Why Are Jews the Only Minority We Don’t Protect On College Campuses?

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/on-my-campus-jews-are-the-only-minority-we-dont-protect_us_572a9b98e4b046ff51c08a44

Michael Sitver
05/05/2016

Last week, some students at University of Chicago, where I attend, proposed a resolution to our College Council to divest from Chinese weapons manufacturers, in protest of China’s severe human rights abuses and its long-standing occupation of Tibet.

Members of the council were quick to condemn the resolution, and for good reason. The members noted it was political, and disrespectful to Chinese students. Other members noted that Chinese students should be given time to respond to the presenters with a counter-presentation. One representative even suggested that the College Council issue an apology to Chinese students for even considering the resolution. The resolution was tabled indefinitely.

Curiously, when a few weeks earlier the same College Council passed a nearly identical resolution condemning Israel, no one suggested an apology. These same representatives argued why it was their moral imperative to condemn Israel. They were determined to push this through at all costs, and despite requests, they didn’t even offer the other side an opportunity to present.

Over the past few weeks I have been told that Jews “don’t count” as a minority. I have been accused of using anti-semitism to justify oppression. All I want to know is why my campus doesn’t treat anti-semitism with the same rigor with which it treats any other forms of bias.

When Jews stood before the council, and asked that it recognize the Jewish right to self-determination, a basic right for all people, people in the room laughed. One representative noted that “If we were to affirm the right to Jewish self-determination … it takes away from the intent of the resolution”.

Students in the room that day called us racists and murderers and “apartheid supporters”, for even thinking we, as Jews, could have a voice in the discussion over the one small state we call our own. A Jewish student was chided “You are racist and you are against me and my family’s existence”. It was uncivil, and unproductive, but the council-members did not once that day condemn the personal nature of these attacks, or defend the rights of the opposition to make their case.

At one point, a student questioned the presenters, members of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), about their organization allegedly holding a moment of silence for Palestinians who were killed while trying to murder Jewish Civilians. One of the presenters confirmed the moment, then responded without missing a beat “Palestinians have a right to honor their martyrs”.

If the killing of any other ethnic group had been celebrated, the University would make grief counselors available. It would send out mass emails of condemnation. They would suspend the organization responsible, and possibly the students involved in it. The organization would certainly not have any credibility to present to the student government. Since the victims were Jews though, their celebration of murder went unchallenged. The representatives never even brought the issue up.

On the third slide of the presentation in favor of the resolution, presenters claimed that voting against the resolution would mean “maintaining a system of domination by Jews”. The presenters were relying on one of the most common, long-standing, overtly anti-semitic tropes to make their case, and our representatives said nothing.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/on-my-campus-jews-are-the-only-minority-we-dont-protect_us_572a9b98e4b046ff51c08a44

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Woman mistaken for transgender harassed in Walmart bathroom

From News Times:  http://www.newstimes.com/local/article/Woman-mistaken-for-transgender-harassed-in-7471666.php#photo-10075102

By Matt DeRienzo
Monday, May 16, 2016

DANBURY – Aimee Toms was washing her hands in the women’s bathroom at Walmart in Danbury Friday when a stranger approached her and said, “You’re disgusting!” and “You don’t belong here!”

After momentary confusion, she realized that the woman next to her thought – because of her pixie-style haircut and baseball cap – that she was transgender.

 Toms believes the incident happened because of the national controversy sparked by a law that was passed in North Carolina attempting to force transgender people to use the bathroom of the gender they were identified as at birth. Since then, religious conservatives have launched a boycott of Walmart competitor Target, which has said transgender people are welcome to use its bathrooms freely. Nationally, Walmart has been silent on the issue.

Toms, a 22-year-old from Naugatuck who works at a retail store in the Bethel-Danbury retail area around Walmart, posted a video “rant” about her experience on Facebook Friday that had been viewed more than 12,000 times by Sunday evening.

“After experiencing the discrimination they face firsthand, I cannot fathom the discrimination transgender people must face in a lifetime,” she said. “Can you imagine going out every day and having people tell you you should not be who you are or that people will not accept you as who you are?”

Toms said on Sunday that she isn’t embarrassed talking about someone mistaking her for male, just upset that the North Carolina law has emboldened people like the woman she encountered.

“I think this is all just a response. No one was telling these people to be scared of transgender people before. No one was telling them that they should be throwing people out of bathrooms,” Toms said. “As if it wasn’t scary enough for transgender people to use the bathroom before.”

Besides being a pretty normal choice of style for women, Toms’ has a short haircut because she recently donated hair – for the third time – to a program that makes wigs for child cancer patients.

“I’ve had people call me all sorts of names for having short hair. I’ve had people call me a boy, I’ve had people call me a dyke, I’ve had people call me gay.” Toms said. “I’m grateful that that woman only called me disgusting and didn’t physically attack me … I was a victim of transphobia today as a cisgender female because my hair is short.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.newstimes.com/local/article/Woman-mistaken-for-transgender-harassed-in-7471666.php#photo-10075102

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If Meat Eaters Acted Like Vegans – Ultra Spiritual Life episode 35

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Target CEO responds to nationwide boycott of the store over transgender bathroom policy

From The Washington Post:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/05/13/target-ceo-responds-to-nationwide-boycott-of-the-store-over-transgender-bathroom-policy/


May 13, 2016

Target CEO Brian Cornell has now spoken publicly about the backlash the company experienced after releasing a statement declaring that transgender individuals shopping at the retail giant can use whichever bathroom corresponds with their gender identity. Among that backlash is an online petition by the American Family Association, a Tupelo, Miss.-based religious non-profit organization founded by First United Methodist pastor Donald E. Wildmon.

Thus far, that petition has received 1.2 million signatures. It argued that “Target’s policy is exactly how sexual predators get access to their victims. And with Target publicly boasting that men can enter women’s bathrooms, where do you think predators are going to go?”

(Link to Petition removed)

Target’s original statement read, in part:

We believe that everyone — every team member, every guest, and every community — deserves to be protected from discrimination, and treated equally. Consistent with this belief, Target supports the federal Equality Act, which provides protections to LGBT individuals, and opposes action that enables discrimination.

In our stores, we demonstrate our commitment to an inclusive experience in many ways. Most relevant for the conversations currently underway, we welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity.

Cornell, appearing Wednesday on CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” confirmed the company would not be reversing its policy. He called to mind the civil rights movement of the 1960s by evoking Target’s past in using African American models in its advertising when it was socially unpopular to do so.

“We’ve had a long history of embracing diversity and inclusion,” Cornell said. “A couple of weeks ago, one of our team members sent me a note reminding me that if we went back to the mid-60s, our company was one of the very first to use African American models in their advertising. And back then, you know, it wasn’t well received. We had a lot of tough feedback, but sitting here today, we know we made the right decision.”

Complete article at:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/05/13/target-ceo-responds-to-nationwide-boycott-of-the-store-over-transgender-bathroom-policy/

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A Remarkable Life: One 95-Year-Old Shares Her Hope For Fellow Trans People

From Refinery 29:  http://www.refinery29.com/2016/05/109265/transgender-ww2-veteran-robina-asti-interview


May 9, 2016

Robina Asti is exhausted, but you wouldn’t know it as she opens the door to the Upper East Side apartment she’s called home since 1965. She’s dressed in a green top and tan slacks, her white hair is swept up in barrettes, and two turquoise earrings dangle from her ears — the first pair her late husband, Norwood, ever bought her.

“I’m sorry, I think I overdid it a bit yesterday,” Asti says. “But it was just so beautiful out.”

Asti got home late Sunday night after six hours in the air over the Hudson Valley. At 95, she still works as a flight instructor and tries to spend every weekend she can piloting planes, much as she has since she was a teenager. She laughs that insurance companies seem to shy away from her these days.

“But you know what? Every morning that I open my eyes is a good day,” she reflects.

Much of her nine decades have been spent leading a quiet life of flying and family. She was born in 1921 and grew up in New York City. When the U.S. joined World War II, she signed up for the Navy and served in the Pacific. She married, had children, and was the vice president of a major mutual fund. Then, in 1976, she transitioned from male to female.

At the time, hers was a decision few understood; she faced serious discrimination at work and strained relationships with her children. But soon after, she met the “love of her life,” artist Norwood Patton. The pair would spend decades together before finally getting married in an old airplane hangar in 2004.

“He was a proper man. He always had breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and a martini at 5 o’clock,” she says, smiling. “When he was in the hospital, I even snuck a Coca-Cola bottle full of martinis I mixed for him.”

Her apartment still overflows with Norwood’s art: everything from little sketches to oil paintings, including a beautiful portrait of her. After Patton passed away in 2012, Asti applied for the standard widow benefits from the Social Security Administration. She was shocked and angry when they wrote to tell her that she had been denied because she was not legally a woman at the time of her marriage.

Asti decided to fight back. Since then, she’s been a volunteer and advocate for transgender rights, working with LGBT-advocacy nonprofit organization Lambda Legal. Ahead, Asti shares her remarkable life story and her advice for young people transitioning today, with Refinery29.

Continue reading at:  http://www.refinery29.com/2016/05/109265/transgender-ww2-veteran-robina-asti-interview

Obama Administration to Issue Directive on Transgender Access to School Restrooms

From The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/13/us/politics/obama-administration-to-issue-decree-on-transgender-access-to-school-restrooms.html

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is planning to issue a sweeping directive telling every public school district in the country to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms that match their gender identity.

A letter to school districts will go out Friday, adding to a highly charged debate over transgender rights in the middle of the administration’s legal fight with North Carolina over the issue. The declaration — signed by Justice and Education department officials — will describe what schools should do to ensure that none of their students are discriminated against.

It does not have the force of law, but it contains an implicit threat: Schools that do not abide by the Obama administration’s interpretation of the law could face lawsuits or a loss of federal aid.

The move is certain to draw fresh criticism, particularly from Republicans, that the federal government is wading into local matters and imposing its own values on communities across the country that may not agree. It represents the latest example of the Obama administration using a combination of policies, lawsuits and public statements to change the civil rights landscape for gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people.

After supporting the rights of gay people to marry, allowing them to serve openly in the military and prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against them, the administration is wading into the battle over bathrooms and siding with transgender people.

“No student should ever have to go through the experience of feeling unwelcome at school or on a college campus,” John B. King Jr., the secretary of the Department of Education, said in a statement. “We must ensure that our young people know that whoever they are or wherever they come from, they have the opportunity to get a great education in an environment free from discrimination, harassment and violence.”

Courts have not settled the question of whether the nation’s sex discrimination laws apply in matters of gender identity. But administration officials, emboldened by a federal appeals court ruling in Virginia last month, think they have the upper hand. This week, the Justice Department and North Carolina sued each other over a state law that restricts access to bathrooms, locker rooms and changing rooms. The letter to school districts had been in the works for months, Justice Department officials said.

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/13/us/politics/obama-administration-to-issue-decree-on-transgender-access-to-school-restrooms.html

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Antisemitism has rocked Labour’s self-belief

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/apr/28/antisemitism-rocked-labour-self-belief

Party members assumed they were the good guys, incapable of prejudice. But now Ken Livingstone and Naz Shah have laid bare the left’s capacity for racism


Thursday 28 April 2016

Actually, you’re just like a concentration camp guard. You’re just doing it because you’re paid to, aren’t you?” If you’re Jewish, and live in London, you might dimly recall those words. But if not, here’s a clue. They were spoken to a Jewish reporter a decade ago by the man who today indignantly described himself as having fought a lifelong battle against discrimination – shortly before being suspended from the Labour party for potentially bringing it into disrepute with clumsy references to Hitler.

Rereading the transcript of that 2005 exchange between Ken Livingstone and a hapless Evening Standard reporter today, what takes the breath away isn’t the rather tasteless suggestion from London’s then mayor that anyone working for a paper whose owners he disliked was probably “a German war criminal” in a previous life. It’s that when the reporter explained he was Jewish and was offended by the Nazi reference, Livingstone didn’t stop. He doubled down on the concentration camp stuff, took his spade and kept digging. And he got away with it. There were calls for his resignation, of course, but he got away with it.

He carried on being mayor for another two years, and has carried on ever since being feted by people who would have bayed for the blood of any Tory making racially insensitive remarks to a black reporter. He went on blithely to suggest that Jews have stopped voting Labour because they’re rich, and still didn’t really seem to see what the problem was; but then, he was surrounded by people who didn’t seem to want to see the problem either.

And that’s one explanation for how a politician as naturally gifted as Livingstone could ever think it a good idea to summon Hitler as a witness for the defence, when defending his party against allegations of antisemitism.

Perhaps he has simply lost sight of how it looks, outside the circles – once fringe, now mainstream in the Labour party – in which he moves. You could see today’s extraordinary day of bloodletting – which saw first the suspension of the Labour MP Naz Shah for pre-election Facebook posts suggesting Israel be forcibly transported to the US, and then that of Livingstone for only making matters worse – simply as payback for all the times someone got away with it. Fail to challenge dubious attitudes and they quickly seep into the mainstream.

But there is another possible explanation, and that’s the belief found close to many left wing hearts that they, and they alone, are the good guys – the champions of equality and fairness – and therefore incapable of prejudice. They don’t need to question their assumptions, or take a long hard look in the mirror, because the racists are the other guys.

As Ken explained in injured tones to the BBC’s Martha Kearney today, real racism is when you’re rude to your neighbour’s face in Stoke Newington, which he’d never do. And anyway, racists would hardly be attracted to Labour, would they? To which one could almost hear his colleagues screaming at the radio; well if they weren’t before, mate, they might now.

Continue reading:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/apr/28/antisemitism-rocked-labour-self-belief

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Self-Appointed Bathroom Cop Catches Dallas Woman Using Women’s Restroom

From The Dallas Observer:  http://www.dallasobserver.com/news/self-appointed-bathroom-cop-catches-dallas-woman-using-womens-restroom-8259104

By Eric Nicholson
Friday, April 29, 2016

The way things are headed, with Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick setting the state’s legislative agenda, Texas may very well have its own crack squad of bathroom police. In the meantime, it’s up to self-appointed enforcers of traditional gender norms to adjudicate which bathrooms strangers should use.

Case in point: the man who, um, heroically barged into a women’s restroom at Baylor Medical Center in Frisco on Thursday to make sure that Jessica Rush, who manages a local health-food takeout place, was peeing in the proper place.

She was, for the record, and her situation isn’t particularly complicated. Rush was born and identifies as female and has no plans to change that. “I look very much like a girl,” she says. “I’m not trying to  transition, nothing like that.”

But Rush wears her hair in a bleached blond fauxhawk and dresses androgynously. On Thursday, she was wearing a T-shirt from her alma mater, Texas Tech, with basketball shorts. As the man at Baylor explained after walking into the restroom behind her, it’s all very confusing.

Rush caught the latter end of the exchange on video:

“The point is I was helping my mom. I was confused when I see someone entering the woman’s bathroom looking like a man,” he said. “Each one of us is man or woman so … I wanted to make sure she was going to the right place.” Because in times like these, you can never be too careful.

The guy at Baylor isn’t the first person who’s found himself confused by Rush’s self-presentation. Once, when Rush was at Hobby Lobby, a woman accosted her for trying to enter the restroom her granddaughter was using. Another women berated Rush for brazenly waltzing into the 24 Hour Fitness locker room before recognizing that Rush was, in fact, a woman and muttering an apology. And pretty much whenever she goes into the restroom at the mall, she’ll hear kids murmur “Mom, there’s a boy in the girls’ bathroom!”

Continue reading at:  http://www.dallasobserver.com/news/self-appointed-bathroom-cop-catches-dallas-woman-using-womens-restroom-8259104

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My plea to the left: treat Jews the same way you’d treat any other minority

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/apr/29/left-jews-labour-antisemitism-jewish-identity

The row over Ken Livingstone and Labour antisemitism has exposed people who think they’re anti-racist – but make a curious exception for Jews


Friday 29 April 2016

Let’s imagine for just a moment that a small but vocal section of the left was consumed with hatred for one faraway country: barely an hour could pass without them condemning it, not just for this or for that policy, but for its very existence, for the manner of its birth, for what it represented. And now let’s imagine that this country was the only place in the world where the majority of the population, and most of the government, were black.

You’d expect the racist right to hate such a country. But imagine it was that noisy segment of the left that insisted it would be better if this one black country had never been created, that it was the source of most of the conflict in its region, if not the world. That its creation was a great historical crime and the only solution was to dismantle it and the people who lived there should either go back to where they – or rather, their grandparents or great-grandparents – had come from; or stay where they were and, either way, return to living as a minority once more. Sure, living as a minority had over the centuries exposed them to periodic persecution and slaughter. But living as a majority, in charge of their own destiny – well, black people didn’t deserve that right.

And now imagine that the people who said all these things insisted they had nothing against black people. On the contrary, they were passionately against all forms of racism. In fact it was their very anti-racism that made them hate this one black country. Their objection was only to this country, its conduct and its existence, not to black people themselves. You surely were only inventing this horrible accusation of racism to divert attention from the wicked black country and its multiple crimes.

Most on the left would give such a view short shrift. They would be suspicious of this insistence that loathing of the world’s only black country was separate from attitudes to black people in general, especially because most black people had a strong affinity with this country, seeing it as a constitutive part of their own identity. The left would not be swayed by the fact these critics could point to a handful of black activists who shared their loathing of this country and wished it gone. They would want to listen to the mainstream black community and be guided by them.

I could keep going, but you get the idea. Jews have watched the events of recent days with a weariness that might surprise many, given how shocking they must seem: the sight of Ken Livingstone suspended by the Labour party over antisemitism, along with the Bradford West MP, Naz Shah. Weary because they have known of these attitudes, indeed warned that they had found a warm space to incubate on the left, for many, many years.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/apr/29/left-jews-labour-antisemitism-jewish-identity

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I’m Proof Bathroom Bills Are Not Just a Transgender Issue

From Time Magazine:  http://time.com/4322953/north-carolina-mississippi-bathroom-bills/

I’m a lesbian and I fear public restroom confrontations

Sally Kohn
May 9, 2016

I hate using public restrooms. Airports and rest stops are my least favorite. I avoid locker rooms whenever possible. But really every restroom is bad. In fact, it happened to me just the other day in my fancy office building in New York City. I was at the sink, washing my hands, when a woman walked into the restroom and did a double take, first looking at me and then looking back at the sign on the still-open door of the restroom. Was she in the wrong place? Or, implicitly, was I?

I am a biological female who identifies as a woman. I am not, for any intents or purposes, transgender. But as a non-gender conforming butch lesbian, I have my own tiny window into our nation’s current political debate about bathrooms—the always looming fear that easily slips into shame, and the occasional outright harassment, all because I have to pee. And that’s from using the bathrooms that I “should” be using according to vicious anti-transgender bills sweeping the nation.

The first time I was actually yelled at in a bathroom, at least that I can remember, I was 19 years old. I was, and still am, 6’1″, but back then I had straight shoulder-length hair that dangled as awkwardly around my chin as everything else about me at that age. I was openly gay but still otherwise finding myself. I still wore dresses sometimes. Also awkwardly. I was a study abroad student in England on vacation in Bath. I don’t remember much of anything from the entire semester, but I remember going into some lavish hotel along the beach to use the bathroom and, while I was washing my hands at the sink, getting yelled at by a group of women.

One of them, standing next to me at the sink, yelled to her friends in the stalls: “There’s a boy in here!”

As the others came out, they loomed at me and shouted things like: “What are you doing in here?” and “You’re in the wrong place!”

And in a sense, they were right. It turns out the women were all part of a bridal shower, wearing those most conventionally feminine pastel dresses to participate in that most quintessentially heteronormative of traditions. They belonged—in that bathroom and in society more broadly—and I most certainly didn’t. And still don’t.

Whatever you might have heard to the contrary, the “bathroom bills” that have passed in North Carolina and Mississippi and are now pending in other states have nothing to do with public safety. The simple fact is that under existing laws, it is already a crime to dress up as a man or woman in order to falsely gain entry to any public restroom to harass or harm anyone. That is a crime in states with transgender legal protections and a crime in states without such laws. Fox News anchor Chris Wallace noted that such crimes have not taken place in communities that have transgender rights laws.

Continue reading at:  http://time.com/4322953/north-carolina-mississippi-bathroom-bills/

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Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch Delivers Remarks at Press Conference Announcing Complaint Against the State of North Carolina to Stop Discrimination Against Transgender Individuals

From The Department of Justice:  https://www.justice.gov/opa/speech/attorney-general-loretta-e-lynch-delivers-remarks-press-conference-announcing-complaint

Washington, DC

United States

~

Monday, May 9, 2016

Remarks as prepared for delivery

Good afternoon and thank you all for being here.  Today, I’m joined by [Vanita] Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice.  We are here to announce a significant law enforcement action regarding North Carolina’s Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, also known as House Bill 2.

The North Carolina General Assembly passed House Bill 2 in special session on March 23 of this year.  The bill sought to strike down an anti-discrimination provision in a recently-passed Charlotte, North Carolina, ordinance, as well as to require transgender people in public agencies to use the bathrooms consistent with their sex as noted at birth, rather than the bathrooms that fit their gender identity.  The bill was signed into law that same day.  In so doing, the legislature and the governor placed North Carolina in direct opposition to federal laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex and gender identity.  More to the point, they created state-sponsored discrimination against transgender individuals, who simply seek to engage in the most private of functions in a place of safety and security – a right taken for granted by most of us.

Last week, our Civil Rights Division notified state officials that House Bill 2 violates federal civil rights laws.  We asked that they certify by the end of the day today that they would not comply with or implement House Bill 2’s restriction on restroom access.  An extension was requested by North Carolina and was under active consideration.  But instead of replying to our offer or providing a certification, this morning, the state of North Carolina and its governor chose to respond by suing the Department of Justice.  As a result of their decisions, we are now moving forward.

Today, we are filing a federal civil rights lawsuit against the state of North Carolina, Governor Pat McCrory, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety and the University of North Carolina.  We are seeking a court order declaring House Bill 2’s restroom restriction impermissibly discriminatory, as well as a statewide bar on its enforcement.  While the lawsuit currently seeks declaratory relief, I want to note that we retain the option of curtailing federal funding to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety and the University of North Carolina as this case proceeds.

This action is about a great deal more than just bathrooms.  This is about the dignity and respect we accord our fellow citizens and the laws that we, as a people and as a country, have enacted to protect them – indeed, to protect all of us.  And it’s about the founding ideals that have led this country – haltingly but inexorably – in the direction of fairness, inclusion and equality for all Americans.

This is not the first time that we have seen discriminatory responses to historic moments of progress for our nation.  We saw it in the Jim Crow laws that followed the Emancipation Proclamation.  We saw it in fierce and widespread resistance to Brown v. Board of Education.  And we saw it in the proliferation of state bans on same-sex unions intended to stifle any hope that gay and lesbian Americans might one day be afforded the right to marry.  That right, of course, is now recognized as a guarantee embedded in our Constitution, and in the wake of that historic triumph, we have seen bill after bill in state after state taking aim at the LGBT community.  Some of these responses reflect a recognizably human fear of the unknown, and a discomfort with the uncertainty of change.  But this is not a time to act out of fear.  This is a time to summon our national virtues of inclusivity, diversity, compassion and open-mindedness.  What we must not do – what we must never do – is turn on our neighbors, our family members, our fellow Americans, for something they cannot control, and deny what makes them human.  This is why none of us can stand by when a state enters the business of legislating identity and insists that a person pretend to be something they are not, or invents a problem that doesn’t exist as a pretext for discrimination and harassment.

Let me speak now to the people of the great state, the beautiful state, my state of North Carolina.  You’ve been told that this law protects vulnerable populations from harm – but that just is not the case.  Instead, what this law does is inflict further indignity on a population that has already suffered far more than its fair share.  This law provides no benefit to society – all it does is harm innocent Americans.

Instead of turning away from our neighbors, our friends, our colleagues, let us instead learn from our history and avoid repeating the mistakes of our past.  Let us reflect on the obvious but often neglected lesson that state-sanctioned discrimination never looks good in hindsight.  It was not so very long ago that states, including North Carolina, had signs above restrooms, water fountains and on public accommodations keeping people out based upon a distinction without a difference.  We have moved beyond those dark days, but not without pain and suffering and an ongoing fight to keep moving forward.  Let us write a different story this time.  Let us not act out of fear and misunderstanding, but out of the values of inclusion, diversity and regard for all that make our country great.

Let me also speak directly to the transgender community itself.  Some of you have lived freely for decades.  Others of you are still wondering how you can possibly live the lives you were born to lead.  But no matter how isolated or scared you may feel today, the Department of Justice and the entire Obama Administration wants you to know that  we see you; we stand with you; and we will do everything we can to protect you going forward.  Please know that history is on your side.  This country was founded on a promise of equal rights for all, and we have always managed to move closer to that promise, little by little, one day at a time.  It may not be easy – but we’ll get there together.

I want to thank my colleagues in the Civil Rights Division who have devoted many hours to this case so far, and who will devote many more to seeing it through.  At this time, I’d like to turn things over to Vanita Gupta, whose determined leadership on this and so many other issues has been essential to the Justice Department’s work.

Topic:
Civil Rights
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Free Speech and Islam — The Left Betrays the Most Vulnerable

From Quillette: http://quillette.com/2016/05/05/free-speech-and-islam-the-left-betrays-the-most-vulnerable/

by Jeffrey Tayler
May 5, 2016

When surveying the ill-informed, shoddy work that at times passes as in-depth journalism regarding Islam these days, a rationalist may well be tempted to slip into a secular simulacrum of John Bunyan’s Slough of Despond.  In reputable press outlets, articles regularly appear in which the author proceeds from an erroneous premise through a fallacious argument to a fatuous conclusion.  Compound all this — especially in the main case I’m about to discuss, that of the British former Islamist turned reformer, Maajid Nawaz — with the apparent intent to defame or cast aspersions, and you get worthless artifacts of journalistic malfeasance that should be dismissed out of hand, but that, given the seriousness of the subject, nevertheless merit attention.

For starters, a few words about premises and some necessary background.  Those who deploy the “stupid term” (see Christopher Hitchens) “Islamophobia” to silence critics of the faith hold, in essence, that Muslims deserve to be approached as a race apart, and not as equals, not as individual adults capable of rational choice, but as lifelong members of an immutable, sacrosanct community, whose (often highly illiberal) views must not be questioned, whose traditions (including the veiling of women) must not be challenged, whose scripturally inspired violence must be explained away as the inevitable outcome of Western interventionism in the Middle East or racism and “marginalization” in Western countries.

Fail to exhibit due respect for Islam — not Muslims as people, Islam — and you risk being excoriated, by certain progressives, as an “Islamophobe,” as a fomenter of hatred for an underprivileged minority, as an abettor of Donald Trump and his bigoted policy proposals, and, most illogically, as a racist.

Islam, however, is not a race, but a religion — that is, a man-made ideological construct of assertions (deriving authority not from evidence, but from “revelation,” just as Christianity and Judaism do) about the origins and future of the cosmos and mankind, accompanied by instructions to mankind about how to behave.  Those who believe in Islam today may — and some do — reject it tomorrow.  (Atheism has, in fact, been spreading in the Muslim world.)

Calling the noun Islamophobia “sinister,” Ali A. Rizvi, a Canadian Pakistani-born physician and prominent figure among former Muslims in North America, told me via Skype recently that the word “actually takes the pain of genuine victims of anti-Muslim bigotry and uses that pain, it exploits it for the political purpose of stifling criticism of Islam.”  In fact, denying Islam’s role in, for instance, misogynist violence in the Muslim world, said Rizvi, is itself racist and “incredibly bigoted, because you’re saying that it’s not these ideas and beliefs and this indoctrination [in Islam] that cause” the “disproportionately high numbers of violent, misogynistic people in Muslim majority countries, it’s just in their DNA.”

Also, remember that Islam claims jurisdiction not just over its followers, but over us all, with a message directed to humanity as a whole.  Which means Islam should be susceptible to critique by all.  People, whatever their faith (or lack thereof) deserve respect; their ideologies?  Not necessarily.  In fact, the cornerstone of any free society is freedom of expression – a freedom impeded by labeling as “phobic” those who would object to an ideology.

Continue reading at:  http://quillette.com/2016/05/05/free-speech-and-islam-the-left-betrays-the-most-vulnerable/

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‘They’: the singular pronoun that could solve sexism in English

I’ve been using “they” and “their” as both singular and plural pronouns since the 1970s when I rebeled against the use of “he” and “his” as the supposedly gender neutral singular pronoun.  When I was told that a pronoun couldn’t be both singular and plural I responded, “You must be kidding, as “you” and “your” are regularly used that way.

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2016/may/05/they-the-singular-pronoun-that-could-solve-sexism-in-english

You only need four letters to take a stand against the prejudice embedded in the English language


Thursday 5 May 2016

I got in trouble over a four-letter word the other day. None of the ones you are thinking of: it was “they” that caused a fracas that Jeremy Clarkson would have been proud of.

At the start of 2016, the good folks of the American Dialect Society got together to crown their Word of the Year. They (see what I’m doing here) have decided that the word could now be used as a singular pronoun, flexing the English language so a plural could denote a singular, genderless, individual.

They has long been used in the singular in English, but not to denote genderlessness. One of the earliest examples comes from Geoffrey Chaucer in 1395, who wrote in The Pardoner’s Tale: “And whoso fyndeth hym out of swich blame, They wol come up…” Shakespeare followed in 1594, in The Comedy of Errors: There’s not a man I meet but doth salute me/As if I were their well-acquainted friend”. It took a few centuries for they to pop up in reference to women: Jane Austen uses they in the singular 75 times in Pride and Prejudice (1813) and as Rosalind muses in 1848’s Vanity Fair: “A person can’t help their birth.”

Around 1809, Samuel Taylor Coleridge rejected “he” as the generic pronoun (“in order to avoid particularising man or woman, or in order to express either sex indifferently”, he wrote in his notebooks), settling on “it” as an ideal, neutral solution. Roughly around the same time, the philosopher John Stuart Mill was struggling to define the philosophy of language itself: what we could know – if anything – beyond our language? Mill came to the conclusion that language tells us what is thinkable, possible; so, if a young woman never sees the word “she” or “they”, could she naturally know that “he” represented her, too? No. In this sense, women were inherently excluded.

Growing up almost two centuries later, I was just supposed to understand that language excluded me because I was a girl: I was out, except when it came to naming hurricanes and referring to ships. I was once told as a kid that all hurricanes were female because women were so destructive; a barbed comment I never questioned because at the time I already sensed some things were easier if you were a boy.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2016/may/05/they-the-singular-pronoun-that-could-solve-sexism-in-english

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