Useless Thoughts Running Through My Head

various musings of a generation x kad

Archive for the ‘social action’ Category

Op-Ed on Prop 8 and the Black Community

Posted by thoughtful1 on November 11, 2008

I read this today by Jasmyne A. Cannick.  It provides insight into why blacks did not oppose Proposition 8, and it exposes the disconnect between the black community and the white GLBT community.  My initial reaction was, “white liberals fail to get the race thing (again).”  Maybe later I’ll have a more refined opinion.

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Because my “To Read” list isn’t long enough

Posted by thoughtful1 on July 19, 2007

Multiracial Sky has a post with an interesting list of books about racism and privilege:

A People’s History of the United States: 1492-Present, by Howard Zinn (I’d actually heard of this one, and I think I saw him speak at a graduation ceremony.  I didn’t realize the significance of this book in detailing the Missing In History facts we never learned in school.)

Everyday Acts Against Racism: Raising Children in a Multiracial World, edited by Maureen T. Reddy

Some of My Best Friends: Writings on Interracial Friendships, edited by Emily Bernard

Yet another set of books I need to take a gander at.  Like I need more books to read…  At least I’ve curtailed buying books and check them out at the library first.

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A shout of joy and a sigh of relief

Posted by thoughtful1 on June 14, 2007

At approximately 1:30 PM today I simultaneously felt joy and relief. The proposed marriage amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman was defeated 😀

Posted in BGLT rights, happiness, news, politics, social action | Leave a Comment »

“Passion versus Mission”

Posted by thoughtful1 on June 8, 2007

This post from Korean Adoptee Bride caught my eye. It challenges assumptions those of is in white, middle-class, privileged America have, and gives some insight to the challenges immigrants face in this country. Seriously – would you be able to teach yourself English after working 80 hours a week and raising a family? I work 40-45 and I can’t manage to teach myself Perl, which is written in English (sorta).

Something to think about as the immigration debate rages on.

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Sudan, China, and the Yellow Peril

Posted by thoughtful1 on May 24, 2007

This past Sunday we had a service on peacemaking. One of the speakers, a member of the church, spoke about genocide in Darfur. She urged us to join the Unitarian Universalist Services Committee and support their work to end the killing in Sudan. She also spoke about divestment and the latest push on Fidelity to stop investing money in companies that do business with Sudan.

The highlighted companies were Chinese: PetroChina and Sinopec. In fact, those were the only two companies I recall hearing about, and I’m pretty they were the only companies mentioned.

She also mentioned that there were rumblings about boycotting the Beijing Olympics in order to pressure the Chinese government to stop buying oil from Sudan. So it appears that China would make a good target for social justice pressure, and its companies good targets for divestment.

But, here is my question: Why only China? Why is China the new Big Bad in lefty social justice circles? And why only about Darfur? Why not about China’s long record of civil and human rights abuses?

After all, India is also industrializing and needs oil for energy. And, as we all know, just about everyone else needs oil…. So something tells me that China isn’t the only country buying oil from Sudan. And something tells me that it isn’t just Chinese companies doing business in Sudan.

I went to the Sudan Divestment Task Force Screener, where you can see if your mutual funds are invested in companies that do business with Sudan. I checked the investments of various Vanguard and Fidelity mutual funds that hold stocks. I checked some of the main funds, such as Vanguard’s Wellington fund, and some more specialized funds for categories such as emerging markets and Pacific Rim, companies that aren’t American, with some located in developing countries.

Guess what?

While I found several funds holding stock in PetroChina and Sinopec, they were not the most common offender held by the mutual funds I looked at. The most common stock held was Schlumberger Ltd. Or at least it was the one that kept popping up when I looked at the different funds. Doesn’t sound very Chinese to me. In fact, it is incorporated in the Netherlands Antilles. (Schlumberger is also traded on the NYSE and is part of the S&P 500… does that make it quasi-American?)

There were also a few other stocks of Scandinavian and Indian companies. But I don’t hear anyone saying boo about the Scandinavians or Indians. Is that because it’s easier to slam evil Communists with a reputation for being diabolical and shifty than it is to slam white, progressive, respectful Scandinavians? (Don’t know why Indians are getting off easy on this one…. Maybe it’s the Bollywood movies? Or perhaps we see them as heroic for throwing off the British Empire with non-violence? That’s probably more likely.)

Mind you, I did not make a scientific study, and I certainly didn’t look at every single fund that held equities. But I did find it curious that I was more likely to see Schlumberger Ltd than PetroChina or Sinopec.

This makes me worry. Don’t get me wrong – I abhor what is happening in Sudan. It is an outrage.  But I have to wonder if this is an example of how lingering racism and colonialism creeps into the way we carry out social justice. Is picking on China rooted, in part, in American fears of the Yellow Peril? Is picking on China a little colonialist? We’re entitled to tell you Asians what to do, but we won’t bother telling our White European cousins what to do? Is picking on China another way in which white liberals carry out social justice with an unconscious racism?

Some may say that with the severity of what is happening Darfur this doesn’t matter. As long we get someone to stop spending money in Sudan then we’ve done good. OK, but by allowing racism and colonialism to narrow our view of who the bad guys are, aren’t we allowing others to continue enabling genocide, albeit indirectly and unintentionally?

[P.S. I’m sure that those who are heavily involved in the divestment strategy know that it isn’t just Chinese companies, and I imagine that others know this as well.  It just strikes me that the companies that have entered into the main UU awareness on this issue are Chinese, and that the overriding sentiment is we have to pressure China.]

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What are you doing on Earth Day?

Posted by thoughtful1 on April 19, 2007

Me, I’m thinking of taking a day off from using power… sorta.

I’m not going to unplug everything in my home, but I was thinking of spending the day without booting up the PC, or watching TV(!) And I was thinking of staying home – not driving anywhere. Instead, I could spend the day reading, walking around town, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll get around to unpacking some boxes….. 🙂

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UU guilt strikes again

Posted by thoughtful1 on April 6, 2007

Going through my Hotmail mail, I don’t bother reading social justice notices from the ACLU, Common Cause, or the folks trying to save people in Darfur, but I do read the occasional Friendster update. Does that make me shallow? I don’t think I’m shallow. But I am overwhelmed. I know the world needs saving, and I know the Good Fight must be fought, but when it’s 9:25 PM on a Tuesday and I am tired and my house needs cleaning and I’m just checking e-mail and I cannot deal with Darfur.

But it makes my heart ache.

Yet isn’t it unreasonable for me to think that I can do much about it? Should I quit my day job, run the risk of foreclosure, and go to a refugee camp to help those who have left Darfur? Should I devote all my free time to nagging our government to do something? After all, what can I do?

I can send a letter. I can go to SaveDafur.org and fill out the form that will send an e-mail to President Bush. That is certainly something I can do. That is certainly something just about anyone reading this blog can do.

Doing that one small thing – sending an e-mail to President Bush – may make a difference. You cannot create a mountain of e-mail and letters without sending an e-mail or a letter. But it still doesn’t alleviate the guilt I feel when I ignore pleas for action and aid. I still feel a pang of guilt when I recycle the umpteenth snail mail request from the NPR station I listen to, or the solicitation from Doctors Without Borders, or Habitat for Humanity. But what else would I do, when I’ve already given? Or I don’t have the money this month to make a donation? There is only so much one person can do.

I think it is my perfectionism playing a guilt trip on me. That, and the weight of the Unitarian Universalist tradition of social action bearing down on me. The feeling that I should be doing more. The feeling that I should be doing more, and shame on me for not doing more.

But we can’t all be rabble rousing activists. Someone has to keep roads clean, the trains running, the lights on. Someone has to tend to the tasks that keep the world running, right?

So, I need to remind myself of this quote by Edward Everett Hale:

I am only one, but still I am one.
I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.

I cannot do everything, so I should stop thinking I can do everything. But I can do my small bits – write a letter, make a donation. That I can do, and I will.

Posted in guilt, social action, unitarian universalism | Leave a Comment »