Category Archives: Anti-Racism

Writing Coming Out Of #Ferguson #EricGarner

In America’s largest city, the judicial branch declined to pursue charges against a security officer who was videotaped in broad daylight choking a man to death. This came less than two weeks after courts in the nation’s often overlooked central region reached a similar decision in the shooting of an unarmed teenager. Both victims were members of the country’s largest minority group, and the killings have set off nationwide protests that have often escalated into clashes between dissidents and the security forces.

You’ve got to love being overseas, and reading about what is happening in America.  You really get a whole new perspective.  This quote comes actually from an American writer Joshua Keating at Slate who writes columns about US events using the same tone & tropes US media does about foreign events.

There has been a lot of really good writing, reporting, reflecting and analyzing coming out of the violent events of #Ferguson and #EricGarner and more.  I’ve had time to read more than I normally do on my mini-sabbatical here in the Philippines.  I still find it difficult to react as quickly as I’d like to, but I’m sending out a deep appreciation to the people who have taken time to do so.  I am particularly drawn to the landscape analysis given my long-term interests in social change, but also have found several very influential portrait posts.  Without must annotation, here are some very good posts worth reading or reading again:

White America’s Scary Delusion: Why Violence Is At The Core Of Whiteness by Dr. Brittany Cooper

Ferguson Solidarity Protests by Deepa Iyer (keynote at APANO Convention 2014)

#CrimingWhileWhite Confessions by Noam Cohen and a response #AliveWhileBlack by Zachary Goldfarb

I find it valuable to have a trove of White folks naming the privilege they’ve received in #CrimingWhileWhite, as a window into Whiteness.  I think this increases the likelihood of reaching other White folks, and comes out of the context of our current US racial context.  This aspect of the twitterverse provides a level of reality check for White America.  I see #AliveWhileBlack less as a “response”, because I don’t think we’re debating right/wrong here, but more as an important continuation of our dialogue on race.

Encounter at Protest Leads To Hug by Gosia Wozniacki

Gosia, who is a friend,  shares this followup personal reflection, particularly in light of the critiques of the photo:

After the photo of a 12-year-old African American boy hugging a white police officer in Portland went viral, it generated a lot of interesting responses on all sides. I’d like to add my thoughts to the discussion, because I’m a photographer and lover of photography. Please note these are my personal views, not those of the AP. I fought hard for the AP to print this photo, secured the rights from the freelancer to publish it, and got in touch with both the officer and the mom of the boy to write the back story of the photo. Many people reacted very positively to the image – they said it was a sign of hope, of much needed healing, and it left them weeping. But some have also criticized the photograph, saying it has shifted the attention away from the problems of racism and police brutality facing our nation. Critics also have said white people grabbed onto the image as an easy excuse that all is well after all. And they’ve accused the photographer of cropping the photo to distort reality and the officer and the boy’s mom of staging the photograph and using it as PR tool for the police. First, let me say that I’m glad this image is generating big emotions and discussion from all sides about race relations and about the meaning of photography. Did this photograph tell the truth, or not? Every photograph in existence is “cropped”. Photographers frame photos in the field by choosing a certain piece of reality and excluding everything around it. They also crop shots using editing software. These are the basic ways photography works. Every piece of photo out there is subjective and selective, because the moment and the frame are chosen by the photographer. Every photo is just a small piece of a much bigger reality and we all know and expect that. But good photographs also have the power to stop time and focus on tiny moments that we might have missed. The placement of photos in newspapers and online is important, and editors need to weigh the importance of what is newsworthy and why – but clearly, this wasn’t the only Ferguson-related photograph published last week. Also, there are circumstances I can imagine where the framing can be deceiving, when key pieces of information are missing. I don’t personally think this is the case here. One of the criticisms is that a lot of people were shooting photos of “the hug”, making the police and the boy’s reactions inauthentic. If you’ve attended any recent street protests, you know that every other activist is holding a cell phone or digital camera and taking photos or video or everything and everybody. Photography and shooting video have become ubiquitous, esp. in times of public chaos. This was a noteworthy moment, and the fact that people were paying attention with their cameras doesn’t surprise me. I wasn’t there to see the hug, and don’t know what the true motivations were, but let me offer this: When it comes to the boy, he was crying before he ever approached the cop, so I believe his emotions were sincere. When it comes to the policeman, we’ll never really know what was going through his head other than what he tells us. In the end, here’s why this photo was so compelling: on the surface, it was a positive image during a week of negative images, the element of surprise. But it wasn’t just a normal hug. What made the image a standout was the expression on the boy’s face and the story behind it. According to his mom, the boy has been struggling with the issue of police brutality and racism against black teens. He was there at the protest, bravely facing the police barricade, tears streaming down his face. And when he was hugging the officer, his face was anguished. That face said everything – it said how hard a black teen’s life is and how difficult and complicated it is to hug (read: to trust) a policeman who should be there to protect you. The struggle on this boy’s face expressed the relationship between black teens and cops. And it’s that face that should lead us all to ask why, in a country where police should work for all citizens, a black boy has to cry when hugging a white officer — and why this is even newsworthy.




Sense of Place

When I first learned of the terrible injustices inflicted by people upon people I felt very helpless.  I think a part of my life has been spent trying understand these realities in part to sustain my ministry in a more holistic way.


One of the rituals I formed as a young adult was to do my best to always consider my physical place and ask about the people who called it their home in the present and past.  I always learn something new.  Another ethos I developed is around only traveling to places where I have a relationship and invitation.  I can’t say I honored this all the time, but it is one that I feel has grown stronger as I have aged and have more class privilege to visit places of my choosing.

Lastly, I have sought to intentionally be present in places where there have been terrible injustices and great transformations.  I make it a point to bring myself to locations that have meaning for social justice – both in terms of remembering our history and to feel my body in the same spot where others have struggled.

Once I stepped out onto the country roadside to look upon the lightly wooded ravine in South Dakota and upon a simple billboard that honored the Massacre at Wounded Knee.  I can still feel the sight of the beautiful murals at San Francisco State University and the sharp edges of the buildings where 1960s students of color went on strike for equity in education.  My partner and I stayed a month in one of the Zapatista Caracols in Chiapas after engaging for years in solidarity work.  Our family took a tour into the Old City of Manila where thousands were killed during World War II.

This winter we may visit Tule Lake Internment Camp where thousands of Japanese Americans were imprisoned in America’s WWII concentration camp.  A place that continued on as dilapidated farmworker housing.  And we will continue to make visits to meet people who are the hearts and souls in our movement building work, from young people in East Portland to elders who share their stories with us around the campfire.

Photo credit – Alex Haas

Oregon’s Festival of Democracy

Check it out, one of the most wonderful weeks of truly engaging and honestly authentic community advocates are being brought together by the Bus Project for a damn fun, critically real and pretty inspirational Festival of Democracy.  Something for everyone, from newbies looking to educate themselves about the upcoming elections to seasoned vets seeking something new in their toolbox.  Rebooting Democracy runs through Sunday April 22nd.

I’ll be a part of Sunday’s workshop The Equity Equation: Working to Solve Oregon’s Racial Disparities, along with Kalpana Krishnamurthy of Western States Center and the Oregon Racial Equity Report Card.  Shout out to all the great APANO volunteers helping out, and the continued effort of the organizers to prioritize the issues of communities of color and communities experiencing inequities.

Push to Keep GA in Arizona

I continue to oppose having the regular general business of the UUA in Phoenix.  I strongly support re-investing the $600,000 in minimum reservation fees for the 2012 to be directed to a UUA response to SB 1070.  I wonder if we are trying to be cheap by insisting we can “do it all” by having GA and public witness?  Do we undermine the larger movement by making these rationalizations but really what we’re concerned about is money?

Lots of discussions are being generated by UUA President Peter Morales issuing a call for GA continue to be held in Phoenix in 2012.  Check out this discussion thread by Rev. Michael Tino.

UU Allies for Racial Equity(ARE) Endorses Arizona Boycott

UU Allies for Racial Equity(ARE) Endorses Arizona Boycott

May 2010

With other people of faith and concerned citizens across the country, we are disappointed and deeply troubled by the passage of recent anti-immigrant legislation in the state of Arizona.  We fear that this legislation will ultimately result in marginalization of immigrants, both documented and undocumented.   Harassment of Latinos/Latinas/Hispanics and people of color perceived as immigrants because of their race or ethnicity will be an inevitable consequence of any attempts at enforcement.   Our nation has made significant progress toward racial equity in the last fifty years.  This new law is a shameful step backwards, once again inscribing racism in the legal system and thereby in the institutions required to comply with the legal system.

Immediately upon passage of the new Arizona law, the Rev. Peter Morales, president of our Unitarian Universalist Association, issued a statement in which he wrote: We cannot stand by while those charged to protect us instead subject us to racial profiling, unwarranted searches, and unjust arrests. We must not let fear and ignorance cause our neighbors to be treated as lesser beings. We must not allow this law to violate our national constitution or America’s moral conscience.”  We are grateful for the leadership of Rev. Morales and for the leadership of our Unitarian Universalist Association Board of Trustees who quickly convened a special meeting to consider whether we should rescind our commitment to hold our 2012 General Assembly in Phoenix.  After listening to many voices and considering a spectrum of protest strategies, the board voted to present a business resolution before the delegates to our annual General Assembly this June in Minneapolis, MN asking us to participate in a widespread economic boycott of Arizona.  We encourage you to read the full text of the board’s resolution which can be found at

We know that some in our association are advocating alternative protest strategies, but our philosophy of accountability calls us to carefully consider requests for allied participation from Diverse & Revolutionary Unitarian Universalist Multicultural Ministries (DRUUMM) and from the Latino/a Unitarian Universalist Networking Association (LUUNA).  In doing so, we have discovered that DRUUMM and LUUNA leaders have aligned themselves with the leadership of several prominent national civil and immigrants rights organizations.  With hope and faith that a strong, united voice of protest will help overturn this law, and in solidarity with LUUNA and with DRUUMM, we affirm our support of an economic boycott of Arizona and encourage delegates to our General Assembly to vote in favor of the business resolution presented by our board of trustees.

UU Allies for Racial Equity (ARE) Steering Committee

Rev. Wendy von Zirpolo, President

Rev. Michael Tino, Vice-President

Ken Wagner, Treasurer/Stewardship Coordinator

Sharon Blevins, Membership Chair

Rev. Bill Gardiner, Education Team Co-Chair

Rev. Melissa Carvill-Ziemer, Education Team Co-Chair

Rev. James Hobart, Connections Team Co-Chair

UU Solidarity with Arizona

I’m renaming my blog UU Solidarity with Arizona in an effort to bring attention to the harms SB 1070 is perpetuating upon the people of Arizona and the Unitarian Universalist response.  The racism, profiling, and xenophobic anti-immigrant principles guiding Arizona’s public policy is the wrong direction for our country, and the wrong direction for Unitarian Universalism to endorse.  Honestly I’m equal parts pit-of-my-stomach angry, scared for my family, and anxious about what this justice issue means for my Unitarian Universalist faith.

Quick RJ Look at Primary Election for Mult Co Seat #2

Update 3/27/2010 – I met face-to-face with Roberta Phillip last week, comments below.

A quick political observation and a few racial justice related comments.

The race for Multnomah County Seat #2 covering most of N/NE Portland is going to be hot, multicultural, and will almost certainly result in a run-off.  For folks of color, immigrants and refugees, this represents one of the few elected seats where our communities have enough political power to elect someone in relationship with our growing diverse populations.  The seat has been held by a progressive white guy Jeff Cogen who gets rave reviews for everything from his policy making to his hiring of Karol Collymore.  Previously Serena Cruz held the seat, who won it through serious grassroots organizing (remember Cruz Points anyone?) in a significant community development for the Latino Community.  Serena left the commission to go into building contracting with her husband, scion of megabuilder Walsh Construction.

The political dominoes that fell when Governor Kulongoski appointed Multnomah County Chair Ted Wheeler to the State Treasurer post upon Ben Westlunds’ death has been intense.  Jeff Cogen is now running for Multnomah County Chair, with hefty support from former Chair Bev Stein and former US Senate candidate Steve Novik.  With Cogen’s commission seat #2 now open, the list of folks who are running is impressive.  Here are a few quick hits on a few candidates:

  • Karol Collymore is highly praised for her work as a Cogen aide, and her Democratic party and women’s organizing in New Mexico and Oregon.  She was a finalist for the House 43 and Senate 22 appointments.   She is African-American, involved in lots of cool GOTV activities, and is a regular contributor to and even talks about racial justice issues.
  • Chuck Currie is a legendary housing and homeless activist, who worked closely with City Commissioner Gretchen Kafoury.  He is now a UCC minister (same year as me!), family man with twins, and moved from Westside to Eastside to settle down around Parkrose.  Currie has a fairly famous civic and religious blog.  He is a white guy who has addressed racial justice concerns and whiteness.
  • Gary Hansen is a former commissioner running again for office.   Older white guy who I have no idea of his racial politics, but I’m sure is really nice and formidable because of his past experience.
  • Roberta Phillip who recently left the Crittendon Foundation and serves as Board Chair of Pangea Project, became more widely known when a group of African American civic leaders endorsed her over Joann Bowman and Chip Shields for the open Senate 22 seat last year.  Seems relatively unknown within communities of color and no idea about her racial justice perspective. UPDATE 3/27/2010: Had a really nice tea with Roberta, learned more of her background and work here in Portland, including: 1) Creating Mentor Program at POIC that lives on with over 70 youth; 2) Community relations and interest in increasing accountability with communities of color with Chair Wheeler; 3) Long-term commitment to the future of Oregon.  She is an immigrant from Trinidad, grew up in NYC, and really just a thoughtful focused person.
  • Irma Linda Castillo I’ve never heard of, at least I don’t think, is a 14 year Multnomah County worker who cites diversity training in her filing statement.  Educated in California.  Would love to hear from her!
  • Maria Rubio used to work for Mayor Tom Potter on public safety issues among other things.  Is mother to new Latino Network Executive Director Carmen Rubio, and I think was even in the Emerge Oregon program for women candidates, although I could be wrong.  I saw her at a recent Office of Multicultural Health legislative forum, and she indicated she has been doing consulting since Sam Adams took office.  I imagine her analysis is sharp given what I know and love of Carmen’s vision and work.

There are several other candidates who I don’t know who may be amazing, although I think the general election will be two folks from this list.