What We’ve Gained And Lost Since Stonewall

Black trans people have been struggling for acceptance for 50 years. And we’re not even close to getting it.

By Miss Major

There is no because of this or that — Stonewall just happened. There was a tendency at that time for white people to think, well, she’s a junkie or she’s an alcoholic or she’s a drug addict. She’s anything but human, so why listen to her? That was the basic attitude towards us trans women in the 60s. And it just happened to be everywhere. Some of the girls back then, like Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, tried to speak up for us, but just got laughed at. Everyone, especially the police, had been treating us trans girls poorly for years. They used to make trans women wear three articles of male clothing under their female attire in order to enter the bar. It was such a mental and emotional persecution building up over time — the shit just hit the fan, period.

I would love to say that things are so much better now because we’re more visible— but they’re not. It took 40 years to become more visible. What happened during all that time? What about all the girls whose lives were lost? What about all of those who were beaten and killed because someone was trying to put their own attitude and morals on our bodies? Strangers have no compunction. The police never did anything to catch those murderers. The way I see it, the government sanctioned those murders. Their silence was approval. They’ve been killing us girls for years. Is it anything new? No. Is the rate they’re killing any different? Since our visibility happened, there’s been even more brutality, harassment, mistreatment happening on a regular basis. People can’t get to Laverne Cox or Janet Mock, so instead, they go after a girl walking in a street in her neighborhood at night, just trying to make money to survive. And when the police come, the murderer goes home free of charge, while this trans woman nobody cares about lies dead in the street.

These days the police are shooting folks left and right, shooting all of our young black men every opportunity they get — and what happens? Everybody’s sad — they all sing prayers and rush to put the flowers down beside the deceased. But when a young 19-year-old transgender girl is murdered, who’s running to put flowers on her? Nobody. Who’s stopping to check on her blood family or her network of friends? Nobody.

What does the word ‘fair’ mean to you?

I started working with #BlackLivesMatter because people have to understand, black trans lives matter too — black means all black people. I was black before I became a transgender person. And I suffer because I’m black more than I suffer from being transgender. Which is better? There is no way to tell.

The world is not set up for black and brown people at all. So, we have to look out for each other — and for trans people of color, in general. Most black trans girls are on their own pretty early, because their families won’t accept them as trans. When your family smells perfume on you, they don’t waste time — you can’t live in their house and do that; if you don’t conform and pretend to be the black boy they raised, then you’re out of there. But then what do you do? How do you survive? How do you pay rent? How do you buy food? Where do you live? We don’t have a choice. If they won’t let you in to survive, you live on the outside.

I’m a person, so I want to make sure that the young people realize that they need to be themselves — even though it comes with a cost. This isn’t the kind of the world that lets you be who you really are for free! This isn’t a world where black trans people can be comfortable and exercise our rights as a human beings. The world doesn’t think we’re human; they don’t think we have any rights. Besides, what do the laws matter when the people enforcing them won’t acknowledge or act on them? The law has no teeth.

I want people to know that it’s rough for us. We’re a tough bunch of bitches. We’ve gone through worse. We’ll get through this. We just have to be strong. We do what we need to do to be okay and wake up tomorrow morning and start all over again. We can’t give in. We can’t go down without a fight. We’re not going to be pushed around.

**Miss Major’s pronouns are she/her**

This essay was adapted from an interview with Miss Major.

Read the original piece on Medium.com.

This article is part of a Black. Trans. Alive. We Won't be Erased: A Roundtable Discussion.

 

August 14, 2019

Identify. Describe. Dismantle. Repeat.

Nicky Goren, president and CEO of the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation, writes about calling out and then rejecting systems and institutions rooted in racism as a way to become not just non-racist, but anti-racist. This post was originally published here on Medium.

Nicky was part of the first Philanthropy Forward: Leadership for Change Fellowship cohort, a joint initiative of Neighborhood Funders Group and The Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions. The Meyer Foundation, which pursues and invests in solutions that build an equitable Greater Washington, is a member of NFG.


 

Nicky GorenRecently, the president of the United States openly targeted four women of color in Congress, overtly lying about and mischaracterizing things they have said and suggesting they, “go back to where they came from.” Later, at a reelection rally in North Carolina, he continued to stoke these flames of racism and hate as he appeared to bask in the glow of his supporters chanting, “send her back!” in reference to Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. This, along with his tirade against Rep. Elijah E. Cummings and the Baltimore-area district he represents, was just among the latest in a long track record of openly racist comments, actions, stances, and tactics the president has used since long before he was elected to the highest office in the nation, and make crystal clear what he and his supporters seek to uphold.

We are long past any question about whether the president and many of the people around him and supporting him are racist. His actions and his words by any objective standard make it so. What is more important is to understand how our systems of government and white culture actively enable racism to continue to play out in our election processes, our governance processes, in virtually every aspect of our day-to-day existence in this country.

A great example is what happened after the president’s remarks when members of the House of Representatives condemned those comments through a resolution. In the context of that debate, some House members attempted to derail the resolution by turning to a House precedent that would preclude the speaker of the house from characterizing the president’s comments as racist; essentially, using precedent and procedure designed to inhibit the ability to call out racism in order to avoid confronting the very issue that is at the core of how we function as a country. If you can’t name it, you can’t address it. This is a prime example of how those in power (historically, white men) have created systems, processes, procedures, cultures, and norms, that allow them to maintain the status quo. We should all be scratching our heads.

We need to call out those in power who are silent or who use a so-called desire for civility — from the White House to the state house to our own houses — as a shield to maintain the structures of white supremacy that have gotten them to where they are and continue to oppress people of color in the United States on a daily basis.

White people who believe themselves to be socially aware need to understand how we are using our dominant cultural norms — that show up in ways including a general avoidance or reimagining of historical facts, an over-reliance on precedent, and outrage at the very idea of being thought of as racist — to shield ourselves, our systems, and those in power from accountability for equitable outcomes. Many of us are constantly deflecting and, thereby protecting, the way things are.

I challenge white people to become not just non-racist, but anti-racist — and to call out racists and racism when we see it. We need to hold those who are perpetuating systems, institutions, and practices rooted in racism accountable. And we need to recognize what we are seeing for what it is; not something from our ancient past that we can absolve ourselves from, but something that is deep in the DNA of this country. We must actively name and refuse to accept racism any longer if we want to move forward and reflect the standards of freedom and democracy we believe we stand for.

In the words of author, historian, and professor Ibram Kendi: “The only way to undo racism is to consistently identify and describe it — and then dismantle it.”

Let’s keep going.

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August 15, 2019

Beyond Outrage: A Clarity of Purpose

Dimple Abichandani, Executive Director of the General Service Foundation, urges grantmakers and the philanthropic sector to take concrete actions to defend democracy and speak out against racist attacks on people of color. This post was originally published here on the foundation's website.

Dimple was part of the first Philanthropy Forward: Leadership for Change Fellowship cohort, a joint initiative of Neighborhood Funders Group and The Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions. General Service Foundation, which partners with grassroots organizations to bring about a more just and sustainable world, is a member of NFG.


  

Dimple AbichandaniWe live in dangerous times, and every passing news cycle contains another outrage, another violation of norms, another threat to our democracy, another threat to our planet.  

In the face of escalating racial attacks, (be it imprisonment of kids on the border or the racist rhetoric being tweeted from the white house) many have noted, rightly, that philanthropy as a sector has been too cautious and too quiet.  The Communications Network, in it’s recent piece, Silence Speaks Volumes, calls on foundations to use their voices in this moment.

Yes, it’s meaningful for people from all sectors of our society to condemn the Administration’s attacks on people of color.  And, for those of us working in the philanthropic sector, these times call on us to use all of our tools in defense of our inclusive, multi-racial democracy.  We are more than commentators or observers– as funders, our role is to resource a more just and equitable future. What we do in this moment will be far more important than what we say.  

As painful as this moment is, it is also a time in which the work to be done has become more clear. The vulnerability of our democracy has become more clear.  Racial anxiety and social divisions are being stoked in order to prop up a reckless system that benefits only the wealthiest. As we condemn the most recent of a long list of outrages, can we also use this moment to deepen our own clarity of purpose, and ensure that our funding will bring about a more just future? 

As funders, we can not only speak out but also take action to bolster our inclusive democracy.

  1. Support those most directly impacted by injustice. Instead of wielding of our own voice and power as a foundation, we can support those most directly impacted by injustice to build their voice, power, and leadership. They must lead the way to a more just world; it is our job to uplift and resource their visions and voices. National organizations such as Color of Change, New American Leaders, and National Domestic Workers Alliance, regional and state-based organizations such as Western States Center, Black Voters Matter and Workers Defense Project and so many others are seeding a future in which racial, gender and economic justice will be the norm.
  2. Invest in the creation and dissemination of narratives that reshape cultural attitudes around belonging in our country.  The recent escalation in the use of racist and sexist rhetoric is not happening in a vacuum– rather it builds on broader public narratives shaped by white supremacy and male dominance.  We need to normalize new narratives that humanize all of us, that value all of us. Organizations such as the Pop Culture CollaborativeReFrame, and the Culture Change Fund, for example, build capacity for narrative equity and culture shift.
  3. Question the default funding habits and practices that limit us from making a bigger impact in this moment. As funders, we sometimes have a blind spot for how our internal practices create unnecessary burdens and barriers for organizations that do the important work we support. This moment calls on us to question our practices, shift to ways of working that account for the gravity of the problems we face, and center the people who are leading the social change efforts we support. Could your foundation increase its payout, provide more general operating support, increase the length of grants, and minimize busywork for grantees? Could you shift your grant strategy to more boldly meet the moment or more directly address the imbalances of power in our society? The Trust Based Philanthropy Network has tools and stories of inspiration from foundations who have increased their impact by changing their practices.

So many of us in philanthropy are eager to do something meaningful in this tumultuous time.  Let’s challenge ourselves to use this moment to put our institutional values into practice. Let’s walk the walk as boldly as we talk the talk.