, comes largely down to economics. Even ‘social’ policies: education, welfare etc are largely discussed in purely economic terms. I tend to be right wing economically (a fiscal conservative?), and so to vote right was an easy decision.

In the US many, many mainstream (by which I mean large) groups are fighting for basic civil rights, which I believe should be extended to them: I am socially liberal. So, with my broad sense economic views not changing, I had to choose: Right vs Left: Economics vs. Society. I chose civil rights. Here is why:

I looked at the economy, and the economic policies offered by the two candidates. I do buy the argument that Obama maybe could have done better economically. I don’t know this, I am sort of 55% on that side, 45% on the side that he couldn’t. I don’t know if Romney would do better, because he won’t lay out a damn plan, nor stick to a stated policy. (I did go and read his 8-page plan on his website. About 3 pages was criticizing Obama, about 3 were saying right wing in general is wonderful. ~2 concerned his actual plan, which was vague and non-specific).

Romney changes all the time, many people say Obama could have done better. So, while I may not be confident handing the economy over to Romney, I am not confident handing it over to Obama either. Kind of a dead heat. My history is to think of more fiscally conservative policies as better in times of strife, so I might actually just tip in favor of the Republican party. But. And it is a big but:

If Obama could have done better (and we don’t know that he could have), I don’t think it is significantly better. That is: the world is in a huge economic recession. The Western world is collapsing under financial distress. I doubt anyone could have done more than Obama, such that enough people’s lives were hugely significantly changed. We don’t know if traditionally left- or right- wing policies really work better. Historians and top economists argue about it. But it does seem pretty clear to me that no one in the current world situation could have made a giant leap of difference to the lives of most every day Americans (sure… ‘tell that to someone unemployed’ you say… but I am talking here on a grand scale). Sadly we do vote for ourselves, and our friends, and our situation and looking around, on an economic level I don’t see anyone changing the lives and happiness of those Americans I see by ‘fixing the economy’ on such a scale that it out-weighs the difference social change could make.

This point was first brought home to me when I was hiking with a girl (let’s call her Hot-Stuff A) living in Colorado. She was given great job offers at my Alabama institution and I said to her “Come on, you have to be tempted to take one up, right?”. She looked at me and said: “I can’t. I simply can’t. I am married to a woman, and she would have no rights. No protection.” I was floored, because I suddenly realized it was true. Hot-Stuff A is indeed married to Hot-Stuff B. If they moved to Alabama, both could legally be fired for being gay. Unlikely, but LIKELY s that Hot-stuff B could be denied healthcare, because Healthcare policies are allowed to only be extended to spouses ‘as recognized by the state of X’. Alabama does not recognize gay marriage. So Hot-Stuff B could, and would, be denied it. Furthermore if either got sick, their life long partner could be denied hospital visitation rights: because they are not recognized as family. Their wills could not be recognized, or legally contested by family, because in the eyes of Alabama these girls are not married, and so not family.

That’s bad. That causes actually misery and pain. Britain may wrangle about whether gay people are ‘married’ or in a ‘civil partnership’ but they do not wrangle over basic civil rights. I was horrified, horrified, that two law-abiding people were prisoners in their own state, because they happen to love someone of the same sex.

It was, really shocking to me. And I think it was the turning point. I opened my eyes to the media portraying real, and horrendous stories of people in these situations and saw the misery it caused.

Then I met a girl, a single-Mom at my new job. She works hard. She is what the rightest-of right would call a maker, not a taker. Her 13 year old girl has a genetic condition. The 13 year old (not that it should matter) is a very smart, very functioning girl – I think I last saw her reading an adult book. A very smart, very functioning, very happy and productive 13 year old, who happens to have expensive physical needs. That’s crummy enough, but the Mum was offered another job, and couldn’t take it, because the insurance offered with the job did not cover pre-existing conditions.

So… she could not advance her career, she could not make more money (be more of a ‘maker’), because she could not guarantee her daughter adequate healthcare (she would earn too much for Medicaid in that State). As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Mum told me that she had sat down and worked out that the daughter would exceed her lifetime maximum by the time she was 17. What is this lifetime maximum of which you speak? I hear you Brits say. Oh… well, that is the maximum U.T.’s health insurance will pay out, over a lifetime, for any one person. I.e. at 17 this girl will have no medical coverage. No guarantee of such. I can’t even imagine what it is like to be facing that, at her mother.

Another case: when signing up for health benefits I met a lady from CA who had moved because her cancer treatment exceeded the cost her insurance company would pay. U.T. did accept pre-existing conditions, so she moved here to get it covered. Let me spell it out: the woman had breast cancer. She was afraid of dying. She had to move across the country, away from her friends and family, support and medical doctors to be able to afford treatment.

I looked around and really saw that some social change could make a whole lot of difference to people’s lives. I may not think ObamaCare is the best solution. But it is, at least, a solution. ‘Repeal and Replace’ with some unclear (and frankly untrustworthy) hazy guidelines is not a solution. ObamaCare will at least improve the lives of these individuals. Immeasurably. More than I think an upswing in the economy – or at least, more than I think an upswing in the economy attributable to just one person / one party – could do.

I don’t have time to write about all the cases I have met / discovered. People unable to get safe abortions (do I ‘agree’ with abortion? No. Would I ever deny anyone their right to follow their own ethical code and chose? No.). Kids committing suicide because many politicians in the US want to send out the message ‘being gay is wrong’ (according to who? YOUR God? That is not MY God? What if I don’t believe in God?). Ryan who signed a bill trying to make IVF and IUDs illegal. Endless examples of people’s lives getting worse that Obama would make better.

And lest you think I support Obama because I am a do-gooder only looking out for others, let me assure you, this is not the case. Because then, then, it got personal.

First I went to get birth control for my impending marriage. My insurance company didn’t cover the IUS / IUD (‘tiz abortion, doncha know. Sigh.). I couldn’t afford it. Instead, I got a prescription for valium and some hormones that sent me insane. I gave up on those (it was either that or give up on my marriage… which nearly happened as I went so loopy) and failed to find an affordable solution. By January I was still saving up for the cost of an IUD. By February I was pregnant. Nuff said.

I moved to Texas in June. 4 months pregnant. Not sure why, but I suffered pre-term labor. Sadly, Texas doesn’t cover individuals healthcare when they first move. I had only a ‘help hotline’ to call. I spent many night in tears, scared I was losing my baby, until my coverage kicked in. It worked out well, but for the first time I was forced to face the consequence of putting healthcare in the hands of money-makers with minimal regulations: the loss of people’s children.

Then I was denied maternity leave. FMLA doesn’t kick in as I have not been at U.T. long enough, and anyway, I am the only earner. I can’t go unpaid for 3 months. Luckily, I have a very flexible job, which I can do from home, and very kind and understanding mentors and bosses. We have figured it out. But there was no guarantee of that. The suggestion of healthcare companies I called trying to find short term insurance coverage for pregnancy (which is, of course, a pre-existing condition)? “Don’t change jobs”. Ah, so stay at a lower status, lower paid job and lose the opportunity to do well (academic jobs are scarce) because I am a woman? I see.

Oh, and I find out that C-sections are considered by some insurance companies to be a pre-existing condition. So, should I have one, I may have to make the decision: change jobs and not have children (because their birth would not be covered, and I am not sure I’ll ever have a spare $30,000 lying around), or stay where I am and have the possibility of more children. So, essentially: my career will be held back, because I am a woman. Because – I don’t see men having to make this choice… I suppose they may have to make it on their wife’s behalf. But, overall, I still see this as a woman’s rights issue.

I also have written about this before. I am sick of being told how to live out my religion. Yes, I am Christian. Yes, in my eyes I am a practicing Christian. But no, in my eyes, this does not mean gay marriage should be illegal (if Christians are harping on about the term ‘marriage’ know it was around before the Bible. So just get another term. Let gay people be married, and straight Christians be ‘Bible-married’ or whatever, just don’t base rights on that). I am used to being in a country where I am able to choose how I live my religion (no, I won’t have an abortion, yes, I will attend a gay friend’s wedding) and not told that my interpretation is wrong. I have never lost so much religious freedom as a Christian as when I came to the US.

So, I guess I looked at the options. And, no, I don’t think Obama is perfect. No, I don’t think he has done the perfect job. Nor necessarily the very best. But he has done something, and he will reach in and improve the lives of many – far more than Romney will. Romney will not make changes that affect so many people’s lives this profoundly – is my belief.

So why do I write all this? Well, thinking it through made me realize two things, that made me happier.

(1) I don’t have to hate all Republican supporters.

This is my “sorry I was an ass-hat for 6 months” moment.

I always realized that there were many Democrats I did not agree with, and did not respect. But, I found it hard to see the flip side with Republican-supporters. That there are some I realy can respect and love. There are still many Republican supporters I do not agree with, and pray hard not to judge (no… I really do). But there are also many who would like to see the problems above ‘fixed’, they just don’t have the ‘at any cost’ stance that I do. Or, they don’t think Obama can fix them. Or they think Romney can. Or they just prioritize differently.

I  fully admit there are many worthy and good causes I just don’t feel passionately enough to be swayed by: saving the environment is one of them. It is not a good thing, but it is true. I try to recycle, I try to minimize waste, I am happy to do my part. But I am not going to seriously put myself out, and  don’t really care about it (sorry 😦 ). It is what it is. People can have different priorities and can be just as compassionate. Who is to say which priorities are ‘right’ or ‘more worthy’. Not me guv’nor.

So, thinking through calmly and logically helped me remove my animosity to some people I dearly love. And I am sorry if I seemed mean or judgmental of you before – truly. That is indeed not how I live out my faith.

(2) It helped me navigate the insane media circus that is the US at election time.

Seriously Brits, think of the mud-slinging we do to our celebs. The US is actually nicer to its celebs than we are, but seems to treat its politicians as we treat Jordan. The US media at election time is an ugly, ugly place. And I used to read all the left media and get so outraged and angry at the right. Furious. Upset to tears. Almost beyond reconciling. The right does it too… and then I would get mad at how misrepresented the left was.

Then, I realised that 1/2 of what the media was up in a furor about, I didn’t care about. Do I care that Tagg Romney said he wanted to punch Obama? No. Looking above, that has nothing to do with why I support Obama.

Do I care that Mitt Romney said the humorous comment that he was brought “binders full of women”? No. He mispoke, but it was a debate and I don’t think the hysterical interpretation was what was in his heart. But I do care that when asked the question of what he would do to help women’s equality, he basically said “I’ll create more jobs in general and women can then have access to them” because that does not even touch on what bothers me so much about women’s rights (or lack of) as laid out above.

So, that is how I became an Obama supporter. But that is also how thinking through why that happened helped me be a little happier.

Oh, and to all those who want to say ‘If America is so tough for you: GO HOME’ I do understand your viewpoint. And I don’t mean to whale on America. There are a lot of great things here, and this country has been good to me. And, much as I appreciate a lot about this country, I would like to go home, very much. Indeed, I got married under the supposition that that would likely happen. But my husband examined it some more, and if I did go, I could have to choose between him and my country, and I couldn’t legally take my child. So, while I may have annoyed you, please have some sympathy too. I am not sure I wouldn’t live my life a little differently if I had known this is how it would end up.

On a more positive note, here is the top Google image for the search ‘cutest kitten ever”:


Image credits

http://egbertowillies.com/2012/10/10/jon-stewart-deconstructs-mitt-romneys-promisesliesjournalists-no-longer-serve-their-purpose-video/

http://www.addictinginfo.org/2012/05/11/stephen-colbert-slams-anti-gay-christians/
http://cutestkittenever.tumblr.com/ <— check this website out.

34 & 35 weeks! And our maternity leave plans

34 week bump

Nearly 35 weeks! Officially 5 to go, so I guess we are looking at a 3-7 week time frame, which seems VERY SOON. It is hitting me that I will miss being pregnant. I will miss my bump, miss the ‘pregnancy look’, miss how much I love Oreos 🙂 OK, OK, I will also totally miss Wes running around after me too. I am still feeling great, but I do tire out more, which frustrates me. I am just back from a conference in San Antonio, and the sessions were 7am – 7.30 pm. Plus, some social/work dinners in the evening. I HAD to crash out most afternoons, and spend 3-6 in the hotel room, having a nap and then resting. Which annoyed me, but I guess is par for the course this late on. I also realized that I work super hard all week, fading a bit by Friday, and then crash at the weekend with at least one duvet day. The conference was Thurs-Mon, so I didn’t get a weekend, and I think that was part of the problem. In the grand scheme of things, it is not really a problem though: I got a lot out of the conference and had a great time.

5 weeks to go!

So… 5 (3-7) weeks to go, eh? I am mostly done with my crazy / crusty birth prep plans. I am just focusing on (1) some good positioning: finishing up my chiropractic treatment, brief daily inversions (20 seconds), pelvic tilts and trying to sleep in a good position (I failed to do this in the hotel); (2) My squats are going to start in earnest now – I am challenging myself to 300 a day (!); (3) getting good sleep in each night (it is frustrating that I can’t work and write grants late into the night at the moment, but it is so); and, finally, (4) eating 6 dates a day.

6 dates a day I hear you say? WTF? Yeah, really! check it out:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21280989

Can’t do any harm, and is probably nutritionally better than the Oreo / cake / ice cream sugar fixes I seem to have become dependent on.

We have been keeping up with our weekly ultrasounds. It’s good and bad. The good: Firework is doing awesomely, and passes his biophysical profile way quicker than expected. He also seems to maintain a good position: head down, starting to get into the pelvis, and facing towards my back. The not so good news is that the fluid is increasing, when it is supposed to be decreasing at this stage. So, when the OB’s view that I was ‘on the charts, just not a very good position on the charts’, has been refined to ‘off the charts’. The great chart of acceptability (my term) decided that women’s amniotic fluid should be under 20, but goes up to 25. I was hovering at around 23, so the high-risk OB said ‘eh… it’s not great, some people would let it fly, we’ll just watch you.’ This week it was up to 27…

What does this mean? No idea. Risk of premature labor, but at this stage, I am not too worried about it. Baby could go into distress… but he really does seem a happy little chappy. The most worrying thing is that the force of all the water, when it breaks, gushing out of me could cause a cord prolapse (DON’T GOOGLE IT UNLESS YOU HAVE TO, it’s not good. Seriously not good). So, when I see my OB in 1.5 weeks, I will talk to her about whether I should come straight into hospital when labor starts, rather than labor at home, as is my desire. At least then I would be in a good place to uh… ‘mop up’ and damage caused by gushing water. Yeah, terrible pun.

So, we don’t know what it means, other than that my bump is fairly ginormous, and I am carrying around an extra 2 lbs of water, which is theoretically harder on my body. But as my weight gain is still 20-21 lbs, I can’t really complain, eh?

Big Mamma 🙂

But still so many blessings to count. With my very wonky, and very small pelvis and my excess fluid I was extremely likely to have a weirdly placed baby. Not so: as I said, he is head down and facing back. I truly do attribute this to spinning babies and the chiropractic. And feeling great still: lots of energy, no backache, and I can even sleep on my front or back should my body so desire (weird image, I know).

34 week bump

So, with not much to report, I will discuss our maternity leave plans. In the grand old scheme of things, there is no maternity leave in Texas. I come from a culture where all my friends were home for 8 months with their baby, and it was just unheard of to put a baby in daycare until 6 months at least (actually, I was at a childminders before then, but I don’t know of anyone since). We can’t afford an in-home nanny, all our family are far away, and the thought of putting our wee one in group daycare when he was very wee, was just not something I could sit with. I pass no judgement on how anyone else chooses to raise their child. I personally think MY baby needs a full-time at-home experience for 6 (or maybe I need that – who knows?), preferably with a parent (at least until he gets some object permanence). But, I think of myself as a ‘true’ feminist: that is, I am for promoting equality (even if you have to give allowances to one sex to help them achieve that equality), not just women’s rights: so I had no reason to think one parent would be any better than another. So my husband and I put our heads together and figured Wes would stay home with Firework. My plan is to work from home for a good 6 weeks, going in as I am able and when I am needed: then back to full time. Wes will have the little un.

In fact, given Firework’s timing with my job change, we knew we had about 5 months in Texas before his arrival. 5 months in which (assuming a dip in productivity when FW arrives) I had to work like a proverbial to make up for any lost productivity. Wes would presumably take a few weeks to find a job… a week to start. 3 months of him working just didn’t seem worth it. So he stayed at home from the get-go, preparing to take on the job of raising Firework on a day to day basis.

So… I know a lot of people wonder: how has that worked out? How has it been? Obviously there was an adjustment period (for both of us) and that was a little tough – we moved tired and hormonal. I had a new job to adjust to, and a whole host of new responsibilities. Wes had a new life to adjust to. There was the odd fight 🙂 But… we did adjust. I dealt with some of my jealousy that Wes’ weekends are truly his weekends: I often have little ‘tasks’ to do (boring shopping, tidying my study etc) that I wish didn’t encroach upon my free time. Wes dealt with the fact that being at home could be boring, and that it does involve tasks you really don’t want to do – like all jobs. He says that on balance, he prefers it (being at home). I say on, on balance, no question: I prefer it.

Overall, it has been awesome for us, and in ways I didn’t expect. While driving to San Antonio, I had to think: was this choice worth the $2,000 Wes might bring in per month, plus the $400 we had to find for medical coverage? When it comes to raising your child in the manner you choose: of course, no question. But now, before the child? It has still been eye-openingly wonderful to me. I love feeling so cared for: Wes cooks dinner (and is getting really good at it!), and does most of the chores, so he helps me so much: he always knows where X item of clothing is and what foods I really like eating (like, he notices the foods I claim to like, but shove around my plate: hello most vegetables 😉 ). He knows a day-to-day side of me that he was just too tired or busy to see before. Also, Wes ‘maxes out’ easily: after a day from work he might watch a show or two with me, but mostly he wanted to zone out, play video games and surf the net. I ‘max out’ too: but when I max out, I want to talk and be near him. Now, when I come home exhausted and stressed, Wes is ready to spend time with me. We have just sat and talked and shared trashy TV and lazed on the sofa together way more in the last 4 months in Texas, than the last 2 years in Alabama. We’re closer. We ‘get’ each other more (although we still sit firmly on opposite sides of the political divide). It’s nice. In fact, it is wonderful. It is a glimpse of a life that yes, I think is worth upwards of $2,500 a month – although we are not exactly rich, and I baulk even as I type it. And, I recognize that I am lucky enough to have a job where I can afford to type that – you know?

I guess, I feel very grateful that I really now am living the life I wanted to lead when I threw away my 13-year long law school dream. I said I wanted to do something different: I wanted to (1) do something that made a good difference to people’s lives and (2) have a family life. A real, someone-at-home, close knit, advert family-life. But life gets in the way of that: academia is not so conducive to not only being home, but giving your all when at home. I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to try the lifestyle I dreamed of growing up and to find that it worked for me.

Oh, Wes thinks my belly has ‘dropped’ – do you? Is he coming soon?

Image credits

http://www.fitnessandfuel-la.com/2011/07/baking-with-dates-to-reduce-calories-sugar-and-fat/

A few thoughts on the new immigration law….

It is a sad day for me. There are so many things I love about Alabama, I even wrote a post defending it against the popularized view. But slowly, I have been faced more and more with the stereotypes, and I have had to give in. I no longer want to live here, and I certainly don’t want to raise children here. I have met many wonderful people here, and I have learned many wonderful things from them. But this new immigration law was the final straw, and here is why:

The new law states that if there is “reasonable suspicion” about someone legal status to be here, the police can stop them and request they show their immigration status, and can hold them “without bond”. All non US citizens are required to carry their immigration papers with them, at ALL times, by law. This overrides the previous requirement that we carried our passport; now we have to carry forms such as our DS-2019, which can only be replaced twice EVER.

Clearly this is deeply impractical (I go hiking in Alabama for several days and I know it is going to rain and I am supposed to carry this with me, when it will likely get damaged? I go to a music festival and I am expected to carry around several flimsy pieces of paper?), but I *guess* this could be circumvented if the US produced some card like the US State ID that was more practical. But, it is not about practicality to me. It is about making anyone who looks, or sounds ‘different’ a second class citizen.

Let me explain. Currently, in the UK and the US there are laws to protect individuals from law enforcers discriminating against them because of how they look, or how they speak (and actually for many other reasons, including in the UK, their sexuality and religion… the US is not universally quite so… enlightened). You cannot be stopped and searched, or detained for these reasons (hence in high areas of knife crime in the UK, where stop and search is legalized, law enforcers are legally bound to stop and search a racial distribution approximately equivalent to the racial distribution of the area. I don’t believe that has ever caused any problems). You are basically protected from the following scenarios:

“A policeman pulls over a pretty girl to tell her she needs to fix the tail light on her car. He likes her cute foreign accent. He asks her on a date. She says no. He takes offense and decides to make her life difficult. He asks her to show her papers… she can’t, so he detains her for 24 hours. Perhaps when she realizes what is happening, she will change her mind about that date?”.

“A policelady’s husband comes home, furious. An man of Indian descent has smashed into his car and didn’t have car insurance, so could not cover the damages. The police were called but the Indian man was here illegally, and so could not be prosecuted. He drove away (something similar actually happened to my husband with a different racial group). The car needs some $5,000 worth of repairs and the policewoman finds this out at she leaves the house to go to work. 10 minutes later she sees a group of young Indian men standing on the street. Her blood boils. Why are they just hanging around? Don’t they have jobs to go to? One of them drops a piece of litter. Ah ha! She pulls over and starts giving them a hard time, and asks them to prove their right to be there. She detains them for 24 hours. That will teach them a lesson”.

Whether these are far-fetched or not, the problem is that US citizens who are white, and sound American, are protected from this. Foreigners (and, admittedly any US citizen who does not) are not. Therefore, all legal immigrants have lost what I think of as a basic human right: To be free from persecution due to the colour of their skin or any other factors reflecting their origin. Why would I stay in state that mandates persecution because of how you look? We have become second class citizens, and why the heck would I stay in a place that has legally made me so? Why the heck would I stay in a place that does that to anyone?

What has disgusted me most of all, is the response of some Alabamians. Here are some examples:

-“Well, I don’t know why you worry, it’s not going to affect you [because you are white, blonde and female]”

They don’t realise that, in eyes, that makes it effing WORSE.

-“But our state really needs help with this issue”.

Then put something across the board. Instead of police being called when there is “reasonable suspicion” if someone wants to enter high school, make it a law that EVERYONE has to prove citizenship when they enroll. Make it that when the police come to the scene of a crime, everyone has to show ID that shows their citizenship. Yes, it would be a hassle, but if your so desperate to save help your state, you can do it. You are supposed to do it anyway, I believe, although the police have no enforcement method. And even more importantly, I strongly believe in the following quotation:

Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor Liberty to purchase power” ~Benjamin Franklin. Often interpreted as:

“They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety”

-But, we need to save our state from The Mexicans. We need to keep ‘The illegals’ out.

I don’t think I even need to discuss these ones. If my child openly used language like that, without seeing anything wrong with it. I would think I had failed as a parent.

I will concede that this is not even the worst of the law. It is just what touched me. The law also says you can be prosecuted for transporting or helping an illegal immigrant. So, if a young child gets very sick, you can be prosecuted for giving him or her acute care. The cries of ‘oh, but you won’t be’ leave me cold in a state who is happy to sanction such actions by law.

How disappointing Alabama. And how tired I am of seeing people who are wary, or unsure, of me and my friends because many of us are foreign. How sad I am to go out and about in Alabama and find such insular people that they have never really interacted with ‘foreigners’. It may well not be their fault, but perhaps that just makes it all the sadder.It seems clear to me that Alabama needs much more integration. It breaks my heart what a segregated society it is (seriously, different racial groups hang out in different areas; I have had places described to me as ‘the black area’. I am not sure I have ever even seen an African-American in Whole Foods). Laws like this are only taking away an enriched and enlightened life from you and your children.

And you are losing some of the very brightest and best people. I know excellent scientists who are (American and) leaving because they don’t want to raise their children in such a climate. I know some amazing Scientists who don’t even want to move here because of it. You are shooting yourselves in the foot.

When I first commented on the segregation between blacks and whites here, I was once asked “well, whose fault do you think that is?” and I replied that I thought it was the fault of both blacks and whites. I now do not agree. The attitudes and responses I see from white Southern people (and yes, sorry, you have all been from The South), that I so far have not seen from black people, lay the blame squarely on one side of the divide.

I would say I have met some Southerners who are very sorry that this has been passed, and some who agree that a universal law (i.e. ALL show citizenship, regardless of race) is absolutely the only way forward, and some who simply want to reasonably discuss and learn. And I love these people. But that is not the majority. Let us not forget that I left my old church because at Bible study group, people went on a rant about foreigners and when someone said ‘but many of them are here legally’ I genuinely heard the response:

“Oh you don’t know. You don’t have to smell their cooking. They are not in your backyard”.

Sad.

I don't approve of this cartoon. But Alabama, this is how you are forcing the rest of the world to see you. http://theperplexedobserver.tumblr.com/post/6800089685/interfaith-march-planned-against-alabama

A few of my thoughts on gay marriage

The issue of legalizing gay marriage has made me realise a few things about myself. I assumed that it was a simple equality issue, and so it was right to legalize gay marriage. But, I have realized that it is not a black-and-white right-and-wrong issue to me. To me there is no clear cut right answer, and only opinions on what is best / fair / the right thing to do.

So, NY has legalized gay marriage. Hoorah! I am very happy for this news. Here are some of my thoughts as to why I personally would like Alabama to follow suit and legalize gay marriage.

To me, it is not clear about whether the Bible is against homosexuality or not.

One of the main oppositions I encounter in AL to legalizing gay marriage is that the Bible is anti-gay relations. Well, my problem here is that I don’t know the Bible well enough (and would welcome any thoughts on this). I used to think the ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’ story was where the Bible explicitly stated the Christian stance against homosexuality. Until I actually read it (now there is an idea). When I read it, my own personal interpretation (which is shared by others) that it was the general debauchery that was problematic, and the main criticism levied against the inhabitants of Sodom was their unwillingness to welcome an outsider. Let us not forget that they wanted to rape the visitor – and that this presumably was a great sin. It’s just not clear to me that the homosexuality was a sin. It is also not clear to me why, if it was, this part of the old testament is still relevant, when we abandon so many other parts under the new covenant.

I am similarly unclear on other parts of the Bible and the stance on homosexuality. The Bible is hugely complex and I don’t think gives us lift off the page answers on many things.

I honestly don’t know what God asks of us on this front. But let us assume, for a minute, that the Bible is anti homosexual relationships. That it is an affront to God. I still think Alabama should legalize gay marriage.

My personal belief is that the value of marriage is less about gender relations, and more about respecting individuals who commit to another, in a loving and faithful fashion.

Even if there are things in a relationship we don’t personally agree are good life choices, I think you can still respect and honour two individuals who commit to a loving relationship, and recognize this as something you promote and support, in its own right. I respect family bonds, and people who work hard to maintain a family. I believe this is a tough thing to do, and I could only commit to marrying someone, and in my heart believe it was a lifelong commitment, if I knew God would help me maintain that commitment. I personally don’t think that I am strong enough to do it without His love and support. I happily respect any union that is aimed at the same goal: of making a stable and lifelong family, which I believe is a Godly endeavor (although you can execute it without God and I still support that), and accepting and negotiating all the personal sacrifices one has to make in that quest.

Thus, I don’t believe that legalizing gay marriage is the start of some slippery slope, and we ‘just don’t know where it will end’.

I understand some people feel this: legalizing gay marriage is just another step in the decline of the sanctity of marriage. And a journey of a 1,000 miles starts with a single step. However, I believe that legalizing gay marriage is the exact opposite: it is to me, respecting the sanctity of marriage for what it is supposed to be, and what so many heterosexual couples fail to make it: a lifelong loving commitment. Heterosexuals have made a mess of the institution of marriage – it is always a union between a man and a woman, but only 50% of the time is it a lifelong commitment as promised (a lot of the time it isn’t even loving). I honestly think this a way of redeeming it.

Maybe these views reflect another view of mine: I don’t believe marriage is for everybody. And it makes me cross that some sectors of society still hold it up as a goal to be strived for at all costs. My personal opinion is that if it is not for you – for whatever reason – then you should never, ever feel pressured into doing it for legal / societal norm reasons. I think a lot of heartache could be saved if people didn’t assume that marriage was inevitable, and if people didn’t treat news of engagements / weddings as the attainment of some lofty goal (I famously was PISSED that I got more congratulations for getting married than I did for passing my PhD).To me, it is not a goal, or an achievement, but a reflection of a commitment and lifestyle choice that is made with good loving intentions, and hard to maintain. I respect people who are brave enough not make that commitment, just I respect ALL who are brave enough to make it.

I am a practicing Christian, and I am not 100% sure on where God stands on homosexuality. However, I do know I sin every day – sometimes accidentally, sometimes as an active decision. I don’t think it is my right or my place to grade sins, and decide some are better or worse than others, but I do think it is my Christian duty to be as graceful as possible, as loving as possible, and to support Christian values, such as loving faithful relationships wherever they occur.

Plus of course, marriage can be an entirely legal, and non Christian endeavour.

I found it was, more often than not, in AL  than the UK. Many people have an a-religious ceremony. So if a man and woman can do that, and make a commitment without God, why can’t two men or two women? So: go NY, I think you did an awesome thing.

I don’t know when my blog got so political. I entirely blame my new officemate and intend to return to writing about cats and dieting shortly 🙂