Reaching out, vs. introspection

ISO ways to talk about people traditionally excluded from institutions and systems that do not lump people together based solely on a characteristic of identity–even though they strongly identify with that characteristic. For example, predominantly white, middle-income, college educated community groups look for ways to “reach out” to “the Vietnamese.” Here’s another example: we talk of “the homeless,” as if we wear our homes or are our homes*. Some of us certainly identify strongly with our homes, but no one would describe me as “homed,” so why would I place as a predominant characteristic on a person the status of their housing? An example, I could say “there are many homeless people in Seattle,” vs “many Seattleites have inadequate or uncertain housing.” They are residents of Seattle. Full stop. People who have first hand knowledge of dire housing conditions have a particular stake in the outcome and a great deal of crucial experience that can inform discussions. If we focus on the fact of housing crises, we can focus on the issues and facts and not the personalities. Needful to say, I should not raise the issue of the status of one’s housing when that issue is not under discussion.

Back to the example of community groups wanting to do outreach…it seems to me that we are asking the wrong question. The question isn’t how to reach populations, but why aren’t we attracting different voices? That’s an inward examination.

Added: elsewhere someone mentioned the idea that “people are people,” which is true and can help with conversation, but that misses the point that the characteristic they share–skin, religion, gender–do put them at risk or form a barrier to systems, institutions, and services.


*Those homes are assumed to not be tents or RVs. Unless, of course, one is retired, and, typically white, middle-income, etc.


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Facts are not opinions. That’s not just my opinion.

“Opinions are like assholes; everyone has one.” This implies all opinions are equally valid, because opinions are “just” opinions. Often the speaker goes on to confuse or conflate facts with opinions: for example, “it’s just your opinion that human beings didn’t walk with the dinosaurs.” No, it’s not an opinion; it’s a fact.

Opinions are conclusions drawn from available facts. Difference in opinions arise because people have different degrees of comfort with subject matter, incomplete access to facts, or incomplete understanding of the facts they know. There is no such state as perfect knowledge, so every opinion is flawed to some extent. Reasonable people can disagree about opinions, therefore we accept that opinions are subjective.

While opinions aren’t facts, their merit can be weighed. If an opinion is based on outdated or incorrect information, or if it contains logical fallacies, it should be discarded by the holder of the opinion and discounted suspect by the audience. Opinions based on many well-understood facts merits more attention than opinions based on few facts. Opinions that ignore facts that undercut the opinion should be ignored.

Facts are facts regardless of season, time of day, or political party. Some facts are firmer than others. Gravity is a fact; a liberal will fall to their death if dropped from the Tower of Pisa as surely as a conservative will. A fact is a fact whether you believe in it or not. Just ask Wile E. Coyote.

Opinions are conclusions drawn from available facts. Reasonable people can disagree about conclusions, and so have different opinions, but two reasonable people cannot disagree about facts.

Assholes are facts, and everyone needs one. That assholes are ugly or funny or weird is an opinion. Only an asshole stubbornly clings to a bad opinion like the US is a post-racial society.

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Roll call

This post is for me to bring links together that I continue to reference in every single conversation I have with people making the following claims and/statements. It’s a work in progress. Let me know if I’ve erred, or ideas about additional points to include. Thanks for reading.

  1. If Michael Brown had been sensible and done what the cop said, he’d still be alive. Not necessarily. Eric Gardner was killed by a cop’s choke hold just a couple of weeks before Mr. Brown was shot dead.
  2. Looking like a gang banger | shoplifting a pack of cigarillos is reason enough to be shot by a cop. (Um, no, neither are capital crimes, he seemed to be dressed the same as many young men of many colors I see, and he did not, as far as I’ve been able to find, shoplift anything.)
  3. Obviously Blacks in Ferguson just need to vote and get their act together. This is almost the saddest one. I can only imagine the frustration of hearing this after years and years of desperate attempts to fix this, to get attention paid to the problems. Anyway, a link to the Missouri Attorney General’s report on racial profiling for 2013.

Just since Michael Brown was shot dead in Ferguson by Officer Wilson.

Eric Garner, 43, July 17, 2014 Please note this was just a couple of weeks before Michael Brown was killed. This news was still fresh and distressing for anyone paying attention.

Kajieme Powell, 25, August 19th, 2014 Compare to the case of Joseph Houseman. “A police officer repeatedly asked Houseman to put down his gun so they could talk, but he refused and accused the cop of ‘acting like a prick’ and being in a gang.”

John Crawford, 22, August 9, 2014 “And the next thing I know, he said ‘It’s not real,’ and the police start shooting and they said ‘Get on the ground,’but he was already on the ground because they had shot him.'” Compare to open carry shows of force.

Akai Gurley, November 21, 2014 “’It was a pitch-black hallway,’ Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said of the Thursday-night shooting at East New York’s Louis Pink Houses. ‘The deceased is a total innocent.’”

And, Monday.
Tamir Rice, 12, November 24, 2014 Twelve.

Prosecutor McCullochs has, at best, a conflict of interest.

African-Americans were targeted for 92 percent of vehicle searches, though searches of white suspects were more likely to turn up contraband (34 percent of searches of white suspects found contraband, versus only 22 for black suspects).

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Seattle city gov: Doubling food stamp value if used at farmer’s market…

I was underwhelmed when I ran across this announcement in my FaceBook feed. Here is the response I posted with the reasons that immediately sprang to mind why it is is more feel-meh, then feel-good.

Food stamp dollars would need to be doubled, or quadrupled, to buy fresh food at farmer’s markets. I feel this is silly in that people who need food stamps, many mothers with small children,

  1. Can’t afford to go shopping to several different places to get their groceries;
  2. Farmer’s markets aren’t co-located with the people who use food stamps. Heck, we can’t even get a grocery store. “We won’t put a farmer’s market in Delridge because there aren’t enough people there who will pay 2 dollars for a peach.”
  3. Why does it matter where a person buys their fresh veggies? Yes, I get the “eat local” mantra, but who knows, really, how far away the farmer’s market vendors are.

One of the things that drives me a little nuts about Seattle, love it though I do, is that frequently our initiatives are more about us looking like we’re doing something that will make us (largely the middle- and upper-class, and white) feel like we’re doing something wonderful. I can well imagine the conversation going something like “surely the Somali woman with six kids, little English, often no car would love to shop at the farmers market. The only thing keeping her from it is that she can’t get 10 more dollars worth of produce at the farmer’s market.”

Maybe I’m wrong, and the people depending on food stamps were consulted on this. Please. Someone. Anyone. Prove to me I’m wrong, that the users were involved in this initiative.

Seattle City Council News Release: Council expands access to healthy food for food stamp enrollees.

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Zimmerman’s acquital of Trayvon Martin’s murder represents only the latest, most egregious betrayal of every Black American

It’s not surprising Zimmerman was acquitted of the Trayvon Martin killing. It’s simply the latest in a long erosion of civil rights. The Klan couldn’t be more pleased. It’s an ingenious strategy, though not new: try the victim, not the defendant.

“It’s an injustice” is empty and inadequate. If only the nation, with one clear voice, would shout out that this is a betrayal of every Black person in America and will not stand. But it won’t. We won’t. We are just comfortable enough, just scared enough, just cowardly enough to think, in our secret hearts, “Thank God it wasn’t my son.”

If you say that, then you are one of the betrayers. The betrayal of the last, small hope that this country could work toward the principles its founders, imperfect in themselves, framed. Some of us have decided, or accepted, that it’s too uncomfortable to be faced with our own failings in comparison to our ideals, too hard to change those aspects of ourselves that keep us from reaching up, too easy to pretend everything is just fine. Others of us have decided there is no hope, never was any hope, and, anyway, every hope is betrayed in the end.

Congratulations Floridians, those who support “stand your ground” and twist it to mean “it’s okay to shoot a young black man down in the street.” You must be pleased. Lynching WAS terribly awkward. It must be much easier to use a pistol. Anytime, anywhere. It’s open season.


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Response to Stephen Fry suicide interview shows attitudes are slowly changing

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When can a White person say the “n” word: a primer

I’m reaching out to fellow White folks today. Do you find yourself thinking it’s not fair that a Black person can use the “n”-word, but a White person gets all kinds of grief? If so, then it’s clear an explanation would be wasted on you, so I offer this simple rule-of-thumb:


Hope this helps!

Please note that if you are, for example, an author writing vernacular dialog for a racist character, then, obviously, you’ll use the word, but you won’t be wondering about the unfairness I mention.

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