Monthly Archives

September 2016

Talking About Racism Matters: A White Mom’s Perspective

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Cover of book written by an African American attorney for African American men.

At Monday’s debate, the issue of systemic racism and race relations came up and how the candidates handled it is telling.  While Donald Trump hammered away at the concept of “law and order,” bringing up stop and frisk as a desirable way to reduce crime on the streets, Hillary Clinton’s response was much more nuanced.  She acknowledged the breadth and depth of the problem of systemic racism in our criminal justice system, something that is unusual in a candidate running for the presidency.

Stopping and frisking every person as suggested by Trump is not a viable solution to crime in this country.  Aside from the way it tends to be carried out by the police (disproportionately targeting African Americans in a manner known as a racial profiling), it only furthers the legitimate view by many African Americans that our system is unfairly set up to discriminate against people based on the color of their skin.  Indeed, a federal judge determined New York City’s own stop and frisk law was unconstitutional because it violated African Americans’ civil rights.

In the meantime, Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, recently said that we talk too much about institutional racism in our justice system.

Too much, Mike Pence?  I couldn’t disagree with you more.

Maybe my own personal history of race relations is not the norm.  I grew up in the 1970s in suburban Philadelphia, and went to a K-12 Quaker school where equality and justice were part of the curriculum.  Although a private school, it was a completely desegregated one in the sense that we all grew up together–black and white boys and girls–and were genuinely friends.  We ate lunch together, played and hung out at each other’s houses, went to parties together, etc.  It all seemed very normal and natural and that’s the environment in which I grew up.  It certainly helped that my own parents never once used a racial slur or made racist comments in my presence.  Indeed, my mother, very progressive in her own right, joined the NAACP.  In 2008, I cheered President Obama’s election in part because I viewed it as progress in our country–a sign that we had taken another step towards equality.  Yet, I am not naive and know that I am, like all Americans, a product of a culture that over hundreds of years has taught us lessons, stereotypes, and prejudices that are deeply engrained in our fabric and are stubbornly difficult to shake.

In any event, I believe that the problem with denying there are issues with systemic racism in this country (and make no mistake, there are still serious problems with racism in this country) is that like with every difficult dilemma, the first step towards solving racism is to admit it exists.  In my mind, it all starts with understanding.  Understanding and empathy.  Not only hearing a black person who says, “Black Lives Matter,” but really attempting to empathize and understand what that means–and not what it means to myself as a white woman, but to that black person.

During the aftermath of the killing of Keith Scott by police in Charlotte, North Carolina, I became deeply aware of this.  On Facebook, reading the stream of articles in my news feed, and opinions posted by my (mostly liberal) Facebook friends, I came upon this comment:

My girls said, “mom, I’m scared for daddy. What if he has car problems? He can’t even call the police for help!” My heart is just breaking, I’m angry, I’m sad, I’m hopeless! People will look at my husband, and just think he’s a bad dude because his skin is brown and he’s six feet tall! And what of my brothers, cousins, uncles! What are these cops thinking?! But yet look at how black men are portrayed on tv and everywhere and so we are subliminally taught that black is bad and black men are the ultimate level of bad!! 😢😢😢

The poster of this comment, Claudia (not her real name), is a married African American woman and mother of four kids, who are now 16, 15, 8, and 5.  I know her because she was in a social group I joined shortly after the birth of my first baby, my son.  Ten first-time moms and our babies met, first in a church, and then at each other’s houses, every week for well over a year.   Knowing that these other women were going through the same sort of issues as I was as a first time mother gave me comfort.  We talked about all sorts of things and became friends, going to each others’  birthday parties for our kids and holiday parties.  Then, many of us drifted apart.  We had our second babies, and even our third or fourth, and we didn’t live around the corner from each other.  Some of us returned to work full-time or moved out of the area.  In retrospect, it’s noteworthy we met for as long as we did as a complete group.

Facebook brought a lot of us back together through throwback postings of pictures we had taken of all ten of the babies when they were only a few months old.  And then Claudia and I became Facebook friends.  We discovered that our daughters both were dancers and watched each other’s dance videos.  I learned that Claudia had moved to Charlotte, North Carolina–with her husband of 20 years, and kids–but it sounded like all was well.  Claudia and her family are, quite frankly, no different from the rest of my mom friends and their families.

Then came the Scott shooting and that post on Facebook.  Soon after, I watched on cable news the video taken by Scott’s wife, Rakeyia, of the shooting (apparently because she had the wherewithal and courage to obtain her own evidence of what transpired as her husband was shot to death by a police officer).

My heart broke into pieces.  Why?  Because I really and truly empathized with Claudia, whom I had known well, and with Mrs. Scott, who was a total stranger but is also a wife and a mother.  I imagined the concern that Claudia had not only for her husband, but also her daughter who is the same exact age as my son.  Unlike Claudia’s daughter, my son doesn’t have the worry that he or his father–my husband–will be shot and killed because of assumptions and snap judgments made based on the color of their skin.   I don’t have to worry that I will ever have to watch my husband being shot and killed before my eyes while I capture it on my phone as proof.

I know that there remain questions to be answered about the particulars of the Scott case.  Nevertheless, there will always be another case like it just around the corner with different facts, but with the common denominator of police using lethal force against a black man unnecessarily.  The bottom line:

That a wife had to beg and plead for police not to shoot her husband dead and have it fall on deaf ears;

That she had to be a witness to the deadly shooting when the police ignored her even after she said he had a traumatic brain injury;

That a 16 year old girl who I knew as a beautiful baby has to be scared for her father’s life;

That her mom, Claudia, has to comfort her kids knowing full well they are right to be concerned;

That the book depicted above, entitled “A Survival Guide: How Not to Get Killed by the Police,” must exist in 2016 America;

These things do matter to me, and should matter to all women and moms, regardless of their skin color.

Sorry Mike Pence:  President Obama was right about what he said at the White House reception just prior to the opening of the National Museum of African American History and History.  We have come so far with race relations and institutional racism in this country, and yet we have so very far to go.  And the only way we’re going to get there is by truly seeing each other, listening, trying to understand and empathize and, finally, by working together to find a solution.

Why I Trust Hillary (& Why All Women/Moms Should Too)

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 The media keeps reporting polls that show Hillary Clinton has a
trustworthiness problem. I personally don’t get this. To me, trustworthiness in a candidate means that if elected he or she will follow through and keep as many campaign promises as possible. I think that voters may be confusing trustworthiness with transparency. Yes, some politicians—especially those who have been burned for being frank and blunt—may tend to keep things closer to the vest. Hillary Clinton in particular has been in public spotlight at least since 1992 when her husband ran for the presidency. A trailblazer on many levels, she was often scrutinized in a particularly harsh and unfair light and many people hated her for rebelling against the status quo while First Lady. As a result, it really isn’t so surprising that she has strived to keep an element of privacy in her life, as difficult as that may be. Now this has prompted charges that she is not as transparent as people would like. I would argue, however, that when it comes to her trustworthiness to serve the American public, superficial transparency is largely beside the point. Why? Again, what I look for in a candidate for president is whether he or she will strive to fulfill his/her promises and get things accomplished. In this sense of the word, there can be no question but that Hillary is “trustworthy.
 
Women and moms should examine Clinton in this light when deciding whether to vote for her and, also, must scrutinize her trustworthiness as compared to her opponent, Donald Trump. In other words, how consistent has Clinton been over the years in making promises to get things done and then at least striving to get those things accomplished? How consistent have her positions on policy stayed over her years in the public spotlight? Is she more trustworthy than Donald Trump when it comes to many, many issues of import to women and moms? I think it is crystal clear that she is more worthy of women/moms’ trust, and here are six reasons why:
 

1. Women/Moms Should Trust Hillary More Than Trump to Keep Us All Safe

Hillary Clinton knows a great deal about foreign affairs and is respected at home and abroad for her work as Secretary of State under the Obama administration. She has made crucial decisions under great pressure and our country stayed safe during her tenure. Among her successes as our Secretary of State, Clinton restored our reputation in the world after George W. Bush’s presidency, championed the rights of women and girls around the globe, negotiated the toughest sanctions ever against Iran, negotiated a cease fire between Hamas and Israel, stood up for worldwide LGBT rights, reinvigorated American diplomacy with Asia, and took on the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. Clinton’s stated policies on national security are designed with the primary goal of keeping us all safe.

 On the other hand, Donald Trump has no experience in foreign affairs. He has shown himself to not have a firm grasp on the details of foreign policy, has unnecessarily inflamed our relations with countries such as Mexico, and has criticized our nation’s able generals. He lacks the steady judgment and temperament necessary to be commander in chief over the U.S. and the free world. Don’t believe me? Well, then take it from the GOP experts, such as
Michael Hayden (former CIA director under George W. Bush), who have said the same thing, despite the political ramifications. Indeed, 50 GOP national security officials signed on to a damning letter stating that Trump would be “the most reckless president in American history.” Trump’s statements about getting rid of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), an alliance of nations that helps us avoid nuclear war, are also very troubling. Former Special Forces and CIA Operations Officer Michael Vickers, former GOP Senator Larry Pressler, Bush Administration vets John Stubbs and Ricardo Reyes, GOP foreign policy advisor Brent Scowcroft, and Bush Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage, have all said that it is Hillary Clinton, hands down, who will be more likely to keep us safe in a dangerous world.


 2. Women/Moms Should Trust Hillary More Than Trump to Fight for Equal Rights for All Americans, Including Women

Hillary Clinton has been fighting for the rights of women and minorities her entire adult life. She believes that women should make an equal amount of money as do men for the same job. She went to a conference in China 21 years ago, and boldly proclaimed that women’s rights are human rights. She has fought for a woman’s right to choose throughout her years in public service. Hillary believes that we are a great country that will become greater still if we treat all of our citizenry equally.

 Donald Trump? He has become the
darling of white supremacists, a fact that he was very slow to acknowledge or denounce. He demeans women at every turn and has said creepy, offensive things even about his own daughter. He has also said racist things about Muslims, Mexicans, an American judge, and our own President. In fact, here are 13 prime examples of Trump being racist.  


3. Women/Moms Should Trust Hillary More Than Trump to Help the Sick, Disabled, and Downtrodden in Our Society

In the early 1970s, Hillary Clinton sought to ferret out segregation and discrimination against African American schoolchildren by posing as a housewife. She fought for the laws that now require public education for disabled children. Today, Clinton has concrete proposals on how to help the disabled in this country, including autistic kids. Clinton also has proposals to assist the mentally ill and Alzheimer’s patients, as well as stop the Zika virus.

 Donald Trump? In the early 1970s, Donald Trump’s father and he were refusing to
rent housing to African Americans in violation of the Fair Housing Act. He mocks the disabled and seeks an end to “political correctness” (aka civility) as we know it in this country. Trump has also been sued multiple times for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, including a variety of accessibility issues at his Atlantic City casino, Taj Mahal, which recently shut its doors after filing for bankruptcy. Trump has no concrete plans to help the sick, disabled, and downtrodden in our country.


 4. Women/Moms Should Trust Hillary More Than Trump to Reduce Gun Violence in This Country

As a corollary to #1 above, Hillary Clinton has been an ardent supporter for common sense gun safety laws. Her critics say, without any evidence whatsoever, that she aims to take away guns or abolish the Second Amendment but, in fact, she just wants enactment of laws that will operate to keep guns out of the hands of terrorists, the severely mentally ill, domestic abusers, and convicted felons. Not only is this reasonable, it’s essential to protect Americans from mass shootings and other fatalities due to gun violence. Her goal of expanding background checks is supported by the overwhelming majority of Americans, including gun owners.

 Donald Trump? He has been
endorsed by the National Rifle Association for his views on guns, including the elimination of gun-free zones at schools. He also likes to tell jokes about gun violence, which really are not funny. At all.


 5. Women/Moms Should Trust HIllary More Than Trump to Help Families, Children, and Young Adults

Hillary Clinton has policies on K-12 education in this country that will ultimately benefit all of us. She wants to make pre-Kindergarten universal for all children, and has a plan for debt-free college. She is committed to fighting for paid family leave, and has done so both as First Lady and as a United States Senator. Starting with her work on the Children’s Defense Fund, Hillary has made children’s rights a priority. Also, most everyone knows that Hillary unsuccessfully fought for universal health care before it was Obamacare, but did you know that she helped pass the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which today insures millions of American children? She gave an interview to Parents Magazine in which she promised to help families and provided specifics.

 Donald Trump? As a lifelong businessman and entrepreneur, he is a relative newcomer to the question of education in our country and, since announcing his candidacy, has offered little to no specifics regarding how he would address or tackle the problems we face today. Most recently, his proposals to focus more resources on charter schools and voucher programs
seem likely to weaken or even gut our current public school system. When Parents Magazine reached out to ask Trump the same questions about families as were posed to Hillary, he declined to be interviewed.  Just this past Tuesday, he finally elaborated on his proposed childcare and maternity leave policies with daughter, Ivanka, standing beside him.   The maternity leave policy has already been criticized for being 50% shorter than Clinton’s proposal (six weeks vs. twelve weeks) and sexist as well (Clinton’s plan includes paternity leave for fathers; Trump’s is solely for working moms).  Trump’s childcare plan calls for a tax deduction that would benefit wealthy working mothers but not the average working mom who is struggling to make ends meet.


 6. Women/Moms Should Trust Hillary More Than Trump to Protect Our Environment

The graphic below makes clear that when it comes to protecting the environment for our kids and grandkids, there is no comparison between Clinton and Trump. Hillary understands the dangers of climate change and will work to protect our planet while creating jobs. And Trump? He has called the policies of the Obama administration, such as the Clean Power Plan, “stupid” and, like many Republicans, denies that climate change is a concern, despite overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary. 
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All In for Hillary! A Progressive Mom’s Back-to-School “To Do” List

The FeMOMist and her 16 year old son registering voters in Falls Church, VA.

Jennifer (aka “The FeMOMist”) and her 16 year old son registering voters in Falls Church, VA.

After a summer of family fun, my kids both went back to school on Monday, giving me a few minutes of peace and tranquility.

OK…that’s over.

It’s less than 10 weeks until Election Day!   Now that I have more time, what can I do to help Hillary get elected (and keep Donald Trump far away from the nuclear codes)?!

Here is one progressive mom’s “to do” list for this election season, which is shaping up to be one of the most important presidential elections in our lifetime.  The great thing is that many of these things can be accomplished with your kids by your side so you can set a good example, while getting them involved with the political process early in life!

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My Back-to-School “To Do” List

1. Join (or Start) a Group

Grassroots organization has become one of the most effective way of mobilizing folks to support a cause, often from the comfort of their own homes.  Stay-at-home (or well organized) moms can benefit from this empowering way to get involved.  The group can stay social media-centered, but occasionally goes viral and takes on a life of its own.

Some examples of moms organizing at the grassroots level?  Shannon Watts of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America started a movement in the wake of the Sandy Hook mass shooting that resembled Mothers Against Drunk Driving in some ways but had all the markings of the modern era:  Watts used social media to build up her massive following (now over a half million followers on Facebook alone) in a relatively short period of time.

More recently, Julie Zebrak started Moms4HRC (over 13,000 followers on Facebook) with the goal of electing Hillary Clinton as our 45th president.  Julie uses her electronic bully pulpit to send out (via social media and e-mail) pro-Hillary content from legitimate news organizations that she reads and digests before disseminating.  She also provides content on how to get involved with the campaign, has hosted a phone bank, is fundraising for the campaign, and just launched a website devoted to the group.  A lawyer and mom of two teenaged girls, Julie quit her government job to devote herself full-time to Moms4HRC.

No need to reinvent the wheel if you aren’t the organizing type (which I’m not), or simply don’t have the time.  All you have to do is like/join/follow groups like Moms Demand Action and Moms4HRC and there is genuine power and clout in numbers.

A Moms4HRC chart designed to inform moms about ways to help in various states.

“To Do” in Virginia for the week of August 26: Follow Moms4HRC on Facebook/subscribe to emails to receive these helpful charts on a weekly basis.

2.  Canvassing

While I personally haven’t done this yet, according to the research, canvassing is probably the single most effective way of getting out the vote.  Canvassing involves knocking on the doors of voters and encouraging them to vote for Hillary.  If you don’t feel comfortable doing this alone, bring a friend along or your kids.  I know of multiple women/moms who have canvassed for the Clinton campaign, and they say it’s a great experience to connect with real people and talk about the issues.

To get involved with canvassing in your town, especially in key battleground states:  (1) go to hillaryclinton.com, (2) click on the “more” tab, and (3) enter your zip code under “events.”  You can then (4) select “canvass” as a filter to see upcoming opportunities and get additional information.

3.  Voter Registration

I registered voters on a scorching hot day in Virginia with my kids (see above pic with my 16 year old son taken by my 14 year old daughter), and plan to do more now that it’s not as hot outdoors.

Basically, voter registration involves:

(1) Going to a group information session where you will learn about the voting requirements of a given state, and what you need to do to help a person register to vote.

(2)  From there, going to an assigned location (typically outside of supermarkets or other public places)

(3) Asking people who pass by if they are registered to vote and, if not, would they like to register.  

(4) Volunteers also help folks fill out the paperwork, which can be challenging for some.

Note that we do not ask anyone to vote specifically for Hillary.  The purpose is to make sure that everyone who is unregistered but is eligible and wants to vote is registered before their state deadline.  

In Virginia, for example, that deadline is October 17th, but every state is different.  Since different states also have varying requirements for residents that can make registering to vote more or less challenging to accomplish, voter registration can be a great civics lesson for older kids who are learning in school about the history of the civil rights movement and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

4.  Go to a Phone Bank

Not a face-to-face people person?  Have physical or other challenges that would make canvassing and voter registration (which generally involves walking and/or standing for periods of time) difficult?  Consider attending a phone bank event or volunteering for the virtual phone bank.  I did this beginning with Iowa during the primaries and it was so easy.  Yes, this is “cold calling,” but typically as the general election approaches you will be talking to a Clinton supporter and either asking them to volunteer or commit over the phone to voting for Hillary in early voting or on Election Day.  Whatever you are tasked with accomplishing during a phone bank session, you will have a script in front of you, and all the information you need.

Go here for more info about the campaign’s virtual phone bank.

For info about phone bank events near you, (1) go to hillaryclinton.com, (2) click on the “more” tab, (3) enter your zip code in the space provided under “events,” and (4) filter by “phone banks” along the sidebar.

5.  Host a Fundraiser

Yes, this can sound a little daunting, but fundraisers come in many shapes and sizes.  Even if you aren’t the PTA type, you too can raise money for Hillary!  For example, what about setting up a lemonade stand and donating all proceeds to the Clinton campaign fund?  Not only are you getting the little ones involved at a level they can understand, but also you can chat with people as they come by and say why you are voting for Hillary and why they should too. Another example:  Zebrak’s group is hosting a family friendly, back to school event in the backyard of a friend’s home.  Be creative!

A Florida mom sells lemonade to raise money for Clinton campaign.

A Florida mom sells lemonade to raise money and awareness for the Clinton campaign.

6. Attend a Fundraiser or Campaign Event

For a campaign contribution of varying amounts, you can go to an event to hear and sometimes meet interesting celebrity speakers.  Occasionally there are even big name performers/Clinton supporters like Katy Perry or Barbra Streisand.  Fundraisers like these tend to be centered around major cities such as Washington, D.C., New York, Los Angeles, and Boston, but there can also be similar events going on elsewhere, particularly in battleground states such as Florida and Pennsylvania.

For a list of official campaign fundraiser events, (1) go to hillaryclinton.com, (2) click on the “more” tab, (3) enter your zip code under “events,” and (4) use filters to find the event that’s best for you.

If you are in the DC metro area, and can’t afford a major fundraising event, consider going with your family to Moms4HRC’s back-to-school party on September 17th for a smaller campaign contribution.  For more info, click here.

Women for Hillary Fundraising Event on May 4 in Washington, D.C., featuring a panel discussion with Eva Longoria, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, NARAL president Ilyse Hogue, and Clinton aide Cheryl Mills.

Women for Hillary Fundraising Event on May 4 in Washington, D.C., featuring a panel discussion with Eva Longoria, NY Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, NARAL president Ilyse Hogue, and Cheryl Mills.

Hillary Clinton speaks at fundraising event attended by the author.

Hillary Clinton speaks at fundraising event attended by the author.

7. Spread the Word

This has become much easier in the Internet era.  I personally enjoy writing and have a background as an attorney/litigator, so I decided to start a blog entitled Musings from the FeMOMist.  While my blog covers many topics of concern to moms and women, a number of my posts are about Hillary Clinton and why moms/women should vote for her over Donald Trump.  Writing is a kind of a hobby for me at this point and my favorite way of supporting Hillary.

Not into writing?  That’s perfectly fine–you can send out a short email blast to your networks and quote or link to other sources (give credit as appropriate) or share content with your Facebook friends.  If you have a Twitter account you can tweet occasionally or share content that way.

8. Stay Informed

It’s hard to spread the word about Hillary’s accomplishments and what she intends to do as POTUS unless you are informed yourself.  There are many ways for a busy mom to do this.

Read articles about Clinton from reputable news sources that you feel confident are not biased against her.  (An example of a so-called news source not to trust is Breitbart since its editor-in-chief is now running the Trump campaign.)

Moms4HRC does a great job of gathering information and news and posting on its Facebook page.  If you don’t follow the group on Facebook, all of the posts are here.

Here is a link to a reasonably comprehensive list of Clinton’s jobs, experience, and accomplishments.  Print it out and carry it with you to show people when they tell you Hillary hasn’t “accomplished” anything.

A recent interview of Clinton by Parents Magazine reveals what she plans to do specifically to help families.

Go to Hillary’s website to see her concrete proposals to address an array of issues that face our country.

Follow these links to some of my entries as a contributor on HuffPost to know how to respond when people say they are considering voting for Donald Trump over Clinton, say that she is crooked/a liar, bring up Benghazi/emails, or mention that they dislike her.

9. Adopt a Campaign Office

One great idea proposed by Moms4HRC (see graphic below) is to adopt a campaign office.  Basically, you provide food, drinks, and supplies to the volunteers who are working away to support the campaign.

Ideas on what to contribute to your local campaign office, courtesy of Moms4HRC

Ideas on what to contribute to your local campaign office, courtesy of Moms4HRC

10.  Volunteer at a Campaign Office

Local campaign offices welcome volunteers and can have a variety of jobs for you to do, both at the office and in the field.  As one example, during the primaries, I volunteered to stand outside an early voting poll venue and hand out flyers about Hillary.  If your kids are old enough, you can bring them along and get them involved too.  As we get closer to the election, there will be opportunities to drive voters to the polling place, and help watch little kids while their parents vote.

The author handing out literature at a polling place during early voting, with Jamie Raskin, a Democrat running for the US Congress in Maryland.

The author handing out literature at a polling place during primary early voting.  To her left is Jamie Raskin, Democratic candidate for the US Congress.