Our Next President Must ‘See Race’

There are plenty of reasons to disqualify Howard Schultz as a presidential candidate in my mind:

  • Not selling his Starbucks stock
  • being opposed to universal healthcare
  • me having a bitter taste in my mouth about a billionaire as president
  • him acting like taxing the rich is a ridiculous idea
  • his third party bid would help re-elect our current president

He’s been a nonstarter in my mind from the beginning, but the debate surrounding his candidacy has been interesting to watch. After the election of Donald Trump I can let my mind drift to things that I would have never thought possible. Maybe a third party candidate could win. Who knows? But then came his town hall on CNN. He was asked about racial profiling in America. His response is the number one disqualifier in my book:

‘I didn’t see color as a boy and I honestly don’t see color now.’

I was born and raised in the suburbs of Utah. My graduating class was roughly 2000 people. Of those about 3 or 4 students were black. We were white. Sure, there were some other ethnicities around, but we were white. I grew up believing racism to be a thing that used to happen long ago. I had a few experiences that should have told me otherwise, but I was young and didn’t see them.

For example, I got a job at Crown Burger and I was the only white person on staff. I got paid a dollar more than everyone else because, I was told, I speak English. Well, everyone else spoke English too. I was the only one not required to help clean after closing. I still don’t know how long it takes to close down a restaurant. One time around Christmas, paychecks were being withheld until a certain time. Everyone was very upset about it. I walked to the back like normal and the manager gave me mine before the allotted time without a second thought. Maybe I didn’t see it because I developed good friendships with many of my coworkers. I bought Lourdes 30 minutes on my phone so she could call her mother in Mexico. I went to a Mexican dance club with Leti. I attended a baby blessing and gave gifts for birthdays. I laughed and joked during work without a care in the world. One of the girls told me her uncle was hit by a car and killed.

I said, ’OMG what did the police do?’ She looked at me with such exasperation when she said, ‘Sarah, nobody cares about us. That includes the police.’ I should have seen race then, but I didn’t. I actually just didn’t believe her.

 


I was working at Buckle when one of my coworkers was expressing frustration about not being able to find a particular brand of clothing her son wanted. She went on to explain that her adopted son is black. He’s entering his teenage years and is struggling with figuring out who he is. I want to put my foot in my mouth when I think about what I said, ‘Doesn’t every teenager struggle with that? Why can’t he just wear something else?’ She said when you’re different from everybody else it can present unique challenges.

She, as a mother, wanted to do all she could to alleviate that inevitable struggle he faced. I should have seen it then, but I didn’t. I dismissed the whole interaction as a mom being overly sensitive about her child, perhaps even overcompensating for that fact that he was adopted. Silly, young girl I was. Now that I have a child that is different, I wish I could go back in time and give this woman a hug.


When my sister got engaged to a black guy I remember my grandma said, ‘Oh no, is she really gonna marry that colored fella?’ I should have seen it then, but I thought to myself, ‘Well, that’s a generational thing. What more can you expect from an old lady?’ When my sister became pregnant, I started to cry because I didn’t live near her at the time. My other grandma misread my emotion and said, ‘I know, what is your dad going to do when she shows up on his porch with a biracial child.’ I remember being confused about why having a biracial baby concerned her so, but, of course, I didn’t ask.


I wasn’t truly confronted with the issue of race until I moved to California. I worked at a clothing store at the Del Amo mall when I realized I had no idea how much of a bubble I lived in my whole life. A black woman entered the store and immediately I was instructed to follow the customer around in my earpiece. It’s not that abnormal to have repeat shoplifters so I assumed this customer was known to the team. The method I learned in Utah to prevent shoplifting is to give attentive customer service.

So, I approached the woman and I asked if she needed help finding anything. She said no thank you and kept shopping. The voice came over my earpiece again, ‘This isn’t Utah, stay on that lady.’ I felt awkward because I just talked to her. She was looking at some t shirts so I said, ‘We just got those in. They’re really cute.’

She looked me dead in the eyes and I’ll never forget what she said. ‘I’m not going to steal anything.’ In my surprise, I blurted out, ‘Oh sorry, they told me to watch you,’ gesturing over to my coworkers. She let out a knowing sigh, ‘Imagine that, out of all the customers in this store they told you to watch the black one.’

When she left the store, I got angry with the team. Why did they embarrass me like that?! My manager looked at me and said, ‘Black people steal Sarah. You have a lot to learn about how things really are.’ Well, she was right about one thing. I did have a lot to learn about how things really are.


The time I spent at that store taught me more about racial animosity than a lifetime in Utah ever could. I was speaking loudly and slowly to an Asian customer once. She said, ‘I’m Asian, not stupid.’ A black trans employee didn’t make it to work because she was beat up at the bus stop. I tried to break up an argument once when the girl turned to me and screamed, ‘I don’t need a white girl to vouch for me!’ I can give countless examples of tension while I worked at that store and lived in that city.

I struggled to figure out how to conduct myself once I started realizing people judged me for my skin too. People assumed I was rich, that my life was easy, free from the struggles of the people around me. In some ways those assumptions were right. I never had a problem getting a job or an apartment. I was pulled over once when I had a bag of weed in the car. I had it on the passenger seat, right in the open, when the officer approached the window. My car wasn’t registered and I didn’t have my license because I had lost it at a bar somewhere. Sounds like the recipe for disaster right? Nope. The cop took the weed and told me to go home. No ticket, nothing. It’s hard to imagine the same outcome happening if my skin wasn’t white. My own biases emerged as time went on as well. I visited my sister once and shocked her with my harsh rhetoric about the city I lived in. I was knee deep in the realization that it is easier to be around people that are similar to you.

When I returned to Utah, I was again culture shocked. I remember walking down my dad’s street and crying uncontrollably. After living in an impoverished neighborhood riddled with crime and uncertainty, I was struck by the beauty of the neighborhood. The safety I felt was so relieving it felt tangible. It was hard to explain to my family members the guilt this relief was causing me. The struggles in California are crushing people. I was able to just throw my hands up and decide I’m done with it. It was hard for me to square with the fact that people are born into impossible situations with no safety net. They don’t have the resources, knowledge about programs available, family financial support or anything else.


I began to realize what white privilege actually means. It doesn’t mean life isn’t hard for white people or white people don’t work for what they have. People don’t say it to somehow diminish who you are or make you feel shame about being white. It doesn’t mean that white citizens owe them anything.

What it does mean is that out of all the struggles a person can experience in life, race won’t be one of the ones that white people face. It’s a way to point out that racial issues often get overlooked because the majority of people don’t experience it, especially here. It’s an acknowledgement that problems that exist today are largely due to generational oppression of minority groups.


It’s easy to assume that racism is a thing of the past when it doesn’t have a negative impact on you daily or when you live in a place that is dominated by one group of people. I have the luxury of choosing whether or not to look at the subject closely. Others don’t have that choice. Racial bias is woven into the fabric of our society, but it is institutionalized as well. It’s built into:

  • the criminal justice system
  • the housing market
  • the banking system
  • the school system
  • the healthcare system
  • policing
  • employment opportunities
  • every other institution in our country

You can see it clearly in generational wealth or generational poverty patterns. Even our elected leaders don’t reflect the population, although it’s getting better. Racism has been a driving force in this country since its inception. That’s undeniable. Our leaders must understand and face that fact.

Not seeing race is a form of willful ignorance that will most definitely propel us forward on the path Trump has sent us on. We need a course correction, not fuel added to the raging fire of racial injustice. Howard Schultz can choose not to see race if he wants. If that’s his choice than he has no business running for president.

We need a leader that is prepared to call out racism, denounce it and educate the public about how to solve the problem. We need someone who will study the subject and listen to the outcry. We need a leader that can show people how to be an ally to oppressed groups especially when you might not be experiencing that oppression yourself. We need a leader that can help us take steps toward the perfect union that America is supposed to be. They need to be driven by empathy and a care for all people. We need to elect a president that believes that all people are created equal while at the same time acknowledging that our system and society are far from treating people that way.

Does Your Vote Really Matter?

 

Utah voters passed 3 progressive policies last November.

  • Prop 2 – legalizing the use of medical marijuana
  • Prop 3 – Expanding Medicaid health insurance
  • Prop 4 – an anti-gerrymandering measure

Utah voters also elected Republicans that are openly against legal marijuana, Medicaid and are pro-gerrymandering. Now, Utah voters are outraged that the newly elected Congressman are dismantling the Props that the people approved coming to the conclusion that your vote doesn’t matter. Is that actually true?

An Evening with James Comey

James Comey… there are multiple things that come to mind when I hear his name.

  • The Hillary Clinton email situation.
  • The Anthony Weiner scandal.
  • The ‘loyalty’ pledge.
  • The secret memos.
  • His multiple Congressional testimonies.
  • His firing…and many other things.

Is there a more complicated or polarizing political figure than James Comey?

Somehow he figured out how to make both sides of the political spectrum hate him. Yet, he seems beloved by employees of the FBI. While he seems bound by rules and regulations in many situations, he simultaneously flies in face of them in others.

Throughout his career he has shown amazing courage, speaking truth to power, going after the mob and white-collar crime; yet, I feel quite disappointed with how he handled our current president at times. I love that he speaks out for our values, but hate that he had a hand in creating this mess. The FBI is supposed to be behind-the-scenes yet he seems super drawn to the media. I’m confused about why he pushed back on the New York Times during a Senate hearing after they reported the Trump campaign had many contacts with Russians when that has turned out to be true. So, it’s weird. Do I like him or do I not? Sometimes it’s hard to tell. These are some of the reasons I was so eager to read his book. Who is this guy and why is he so complicated? His book is a great read and actually gives a lot of insight into why he made the decisions he did. He is able to illustrate the immense pressure the FBI, and him personally, was under while trying to deliberate how to handle this truly unprecedented situation. I believe he handled the email situation incorrectly, but the book helped me understand how he arrived where he did. I still feel very frustrated by the whole thing, but it is what it is.

Perfect Timing: Comey in Salt Lake City.

I was thrilled when my husband told me that James Comey was coming to SLC and he found tickets. It seemed like perfect timing with the bombshell news that dropped the previous weekend too. We arrived at the venue and the environment was just buzzing with energy. It seemed I wasn’t the only one bursting with curiosity at what he might say. The person that introduced him gave a timeline of his career. The crowd roared with laughter when he mentioned Comey’s time as a federal prosecutor under Rudy Giuliani. We laughed again when he said Comey served as Deputy Attorney General at the DOJ when Robert Mueller was FBI Director. What a comical twist of fate to see where we are now! And then came,”Ladies and Gentlemen, James Comey!” Thunderous applause filled the hall as this giant of a man strode onto the stage. As he began to speak I was struck by his charisma. He captured the crowd as he spoke about ethical leadership, his worry about the erosion of our public life and how much he believes in our institutions. It was so clear how much he loves and misses the FBI. He described his pain and depression he has felt over the last couple of years, but is determined to make something good come out of it. I was shocked by how funny he is and how fondly he spoke of past presidents. He talked about how important it is to listen to others when you hold a position of leadership. He said Barack Obama was the best listener he has ever come across. Obama would let you speak uninterrupted for 10 minutes and then respond with questions from minute one, seven and nine. He would never sit behind the resolute desk, but sit in a wingback chair while you sat on the couch. He would face you, look at you without any other distractions. He used humor to make the speaker feel more at ease because he understood what it feels like to talk ‘uphill’ to the most powerful person in the world. Comey then juxtaposed that with our current president. He doesn’t stop talking so the briefer is forced to interrupt. Anything you say falls on deaf ears. He sits behind the desk and tries to impose an intimidating persona. All of these things, in Comey’s opinion, is a mark of an incredibly weak leader. He spoke of his life, his career and his hopes for the future. He talked about his wife and 6 children. He told funny stories of employees at the FBI, staffers and the presidents. He captivated his audience in a way that I wasn’t expecting.

The Q&A Session: ‘Vote this President Out of Office’

After he concluded his speech we began the Q&A session. It was everything you would imagine. There were lots of questions about the Russia investigation and, as you might predict, he couldn’t really say much about it. He was asked about the Hillary Clinton email situation. One thing he said that stuck out to me was, ‘This has been like a nightmare and I can’t wake up.’ He was asked about William Barr, the new AG. He said that he believed that pick is better than anything we could have hoped for and Trump may have bitten off more than he could chew. He talked about how Trump doesn’t laugh and he believes that is one of many signs that he is a deeply insecure person. He was asked if he believed that Trump would make it to the end of his term. Comey said that he hoped Trump did make it to the end of his term followed by stone cold silence. He explained, “People need to get off the couch, get out of the car and vote your values. The best thing for the health of our democracy is to vote this president out of office.” The crowd erupted! As the questions wrapped, he was met by a standing ovation. There was something truly inspiring about seeing Comey the human. Not the FBI Director, not the guy that Trump fired, not the guy that screwed up the election. When you strip away all the anger, the confusion and the turmoil that is our political reality right now, you are left with the most important thing that we all can agree on. Our American values. The most important thing we can do is fight to protect those values and the very democracy we all hold dear.

Blue Mom Red State: ‘If more Republicans were like Comey…’

I’m so happy I was able to attend. I’ve come to the conclusion that if all Republicans were more like the James Comey I saw tonight, the world would be better than it is today. Like him, it would still be complicated, but better.


It is time to come out of hiding. My goal is to empower you: the silent observer. To provide knowledge to every American man, woman, and child who has an opinion but has been falsely convinced that they don’t know enough about politics to be allowed to share it. Abandon that belief. You are an American. Your voice matters. Rise up and stand for what is right. For family. For justice. For equality and humanity. This blog is for you. And together, our strong collective voices can change this world for the better.

Follow live on Twitter: @blumom_redstate


More from Blue Mom Red State:

I’m a Democrat. Here’s Why

The new year has caused me to be very self reflective. What are my strengths and weaknesses as a parent, wife and friend. All the normal resolutions bump around in my head. Cook more, eat healthy, read to the kids more, keep the house cleaner, etc. It is a familiar routine. There has been one major difference with this new year though. Last year I launched the blog. I have spent half of the year in a new, and often uncomfortable, place. Putting my political views ‘out there’ definitely threw a wrench in things! I struggled to cope with hateful comments and unsolicited sexually explicit pictures. I felt weighed down by the workload, pressure from my self imposed deadlines and constantly behind on the other duties of my life. I went through months of self doubt after opposing arguments made their way through my social media accounts on a near daily basis. Because of this, I spent many hours examining my own positions. Why do I feel the way I do? This was the question on my mind as I was reading through the Declaration of Independence recently. There’s a section in it that we all are quite familiar with:


“…all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”


After months of introspection, this line jumped off the page for me. This single line, and my firm belief in it, can explain the roots of my progressive views. First of all, the definition of unalienable must be understood. Unalienable, nowadays inalienable, means unable to be taken away or given away by a possessor. So, unalienable rights cannot be taken/given away. The rights that are specifically listed are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In my mind, the industries that impact these three rights, that cannot to be taken/given away, should not be for- profit.

Life: It’s time for universal healthcare

The right to life is directly impacted by the healthcare system. Every living and breathing human should be able to get the healthcare they need regardless of age, condition, financial position, housing status or any other factor if life is truly an unalienable right. Insurance companies, personal finances and employment status dictates an Americans right to life as it stands currently.

Liberty: No for-profit prisons

Prisons or immigrant detention facilities shouldn’t be financial goldmines for anyone. This only incentivizes longer sentences and more detainees directly impacting the unalienable right to liberty. The prison system and society don’t integrate former inmates back into regular life efficiently causing people to continually end up back in prison. If we treated liberty as the unalienable right that it is we would focus more on rethinking how we treat our incarcerated community to help ensure liberty is restored and sustained.

Pursuit of Happiness: Public education from PreK – Secondary Education

The pursuit of happiness is all about retaining the ability to change your circumstances. Education is vital in this pursuit and should be available to all from preschool through secondary education. As it stands now, banks and universities decide who gets to try, therefore deciding who gets the unalienable right to pursue happiness. There should be a public education option at every level of education to ensure that every American has equal opportunity to change their station.

These things, driven by empathy, are what forms my basic ideology. This is why I find myself on the left side of the political spectrum. Some call these ideas radical. I call them bold and ambitious. Having a healthy, educated population is an investment that is worth all the time and money that would have to be spent to make it a reality. 2019 will be full of surprises I’m sure. Hopefully some bold, ambitious policies will be one of them.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

I loved Becoming by Michelle Obama so much I don’t even know where to begin. I’ll start by saying I know how biased I am about the Obamas. I adore them. I miss them. I follow fan pages on Instagram. So, I get it. I probably would have loved the book no matter what. But I have to tell you, this book went so far beyond what I expected from a White House memoir.

She uses conversational language so it’s almost like you can hear her voice as you read. She answers all the questions that you want to ask her:

  • What is it like being married to a career politician, Barack Obama, no less?
  • How do you keep your family together during campaigns or the presidency?
  • How does it feel to be in the public eye all the time?
  • How do you protect your young children from the toxic environment which is politics?
  • What does Barack do that annoys you?
  • How do you deal with the harsh criticism that can come your way?

 


She writes in depth about how she always wondered if she was good enough.


 

I’m shocked by how personal this book feels.   She talks about:

  • her upbringing
  • the challenges she faced because of her race
  • being a working mother with a husband that is absent most of the time
  • marriage counseling
  • her miscarriage and the struggles to conceive
  • how she is always working to prove herself
  • times she was hurt
  • her schooling
  • her career
  • her struggle to maintain her identity

She goes into great detail about life in the White House, her staff, the chaos of each day, the Secret Service and the initiatives she championed as First Lady. She paints a picture of Barack Obama like only she can. She leaves little tidbits of wisdom throughout and gives her insight about major events that are truly inspiring to read. My favorite thing about the book is that she lays out her path from being a typical black girl from Chicago to being one of the most influential people in the world in such relatable detail. It has left me with a kind of hope that is hard to feel in the current political climate. I highly recommend giving this one a try if you can carve out some time.

Nationalism: Words Matter

Recently, the president called himself a nationalist at a rally before the election to the thunderous applause of the attendees. This has sparked a fierce debate on social media and at news organizations about whether or not the term is appropriate for an American president to use. I’ve been watching people go back and forth talking about patriotism vs. nationalism, calling each other racists and many other things. It’s been festering among the public for a few weeks now. It seemed to come to a head when the White House held a press conference after the midterm elections. There was a lot that happened at that press conference, but the thing that stood out to me was when a journalist stood to ask the president about his calling himself a nationalist. She began asking whether or not using the term emboldens white nationalism throughout the country. He interrupted her by saying it was a racist question. (Of course I am not able to capture the extraordinary exchange between the two so I highly encourage those who haven’t seen it to watch the clip below)

After this insane press conference I heard my husband on the phone talking with a friend about nationalism and what it means. While they were talking, I found myself chewing on the subject. I got on Merriam-Webster dictionary and searched nationalism. The definition that comes up reads loyalty and devotion to nation.

Reading a literal definition of the word makes it seem totally harmless. The problem with literal definitions is that history, society and cultural movements can change the meaning or interpretation of a word. Take the word gay for example. The literal definition listed in this dictionary is happily excited, keenly alive and exuberant, bright, lively, brilliant in color and given to social pleasures. There’s nothing mentioned about sexuality until the fourth entry yet the cultural definition of gay is sexually attracted to the same sex. English teachers didn’t change the definition. Society did. If someone stands in front of a crowd and says ‘I’m gay,’ not a single listener would interpret that as the speaker feeling happy. There are many words that the cultural meaning is different than the literal one. Here are a few obvious ones:

  • Faggot – a bundle of sticks or twigs bound together as fuel
  • Bitch – female dog, wolf, fox or otter
  • Ass – a hoofed mammal of the horse family with a braying call, typically smaller than a horse and with longer ears

Even typing those puts a pit in my stomach because they mean something offensive. Nationalism is similar in that the literal meaning isn’t quite in touch with what it means to people. Dictators, namely Hitler and Mussolini, used the term to manipulate the masses into believing that their nation was superior to others. It has been used historically as a way to create a hierarchy of human worth. Our nation is superior so we must keep inferior people out, that sort of thing. Hitler was able to define what a superior German was down to the eye color by exploiting people’s fears about the economy, vilifying Jews and other immigrants while fostering a sense of pride in being part of his nation. His speeches were riddled with language about how nation means everything, protecting the culture’s “founding race,” and many other phrases which instilled a belief among the people that unless you possessed all the qualities that made a person German, you were inferior. And, of course, the Holocaust followed.

So, what’s the responsibility of an American president when it comes to words? The president’s words have the power to unite us, to divide us, and to move an entire nation in a certain direction. The words of the president have shaped history for better or for worse. I’m not here to be the word police, but I do think the words he speaks hold more weight than any person on the planet. They must be chosen carefully and thoughtfully. The fact that this president chose to use nationalism means one of two things. The president is either unaware of the history of the words usage or he knows full well what it means and used it anyway. I would argue that the latter is more true. Before he announced himself as a nationalist he said, ‘I know I’m not supposed to say this, but…’ implying that he knows exactly what impact the word would have on people. If he really believes nationalism really just means patriotism then why would he call the journalist’s question racist? Patriotism has nothing to do with race or superiority, but nationalism sure does. He knows the weight of the word and used it purposefully. He talks of revoking birthright citizenship which would start a conversation about what makes a person American. What qualities does a person have to possess to be superior enough to be called an American? This vision of America betrays the very principle that this country was founded on, that all men are created equal. This is the muddy water that he wants. We, the people, rejected this way of thinking on November 6th, 2018 and I hope that the firm rebuke of nationalism continues on through 2020.

Bill Browder: Red Notice Book Review

 

This is a must read book in 2018! It reads like a political thriller, yet it is a true story. It also gives some really good background info to help make sense of the Russia investigation.

I added Red Notice by Bill Browder to the Blue Mom Red State book club because Bill Browder is a key player in today’s news of the day. After the death of Sergei Magnitsky, Bill Browder has made it his mission to seek justice for him. Red Notice offers some context to the infamous Trump Tower meeting with Don Jr about Russian adoptions and dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Bill Browder has become a highly polarizing figure in today’s politically charged environment much like everything else. He is the subject of many conspiracy theories and is a villain in the eyes of Vladimir Putin.

Read the book and decide for yourself!

 

Islamophobia in America

 

American Islamophobia seems to be on the rise. Why? Learn about Islam and you’ll see there is no reason to be afraid at all. In this video, I compare Islam and Mormonism to illustrate just how much the two religions have in common. The Muslim vs Mormon comparison is particularly interesting to me because I live in Utah where Mormonism is the most commonly practiced religion.

The Mormon Church has a radical sect called FLDS that, to this day, practices polygamy. Grown men marry children, there’s widespread sexual abuse and many cases of incest all done with the claim that they are practicing the purest form of Mormonism. Because of this sect, many people who don’t know about Utah or the LDS church have many misconceptions about the faith and people that live here.

Muslims are experiencing the same phenomenon right now. There is a tiny radical sect of Islam that spreads terrorism causing many Muslim misconceptions.

People of Utah should be more sympathetic to a Muslims plight than most people because us Utahans deal with many misconceptions of our own. We understand better than most that one bad apple can ruin it for everyone.