My White Ally Pledge

I am a white person. I am a part of the problem. I didn’t choose to be, but that does not exonerate me. I actively try to make things better, but that does not erase my privilege. I do not harbor hate, but that does not make me immune to the messages about race that permeate our society in often invisible ways.

As a white person who wants to be an ally to people of color, I make the following pledge:

1. I will recognize and remember that I do not, and cannot, have any idea what it is like to be a person of color in America. I do not know what people of color need; I do not know what is best for them.

2. I will not let this knowledge paralyze me, nor excuse me from being an ally. I will not let my fear of making a mistake allow me to make the biggest mistake: doing nothing.

3. I will hear the voices of people of color. I will not tell them how they must use their voices in order to be heard. I will not try to control their narrative. I will hear their stories no matter how they are spoken.

4. I will lift up those voices, not speak over them or for them. I will ask what I can do. I will do it, as best I can.

5. I will take action. I will not be silent when I witness racism. I will not shy from confrontation and I will not make excuses for racists. I will not abide casual racism.

6. I will do my best to not let my anger overshadow my message. I will not use personal attacks, but will be direct, honest, compassionate, and unwavering.

7. I will interrogate myself. I will do my best to be aware of the ramifications of my words and actions and the cost of my privilege to others. If I am accused of racism, I will listen. I will invite feedback, and I will take it to heart. I will ask for help in recognizing my blind spots and the ways I can improve.

8. I will discuss these issues candidly with my children, so that they might be better allies with purer hearts.

9. I will pay attention to the ways issues of race intersect with those of gender, class, sexuality, and other forms of inequality, and I will seek to address these issues, as well, as they support and exacerbate race inequality.

10. I will continue to educate myself, and others, where possible.

11. I will not forget this pledge when the flurry of activity after the latest crisis has waned.

12. I will not congratulate myself. This is my responsibility. I am not entitled to pride for being a decent human being. This is the minimum I can do.

13. When I fail at any of these, I will reflect, apologize, and start again.

Earnestly pledged this 20th day of June, 2015,
Krista Marie Cox

Here is some additional reading that has helped me form my pledge and the beliefs that underlie it:

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Malachi, That’s a Girl.

Almost every day when I pick her up from after-school care, my daughter pleads, “Mommy? Can we play on the playground?”

Usually, I’m forced to say no, because I know my daughter well.  School nights are filled with responsibilities, and she’s usually tired enough that any extra exertion will lead to an evening full of breakdowns.

Tonight, before she asked, I said, “Would you play on the playground with me?”

First Grader/Wonder Woman

First Grader/Wonder Woman

(I would like extra cool points for this, please, because it was at least one million degrees outside, and I was in full business casual dress with black pants and black dress socks and all that jazz. Also, I am lazy. Also, I was tired enough that any extra exertion on my part had the potential to lead to an evening full of breakdowns. On my part.)

Tory enthusiastically showed me all the things that, now that she was in first grade, she could do without my help.  She scaled the climby things quickly and confidently without so much as a whimper, wince or shudder (on either of our parts, I’m proud to say).  We raced around the red, yellow and blue playground equipment, and she *somehow* managed to beat me down the slide by mere inches every single time.  *Somehow.*

After ten minutes or so, a rattly old truck pulled up, and out popped a — well, I wasn’t sure, if I’m honest.  It was an adorable baby face and a very long blond ponytail.  I don’t like to make assumptions about gender because my daughter’s very short haircut has earned her lots of “what a cute little boy!”s (which bother me more than her, so far).

“Hi!” I said.  “This is Tory. What’s your name?”
“Malachi.”
“Hi Malachi!  Would you like to play with us?”
“Yeah! RACE YOU!!”

Tory and Malachi raced around the playground, climbing and jumping and sliding…

…until Malachi’s dad apparently noticed my daughter’s skirt.

“Malachi, that’s a girl. So you play nice now.”

I rolled my eyes and the kids kept playing, completely without incident or any boy-on-girl carelessness.

“Malachi, I mean it. That’s a girl.  Play nice and be careful.”

And that’s when things turned.  Within a few minutes, Tory called to me from the middle of one of the climby things she’d scaled fearlessly just a few minutes before.  “Mom! I’m scared! Help me down!”

This continued the rest of the time we were at the playground.  She stuck to the stairs and the slides, refusing to climb or jump.  When I suggested she keep playing with Malachi, she buried her face in my shirt instead.  My first grader went from wonder woman to timid mouse with a single parental prescription.

Be careful with your words.  When you tell your son to “play nice because that’s a girl,” you’re telling him it’s okay to not to play nice with boys.  You’re telling him boys and girls are separate and get separate sets of rules.  You’re telling him he has power over girls because he’s a boy.  You’re telling him girls are fragile and weak and need to be coddled.

And you’re telling my daughter the same things.

FYI (If You’re a Teenage Girl): Reboot

Yesterday, I posted a very sarcastic, ranty response to the post FYI (if you’re a teenage girl).  Today, I offer an alternative to the shaming, responsibility-shifting language in that post.

To my young daughter, when you’re a teenage girl:

I have some information that might interest you.  Sometimes, really troublesome things are disguised as earnest concern, and really subjective things are disguised as True Facts.  And so, I want to share a few things with you to always keep in mind when you’re reading things, experiencing things, talking to people, and just existing as a person and a woman in the world.

  1. You are valuable and worthy of love.  This is true no matter what you do or say.  This is true no matter how you dress, what your sexual preferences may be, how many people you have sex with, and no matter how many mistakes you may make.  Your worth is inherent; that means nobody can take it away from you and you can’t do things to lose it.  People won’t always recognize this worth, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.  Usually, when they try to reduce you, it’s because they doubt their own worth.
  2. Sex is fun, and you will want to do it, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.  People like to keep this little tidbit from you because they’re afraid you’ll run out to give it a whirl the moment it’s possible.  I can understand that fear.  I’m afraid you’ll do that, too, but I’m not going to lie to you to keep you from it.  Sex has the potential to be really fun, pleasurable, spiritual, and powerful.  It also has the potential to be risky, emotionally harmful, physically harmful, and completely life-changing.  The bottom line is, sex is a big responsibility, and our bodies are ready for sex way before our minds are ready for it.  My job is NOT to quash your sexuality until you’re emotionally ready to have sex.  (A lot of people try that, though.)  My job is to help you find healthy expressions of your sexuality at each stage of your development.  I try to be proactive in that regard, but know that I will always, always be available to listen and help.  Women get an especially hard time for liking and seeking sex, but that’s some bullshit.  Ignore it.
  3. Your sexuality is your own and nobody else’s.  If you’re gay, bisexual, transsexual, pansexual, asexual, or any-other-sexual, that is your business and only yours.  If being tied up and having the C volume of the Encyclopaedia Britannica repeatedly slammed shut on your nipples lights your fire, then you should do that.  Lots of other people will try to make your sexuality their domain, but you should ignore them. When you’re truly ready, have as much sex as you want of whatever flavor you like.  There are really only two rules:  be safe (physically and emotionally), and “harm ye none.”  Sex should always be consensual, voluntary, and enthusiastic.  If it’s not, wait for another time or someone else.
  4. Other people’s sexuality is not your domain.  Now, this means you shouldn’t judge others for their sexuality, however weird it may seem to you. But it also means you’re not responsible for other people’s sexual decision-making.  That means it is never, ever your fault if someone does not respect your humanity, your boundaries, and your consent or lack thereof.  You have never “earned” disregard, objectification, or abuse.  Ever.  It is not your job to engineer your behavior or your appearance to prevent people from doing or thinking things they shouldn’t.  If someone reduces you to an object instead of a person, that’s because of a flaw in their character — not because of you, your clothing, your sexual history, or any other ridiculous thing they might claim it’s about.  Do not tolerate people who treat you like a piece of meat or like something that exists solely for their use.  Not only do you deserve better, but those people are almost always lousy friends and horrible in the sack.  Seriously.  It’s never worth it to put up with that shit.
  5. There is a lot of temptation out there to do things that aren’t healthy.  Women get a lot of messages from society that make us think most of our value lies in our appearance. This makes it really tempting to compulsively seek confirmation that we are, in fact, the sexy beasts that we are.  This takes lots of forms:  posting revealing or otherwise sexy photos on social media, sending sexy photos privately, becoming overly focused on our appearance, falling for guys who are actually assholes but who make us feel pretty or sexy or otherwise useful in some way.  The validation feels good, for sure.  But the cost can be incredibly high.  Ultimately, we want to attract and surround ourselves with people who appreciate us for everything we are — our minds, our personalities, our quirks, our abilities and talents.  And that’s why we need to focus on those things, invest in them and share them with the world.  When we put only a tiny piece of ourselves out there (like our bodies), that’s all we give others the opportunity to appreciate. Before you hit post or send, think to yourself:  is this representative of who I really am and who I want to be?  What am I hoping to gain from this interaction, and is it healthy?  Could this come back to haunt me?  But you know what?  If you screw up once or twice or more, welcome to the club.  We all seek validation in ways that aren’t the healthiest for us sometimes.  It doesn’t make you a slut, a whore, or an evil succubus.  It makes you human.  Learn from it, grow from it, hold your head high and keep moving forward.

You are so much more than your body.  Know it, believe it, repeat it to yourself whenever you’re in doubt, and flip a big flaming f-bird to anybody who doesn’t see that.  They don’t earn the right to be in your life, so don’t let them get into your head, either.  Be you — all of you — and you’ll find everything you need.

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FYI (If you’re writing to teenage girls)

There’s a post making the rounds on Facebook, at least among my friends, and it’s being met with really positive, glowy reviews and nods of agreement from moms of girls and boys alike. Teenaged girls, it asks, please pay attention, because the Hall family has some stuff to say to you:

I have some information that might interest you. Last night, as we sometimes do, our family sat around the dining-room table and looked through your social media photos.

We have teenage sons, and so naturally there are quite a few pictures of you lovely ladies to wade through. Wow – you sure took a bunch of selfies in your pajamas this summer!

[I]t appears that you are not wearing a bra.

I get it – you’re in your room, so you’re heading to bed, right? But then I can’t help but notice the red carpet pose, the extra-arched back, and the sultry pout. What’s up? None of these positions is one I naturally assume before sleep, this I know.

Yeah, we’ve all seen it. Glossed-up duckface. After-shower shots. Stuff that really ought to be reserved for private texts between a consenting adult and her Congressman. Should young girls be posing in overtly sexual poses and sharing it on public media? Nah. Not a good idea. Is it often done to get attention? Usually from boys? Yeah, probably. Do we want to encourage that? Nope. There is possibly some problematic belief system motivating those grabs for attention, and that should be discussed. So I’m on board so far, Mrs. Hall. Continue.

Did you know that once a male sees you in a state of undress, he can’t ever un-see it? You don’t want the Hall boys to only think of you in this sexual way, do you?

Got that, girls? Once a man (or a boy) sees you in a state of undress, from then on, he’ll only think of you in that sexual way. And that’s your fault, k? Because you posted that ill-advised photo on Facebook and that instantly shuts down the part of male human brains where they can distinguish between boobs as disembodied sex toys and boobs as a small part of a whole person with thoughts, dreams, ambitions, emotions, fears, and autonomy. K?

We hope to raise men with a strong moral compass, and men of integrity don’t linger over pictures of scantily clad high-school girls. Every day I pray for the women my boys will love. I hope they will be drawn to real beauties, the kind of women who will leave them better people in the end.

Parenting is really just exhausting work. We’re all so busy with our blogging and taking photos on the beach of our scantily-clad, flexing boys (who are nothing like scantily-clad, pouting girls, FYI) and stalking all your Facebook selfies. If you could just go ahead and remove any scantily-clad pictures from the internet so that we don’t have to actually teach our sons not to linger over things that we think aren’t so healthy for them, that’d be great. I mean, it’s easier for us to go ahead and try to remove any temptation than to teach them how to handle temptation. Amirite?

And *real* beauties don’t post sexualized pictures of themselves. I mean, really, *real* beauties are pure and innocent and don’t tempt boys. You can’t be a sexual creature and, you know, leave the men in your life better people (which is your job, btw). *Real* beauties aren’t sultry temptresses. They’re, you know, clothed women. Preferably who don’t talk much.

Girls, it’s not too late! If you think you’ve made an on-line mistake (we all do – don’t fret – I’ve made some doozies), RUN to your accounts and take down anything that makes it easy for your male friends to imagine you naked in your bedroom.

Yes! Take down anything that makes it easy for your male friends to imagine you naked in your bedroom! Like that picture of you in your pajamas! And also that one of you dancing at the prom in the dress with the spaghetti straps! And also that one of you laughing with your friends while you eat peach ice cream! And also that one of you at your little sister’s 2nd birthday party, because, well, you’re a girl, and you are pretty well-endowed, and poor little Jimmy has such a vivid imagination, bless his heart…

Yeah maybe just delete your whole Facebook account.

There are boys out there waiting and hoping for women of character.

Character is measured in the amount of skin that never sees the light of day. Make a note, ladies.

Some young men are fighting the daily uphill battle to keep their minds pure, and their thoughts praiseworthy.

And so, the cycle of male escape from responsibility for their own thoughts and actions continues with enthusiastic support. Young girls are shamed for their bodies, their choices and their burgeoning sexuality to “protect” them from the apparently indiscriminate, uncontrollable wildfire of male sexuality. Young girls are blamed for being objectified because of their choice of dress, pose, lip position or even benign household setting (did you know THE SEX happens in bedrooms?!). And mothers post blogs asking all their teenaged sons’ female peers to please not tempt their pure, innocent boys, who are probably upstairs whacking it to the fleeting glimpse of their homely teacher’s white bra strap they grabbed during second period social studies today.

Business as usual.

*A note on tone: When I sat down to write this, I took a measured, fair approach. I expressed my concerns about what the words used here actually say to people, what they really mean, how we internalize them, and how they accidentally perpetuate really problematic, widespread views. I know Mrs. Hall blogged with the best of intentions. I know people I know support this because they’re concerned about choices they see young people making. I know parenting is hard and accepting that your teenagers are sexual beings is really, super-duper hard, and we really, really want to hide from that instead of help them learn to deal with the realities of it.

But I just can’t keep that tone right now. The more I read and wrote, the angrier I got. The more personally incensed by Mrs. Hall’s words I felt. The more ache I felt for any young girl who read what she wrote and got not just the message that she probably shouldn’t post sexual, revealing pictures on social media, but that there is something inherently wrong with her for being a sexual creature and that she has some grand responsibility to protect men — and herself — from their sexuality. No. Just no. I’m angry and I’m hurt and this is what came out, and I could revise it, but I won’t. And if it makes you angry, then good. Talk about it. Yell about it. Blog about it. But have the hard conversations. Please.

Dear Erick Erickson: What?

An article at RedState by conservative blogger and radio personality Erick Erickson recently caused a bit of a stir.  There are lots of other people denouncing the “science” behind statements like this:

Pro-science liberals seem to think basic nature and biology do not apply to Homo sapiens. Men can behave like women, women can behave like men, they can raise their kids, if they have them, in any way they see fit, and everything will turn out fine in the liberal fantasy world.

You see, there is a specific way men act, and a specific way women act, and that’s NATURE. It’s SCIENCE. And if we mix up the roles then EXTINCTION (or something). But anyway, that stuff is being addressed elsewhere.

Erickson’s “social science” of statements like, “But to say the two parent, heterosexual household isn’t the best for children or, more troubling, that our society should not be encouraging it, may make people feel tolerant and open, but it is killing our society,” is also being addressed elsewhere.

What I want to talk about is Erickson’s conflation of this statement:

[K]ids most likely will do best in households where they have a mom at home nurturing them while dad is out bringing home the bacon. As a society, once we moved past that basic recognition, we’ve been on a downward trajectory of more and more broken homes and maladjusted youth.

with this statement:

But to say the two parent, heterosexual household isn’t the best for children or, more troubling, that our society should not be encouraging it, may make people feel tolerant and open, but it is killing our society.  As Pew found, ‘Three-fourths of those surveyed say these mothers make raising children harder, and half worry that it’s bad for marriages. About half of those surveyed felt it was better if mothers stayed home with young children.’

So, in essence, what Erickson is saying is that society stopped believing that nuclear, heterosexual families are the best environment in which to raise kids, so society went to hell, which is evidenced by the fact that a majority of those surveyed believe nuclear, heterosexual families are the best environment in which to raise kids.

But, wait. I thought society stopped believing that, and that’s why things are all broken and maladjusted? That 75% better catch up, then. They’re still believing the stupid, misogynistic tripe that “society” — which apparently consists of a scant 25% of people in society — stopped believing ages ago. Either that, or that 75% is way better at talking its talk than walking its walk.