Sunday, July 19, 2015

An Angry White Woman on Why Black Lives Matter

Why is a middle age white woman writing about Black Lives Mattering? Because white people need to challenge other white people about racism in America. We also need to stand together with our brothers and sisters of all races, religions and value systems to create sweeping change across the country. The time to act is now.

We white people are a privileged group of people. We have never had to worry that a police officer might attack us or our children for little or no cause. We have not grown up as victims of bigotry and prejudice just because of our skin color. We have not had to live through a long history of slavery and injustice, and we are not even aware of our own privilege most of the time.

Write me off as an angry white woman. Or, call me a person who wants to increase fairness, civility, equal rights, and compassion for all people. We white people need to not only face our own internal racism, we need to talk with and educate each other about our racial values, and we need to change our society’s system of structural racism.

We now know some cities’ names only because of extreme violence against black people. Ferguson and Charleston come to mind. Think of the names of so many black lives that were recently and abruptly halted because of racism, violence and guns, some of them being children: Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Jordan Davis, Walter Scott, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Jonathan Sanders, and many more. All of these black lives mattered and they were killed unfairly and violently by white people.

Although there is still some controversy around the deaths of Sandra Brand and Jonathan Sanders, police violence happens so frequently, we white people can hardly imagine how African Americans feel about white people and about the United States of America. Doesn’t seem so united to me.

Our prisons and jails are so full of black lives, some incarcerated for not being able to pay bail for a traffic violation, or a petty crime. We imprison our poor and blacks, immigrants and people with minor drug offenses. Many of our correctional facilities are run by private corporations that make huge profits based on the amount of beds filled each day, incentivizing profit.

Let’s change the dialogue, let’s ask white people to take responsibility for changing our patriarchal, mostly white systems. This is no small task. We cannot change everyone’s minds or values, but we can speak out and influence our leaders, asking them to make changes that will improve black lives.

Black people have been oppressed, injured and killed in unspeakable ways throughout our nation’s history, and we are still wounding blacks today in prisons, in housing projects and in current educational systems. We white people are much of the reason that structural racism still occurs, and it is up to us to do something about it. 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Raising Unwanted Children

The Tennessean did a fine job describing what has changed regarding new abortion laws beginning on July 1, 2015, and described a lawsuit filed about the 2014 vote on Amendment 1 (see 

The Yes on 1 campaign was victorious (53%) giving state legislators the right to decide about girls’ and women’s reproductive health, including birth control and abortions, instead of letting females make such decisions in consultation with their families, doctors and faith leaders. The lawsuit disagrees with how the vote was counted, and a judge last week agreed not to dismiss that suit.

Tennessee has enacted legislation that makes it almost impossible for some women to get good reproductive healthcare and/or abortions, and the fee for abortions has now almost doubled.  Now, we are not just discriminating against the poor but against rural Tennessee citizens who often travel to larger cities to receive excellent healthcare.

Some women now need to travel two days instead of one if they are seeking consultation about abortion and choose that route. Missing work adds stress and often loss of income. Those who voted Yes on 1 and those who didn’t vote at all have given our legislators the power to make such changes.

Some say, “Most women don’t really think about these matters or consult with others. They just get pregnant and decide quickly and easily about abortions.”  Think again.  Women do not take lightly the termination of a fetus.  Having practiced as a psychotherapist for over 25 years, I can tell you that women suffer greatly about making such decisions.

And, men? Are they clamoring to support unwanted babies?  Children may be born before parents have a high school education or the skills to raise a healthy child. 

Pregnancy can occur by accident, by sexual assault, and when using appropriate birth control. Think about adolescents and other women who cannot afford or take good care of a child. Think about the children. What a difficult way to come into this world.

It seems like the same people who dislike welfare numbers also want to ban abortions. Because of these new laws, there will be more babies whose mothers cannot afford abortions, who may need public assistance to help their unwanted children have the very basics, like food and shelter. They may not be as able to support their children’s emotional needs.

Add in the stress of parents working 2 - 3 jobs to make ends meet, and how families are negatively impacted by the absence of parental involvement and the effects of parental stress. Domestic violence increases.

Is this the kind of world we want to live in, one that helps babies be born with so many strikes against them?  I hope children can be born into healthier environments so that our state flourishes and becomes a better place for all people.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

A Sign: No Gays Allowed

The Supreme Court recently made an excellent decision about marriage equality and now, the backlash from conservatives. 

Businesses that deal with weddings, like photographers, bakeries, florists, and wedding planners will be making some decisions. A friend says that for those businesses that don’t want to serve the LGBT community, perhaps we can say, "OK, fine, as long as you advertise that you are denying these customers.”  Let the market itself take care of those businesses.  Unfortunately though, in many rural places, people do not have a variety of choices.

Recently, some news: “Tennessee hardware store owner has been getting death threats after posting a ‘No Gays Allowed’ sign on his front door, but he stands by his homophobic message,” according to the New York Daily News (  He took down the first sign and replaced it with: 

"We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone who would violate our rights of freedom of speech & freedom of religion.”

I do not understand how LGBT customers can violate his freedom of speech, much less his freedom of religion.

Jeff Amyx, the store owner, is also a Baptist minister. I don’t know anywhere in the Bible that it says not to sell a wrench to a LGBT person.  Maybe this man doesn’t serve people of other faiths, like Jewish people. Does he serve adulterers? Wasn’t there something in the Ten Commandments about that?  I don’t know how business owners can know such facts about our private lives anyway, unless they have gaydar.

Chris Sanders, Chairman of the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP) says, “A few hateful business owners cannot stem the tide of the growing number of companies embracing equality. We have over 20 new members of Tennessee Open For Business from East TN.   So this hardware store doesn't define the region.”

My friend, Ernie Boyd, said in response to the USA Today article: “Can you imagine if a sign says, ‘No Baptist Ministers Allowed?’ He’d justifiably be upset. But, then again, he wasn't born a Baptist pastor. He chose to be one.”

Over 50 years ago, African Americans often couldn’t stop on road trips to eat in restaurants or use public bathrooms because they were barred from all-white establishments. There were laws against interracial couples as well. The Supreme Court finally intervened. 

I don’t want to live in a country where business owners can deny services solely based on their beliefs and assumptions about people.  The legality of denying customers is important but even more significant are the morality and ethics of excluding particular types of customers.

A business owner, Saralee Terry Woods voiced her opinion: “BookManBookWoman Bookstore welcomes everyone and we do not discriminate. One of the owners has been speaking out for gay rights in television and radio interviews for more than 30 years.  We have a Tennessee Equality Project sign on our front door.”  This is the kind of world I would like to live in.

Hedy Weinberg, the executive director of Tennessee’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, says: “Gay and lesbian people are our neighbors, coworkers, family members and friends. When it comes to being able to be served by a business, they should be treated like anyone else. Religion should not be used as an excuse to discriminate against LGBT people. Businesses that are open to the public should be open to everyone on the same terms.”

My question to Mr. Amyx, the hardware store owner: “If you are a Christian, didn’t you grow up singing a song about Jesus loving ‘all the little children of the world?’”