Thursday, September 23, 2021

Not All Asians Are Crazy Rich Racists

Can we talk about cultural appropriation, again? As in from this Busy Black Woman's perspective, what it is and what it isn't? Because Halloween is coming and things are about to get very uncomfortable.

The motivation for revisiting this topic is Nora Lum (better known as Awkwafina), star of the current Marvel Studios superhero offering Shang-Chi. From what I could surmise, while doing the press promos for that film, she was confronted about her use of a 'blaccent' in her debut film, Crazy Rich Asians (2018). And it appears that her response was to look like a deer caught in headlights instead of offering a genuine answer. (She's been asked about this in the past and her response was pretty much the same.) 

As this clip made the rounds, I saw a lot of dragging on Black Twitter. That resulted in a familiar discomfort that I've come to recognize initially as old age because blue light filters and sitting in one place for a long time have adverse effects on me physically. But the headache I also got could be attributed to my feeble efforts to comprehend this generation gap between me and the self-appointed Millennial gatekeepers of Blackness on social media.

Before you read any further, I already know that yes, I am getting Auntie old and anyone under the age of 40 might give me an Ok Boomer sigh throughout because I may end up sounding a lot like some of those cranks that complain about political correctness. BUT...

Y'all have this one wrong. 

First of all, there is no denying that Blackness gets routinely appropriated and mocked, with oppressors and fellow oppressed people of color guilty of both. We know that stereotypes in artistic renderings of marginalized people of color were once part of mainstream popular culture, which is how we got Aunt Jemima, Chief Wahoo, and six Dr. Seuss books banned. While white folks sort out their feelings about losing some of their beloved racist icons, some of y'all need to take a break from being offended by everything.

I've seen the appropriation accusation thrown at artists like Bruno Mars, then seen the various reactions when we catch white folks reinterpreting art or cultural expressions that we have claimed as ours. Every Christmas, I swear someone posts some choir's bland version of Betelehemu in our SpelHouse group and practically demands reparations. Another clip that makes the salt, but no seasoning rounds annually comes from the Brigham Young Cougarettes. Admit it, we get perverse glee in laughing at white people.

And that is because we are keenly aware of the cultural white-washing that has occurred to make certain aspects of Black culture more palatable to white audiences. While that doesn't just happen to us, we take notice and offense to it more readily. It should be an honor to see the Mormon Tabernacle Choir perform a version of a Yoruba Christmas carol or to see the all-white BYU dance team modestly twerking, but there is that pesky matter of historic racism and exclusion in the Church of Latter-Day Saints. While the Mormons would argue that this is progress, we are right to detect both irony and an appalling lack of awareness. And no rhythm.

At the same time, we also know that not all aspects of Black culture are the exclusive creations of Black Americans. As previously mentioned, Betelehemu is a Yoruba Christmas performance piece that was written and arranged by Morehouse College alumni Babatunde Olatunji and Wendell P. Whalum. Of course, that means the Morehouse Glee Club performs the definitive version, but I wonder if there are Nigerians that see it and feel similarly possessive. How many of us insist on proudly embracing its African-ess, coifed in Ghanaian kente stoles and kufis made in China? (Take all the time you need to get that.) And why are we surprised that some of these PWI bands finally got the memo to jazz up their half-time shows? But more significantly, when did we not notice the various ways that other cultures have been the basis of almost everything that has been branded quintessentially American?

At what point do we redraw the lines so that there is no confusion between what is "ours" and what belongs to another marginalized group or culture? How many of these so-called Millennial gatekeepers of Black culture grew up on anime style cartoons or collecting Hello Kitty and Pokemon? What about visual artists like Iona Rozeal Brown, is she appropriating Japanese culture, or is she creating bold statements about cultural overlap and mutual inspiration? How many of us have kimono-style robes or have ever worn our human hair weaves styled into a low chignon with chopsticks? What about those fireworks that we love to shoot off every Independence Day? Are we not acknowledging that we got Tiger Woods in a trade for the Wu-Tang Clan?

Do y'all even get why that Dave Chappelle Racial Draft skit was so funny?

And then it occurred to me, no they don't because they didn't grow up in the 70s and 80s like I did. So they don't know anything about 70s film star Jim Kelly or the friendship between Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Bruce Lee. They probably don't get old school Godzilla movies; TV shows like Ultraman (1972-73) or Kung Fu (1972-75); the original version of Kung Fu Fighting (1974) by Carl Douglas; references to the original Karate Kid (1984-89) movie franchise; crushing on Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat or Dustin Nguyen as Harry Ioki on 21 Jump Street (1987-1991); Michael Jai White as Spawn (1997); or why Kill Bill (2003-04) is such a gratuitously guilty cult classic. I am more than 1000% sure that none of them have ever seen The Last Dragon (1985) with Taimark as Bruce Leroy...

So if we don't relate to the same pop culture references, or get that for many of us who came of age in the 80s, we didn't openly discuss or fixate on the notion of perpetual antagonism between the African American and Asian American communities. I'm not naïve, because there were tensions, but shopkeeper rudeness was not the norm with every Asian American in our personal orbits. For those of us who grew up with Asian American friends in our schools and neighborhoods, we gained some measure of cross-cultural understanding. There was a Filipino community just over the DC line in nearby Oxon Hill, Maryland made up of kids who definitely adopted what we would call Black affectations to be down. We didn't hold that against them, especially since they had to patiently explain the differences among Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and other Southeast Asian cultures.

So when I see Awkwafina, and know that she started out as a rapper from Queens, and think back to all the other Asian American friends I've had through the years, I don't get why she's problematic. Any more so than Debbie Harry of Blondie getting credit for being the first rapper on MTV? Have any of you met native New Yorkers from the boroughs and heard them talk? And if you haven't, how many of you speak one way at work and another way at home and thought nothing of it until someone came up with the term code-switching?

But let me take this a step further because the danger implicit in the attacks on Awkwafina and others go beyond whether she donned a blaccent. She's an actor and what she gets paid to do is assume other personas. That also includes accents. Plenty of actors adopt affectations in speech that aren't natural to them. For example, Jasmine Guy used a very exaggerated Southern drawl in her portrayal of Whitley Gilbert on A Different World and to this day, I have yet to hear anyone complain. I know that I have mentioned the fact that many of the actors in Black Panther (2018) were American, and there are countless other examples of British actors portraying American Southerners, Canadians, and Australians with few complaints. Would you argue that Gillian Anderson needs to return that Emmy? 

Should Awkwafina have had a better response to the question of using a blaccent when she has explicitly rejected adopting "Asian" affectations in speech for roles? Yes, although I'm guessing the politics of that choice are much more complicated. As I have been telling my age all through this piece, I need to invoke the memory of actor Pat Morita, best remembered by my generation for his role as Mr. Miyagi in the original Karate Kid franchise. Most of us were shocked to learn that he didn't speak with a heavy Asian accent. But it didn't matter because when people saw him, they had a certain expectation of how he should sound. At times, several other Asian American actors with no accents took on roles where they had to adopt affectations to seem more convincing including Lauren Tom (for Bad Santa), Tamalyn Tomita (for Karate Kid 2), and Constance Wu (for Fresh Off the Boat). I get Lum's reluctance to follow suit even if it is less likely that she would face such an expectation now.

Therefore, in a film such as Crazy Rich Asians (CRA) where the actors with British accents appeared to be cast intentionally to represent the born and bred while the others were clearly cast as the nouveau riche or worse, American...

Before I completely lose track of my point, the accusation of cultural appropriation is almost the same as knowing obscenity when I see it. We're clear that we don't want people to treat culture like a costume; yet, isn't that more or less what culture becomes if we don't allow for context? Especially in America where a man wearing Bermuda shorts, a Hawaiian shirt, and black knee socks with sandals while grilling shish kabobs is probably somebody's Dad, not some culture vulture. However, if it is Megyn Jesus-is-white-and-Santa-too Kelly wondering aloud if she's wearing enough blackened cork on her face, then we definitely need to shut that down. I know that your child dressed as a character from a Disney movie isn't cosplaying culture, but that also depends on which character you choose (so no white kids dressed as Killmonger). 

The bottom line is intent. When I watched CRA again earlier this month, Awkwafina's Peik Lin Goh is easily the least problematic character. She stands out in an otherwise uninspiring fish-out-of-water Cinderella story replete with horrible people. Having just watched Mulan (1998) again as well, it is worth noting that there are only a handful of other mainstream depictions of Asian families that don't get bogged down in stereotypes, so perhaps we should complain about that. Follow me here because marginalized Asian representation in popular culture isn't a myth. The Disney Channel gave us a complex Asian American family in Andi Mack (2017-19) a few years ago, but it was so short-lived and was probably better suited for the Freeform audience. Now they are rebooting Doogie Howser MD with the former star of Mack, Peyton Elizabeth Lee, in the title role as Doogie Kamealoha, MD. We haven't even mentioned the paucity of roles for South Asian American actors other than Bollywood productions, with notable exceptions for such stars as Mindy Kalig, Kal Penn, Priyanka Chopra, and Aziz Ansari.

I'm not coming for Awkwafina when I doubt Asian Americans came down this hard against Sho'nuff. Or maybe they realized that over-the-top performance was more about creating a stand-out character in a really bad movie. If we are going to police all incursions into other cultures, then we need to be as equally critical of blue-eyed soul artists as we are of Bruno Mars. We should be more wary about embracing fusion cuisine such as Korean tacos and Turkish pizza without proper acknowledgment from Mexicans and Italians. Or put another way, perhaps we shouldn't be so adamant about gaining access to cultural spaces that were once kept from our reach. Does the world need more Black ballerinas and opera singers? Or martial artists...

I think we can tolerate one more mediocre actress.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Shaky Platforms

It was all fun and laughs when I first saw the social media reactions to this now infamous warning tweet posted by Nicki Minaj about her cousin's friend in Trinidad. I mean, who didn't snicker a little to learn that some dude's testicles allegedly swelled up after he received a COVID vaccine (when the truth is likely unrelated to getting the shot). But okay Nicki, keep researching... 

And it continued to be humorous when various people weighed in with their snarcastic reactions to the vaccine and Minaj's tweet. In these crazy polarized times, we need reasons to laugh together. We needed to know that several very important people were so concerned about this dude's balls and Minaj's misinterpretation of the situation that it kept Joe and Jill up past their bedtime on the phone with the Health Ministry officials in Trinidad and Tobago. We were amused to see Tucker Carlson devote so much time and energy to addressing it (because he probably needs an excuse to offer his wife for his own swollen testicles).

But then it stopped being funny the instant I got the news of the death of a friend from high school. 

It hits differently on every level as I had to administer a home COVID test in order to receive clearance to attend a memorial service this weekend. The plan is for me to take my Dad, who has essentially decided that he ain't driving anywhere outside of the Beltway anymore, so I volunteered to be his chauffeur. For the record, taking the home test isn't that big of a deal, and I guess it needs to become a fact of life now, so I accept it along with every other concession I've had to make in the past year and a half. Like never leaving the house without a mask.

Mind you, I took that home COVID test in response to a question on a COVID pre-clearance form to attend this weekend's memorial service where I had the option to lie about having traveled outside of the state in the past seven days. I told the truth, because that trip was in order to attend another memorial service for a relative in New York. We wore our masks, but some attendees did not, so it was probably a good idea to get tested out of an abundance of caution. The fact that some of us think like that and others don't is another adjustment to the new normal. 

Then there is also the matter of the Kid and the fact that she cannot get vaccinated yet. In order to minimize her exposure, she didn't accompany us to New York, but that doesn't guarantee that she hasn't already been exposed at school where several children have tested positive and it has barely been two and a half weeks. That was the drama that began this week, accompanied by a 13-page confessional/accusatory letter by the parents of the infected. It hits differently when it becomes clear that we can do everything right and still...

Nicki Minaj's cousin's friend's got swollen testicles, so maybe you should pray and think twice about getting the vaccine.

I am not coming for Minaj, because it wouldn't have the desired impact seeing that her response and that of her stans would be to clapback hard. Particularly as one Black woman to another, the only benefit might be to generate some attention for this little passion project that I have been laboring away on for years without so much as .0000001% of her same impact. Thus, to piggyback on the point that Joy Reid attempted to make a few days ago, Minaj has a substantial following whereas I don't. She's an influencer. I'm an urban Mommy blogger. So if I did strike at the Queen, I better not miss, lest I be branded an Uncle Tomiana, whomever the hell she is. 

But how about this instead: it doesn't really matter who comes for me because (a) nobody will and (b) I don't care. Furthermore, the worst that could be said is that I am an obscure nobody who is so very tired of every single asshat who keeps defending their dumbass takes on this virus and its impact. Fuck you and your vitamins. Fuck you quoting the Bible. Fuck you and your YouTube research. Fuck you and your personal freedom. Fuck your feelings.

And so that we're clear that this isn't about calling out another Black woman for saying what several others have said: Busta Rhymes, that SNL comedian whose name I don't care to look up, Eric Clapton, and anybody who voted for Larry Elder--FUCK ALL Y'ALL TOO!

I am soooo tired of COVID. Two weeks ago I had a meltdown over the prospect of having my Mom go to the ER over something minor that no one could diagnose. Because Google is not a doctor and her actual physician was out of town, the only way to have the problem addressed was to pay for medical transport TWICE. I am so tired that we are still debating the politics of masking because a few people insist that their discomfort is a civil rights issue (meanwhile restricting voter access and policing women's bodies are moral imperatives). I am so tired of worrying about who might be vaccinated because it isn't my business, yet if I get sick it becomes my problem. It upends my life and jeopardizes the health and safety of those in my family. 

I am so tired because I have followed the rules and still the risk remains high. Because somebody's swollen balls in Trinidad are supposed to be more devastating than dying.

It all hits differently when you read the forlorn tweets of people you don't know who turn to social media to share the pain of intimate loss because that is how we grieve now. We cannot gather together as we once did to mourn or to celebrate without dealing with red tape on the front or back end, so we improvise and feign excitement or sympathy virtually. In reality, the only consistent emotion is ennui.

Admittedly, I did no in-depth "research" on the vaccine. I made my decision based solely on the fact that close to 600,000 people in this country had died by March of this year when I got my first shot. And I have not regretted that decision as just this summer, several unvaccinated acquaintances who contracted COVID died. I'm pretty sure that this particular friend from high school, a grown ass 50-something year old man, wasn't influenced by the anecdotal prospect of swollen testicles (and sadly, he was already gone when her tweet went viral). But whatever "research" led him to forgo getting the vaccine was dead wrong.

It hits differently because even as we make every effort to avoid exposure to COVID and resume some semblance of normal, we are stuck in this perpetual Groundhog Day of watching bad choices produce bad outcomes, yet no one has learned anything when the alarm goes off. We are 18 months into this pandemic, likely to get hit with another variant and winter is coming. We were sooo close to this being over, but instead we're waking up to Sonny and Cher again.

The irony--a song about having each other's back. We know how that turned out for them, and look at where we are now...

And because shots were fired and Sis was out here on Blue Ivy's internet re-tweeting Tucker Carlson and Candace Owens, like really? You've aligned with Boris and Natasha because they care about your cousin's friend? More importantly, because they care about the fact that Black people comprise the lowest percentage of vaccinated adults in this country (26.3%) and represent the highest percentage of COVID-related deaths? Two people who have been heavily invested in the Big Lie, have an ideological axe to grind, and as such only care about TV ratings and going viral by picking Twitter fights--the TV dinner heir and a thirsty clout-chaser with no job? You went hard against Joy Reid for expressing her disappointment in your tweet, but no smoke for Carlson and Owens who have collectively disrespected nearly every Black woman who disagrees with them, including some of your fellow sisters in rap such as Meg Thee Stallion and Cardi B. 

Hold up, this is really about your beef with Cardi B? Ain't that some shit! Are you sure that you aren't the one being used?

Before it was dis tracks and record sales, but it all hits differently because of COVID. 

(I had finished writing and had published this piece, then things went from sad to surreal later when I saw more insanity on Twitter. The Barbz had taken to Twitter and to the streets of Atlanta in defense of their Queen. Whew, y'all have conflated issues and yep, this is that point in Groundhog Day when Phil Connors the weatherman keeps finding more creative ways to kill himself.)

So one last point, because it needs to be said: nobody has made any attempt to silence you or any other person who has expressed genuine hesitation about the vaccine. Doubts can be useful to provoke dialogue and offer clarification where there is confusion. What you tweeted was labeled as misinformation, and last I checked a 24 hour Twitter ban isn't imprisonment, nor is it a punishment since you have other means of communicating to your followers. And what's more disingenuous is to dig into your position as if all of these high-profile busy folks didn't take time to investigate and address that nonsense. You are reacting to becoming the butt of late night jokes, not some secret illuminati plot to get you to shut up. It is precisely because of your visibility and reach to over 20 million folks--acknowledgement of your influence that prompted the range of responses.

It appears that fame, influence, propaganda, and loud speakers do make for shaky platforms that cannot withstand a whiff of debate or dissent. And it all hits differently because of COVID.

Saturday, September 4, 2021

States of Confusion

Every now and then, one of those profile surveys will circulate on Facebook that asks people to check off items from a virtual bucket list of experiences and places. Have you ever broken a bone or gotten a tattoo or have you ever had chess pie? One such list that seems appropriate to mention today involves checking off the number of states one has visited. Because my family went on a cross-country trip when I was seven years old (so exactly 40 years ago), I can definitely check off more than half of the states on the map. In my travels over the years, I have had the opportunity to add a few more. Recently a friend declared her intent to visit all 50 states by her 50th birthday, and I thought that was a novel idea until I realized that such an undertaking would require crossing the borders of several states that have essentially become vast sundown towns.

In Georgia, it is illegal to give bottled water to voters while they wait on line. In Texas, you can be sued by anyone who suspects you even read the word abortion in the newspaper after six weeks of pregnancy. In Idaho, where 90% of the residents are white, it is illegal to notice that fact. In Wisconsin, poor kids don't need to be spoiled by free tater tots and square pizza slices. In Florida, you can't force anyone to wear a mask to prevent the spread of COVID or possess less than 20 grams of marijuana, but you can take veterinary drugs with the Governor's blessing. In California, your Governor can be recalled if he pisses off enough people.

In these yet to be United States, we appear to be in the full throes of another culture war and in typical righteously indignant social media fashion, there have already been calls for boycotts. Let's not spend any of our hard earned money in that state until the laws get changed (blah, blah, blah), which means business as usual until Hell freezes over or until WalMart declares bankruptcy. Because no one is boycotting anything as long it took the NFL to give Colin Kaepernick a job...

This week I have seen a lot of overwrought emotion expressed in reaction to this latest authoritarian edict which only continues to prove what we already know, yet folks still seem utterly surprised. Y'all are big mad that Texas enacted the most restrictive anti-abortion laws in the nation even though they were pretty open that was their intent. They were also very intentional about calling a special session of the legislature to enact more draconian laws to restrict voter engagement and that allow wannabe cowboys to walk around armed and unencumbered, but you were thinking those were aimed at controlling only certain people? When they banned critical race theory from being taught, as if Texas barely even teaches standard American History, no one thought to look at what other insanity this Governor might have already signed into law? That when Sen. Ted Cruz hopped on a plane to Cancun during an ice storm and left his dog Snowflake behind to fend for itself, these people give one hot damn about our feelings?

These same people who issued death threats against their own (Dixie) Chicks?

I could list every hypocritical point of divergence, but to what good? None of these folks are ashamed or moved by compassion for anything that doesn't comport with their ideological leanings. They will call for the resignation of one President because he stutters but will storm the Capitol for the one who tells outright lies. They will regard a foreign-born former First Lady as an American dream but will call the first woman to be elected Vice President an opportunistic whore. The former President who dragged us into Afghanistan 20 years ago doesn't bear responsibility for the lives of the American soldiers who were killed on his watch, but the former Secretary of State is unqualified for higher office because of a raid on an embassy in a country where we were not actively engaged in conflict. Ashli Babbitt was a martyr but Breonna Taylor was just another dead Black woman. 

I'm outraged by the state of things too. I've reached the point where expressing any form of frustration or disillusionment feels like an exercise in futility. (Of course, that is exactly what I am doing, but keep reading.)

I shared an emotional story on the Facebook page, aspects of which I have shared in the past about my own pregnancy to illustrate the abject cruelty of the Texas law. The thing is, anecdotal experiences don't sway people who are intent to believe what they believe. I debated the issue of abortion years ago with a student who was adamant that the regret she felt about her own choice meant that she would support the prosecution of other women, knowing full well that she would never face such consequences. And I didn't fully process the disconnect of her position until now, but it does explain why appeals for compassion fall short. Some people really don't give a fuck.

We keep thinking that cruelty is an overt act of malice. We only denounce racism when certain words are used. We excuse sexism if the culprit is someone we admire or need. We know that there are absolutes in this world, and that there are myriad shades of gray. But there are also various shades of black and white that are not gray such as ivory, eggshell, ebony, and soot.

The struggle to retain our humanity isn't won easily. There are people that go to great lengths to justify being on the wrong side of history because their culpability was less than someone else's. In a lynch mob, the onlookers are less guilty than those who bought the rope, tied it, and actually killed the person. But they did pack a lunch, spread out a blanket, and chatted with their neighbors in the meadow while the grisly deed was taking place. And no amount of moralizing after the fact will change that.

That's why the romanticized Antebellum fantasies of a heroic Confederacy are so pernicious and dangerous. Scarlett O'Hara is and always was a Karen, but so was her sister-in-law Miss Mellie! The only difference between the two of them was in their temperament. Melanie Hamilton Wilkes is every nice white lady who claims not to see color, even as she enjoys every privilege and perk of whiteness. She believes in feminism until it impacts her son's scholarship or her husband's job. She claims to be a Christian, but she never offered to pay Mammy or reward Big Sam. She knowingly sent her husband off to defend white Southern womanhood dressed in her best bed sheets, so how is it that people are still fooled into believing she can be persuaded to vote against her best interests? She can't. So stop trying to appeal to her sense of justice. 

Miss Mellie and 'nem are unmoved by the growing number of casualties to COVID even as several outspoken mask and vaccine opponents have themselves died. Those people were poor, unfortunate souls, losers. Similar to every other crisis that must penetrate her exclusive circle of intimates, Miss Mellie's freedom to spread pestilence and disease is paramount to your desire to live. Now you put on that mask and get on back to work, ya' hear?

She doesn't concern herself with the hardships caused by voter engagement restrictions because she never stands in long lines to vote at her precinct and she renewed her drivers' license online with no problems just last week. If she's still waiting on her identification, no worries because the election judge is that nice lady from church that makes Bundt cakes and crochets baby afghans. She knows Miss Mellie and forgives the oversight, so there is no need to challenge her integrity or make her lose her place in line. If the people in Harris County don't understand how these things work in the suburbs, Miss Mellie didn't make up the rules.

When she got into trouble in high school, her future husband Mr. Ashley Wilkes did the honorable thing and drove her across state lines so that no one could report back to her Aunt PittyPat. Years later, when they were married and Miss Mellie gave birth to their only healthy child, it was because Mr. Ashley's private health insurance provided comprehensive prenatal and neonatal care. And Prissy, who didn't know nothing about birthing no babies, needed a job so she did a stint as The Help so that Miss Mellie didn't have to quit her bridge club before young Master Beau was old enough for school. As he grew into a strapping young man, Mr. Ashley made sure that his son spent plenty of time at the gun range where he learned the necessity of having an adequate stockpile of assault rifles in case he didn't have enough time to grab the right set of white bed sheets in an emergency.

This is why our anecdotes don't work on these people. We are not like them. If you had to work through this pandemic, Miss Mellie thinks that her part was to add a little extra to the tip on her take-out tacos and weekly booze deliveries. But once she decided to re-open her small business (selling Old Uncle Pete's craft brew from the secret recipe he sold to help pay off some of his medical bills), that was the end of her patience. She got her PPP loans, so now the government has to cut off your unemployment. She pays decent minimum wages, so what makes these workers think they deserve an extra $3 an hour? Hasn't she always been good to you people?

(Yeah, I know. But I needed to make sure you were paying attention.)

You are wasting your time with all of these common sense comparisons, such as mask-wearing to seat belt mandates. That took nearly 30 years to catch on, many avoidable deaths, and finally attaching criminal sanctions to make people comply. I know this because I lived through it, having grown up in the 70s and 80s. I lost a classmate in high school in the late 80s to a car accident because she was not wearing a seat belt and was thrown through the window. My parents even had a child safety seat before those became mandatory. People considered it cruel to lock a baby in a car seat that faced backwards (he can't see out the window). My Dad insisted that everyone in our cars had to wear seat belts because of a near-death experience he had as a college student in the 60s. Not even that convinced my Grandfather to wear his own seat belt, despite his own scary incident, and it was only not to hear it from my father that he made us wear them in his station wagon.  

Let me get back to the point of this, which was to emphasize that we won't persuade these people through emotion, Christian siblinghood, reason, or logic. So we have to employ other tactics. Y'all won't be boycotting Texas, not because it isn't a good idea, but it isn't sustainable. Boycotting Texas means I can't visit Houston to try out one of these stuffed turkey legs, but more importantly, a boycott of the entire State of Texas means that when the next big storm threatens the Gulf Coast, where do we expect people to go? All the way through to Oklahoma, where they've also banned the teaching of critical race theory and can't decide if reparations are appropriate for Tulsa Massacre survivors? Or to Arkansas, where critical race theory has also been banned and there is a current challenge to its abortion restriction that begins at 20 weeks? There are marginalized people that live throughout this country who face more than just the loss of reproductive freedom. 

(So umm, thank you Bette Midler, for the suggestion, but maybe let's come up with something that can liberate all of us, okay?)

Students of history will remind you that there were various kinds of protests, and depending on the circumstances, some were more effective than others. Thus, the push for change did not depend on protest, but worked through a combination of tactics that included litigation, lobbying, boycotts, civil disobedience, and nonviolent resistance. Every year, the Rev. Al Sharpton revives the March on Washington because he knows that it will get media attention and he'll get a primetime speaking slot; meanwhile, Stacey Abrams is on the ground in Georgia registering voters and recruiting candidates. Her strategy resulted in sending two Democrats to the U.S. Senate which is why they were so quick to change the voting laws. With respect to Rev. Al and MLK III, we need more than inspirational speeches to stay in this fight.

So let's think this through. If Texas is now a permit-free open carry state, then where are the Black gun clubs? How many of you are willing to organize efforts to patrol the polls where Black and Latinx voters are likely to face intimidation? Beyoncé is a Texan married to a Yankee billionaire, so let's get her and Jay to back a bail fund in case that becomes necessary (which it will). If these white actresses are so convinced of their allyship, then instead of teasing a run for office, support the candidacies of the local activists who could use their name recognition to reach potential voters. Since a boycott of the state isn't feasible, a coordinated economic boycott of certain companies can move the needle towards change. Several major companies are headquartered in Texas including Southwest Airlines, FedEx, and most major oil and gas companies. Through discipline, we can pull off a boycott, just as we did back in the 80s to force divestment from South Africa. 

In every state that bans public schools from teaching critical race theory, we need to revive the Freedom Schools that popped up during the Civil Rights Movement to teach Black voters how to pass the literacy tests. The late great Robert Moses initially went to Mississippi by himself for that very purpose. We can sponsor a new kind of Freedom Rides for women that live in these states where the abortion laws have changed, underwritten by these celebrities who are so vocal about sex strikes (of course, it would not be a terrible idea if the mistresses of every one of these reactionary politicians tried that.) All of these young idealistic college graduates can use some experience, so let's find ways to support them by forgiving their loans and/or sponsoring fellowships for them to work pro bono.

Pick a state, any state and there is plenty to do. And I will close with my reminder that voting is the easiest statement of defiance and act of resistance you will make if you cannot do anything else. All of these restrictions are recognition that your vote has power, so not voting is what they are counting on, especially on the local level. These folks have no shame, so fight back! Demographic changes in Texas are what gave a two-term Congressman named Beto O'Rourke the mediocre while male confidence to run for Senate and President. If we want to beat back tyranny, then we need the same energy y'all have for driving hours across the state for turkey legs, brisket, and tailgating.