Awesome news guys! I just found out that I was accepted as a presenter at this year's White Privilege Conference. Thanks to Dr. Eddie Moore, Jr and the folks at WPC. Special shout out to Danae, one of the blog readers for the hook up! Y'all should swing by if you happen to be in Kansas City. Or... even better, plan to be in Kansas City for the conference. It's an awesome program and I can't wait to soak up everything folks there have to share.
Media coverage of the Standing Rock protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline has been hopelessly myopic. Certainly environmental justice, police brutality and the violation of sacred burial grounds are important topics, but no one has addressed the larger systemic issues at play: Native American treaty rights and how their handling portends dismally for the everyone else. Even the most self-centered and politically apathetic must realize Pastor Martin Niemöller’s warning that it’s only a matter of time before even the most mainstream of society are persecuted.
To truly appreciate the full significance of the face-off at Standng Rock, one has to understand understand the historical context of this struggle, which has seen supporters from 300 Indian tribes lining up to back the Sioux People.
Every person in the United States has the right to clean water, but for Native Americans, that right is two-fold. The treaties that set up Indian reservations were not simply land ownership agreements. The terms actually dictated a broader set of terms. This includes not just land, but also the obligation to protect tribal property and assets; in other words, natural resources such as clean water.
Furthermore, the Snyder Act of 1921 delineated that the federal government is also obligated to provide health care to federally recognized tribes. While this typically takes the form of providing clinics and health insurance through Indian Health Services, ensuring clean water is obviously a basic tenant to providing basic public health care.
So when the Sioux who live on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation demand that their source of clean water is protected, it’s not simply a matter of basic human rights, but also a contractual financial obligation.
But the bigger concept at play here is that the 56.2 million acres of land that are identified as reservation land (at totally of only about 2% of the United States), are actually held “in trust.”
Most of us don’t know what that means. In life experience of the average American, you either own something or you don’t, but a “trust” is something in between. Some rich children have an idea. It’s similar to the “trust funds” that wealthy people set up for their children. The money is named to them and for their use, but with active management and significant restrictions on its use. Only at least with rich kids, at a certain age, the trust money usually is given to them outright and they can spend it however they see fit. That will never happen for the lands held in trust for Native Americans.
What that means on a practical level is that even if a specific tribe has rights to the land of reservation, it’s only in the setting of the high regulation from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Jan Bianchi was one of the co-authors of the Washington State’s Initiative 120 that was passed in 1991 by popular vote and created the most liberal abortion legislation in the country. Washington is also the only state that legalized abortion through popular vote rather than through legislators.
SEATTLE, WA -- Ever since moving to Seattle it’s become clear to me that though most of its inhabitants identify as liberals, the dominating white culture enables a culture of armchair liberals. When it comes to LGBT rights, Seattle will stand up, but when it comes to addressing issues that actually threaten the comfortable, largely white and privileged population of the Seattle, it’s another story.
In 2015, the Washington State Supreme Court started fining the state government $100,000 a day for continuing to underfund K-12 public education. In 2011, after a 9 month investigation, the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice sued the Seattle Police Department for a "pattern of excessive force” that violates the US Constitution and federal law.
This year, Washington has a second chance to address police brutality and in compliance with international human rights laws.
As it currently stands, Washington has some of the most feudal police use of force laws in the country. It is essentially impossible to prosecute a police officer for murder. As it is currently written, Washington law states that if a police officer kills someone, as long as they acted “without malice and with a good faith belief that such act is justifiable,” they are immune to prosecution. King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg stated, “This almost perfect defense to a mistaken use of force has kept police officers out of court as defendants."
In fact, according to an analysis done by the SeattleTimes, from 2005 to 2014, 213 and thirteen people were killed by police officers in Washington and only 1 has been prosecuted.
Earlier this year, House Bill 2907 was considered which would have struck the “malice” clause from the state law, but it wasn’t even voted on. Frustrated with the lack of action from politicians, an activist group called Washington for Good Policing have proposed Initiative-873, which if passed, will strike the “without malice and with a good faith belief” from state law. The initiative will need over 250,000 signatures to get placed on the ballot for general voting.
Ironically, the legislation uses the term “peace officers” to denote law enforcement officers.
While the Black Lives Matter movement has drawn attention to the racism that continues to lead the murdering of innocent black citizens in this country and the destructive American system of mass incarceration of Black Americans, it’s worthwhile to note that the Washington police officers have targeted more than Black Americans. In 2015, Antoni Zambrano-Montes, an unarmed, Mexican man was shot at 17 times by police officers while running away with his arms raised in the air. He was dead at the scene.
It's been difficult to know how to cope with the mass murder in Orlando. It's an amalgamation of emotion:
Personal safety as a queer person. Heartbreaking loss of human life. Frustration and anger around the politicking and continued lack of gun control. I go to conferences all over the country all the time. I go to a gay club in every city. I was just in Orlando! It triggers all the emotions that surface when abortion clinics, another issue close to my heart, are targeted with violence.
As I imagined the victims, other queer people of color, I reflect on the compounding difficulties of being a minority within a minority.
Today I've found some comfort by celebrating the amazing QPOC culture. What straight people don't understand is how important gay clubs are. Movies and TV portray it as a social gathering place at best and sex craved debauchery at worst - but it's so much more than that. The community that is formed; the self-actualization and validation that is often found nowhere else; the political organizing. When I think of gay clubs I think of empowering warmth (except when it's dominated by all white people, then sometimes I feel angry). And so naturally I could not help but think about Voguing.
This, of course, triggered a whole new group of cascading emotions. I felt proud of the culture that Voguing created. But I also felt sadness that such a vibrant community come under attack. I felt anger at the way that Voguing has been appropriated.
Straight folks just don't get it. Even wikipedia, my trusted source and salvation during medical school, doesn't capture the emotional and communal importance of Voguing in their article. Nor does it discuss how artists like Madonna and documentary artist, Jennie Livingston, have benefited from Voguing as its not clear what trickle down benefits the original communities experienced.
That being said, overall, as I watch some of my favorite Voguing videos on YouTube, I feel inspired and somehow calmed. It reminds me of the strength of our community and that even in the bleakest of times, we will rise again and celebrate ourselves. And mostly I feel gratitude that the generations, specifically in this case black and latino POCs, that have come before me (who have faced so much more than I have personally as a QPOC) have role-modeled such courage and beauty.
Hey y'all. As we all know, access to the healthcare system only impacts the health of our patients by, like, 20%, if that. What really impacts health outcomes are education, housing, food security, and, well, not getting shot. If you care about health, you need to care about politics.
One of my favorite parts of being a family med doc is talking with kids. During the routine preventative visits I ask them what they want to be when they grow up, not just as a way to get to know them better, but also to be another small voice telling them that they are worth believing in.
Yesterday, the most astonishing thing happened. I asked QiLing, a 7-year-old with bright eyes, that very question and she responded, “I want to teach ignorant people about race so the world will be better for my children.”
I told her that she should consider the field of medicine instead because it would be more relaxing and pay more.
Right. No one believes that happened.
It didn’t happen. Why? Because nobody grows up wanting to be a race educator. Sometimes a child might say they want to fight “bad guys” when they grow up, but not once have I heard any child dream about addressing race inequities.
So it’s shocking to me that some white folks see people of color who do race work as self-promotional. It’s not self-promotion; it’s self-preservation. We’re forced into this work because we see no other course of action when racism is thrown up in our face constantly. Back thousands of years ago children did not say to themselves, “I want to be a gatherer!” They just needed food so that’s what they did.
But that self-preservation, attempting to address injustice can simultaneously be self-destructive.
The conviction of Peter Liang is the best thing that has happened to Asian Americans since the Immigration and Nationality Act of the 1960s. It’s also an embarrassingly example of how bewildered the minds of some Asian Americans are when it comes to race.
The conviction is a much-needed wake up call to those who have been brainwashed to believe the model minority myth. It’s clear evidence that white America still views Asian Americans as “other.” The “Blue wall of silence” does not cover yellow.
Peter Liang’s conviction makes painfully obvious three crucial facts that are necessary to understand the racial circumstances of Asian Americans. (1) American racism includes Asian Americans. (2) Through intentional legislation and campaigning, the white majority has utilized the educational and financial privilege of a portion of Asian Americans to convince society that racism is no longer an issue. (3) Asian Americans themselves have fallen prey to this message, driving a wedge between the Asian American community and other communities of color and weakening our collective power to change the status quo.
The model minority myth has led much of America to believe that through hard work and an unwavering dedication to academic achievement, Asian Americans have achieved the true American dream, supposedly showing that it is not systemic racism but lack of adherence to American work ethic that holds back other communities of color.
While the falsehoods that make up the model minority stereotype and its toxic impacts are too complex and numerous to unpack in their entirety here, exploring a few the issues is necessary. A key misunderstanding is the origin of stereotypes. While most of us recognize that stereotypes are generalizations that cannot be applied to any one individual, we also believe that they spring from a small grain of truth. They represent a generalization of a true trend in behavior or characteristic that is common amongst a group of people.
What this line of reasoning fails to capture is that frequently these behavioral trends are not inherent, but a group of people all responding to a uniform external pressure. For example, the disproportionate number of black athletes in the NBA does not represent an inherent racial ability anymore than the disproportionate number of white athletes in the NHL does. It’s a reflection of the networks and opportunities available to black males in this country. Under the same social restrictions, many black men come to the same conclusion: the only way to make it is to become a professional athlete and the only sports available are basketball and football.
One day we'll do an animated version, but until then, powerpoint and prezi is where it's at...
We all have that friend. The friend who in the middle of the conversation will pause to google whatever it is you're discussing or debating. Occasionally I find it annoying but more often, especially since I don't have a "smart phone" myself, I find it satisfying and convenient.
Recently, while hanging out with said friend, we all discovered a new game. Since Google Search has an algorithm for auto completing searches based on the most popular searches out there, we realized that if we just fed in our ethnicities, we could get a pulse on what the masses were thinking about us.
Some were expected, but others, well, others I could not have predicted. Most were hilarious.
And then just a few more because I was curious:
What I've been reading:
by Viet Thanh Nguyen
about this blog
A place where I can write my thoughts on race, on privilege, on class, on being a doctor. Part of the endless struggle to become a little bit more enlightened and feel a little less alienated.
Agree with me. Call me out. Pass it on.
I post once or twice a month with smaller comments on mini-blog.
My name is Jess. In the interest of full disclosure: I'm a 30-something-year-old Chinese American and believer that the quest for social justice and equity must be an intentional and active one. I'm a Family Medicine physician. I'm queer. I'm a radical. I grew up in a mostly white suburb and my parents are white-collar workers. And I don't eat meat, but I miss it sometimes.
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