The Inner Madness of Cookies and Milk: Learning from Baiting at Charlottesville

By Lynnea Urania Stuart

 

There’s a silly but useful rhyme I think you’d enjoy.  It’s easy to learn:

 

Eanie Meanie Slimy Schmo,

Catch a Nazi in his crow.

If he hollers, make him grow;

Eanie Meanie Slimy Schmo,

 

I want you to learn this rhyme because I know you can’t say it and keep a straight face.  In light of this month’s events, I think we need that; all of us.  There’s a special reason why I’m offering such a ridiculous rhyme and I hope you can see why.  I especially want transpeople to know it because we’re the most vulnerable minority of all when it comes to the threats coming down from the self-described “Alt-Right.”

Take a look at that rhyme again.  It’s plenty malleable.  “Nazi” could as easily be “Klansman”.  “A Nazi in his crow” can easily become “the Far Right in its crow.”  The intentions are basically the same.  But this isn’t about name-calling.  It isn’t even about the sliminess of racism.  It’s about another dynamic I want you to see. 

 

SUPREMACISTS’ “JUSTIFICATION”

It was evident in the weapons carried by White Supremacists in Charlottesville VA this week.  Riot gear, semi-automatic machine guns, batons: all in a rally for protection of a statue of Robert E. Lee.

Think about that for a moment and see how ridiculous that really is.

White Supremacist protesters said they’re “protecting history.”  I can believe that.  But what history do they think they’re protecting, the gallantry and “goodness” of the Confederate South?  Oh please.  Confederates didn’t raise that statue let alone doing so out of goodness.

Who did?  According to some fact checking by Politifact, it was a new generation.  Most Confederate monuments had been erected between 1890 and World War I.  Reconstruction did little to raise the South out of the wreck it was after the Civil War.  By 1890 a new generation had come.  Organizations arose to use monuments to point back to a more idyllic age.  But more importantly, with the assertion of Jim Crow during that vicious era, the monuments were directed against African Americans, telling them, “Whites are in charge,” History Professor Karen L. Cox of the University of North Carolina was quoted to say in that article.1

If the Charlottesville City Council decided to remove that statue of Robert E. Lee, would that mean erasure?  Charlottesville stands less than a 2 hour drive to the southwest of the Custis-Lee Mansion in Arlington.  Robert E. Lee can be found in any U.S. History book.  Nobody can tell the story of the United States without telling the exploits of that illustrious general.  The idea of removing a statue from a pedestal being erasure of history is nonsense.

Instead, the history White supremacists want to preserve is an idea of a master White race asserting itself and crushing all challengers.  That’s it. It’s quite simple.  It’s all about ridiculously inflated egos.  That’s not a history of gallantry they’re trying to preserve but a historic shamefulness of bigotry and oppression that really does need to change.

White supremacism also means asserting some other things, like the religion of White supremacists, a current exalted by Dominionists of the Evangelical Alliance, most particularly throughout the South and Midwest.  It’s a similar current as that has fueled para-church organizations like Liberty Council and Family Research Network, some of the largest proponents of anti-transgender legislation in 2016 and today.  In that context, opposition to the “Alt-Right” is a necessary and inherent component of trans activism.

Really, now; how does a lack of melanin in one’s skin result in any particular advantage except for a greater incidence of melanoma?  That’s supposed to make Whites superior somehow?  What an idiotic idea.  If the real message White supremacists wanted to preserve in Charlottesville is the assertion of a master race as a “matter of history,” and they cluster around a statue to make that assertion with weapons, they must be the silliest people on the planet.

 

TOO SILLY

Of course it’s silliness with guns and clubs.  Do weapons make White supremacists powerful?  This reminds me of the case of the pilgrim Ann Sieben who dedicated her vacations to walking on religious pilgrimages.  On one occasion she walked to the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City through the Chihuahua desert south of the U.S.-Mexico border with scarcely any money in her pocket.  She was confronted with what she described as a “giant king-cab pickup truck with giant tires made for the desert sands with 4 mounted weapons in the back.”  Armed narcotrafficantes aimed automatic weapons at her..  But she responded with laughter.  She considered it absurd. “I mean, really?  Eight men with guns?  Really?  For 1 woman?”2

What did she do with these narcotrafficantes?  While they pointed their guns to her head, she relaxed her shoulders, pushed the closest gun aside, and smiled, “Really?  Is that what you think it takes?”  For Ann, a penniless pilgrim, she didn’t need to pretend to be anything more than she really was.  If she ended her pilgrimage at the shrine or in heaven, it was okay with her.  Before long the thugs asked her to pray for them.3

I’m reminded also of many nights in the 1980’s when I left work in East Los Angeles at 11:00 pm.  I typically walked from White Memorial Medical Center to the bus stop at Mission and Macy several blocks away to catch a late bus to my home in El Monte.  I literally traveled unarmed from Cholo turf to Gangland night after night.  One night I approached the bus stop to see a man shadowboxing.  What did I do?  I simply ignored him and sat down at a nearby telephone pole to rest.  The shadowboxer was stunned because of me, convinced that because I showed no fear of him I must be a saint.  He was literally shaking.  Anybody who knows me well knows I’m no saint… philosophic fruitcake maybe, but no saint.

Isn’t it interesting how it’s those who show up with a ridiculous force of arms are often the ones most afraid?  I don’t doubt many of them manifest bloodthirstiness.  Consider shock-jock Christopher Cantwell who reportedly told Elle Reeve of Vice News Tonight, “We’re not non-violent, we’ll f…ing kill these people if we have to… I think a lot more people are going to die here.”  He predicted even more violent future episodes, even a full scale race war.4

But if these are such gallant people, why did this same person who threatened to kill others post a snivelly video to tell the world he was afraid of what might come at him after Charlottesville?5  Isn’t fear what drives such people to groups like the Ku Klux Klan, Identity Evropa, Aryan Nation, American Vanguard, and Skinheads in the first place?  Don’t they fear losing their false sense of superiority where they turn away from logic and love of fellow humans to hide behind a force of arms?

 

NOT TAKING THE BAIT

Then what importance do we ascribe to violence on the part of any counter-protester?  Blake Montgomery of BuzzFeed News pointed out an important observation as reported by the Los Angeles Times in which conflict started with 2 people, one on each side, “screaming, goading each other into throwing the first punch.6

It’s a pattern we see again and again.  There’s a word for it:  baiting.  Here’s an incident of baiting in its raw form:

I reached an intersection in Garden Grove CA in 2013 where the street markings were such that it would be too dangerous for me to hold a position in a center lane that would take me straight ahead westward.  So I decided to walk the intersection and pressed the pedestrian button.  After a minute an Evangelical couple with a toddler in a stroller approached as they crossed the street from the southeast corner to where I was waiting.  I could see in the corner of my eye that they were holding religious tracts.  Everything about them read like they were members of an Evangelical church.  The man called out to me yelling in a sarcastic and aggressive tone of voice, “Can I help you?”  I remained silent, ignoring him.

But ignoring, accepted by most people, ignited his wrath in which he intentionally misgendered me.  “I’m gonna bash his face in for not answering me!”  He was about 4 feet away and closing in on me.   I stepped away, turned and held my bicycle in front of me at arm’s length as a barrier.  He was not going to get an easy swing at me.  My defensive action infuriated both of them even more.  I stood behind, looking my assailants in the eye.

“Hey, man!  I’m gonna call the police!” he said while ostentatiously removing his cell phone from his hand.  The wife likewise joined in, saying, “Get away from our child!  This monster is out to hurt the baby!”  They moved to attack me from my left side.  I stepped back again and repositioned the bicycle as a barrier.  Their hateful tirade continued, telling me how I was going to go to hell for “harming babies.”

Again they tried to move to my left and again I stepped back and repositioned the bicycle.  Meanwhile the toddler was smiling, waving to me, and saying, “Hi!  Hi!”  The mother said to the child, “Don’t look at that abomination!” She roughly grabbed the child’s head and snapped it forward.

All this time I said absolutely nothing to anyone.  The only ones uttering any threats were that couple.  Eventually they crossed the intersection westward.  I changed my route immediately, riding northward out of harm’s way.7

Without weapons but lots of threats, the matter would have gone to police with the word of 2 against 1 and chances are any outlandish claim would have stuck at least till we went to court.  But I refused to fight.  I also refused to allow either of them to take a swing.  I only set up a barrier and made sure that barrier was in place so that the aggressors could not cross it.  But this couple wanted a fight so that they could have me prosecuted because their religion told them, “Onward Christian Soldiers.” They saw me, a transwoman, as a “threat” because their religion told them so. 

By refusing to take the bait I prevented what could easily have been an ugly incident that would have easily bred more trouble because I could have been presented as unilaterally violent to authorities, in the press, and from the pulpit.  I could have been made fodder for Evangelical propaganda.

 

THE PROPAGANDA FACTOR

That’s exactly what we saw in Charlottesville and in remarks later in the week at Trump Tower.  Here’s a bit of the transcript of what Donald Trump said:

 

“Trump: I will tell you something. I watched those very closely, much more closely than you people watched it, and you have- You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. And nobody wants to say that, but I’ll say it right now. You had a group, you had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit and they were very, very violent.

[Cross talk. Reporters shout questions.]

Trump: Go ahead.

Reporter: Do you think what you call the alt-left is the same as neo-Nazis?

Trump: Those people, all of those people- excuse me. I’ve condemned neo-Nazis. I’ve condemned many different groups, but not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists, by any stretch.8

 

Do you see what’s happening?  “Alt-Right” groups sought violence knowing that if anyone took their bait they would score a propaganda victory.  A president cozy with the “Alt-Right”, evidenced in his relationship with Steve Bannon of Breitbart, would certainly paint a different picture, pointing to the “Alt-Left” as equally culpable.  After inciting a riot themselves, everyone who even remotely defended himself would have been swallowed up into a tide of stigma as perpetrators equally with actual perpetrators.  In this respect, those counter-protestors mere made to be fools.

So what would be a better approach?  I think it starts with that rhyme I shared at the beginning.  Should we use it to taunt White Supremacists?  No, that’s not what I’m suggesting.  Remember that malleability of the rhyme?  “a Nazi” could just as easily be altered to read, “transgender”, even if that would be grammatically incorrect.  It wouldn’t bother White Supremacists because they probably didn’t excel in school in the first place.  Use of a rhyme for taunts only invites them to alter it to taunt you.  Instead, it’s useful as an internal mantra, to make you smile and relax.

 

THE INNER MADNESS

Don’t you see?  If you can smile and relax, you’re better able to draw upon your inner madperson to imagine creative ways to catch hot-tempered scaredy-cats off guard… like offering cookies and milk.

Think about it.  Are they really going to go out gracefully by shooting me with a sub-machine gun or beating me with a baseball bat till they end up having their taxpayer dollars pay my disability?  I can see the headlines right now:  “KLANSMEN MURDER TRANSGENDER WOMAN WHO OFFERED COOKIES AND MILK.”

I hope you’re rolling over with laughter at a thought like that.  Of course it’s ridiculous.  That would result in a media coup like no other.  Even if nobody accepts, it makes a great picture for the papers.  After all, if one engages in a war of baiting, the kindest always wins one way or another.

But you can’t get there if you can’t smile and relax first.  You have to laugh.  White Supremacists are already a sorry joke.  That rhyme reminds you of that.  Of course, the ultimate objective of doing something mad like offering cookies and milk isn’t getting killed, of course.  It’s the hope of starting a civil discourse and diffusing tensions.  White Supremacists don’t generally discourse with civility, so that would be the ultimate coup.  Of course, one has to be able to get past police lines to do this and be sure there are others with cameras rolling.  And if not cookies and milk, why not some other good?

More than that, what would happen if we applied Kant’s Principle of Universality which says that right action is that which you can hold to be a universal law, in this case a universal law of kind craziness?  If we all faced a growing force of armed White Supremacists with laughter and relaxation, just who do White Supremacists think they want to fight?  They yell into the air, breathing threats and the rest of us can just look back while eating popcorn. If any of them charges, one can play it like Speedy Gonzalez who runs like the ultimate bait while yelling the untranslatable, “Andale!  Andale!”  Who doesn’t find that hotheaded cat that chases him utterly silly?

It would be nice if we could take belligerent White Supremacists and send them into the desert while Muslim nations send their equally annoying Islamist terrorists.  Let them take out their aggressions in their own Armageddon away from the cities, suburbs, and farms.  Let them fight to the death for what they think is so noble a cause.  Then we could put the last man standing in a museum to show the futility of it all.

That’s not in the cards, of course.  So we’re left to our own creative madness… the ultimate defense.  Laugh.  Relax.  Truth is on your side.  Take the higher road against cowards and you ignite a contagion of example that can make the world a little bit kinder… and America a little bit greater.  Sorry, Mr. Trump.

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REFERENCES:

Featured image:  4 fragments of public domain images from Wikimedia depicting protest and violence, all laid out so that the negative space forms a swastika, each arm warning with the Greek word, “thanatos” or “death”.  It’s also reflected in the grey capital “theta”.  But the oval of the “theta” is crossed as a sign of negation with the first lines of the rhyme in this article.

  1. John Kruzel. “Did Confederate symbols gain prominence in the civil rights era?” Politifact (August 15, 2017, accessed August 15, 2017) http://www.politifact.com/punditfact/statements/2017/aug/15/joy-reid/did-confederate-symbols-gain-prominence-civil-righ/
  2. Mehta, Guri. “The Winter Pilgrim: A Conversation with Ann Sieben” Parabola, Vol. 42, Number 2, Summer 2017, p. 50.
  3. Ibid, pp 50, 51.
  4. James West. “Vice News Just Released Chilling, Must-Watch Footage From Behind Charlottesville’s Battle Lines” Mother Jones (August 15, 2017, accessed August 17, 2017) http://www.motherjones.com/media/2017/08/vice-news-just-released-chilling-must-watch-footage-from-behind-charlottesvilles-battle-lines/.
  5. William Cummings. “Neo-Nazi featured on Vice News cries in online video” USA Today (August 17, 2017, accessed August 17, 2017) https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/onpolitics/2017/08/17/christopher-cantwell-cries-video/578227001/.
  6. Matt Pearce. “Who was responsible for the violence in Charlottesville? Here’s what witnesses say” Los Angeles Times (August 15, 2017, accessed August 7, 2017) http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-charlottesville-witnesses-20170815-story.html.
  7. Lynnea Urania Stuart. “Taking the Bait” Transpire (September 2, 2016, accessed August 17, 2017) https://lynneauraniastuart.wordpress.com/2016/09/02/taking-the-bait/.
  8. Christine Wang. “Read the transcript of Donald Trump’s jaw-dropping press conference” com (August 15, 2017, accessed August 17, 2017) https://www.cnbc.com/2017/08/15/read-the-transcript-of-donald-trumps-jaw-dropping-press-conference.html.

 

 

 

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10 Trans Men of Color That Will Not Be Silenced & We Are Better For It

By Sabrina Samone

America has always been known as the great melting pot, but how those ingredients mix, is a question that in 240 years, has yet to be answered. Never before have we been so blatantly reminded of this, as we have under the #notmypresident’s administration. Bigotry persists, and there’s probably no one on Earth that knows that better than the average trans person. Yet, even in these times while we watch the leader of the supposedly, most free country in the world, support an enemy our grand parents died to protect us from, we too must take a second to look bigotry in the face and see if there’s any resemblance in our mirrored reflection.

As a community, we know the value of representation and visibility. If you are under 25, that urgency may not be as strong as a trans person over 40, who remembers searching for anyone in this world that gives them the light of hope, that they are not alone. When we know a name, and  see a face, that share some of the struggles that we do; we feel less alone, not so abnormal, and we’re given hope that we too can find happiness. Yet, in our culture, I challenge anyone at this moment, to do a simple search of media content of this week that gives a voice to the men of color in our community. There is less media representation for reasons that often could be reflecting our attention span.

Whether bigotry is given in a cag, or as a table-spoon, it is bigotry. The voices of trans people matter, our stories give hope and understanding, but if they are not heard or ignored, we miss an opportunity to be that great promise of a true melting pot. The trans men of color in our community are the unsung heroes of the Trans revolution. Their true silent masculinity does not demand validation, but out of respect it should be given. Among many are those that have created the greatest, positive changes for trans culture world-wide, as in Kylar Broadus, who is the only transgender person to speak on behalf of an entire minority group, before The Senate of the United States. They’re career advocates like, Kris Hayashi, who heads the largest transgender organization in the country, if not the world, and strives to uplift all of trans society. They face the demons of some of the most oppressed countries in the world like, Victor Mukasa, in Uganda, yet still paves a way for the next genderation to walk just a little easier in the sun.

These are the silent masculine voices of our community, that refuse to be silenced, and because they have, all our lives matter even more.

1. Kylar Broadus.”<img src="image.png" alt="tmp_Kylar_Broadus">

Broadus, who transitioned more than 20 years ago, is an attorney who focuses on LGBT law and transgender rights. He is the founder and director of the Trans People of Color Coalition, the only national organization dedicated to the civil rights of transgender people of color. The former Lincoln University of Missouri professor is also co-founder of the think tank the Transgender Law and Policy Institute. The Missouri native is the first transgender American to testify before the U.S. Senate in favor of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act. During his 2012 speech he said,

“For me, the physical transition was about letting the outer world know my internal sense of self, of who really was inside this body. … My transition was a matter of living the truth and sharing that truth for the first time in my life.

2. Kris Hayashi<img src="image.png" alt="tmp_Kris_hayashi">

Kris is the Executive Director at Transgender Law Center, one of the largest organizations in the country advancing the rights of transgender and gender nonconforming people. Prior to that, he had served over a year in the role of Deputy Director at the organization.  As a public transgender person of color, Hayashi has been a leader in movements for justice and rights for transgender and gender nonconforming communities for over 13 years. His first Executive Director position was at the age of 23, with Youth United for Community Action in California (YUCA).  YUCA is a grassroots community organization created, led, and run by young people of color. YUCA provides a safe space for young people, to empower themselves and work on social justice issues to establish positive systemic change through grassroots community organizing.  Kris took on his second Executive Director position five years later at the age of 28 at the Audre Lorde Project (ALP) in New York City.

3. Victor J. Mukasa <img src="image.png" alt="tmp_Victor_J._Mukasa">

Mukasa is a human rights defender from Uganda who now lives in the U.S.  He is a Co-founder of Sexual Minorities Uganda and Executive Director of Kuchu Diaspora Alliance-USA. He was forced to seek asylum in the U.S. after fighting for LGBT rights in the highly trans/homophobic environment of Uganda. He was the first activist to address the United Nations about transgender issues in Africa. As part of the “Proudly African & Transgender: Self-Portraits in Writing” exhibition, he wrote,

“For most Ugandans, any person that expresses ‘him/herself’ as the opposite sex is a homosexual and so this exposes transgender people to all the mistreatment that they would love to give a homosexual. All transgender people are seen as the obvious homosexuals. Therefore, on top of all the transphobia, there is homophobia even if you are not gay.”

4. Leo Sheng<img src="image.png" alt="tmp_leo_Sheng">

Sheng came into the limelight after he documented his transition phase from female to male on Instagram and You Tube. He has also been advocating for transgender people, and created his identity as a filmmaker. He has been a source of inspiration for those who are in transitioning phase, and his documented story has helped encouraged them to identify themselves as a transgender. “I really just want to bring awareness to a particular identity and what it may mean for some people — again, not all. I don’t represent transmen, nor do I represent transmen of color. I represent myself. My personal goal, or hope, was and is to try to remove some of the stigma and break the stereotypes of what people think transmen are like. I hoped to show people, as other people have shown me, that it’s ok to be true to who you are and to own your past,” Leo said in a 2016 Interview with Huff Post. Leo is studying at Temple University in Philadelphia as an international student.

5. Laith Ashley

The 26-year-old Ashely, started his transition less than 3 years ago, and immediately appeared in a Barney’s ad, along with several well-known trans personalities. The New York native quickly became a favorite to follow on social media, (and in my best RuPaul  ‘You Better Work’ voice), his modeling career took off. He has been featured in shows for New York Fashion Week for Adrian Alicea, and Gypsy Sport. He also has posed for Calvin Klein. Laith, along with his new romance became a huge hit for Whoopi Goldberg’s first season of the show Strut.  The show comes amid a call to the modeling industry for more representation of the large number of trans models working, who are denied those coveted go sees gigs with national brands due to their identity. Though many in our community see this as one field that has a great deal of trans representation, those trans models are often limited to the work they receive. While our community knows of them, few have broken the barrier into the mainstream, even fewer of those are men, which makes Laith’s role in this, pivotal for trans masculine representation.

6. Neo Sandja

Neo L. Sandja is a Life Coach, Speaker, Author and Entrepreneur. As the president and founder of FTM Fitness World (The First International Body Building Competition of trans men), he is dedicated to empower people of Trans experience in reaching their full potential. Originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Neo came in the U.S., at the age of 19 to pursue his college career. Neo is a certified Neuro-Linguistic Programming Life Coach and a member of the Association for Integrative Psychology. Having struggled with major depression himself, he is very passionate about Emotional Intelligence and helping people find within themselves the drive to lead a richer life. Sandja is the Author of the book, “Right Mind Wrong Body – The Ultimate Trans Guide to be Complete and Live a Fulfilled Life”. Neo is also the chair of the FTM foundation, a private foundation focused on helping people of Trans experience with their overall transition.

7. Andrés Rivera

Chilean transgender activist and founder of Organización de Transexuales por la Dignidad de la Diversidad, a major transgender rights organization in Chile. Through his work, he helped change the laws in Chile to allow transgender people to legally change their name and sex.  He has worked with government and the local health system to facilitate the evaluation, treatment and surgery of trans people, and organized the first Rancagua debate on the Civil Union Pact. He has also fought against employment non-discrimination in Chile and for LGBTQ rights in Latin America in general.

8. Lucas Charlie Rose

Lucas Charlie Rose, was born in 1991 in Paris France, and is a well-known musician, hip-hop artist and  You Tube personality; chronicling his transition, and love of hip hop. A trans-masculine hip hop artist that is not only reshaping the next genderation of hip hop, but forging together those voices in music often overlooked.  He earned a Bachelors of Fine Arts Degree in Film production from Concordia University’s Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. He’s been featured over the past year in several lgbtq media outlets.  Over the past year, he raised eyebrows with the ingenious, first ever collaboration CD, of several trans-only hip-hop artist such as; Sidney Chase, Nicki Andro, Neeko Freeman, Jiji Parker, King Giselle, and many more. The first ever such project, that spoke volumes to the unity of the trans hip-hop music scene.

9. Shawn Stinson

Thirty-five year old Stinson is a Veteran Marine, originally from Peoria, a personal trainer and health fitness coach. In 2014, he won the 1st annual FTM Bodybuilding Competition founded by Neo Sandja. That would spark his popularity as not only a trans role model, but fitness role model. He would go on to compete the second year of Fit Con, and remained undefeated.

“This is once in a lifetime. We’re changing lives so that people get fit and helping transgender men transition,” says Stinson. The time is now.”

Recently, Stinson was featured in a meme that went viral, in the wake of North Carolina’s anti-LGBT legislation, HB2. Among other things, the law prevents transgender individuals from using public restrooms assigned to the gender with which they identify.”

10. Jiovani Carcione

Everyone loves a man in a uniform, and there’s nothing not to like about this handsome EMT from Chicago. A hard-working man, that has every reason too, as he is also a proud father. Raising a child through the ups and downs of transition, life and remains optimistic and full of hope. Jiovani is the new cover model, and trans man of the future; hard-working parents living their authentic truth, and being a role model to millions yet to come. Reminding a new genderation, that all is possible regardless where you are, and that all trans men of color matter!

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO DISCUSS THIS OR ANY OTHER TOPIC ON OUR SITE, PLEASE JOIN THE CONVERSATION ON THE TMP FORUM

 

 

 

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