Anne Klaeysen's Blog
“Such a nasty woman.”
Donald J. Trump referring to Hillary Clinton during the third presidential debate in Las Vegas on October 19, 2016
“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”
Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell after sanctioning Senator Elizabeth Warren during the hearing for Attorney General nominee Jeffrey Sessions on February 7, 2017
The first quotation is an example of manterruption, the second of mansplaining. Both have been transformed into powerful social media memes – and T-shirts – to further the cause of women’s rights. They have, as the saying goes, “gone viral.” One woman tweeted: “Thanks for the new battle cries!”
For the record, during their third and final debate, Clinton interrupted Trump fewer than five times; Trump interrupted her more than forty times, more than in any of the other debates. Ironically, only minutes before, Trump declared (to audience laughter) that “no one has more respect for women than I do.”
When Clinton said, “Donald thinks belittling women makes him bigger. He goes after their dignity, their self-worth, and I don’t think there is a woman anywhere who doesn’t know what that feels like,” many of us agreed and shared with one another our harrowing experiences. Janet Jackson’s 1986 hit song “Nasty,” which had become a theme for women dealing with disrespectful men, was played again, capturing the essence of our problem with Trump.
On the evening of Tuesday, February 7, Elizabeth Warren started to read a statement that Coretta Scott King, widow of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., had written 30 years ago opposing the nomination of Jeffrey Sessions for a federal judgeship. Accused of violating Senate rules against impugning another senator, Warren was barred from continuing by a vote down party lines, followed by McConnell using a strategy designed to silence women. One woman tweeted that his words were “every woman’s epitaph.”
Unable to finish speaking in the nearly empty Senate chamber, Warren took to Facebook Live (“They can shut me up, but they can’t change the truth,” she said.) where she read the entire statement for an audience of over 7 million by Wednesday afternoon.
Here is one paragraph from that statement: “Mr. Sessions has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens in the district he now seeks to serve as a federal judge. This simply cannot be allowed to happen. Mr. Sessions’ conduct as a US Attorney, from his politically-motivated voting fraud prosecutions to his indifference toward criminal violations of civil rights laws, indicated that he lacks the temperament, fairness and judgment to be a federal judge.”
In between the dates when the two “manly” quotations were made, on the day after Trump’s poorly attended inauguration, millions of women (and men) around the world, including Antarctica, took to the streets and marched. One woman’s invitation to forty friends to protest a sexual predator making his home in the White House grew to the largest and most peaceful single-day demonstration in U.S. history.
The sheer numbers made an impact, but what really made the day special was the sea of pink hats. The Pussyhat Project was launched over Thanksgiving weekend to draw attention to Trump’s caught-on-tape boasts about grabbing unsuspecting women by their genitals. Its mission was to provide people on the marches with a means to make a unique collective visual statement and to provide people unable to physically participate with a way to represent themselves and support women’s rights. What a rousing success it was, as you can see from the photo of Eleanor Roosevelt sporting one.
Following the march, the organizers of the Women’s March on Washington posted the “10 Actions for the first 100 Days” campaign for joint activism to keep up the momentum. Last month, an Upper West Side “Huddle” convened in our Meeting House to strategize how to implement those actions. In the coming weeks, months and years, we at Ethical will continue to partner with individuals and groups to fight for human rights and environmental protection.
Since 1976, every United States president has officially designated February as Black History Month. Here’s hoping President Trump does, too. He, more than any other president since 1976, needs to learn the lessons of Black History Month. A case in point: During the presidential campaign, Trump said there had “never been a worse time to be a black person” in America. President Obama urged him to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture (https://nmaahc.si.edu/) to brush up on his history. Trump seemed to have “missed that whole civics lesson about slavery and Jim Crow,” he said in a September speech at the Congressional Caucus Foundation in Washington, DC. “We’ve got a museum for him to visit, so he can tune in. We will educate him.” Sadly, Trump cancelled his plans to visit the museum on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. One wonders whether he did so because civil rights leader John Lewis, who chose not to attend his inauguration and questions his legitimacy as president, championed the creation of this museum and is featured in many of its exhibits.
In her memoir, Negroland, Margo Jefferson quotes her mother, who, in the 1950’s, was worried that her young daughters were “being naturalized into white culture.” “When I was your age,” she said, “we celebrated Negro History Week. The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History was founded by Carter G. Woodson right here in Chicago. We read The Crisis [official magazine of the NAACP]. We were so proud when we sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing’ at assemblies and church programs.” Jefferson writes, “From that day forward Mother began her own cultural enrichment course with evening and weekend contributions from Daddy.”
Black History Month grew out of Negro History Week, founded by noted historian Carter G. Woodson and launched in 1926 in the second week of February between the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. Woodson also founded the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History (ASALH) in 1915 and the Journal of Negro History in 1916. A prolific writer about the contributions of African-Americans, his best-known work is The Miseducation of the Negro, published in 1933. It focused on the Western indoctrination system and African-American self-empowerment.
Born to former slaves in 1875 in Buckingham County, Virginia, Woodson worked in mines and quarries until the age of 20, received his high school diploma at the age of 22 and a master’s degree in history from the University of Chicago. In 1912, Woodson received a doctorate in history from Harvard, but was unable to land a teaching post there because Harvard wasn’t hiring black professors. He taught instead at Howard University, one of the nation’s leading black educational institution.
Woodson spent his life investigating, documenting and publishing African-American history. He died suddenly of a heart attack on April 3, 1950 in Washington, DC, before realizing his ambition of publishing the six-volume Encyclopedia Africana.
The theme for 2017’s Black History month, selected by ASALH, is “The Crisis in Black Education,” a tribute to its founder. It focuses on the crucial role of education and recalls Woodson’s words: “If you teach the Negro that he has accomplished as much good as any other race he will aspire to equality and justice without regard to race.”
The crisis, according to ASALH, “first began in the days of slavery when it was unlawful for slaves to learn to read and write. . . [C]ontinuing today, the crisis in black education has grown significantly in urban neighborhoods where public schools lack resources, endure overcrowding, exhibit a racial achievement gap, and confront policies that fail to deliver substantive opportunities.”
I am finishing this column on Inauguration Day and will travel early tomorrow morning to Washington, DC to march for all that I hold dear about our nation. That includes Black History Month and the lessons we still have to learn.
At noon on Friday, the 20th of January 2017, a New York City real estate developer with business interests across the globe, someone who lost the popular vote but garnered enough states to win in the Electoral College, will be sworn in on the West Lawn of The Capitol as the 45th president of the United States.
On the following day, I will join women and men from across the country in Washington, DC to protest the direction he has chosen for our nation, down a road far from the values we hold dear. Protests will also be held in other cities, including ours. The lives of many Americans have already been put at risk, some targeted by his late-night tweets; his lies, although challenged, are repeated by his supporters even as he quotes them from known fake news sources; and his reckless policies will endanger our relationships with other nations, as well as the environment we all share.
As historian and activist Howard Zinn reminded us, “dissent is the highest form of patriotism. In fact, if patriotism means being true to the principles for which your country is supposed to stand, then certainly the right to dissent is one of those principles. And if we’re exercising that right to dissent, it’s a patriotic act.”
There is much to dissent in the appointments Donald J. Trump has announced:
- a chief counselor who runs a website is lauded by the most virulent racists in America
- a climate change denier in litigation against the Environmental Protection Agency to run that life-saving department
- a strong advocate of private schools to run the Education Department
- someone who opposes minimum wage to run the Labor Department
- handing the Department of the Interior over to someone who plans to sell public lands
- nominee for attorney general whom the Senate refused to confirm as a federal judge in 1986 for being too racist
- a Treasury secretary who foreclosed on thousands of homes during the housing crisis
- and a nominee for Secretary of State with a financial stake in Exxon, which has operations in more than 50 countries, and who has drawn scrutiny for his close relationship with President Vladimir Putin, whose country has been accused by the CIA of having influence our presidential election.
And this was just the news from December, along with a rise in hate crimes perpetrated by those emboldened by his inflammatory rhetoric. There is much more in store for us and the rest of the world. It is no wonder, then, that people are gathering to exercise their right to dissent, to proudly declare themselves as patriots.
Among them is Mayor Bill DeBlasio who, during a public address at Cooper Union on November 21, reassured New Yorkers that “The results of an election don’t change who we are. A single office-holder doesn’t change who we are; a law that gets passed in Washington doesn’t change who we are. We are 8.5 million strong, and we ain’t changing. We are always New York. Somos siempre Nueva York.” He went on to say, “We don’t live in perfect harmony, but we’ve found a way to live and let live. And we know how to support each other, and we know how to protect each other, and we know how to have each other’s backs. . . Now, it’s our turn to build a movement – a movement of the majority that believes in respect and dignity for all.”
Here’s what lies on the road ahead: Muslim-Jewish alliances, sanctuary sites for undocumented immigrants, activist engagement of a younger generation, training in allyship, and indigenous peoples declaring “a reawakening of the nations of Turtle Island.”
Here at Ethical, we recommit ourselves to standing up for human rights and protection of the environment that embraces us all. In this issue of Outlook, you will find programs and activities, a list of ethical action affinity groups, and inspiration to walk down this road together.