Reflecting On The Intersectionality Of Today’s Pressing Issues

I was so moved at tonight’s event at The Wing in SoHo that I had to write. In the spirit of the anniversary of Stonewall, we had an extremely thoughtful panel of rockstars:

  • Cecilia Gentili – Transgender activist, actor and someone who speaks with deep empathy from countless experiences throughout her lifetime.
  • E.M. Eisen-Markowitz  – Restorative (and Transformative) Justice Coordinator and public school teacher.
  • Wazina Zondon – Founder of Coming Out Muslim and sexuality educator.
  • Alex Berg – Panel moderator, and journalist covering national news, women’s issues, and LGBTQ+ culture. 

My twenty year-old daughter, who has been openly queer from a young age, joined me tonight as my guest. As we walked home, we processed key points from the discussion. A few worth noting:

  • We are privileged white women and we and our family, friends, colleagues, etc. are not doing enough to support real change in this country for the LGBTQ+ community. Putting strong light on the issue and companies changing logos and decorating storefronts to rainbows a few weeks a year is not enough. It’s a conversation and action that needs to happen every single day.
  • The majority of people who are speaking up and fighting for change are putting themselves at risk ahead of those of us who can afford to take real risk. Reflecting on Stonewall, Cecilia highlighted that it was the white privileged professionals who ran from the scene and the less privileged crowd that put their lives at stake to fight back – people who could not afford bail money if arrested or perhaps survive if they were to be imprisoned. 
  • Wazina gave us pause around how we’ve been talking about reproductive rights. This is an intersectional issue, not just a white feminist issue or about who can tell whom what they can do with their own bodies, it’s also a parenting issue: who is ready to be a parent and what that means (emotionally, physically and economically). I applaud her for the work she’s doing with young people around this and other important health, identity and sexuality issues.
  • EM spoke of transformative justice inside schools to change the narrative and behavior vs. the crazy spend in NYC schools to police the problem (over $700M/year!). This is an important issue well beyond our city schools. We need to transform society.
  • On D&I and hiring, we heard stories of companies seeking to be inclusive that are not removing barriers to allow a diverse pool of candidates to apply simply by creating exhaustive list of requirements in the JD (see more of my thoughts on this here). Provide training, mentorship and tuition reimbursement for applicants who have the aptitude and lack the experience. Make it happen vs. complaining “we can’t find the ‘right’ candidates”.
  • Finally, know your political candidates positions and vote for those who understand these issues and are motivated to take action. Now more than ever, we need the right people in office.

I’m definitely going to think deeply about how I can make a bigger impact on these points and take action; with my voice, my dollars and my body if I have to. I suggest everyone else do the same – educate yourselves, open your minds and take action. 

Thank you to the events team at The Wing for organizing this evening! My only constructive feedback (‘cuz you know I have it!) is that there were not nearly enough of your members there or PR around it. We can do better.

Is The Future Bright?

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My dad was a science fiction buff, Democrat and a WWII veteran. As a single parent, he did a marvelous job inspiring me to explore my interests in technology and encouraging me to be my own person with the strength and means to create the life I wanted to live. We were “not that Jewish” in terms of rituals and convictions, but our heritage and suffering was always a thread throughout our lengthy family debates about politics and the world at large. Being a Jew was part of who we were as individuals and as a family and his role in the war and the stories he told from his experience was a constant reminder of how important it is to stand up for what’s right, defend minorities and protect our freedom.

I often have days where I wish my dad was still with us so I could see his mind explode when I showed him the latest in tech. An avid Azimov reader and Star Trek viewer who bought every single new calculator (the first one was a Sharp CS10A weighing over 50 pounds!) and Radio Shack TRS80 as they were released, he would have totally lost it if he were to see the iPhone and all the applications one can use on it today. If I were to share a VR headset with him or bring him to an AR installation, he would marvel at how the technology he imagined from all his Sci-Fi reading was coming to life. He would have also said none of it surprised him, because he believed all of it was inevitable. The future was always bright in his mind.

Despite all the progress we’ve made in tech in the US since my dad’s passing in 2009, we’ve had a lot of regression in the country at the same time. I imagine how my dad would feel today about our current President and the rise of hate and bigotry in this country. I imagine how he’d feel to see women continue to deal with discrimination and adversity; where inequality still exists across industries, across the nation. As a Jew, I imagine his disgust at some of the unimaginable things that have happened in our country in the most recent weeks. I imagine that he would not think the future’s so bright right now.

I am not a political activist. In fact, I refer to myself as “A-political, ‘A as in anti'”. I do vote on the regular and keep an eye on important bills being passed, but until recently, I’ve tried to avoid the topic as much as possible. Today however, I am embarrassed for our country and ashamed at myself for not doing more. As I read my twitter feed, I take pleasure in seeing the lack of fear in calling out our President for being ignorant and crass. We are very lucky to live in a country where we can be so vocal without recourse. But I fear we may not have those rights much longer if we allow things to persist. I am now challenging myself on what I personally, as an apolitical non-activist, can do to support our country getting past all of this.

I plan to start by surrounding myself with good humans who care deeply about these issues and have a zero tolerance for hate and bigotry. I will only work with and for organizations where they stand by these same beliefs (I am proud that my employer* has recently committed to standing against hate and violence). I will ensure that whomever I work with, mentor, or coach knows that I will always focus on creating a safe space for them to thrive, speak their minds and be supported – no matter how they identify (race, gender, religion or otherwise) as long as they reciprocate. Finally, I will do what I can to support those on the front lines trying to make our country a better place. I may not run for office or join a picket line, but I will speak up more about the issues, fund programs that are allowing us to make progress on equal rights and social justice (I donated yesterday to https://www.splcenter.org/), sign petitions, and encourage others to do the same. Anyone and everyone can make a difference in some way. We cannot just sit back and watch this happen.

So, Dad, if you’re watching what’s going on right now from wherever you are, please send good vibes and support us any way you can as well. Change won’t happen overnight, but I believe the good people of this country will push hard to turn things around and once again, the future will be bright.

Got other ideas about ways those of us who are apolitical can make an impact? Please share in the comments!

*UPDATE: @DigitalOcean has recently created a site to also foster donations to SPLC as well! Go DO!