Institutionalize the Values

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Yeah, well, we didn’t complete the cycle of the message, right? You know, I think more people in our generation raised our kids to be more open-minded and to be more thoughtful and considerate. We had the words for it, right?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Right.

MICHELLE: When it comes to fathers raising their girls, I do think that the average father today does believe that their girl can be anything she wants to be and they are delivering those messages around the dinner table.

BARACK: Right.

MICHELLE: We delivered those messages at the dinner table, but we didn’t take them to the boardroom. We didn’t change our workplaces; we didn’t change things outside the home.

We didn’t institutionalize the values that we’d been teaching this generation of kids. So now, they are growing up. They are leaving the dinner table and they are going out into the world and going, ‘The world doesn’t look like what I was taught back home.’ You know, and this isn’t right.

BARACK: Young people are idealistic as they have ever been. I think they are more idealistic now than they were when I was growing up. The difference though is that idealism that they feel as if they can channel it outside of governmental structures and outside of politics.

The problem is, again we’re getting a pretty good lesson in this right now, there’s some things we just can’t do by ourselves or even groups of us can do by ourselves. As a general proposition: we can’t build infrastructure by ourselves, we can’t deal with a pandemic by ourselves.

MICHELLE: We can’t effectively educate the public by ourselves, through individual schools…

This is a Pattern

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) Responds to Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL)

“And so what I believe is that having a daughter does not make a man decent. Having a wife does not make a decent man. Treating people with dignity and respect makes a decent man, and when a decent man messes up as we all are bound to do, he tries his best and does apologize. Not to save face, not to win a vote. He apologizes genuinely to repair and acknowledge the harm done so that we can all move on.”

I have watched this video through dozens of times just in the past couple of days. As frustrated and infuriated as I am with what Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had to go through I’m happy she was able to respond in this way.

She took her personal but not at all unique experience and brought it to the national stage in a way we can all identify with, internalize, and learn from. She is showing us all how to stand up and speak up, how to hold others accountable for dehumanizing language, and articulated perfectly the very real harm that this language inflicts on all of us.

I only hope Rep. Ted Yoho and men like him learned something too…

Intersectionality

Like the other identifiable races, Black people are in reality a collection of groups differentiated by gender, class, ethnicity, sexuality, culture, skin color, profession, and nationality-among a series of other identifiers, including biracial people who may or may not identify as Black. Each and every identifiable Black group has been subjected to what critical race theorist Kimberlé Crenshaw has called “intersectionality”—prejudice stemming from the intersections of racist ideas and other forms of bigotry, such as sexism, classism, ethnocentrism, and homophobia. For example, sexist notions of real women as weak, and racist notions of Black women as not really women, have intersected to produce the gender racism of the strong Black woman, inferior to the pinnacle of womanhood, the weak White woman. In other words, to call women as a group stupid is sexism. To call Black people as a group stupid is racism. To call Black women as a group stupid is gender racism. Such intersections have also led to articulations of class racism (demeaning the Black poor and Black elites), queer racism (demeaning Black lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender people), and ethnic racism (concocting a hierarchy of Black ethnic groups), to name a few.”

— Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America