The Politics of Politeness

not your babe
As a young outspoken woman, I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been expected to qualify my opinion to be more palatable to those who come from a more privileged position. I can’t tell you how many variations of “not all ____” (usually men) I’ve heard. I can’t tell you how many times people have told me that their allyship was contingent on minority members making them (members of a privileged group) feel comfortable and welcome.

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Challenging the myth of Chicago as warzone

As soon as I found out I would be spending a year in Chicago and started to share that news with friends and family, the concerned comments began rolling in. Both covertly and overtly, well-meaning people would question how safe I would be moving to Chicago by myself. Even once I moved here, I continued to encounter this concern from other Chicago residents when I would tell them what neighborhood I live in. A quick Google search reveals startling crime statistics and discussion boards as to whether or not East Garfield Park is really “safe.” The consensus seems to be that it’s better to just give that neighborhood a miss, especially at night (I believe people may be confusing perceived criminals with vampires here).

Along with Austin (where I work), Englewood, Auburn Gresham and other high crime areas, reducing these locations and this city merely to a “war zone” with “people being shot left and right” (looking at you, 45) completely ignores the context of why and how the current situation came to be. Contrary to popular belief, I’m not dodging bullets every time I walk out the front door. In all honesty, the single biggest threat to my personal safety are the stairs in my house here, but that’s more a factor of my own natural gracefulness, not the city I live in.

But let’s put our sociologist hats on for a moment and look critically at Chicago.  Continue reading

Activism as Christian Practice

Since moving to Chicago, I’ve participated in many marches and rallies downtown to raise awareness of various causes and show solidarity with minority groups. I’ve also called, emailed, written to, and faxed my representatives back home in Texas about issues near and dear to my heart. I’ve shared many of this efforts on Facebook, with most responses showing support for my efforts. However, there’s also some who believe that it’s a waste of my time to try and challenge my representatives to be better at actually representing ALL of their constituents. Basically the mindset boils down to the fact that they believe what I’m doing isn’t going to make a difference, and that I should just accept the status quo. Continue reading

That’s not my name

“hey baby damn you are so gorgeous why don’t you smile more sup beautiful such a pretty smile but really, so gorgeous mm hey what’s your name hey can I get your number hey can I take you out sometime hey lemme talk to you real quick hey it’s rude to ignore people when they’re talking to you hey you should thank him for holding that bus for you we just want to talk to you don’t be scared he doesn’t bite”

This is not the blog post I was going to write this week. I have a wordy and heavily sourced post challenging the prevailing myth of Chicago as warzone, and it’s still coming, don’t worry. But after running yet another gauntlet of catcalls while just trying to catch a bus home after a crappy day, I had to write down something. Continue reading

On donations and dignity

I figure if I rant about something more than twice in a week, it probably deserves a blog post, so here we are. Let’s talk about donating. In much of my work with nonprofits serving individuals experiencing poverty and homelessness, we rely pretty heavily on donated items to provide services for our clients. I am continually baffled at what some I’m sure well-meaning people think is okay to donate. Expired or almost expired food, half used toiletries, ratty or dirty old clothing, broken toys. It’s as if donating to charities or nonprofits is the morally acceptable alternative to just throwing out your garbage, a way for you to simultaneously clean out the back of your pantry or closet and pat yourself on the back.

When people must rely on donated clothing and food, it’s because they have nowhere else to go. It’s very difficult to break out of the cycle of poverty when you’re not sure where your next meal is coming from. In much of the rhetoric surrounding poverty and homelessness, this often gets twisted into people looking for free handouts, looking to get something for nothing. Perhaps this is part of why people think it’s okay to donate junk – they’ve accomplished their good deed for the day and haven’t enabled the mooching behavior they so fear. The myth of the “welfare queen” is so harmful and pervasive, and so unsubstantiated if you really get into the numbers of who relies on government or nonprofit assistance and why, but that’s a blog post (or possibly an entire paper) for another time. Continue reading