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Look for the Helpers

I didn’t watch Mr. Rogers as a kid. He always kind of gave me the creeps. I had never encountered anybody that was that kind all of the time, and I doubted his sincerity. And now I need to add that to the list of things I should bring up with my therapist. Regardless, as an adult I have come to love and, in times of trial, cling to a quote of his: “Look for the helpers.”


There will always be helpers. There will always be hope. There will always be a way. I am still at a loss to fully express myself after the election. I sat down to witness history, and I did. Just not the history I had anticipated. I watched as an oft ignored part of our country declared in one loud, red voice that they would not be ignored any longer. That they would not let their way of life go quietly into that good night. They raged, and we all listened in disbelief.

To the rural Americans who feel disenfranchised because their America has been slipping away from them, I am sorry. I am sorry that we didn’t listen, that we didn’t care. I am sorry that we didn’t hear your cries and that even though everyone says you’re privileged you don’t feel that way living at the poverty line. I am sorry that it has come to this, and I hope that in the years to come your situation will improve. I truly do. We are listening now.

However, we need you to listen too. As evidenced by how close this election was, we are a country divided. A deep chasm exists separating one side from the other and because of that chasm neither side can hear the hopes, dreams, fears and wants from the other. And if we can’t hear each other, we have no hope of understanding or empathizing with each other. This is a problem. This country is big enough for all of us to exist together, but only if we can understand each other. The only way for that to happen is to truly listen and appreciate where the opposite side is coming from.


I hold strongly to the belief that you don’t have to push others down in order to rise yourself, which is in direct conflict to the rhetoric of our new president. I respect the decision of our country to elect him, but I do not respect him or his hateful disparagements and I will not sit quietly by while they are said. I will not sit quietly by and watch rights being taken away from American citizens simply because they are different. There is room for all of us, and we can all rise together if we are willing to listen and try. And while we learn to do that, we need to have each other’s backs.


To the LGBTQ+ communities – I stand with you, I am your advocate.

To the people of color in this nation – I stand with you, I am your advocate.

To the women who seek equality and autonomy of their bodies – I am one of you, I am your advocate.

To the non-Christian religious communities – I stand with you, I am your advocate.


Now is the time for tolerance and acceptance. Now is the time for love. Now is the time for the helpers.



This is a good resource talking about what to do if you witness or experience racism specifically, but the information can be expanded to other scenarios as well.

This is a good strategy to use if you witness Islamaphobic harassment. Again the technique can be used in other scenarios as well.

If you are LGBTQ and need a friendly forum to express your concerns or you need someone to talk to click here for an established community who are there to help.

If you feel that your rights are being infringed upon, please check out the ACLU.

If it all feels like too much and you are considering suicide, please now that you matter, and call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline for help – 1-800-273-8255.

On a Scale of 10 . . . I’m at 2-3

I am not what you would call an overly empathetic person. I’m not a narcissist or sociopath or anything, I do have some empathy, but it is nowhere near my top ten strongest skills. Because of this, I am never the one that people come to for advice on the little things, or if they just need to whine. Chances are, I’ll just tell ‘em to “Suck it up camper,” or look at them with a blank stare until they assume I’ve fallen into a coma and walk away. It is truly amazing how long some people will continue talking once you’ve adopted this look.


It’s not that I’m intentionally trying to be rude, I do try to pay attention and care. It’s just that more often than not, I lack the capacity to give a shit, and there is nothing more disingenuous than someone trying to care about something that they don’t. There is a silver lining to this though, I’m the one that people come to when there is a major decision that needs to be made. When they know that they’re going to get emotional talking about it, and need an unemotional response. I’m that person, because I can sit and watch the person in front of me getting really upset about something and still tell them without hesitation that they fucked up and here’s what they need to do to fix it. Or that the situation is fucked up, that sucks, here’s what you need to do to fix it. I have taken friends, coworkers and strangers alike from brink-of-hysteria to focused-with-a-plan. This is what I do with my lack of empathy.

This used to really worry me, and I even brought it up with my therapist thinking that something was really wrong with me. She assured me that I had plenty of things wrong with me, but this wasn’t one of them. In fact, this was quite possibly the coping mechanism that allowed me to survive a childhood with a disabled and abusive mother. However, if I really was concerned, a sure fire way to increase one’s ability to empathize was to read fiction and memoirs. What????? Apparently when reading, you are so immersed in another world that you become accustomed to viewing and feeling things as someone else, which makes you able to see other people’s perspectives in real life, and therefore more empathetic. Or something to that effect.


As I had been reading fiction for years, and it clearly hadn’t helped, I decided that wasn’t the way to go. I have also read a lot of nonfiction history about people and events. While this has definitely made me more liberal, it hasn’t made me more empathetic. Seriously, it’s crazy, the more I study history the more liberal I become. In all of the history that I read, it is the people who are willing to look beyond what is traditional, the people who are willing to fight for the benefit of others, and the people who work the hardest to bring others along with them as they succeed that I admire most. The more I read the less I have time/energy/patience for people who are intolerant and work to subjugate people who are different. Which I guess is a form of empathy, so studying history has worked some.

All that was left, was memoirs, so I’m giving that a try. So far I’ve read about a boy soldier in Africa, a Jew during WWII, a US Iraqi war Veteran, a black boy growing up in the inner city, a holocaust survivor and I just started one about hillbillies. None of these books have made me lose sleep or in all honesty have really even affected me all that much. Empathy level is still clocking in at a steady two – three on a ten point scale. At this point, I’ve kind of given up on increasing my empathy, and look at is as more of a study of human motivation. In that sense, I am fascinated. Seeing how circumstance and background come together to influence the choices that people make and the behaviors that they exhibit. What from the outside looks completely asinine, actually makes perfect sense when looking at the microcosm of their life. As a writer, I can’t get enough. To play off the old saying, give me everybody’s shoes, I want to take them for a walk.

What started out as an experiment in emotion has turned into an intellectual study of human nature. I love it! Therefore, I am officially open to recommendations of good memoirs. No teenage girls though, I got enough whining to last me a while from Anne Frank. Yep. Holding steady at 2-3.




Ask Kat

When I first started my blog, it was really hard to stay motivated knowing that hardly anybody was reading it . . . I’m sure there were some days that no one was reading it. It totally bummed me out, because I was putting forth this effort for nobody but me. What I didn’t realize at the time, is that not having anybody pay attention is actually a really good thing. It means that you have time to figure out what you’re doing, get in the groove and make mistakes. Mistakes that only truly devoted explorers will ever see once you do get a following. It’s awesome!

I don’t think I realized what a blessing this was until I started something new a couple of months ago. I’ve discovered that people tend to come to me with questions, especially those that are historically based. These people could just as easily google the exact same question, but for whatever reason they will text me or message me via social media to ask me the question. I think my favorite reaction to this phenomena came when a friend texted me this: Biggest body count in a Civil War battle? My reaction went something like this:

“Why are you asking me? How in the hell would I kno . . . oh, wait, because I do know. Does she mean single day or entire campaign?”

It was at that moment that I stopped wondering why people sent their questions to me, and just started answering them. Some of which required a little bit of research, which I did happily because I actually enjoy doing research. So a couple of months ago, I decided to start an online audio blog called, Ask Kat. Basically I take some of these questions, answer them, then post it on SoundCloud. I have a degree in video production and in theater performance, recording and posting 5-10 minute sound clips should be a piece of cake! Right! Just like riding a bike. Right?


Yeah, there’s a bit of a learning curve to jump back in there. Which is when I had my realization that I am so GLAD that I have no followers on SoundCloud. That means that I can do my Ask Kat segments without having to worry about them being top notch at first. I get to ease into them, and learn how to make them better as I go. I’m averaging one a month, but as I get better I have feeling that number will go up. Until then, I am happy stumbling my way through at this pace. We’ll see how it goes. In the meantime, if you have any questions, send them my way! And if you want to check out the two that I’ve done so far, you can find them here. Episode 1 is about Richard III being the hide-and-seek champion of the world, and Episode 2 is about the origin of Halloween and trick-or-treating.




A Bias Against Black Men

The first conversation I ever had with a black person, was at my college orientation. I was 18. Black people didn’t live where I lived, they weren’t in the books that I read or the shows that I watched unless they were the thugs getting arrested. With the exception of slaves, Harriet Tubman and MLK Jr, they weren’t part of my education.  For the first 18 years of my life, black people, (specifically men) were like the mountain lions in the forest around me. I’d never met one, but I knew they were there, and they scared me.

Here’s the thing, I don’t remember ever encountering or spending time with an overtly racist person. I can’t recall ever being told by a teacher or parent or friend that black men were dangerous. I didn’t personally know anybody who had been victimized by a black man. So why was I afraid? Where did I learn to fear black men?

I hate to name something as banal as ‘society,’ but what else is there? I learned that fear from watching the nightly news with my parents. I learned that fear listening to talk radio hosts pontificating on the evils of gangs and the black men in them who killed each other and anybody else who happened to get in the way. Now I’m not saying that I am pro-gang and think that gang members and their violence should be talked about in loving terms. Far from it. The thing is, I never heard anybody talk about the black community positively. I learned fear because the black narrative was predominantly, at times exclusively, negative, and I had nothing in my real life to refute it. I had been conditioned to fear black men and think poorly of black people in general. I have no idea about anybody else from that little community, but that was the state in which I left.


Subconsciously, I was aware of the conditioning and never fully bought into in. I’d love to give myself credit and say that I was a socially enlightened being from the get-go and this was a conscious choice, but that would be a bald-faced lie. It’s only in retrospect that I can look back and see that I fought against this conditioning. I had no idea what I was fighting, but I knew that I didn’t want to believe that an entire race of people could be bad or lazy or dangerous or any of the other descriptors used. I was well aware that not all white people were good. Some were great, some were crappy and some fell in between. The same had to exist in the black community. So when I met and talked with my first black person in college, I latched on to her and she became my first college friend. I LOVED that she dispelled ever stereotype that had been planted in my brain as fact. We talked about honor classes and stressed out over grades. When she talked about her dad, I heard, for probably the first time, about a successful and thriving black man.

That summer I worked for the Colorado Shakespeare Festival where I met and worked closely with a black actor. He was incredibly talented, kind, funny, generous with his time, and when the shit hit the fan toward the end of the summer, he had my back. To this day, I have nothing but respect for him and his work and I would work with him again in a heartbeat. I also met a woman who would later become one of the hardest and most demanding professors that I ever had. Yet despite this, she was able to instill a life-long love of Shakespeare in me and I eventually overcame my awe of her enough to become friends. Once more, nothing I was encountering in real life matched the narrative that I had been fed growing up.

Yet when I looked around, the same narrative continued. Only this time, I had something to refute it. Something to hold onto in order to fight the conditioning and keep it from settling back in. Eventually I stopped watching the news, and talk radio was definitely out. I didn’t want to live in that world anymore. So I didn’t, and I naively thought that I had outgrown . . . outwitted . . . out maneuvered . . . I don’t know exactly what to call it, but I felt as though I had moved beyond my biased conditioning. Ta-da! Pat myself on the back.


Jump forward to me living Los Angeles, and it became abundantly clear that I hadn’t. No ta-da, no pat on the back. While Denver certainly had much more diversity than the tiny mountain town where I grew up, it is lily-white in comparison to Los Angeles. I have never seen so many cultures in one place in my entire life. For the record, I love it! I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

However, in this culture shock, albeit a good culture shock, my conditioning resurfaced. If I was out walking my dogs and saw a black man, I would get nervous. It could be the middle of the damn day and the appearance of a black man that I didn’t know would make me nervous. I didn’t even realize it at first. It was so rooted in my subconscious that a black men equaled danger, I didn’t even think about it, I just felt it down to my bones.

It finally hit me that this was occurring, when one of these so-called dangerous black men turned out to be a coworker. I hadn’t recognized him at first. I had prepped my purse in order to fend off his attack, and this made me feel so guilty, I almost apologized to him. I almost apologized for lumping him into the ‘dangerous’ black man category, instead of the ‘friend-of-mine-and-therefore-friendly’ black man category. That was my light bulb moment. My conditioning was still firmly in place. I had merely made exceptions to the rule to accommodate my friends and coworkers. Take away that exception and all that remained was fear.


I don’t like to admit this, in fact this is the first time that I ever have, because it makes me feel like I am a racist. It makes me feel like I’m a huge racist, and I don’t like that feeling. In all honesty, I would get angry that I felt like a racist. Angry at who, I have no idea. I would hazard to guess, that I am not the only one who has gone through these emotions. In fact, I’m pretty sure this is where that whole white-guilt thing comes from. The guilt comes up, we bury down the feelings that caused it, ignore them and reassure ourselves that we are good people. For the next couple of days, we might even go out of our way to be nice to every black person we see, just to reassure ourselves that we aren’t racist. I know I’ve done this. I’ve stayed longer to hold a door open, or let someone cut in line at the grocery store specifically to reassure myself that I was not a racist. But here’s the thing, all of that is pointless because it doesn’t accomplish or change anything. The underlying thought-process that caused the first behavior is still there. And here’s the kicker, I’m not a racist, so why was I spending so much time concerning myself about it? Because I was confusing being a racist, with having a bias. There’s a difference, and yes it can be a fine line, but there is a difference. Since I’m a massive word-nerd, I looked up the definitions from Merriam Webster.


I don’t believe that race has anything to do with human traits and capabilities, or that one race is superior over another. I never have and never will. That is the entire definition! If I disagree with the entire definition, then it is clearly not describing me. However, the third definition of the word bias is another story. ‘Inclination of temperament or outlook’ and ‘unreasoned judgement’ sound pretty spot on. I have no logical reason to judge black men poorly, other than what was fed to me through society. I think we as a people, need to step back and really examine our biases. Are all people on welfare lazy drug-addicts, or is that merely what we’ve been led to believe by people who oppose the program? I can tell you that when I was on welfare, I was neither lazy, nor on drugs. Yet that was a bias that definitely took up space in my head until I stepped into that world myself.

Here’s the thing, having biases doesn’t make us bad people. It’s human nature, everyone has biases that play into everyday of their lives. There’s a reason that I bought a Chevy instead of a Ford – I have a distinct bias against Fords. My grandfather worked for Chevy, and so did my aunt. Therefore they MUST be better cars. Does that make any sense? No. Yet I drove a Chevy into work this morning. In the grand scheme of things, this bias is inconsequential. So I’m going to ignore it and probably go on avoiding Fords for the rest of my life and nobody will care one way or the other.


However, the bias against the black community, and black men specifically, is a problem and has been around since the founding of this country. In the grand scheme of things, this is a huge problem and it effects thousands of people all over the US who are spending their lives in jail and getting killed. I’m not saying that there aren’t black men that deserve to be in jail, I’m sure there are. What I’m saying, is that when you look for trouble and the majority of the attention is focused on one group of people, you’re going to find trouble. Not because it only exists there, but because that’s where you are looking. And if you don’t see any, yet keep looking, seemingly innocuous behavior will begin to look suspect. I’ve heard my parent friends talk about sneaking up on their kids to catch them in one act of wrong-doing or another, only to be surprised that what seemed nefarious was actually innocent. If you expect trouble, you will eventually get trouble whether it’s real or manufactured.

A recent study done by Yale showed that the bias against black males starts as early as kindergarten. They had teachers watch a video to look for signs of challenging behavior among four children – one black girl, one black boy, one white girl, and one white boy. Despite the fact that none of the children were exhibiting challenging behavior, the teachers reported that the black boy needed the more attention then anybody else. After reading that, it makes a little more sense why for many young black men, school is a direct pipeline to jail. Maybe it’s just me, but if I get wrongly accused of misbehaving enough, I start misbehaving. If I’m going to be accused of it anyway, I might as well get the pleasure from doing the misdeed.

I’m sure there are people who don’t have this bias, and I applaud them. But with the history of this country, and if we’re all being completely honest with ourselves, I would guess that number is low. The good news, is that if we can acknowledge that this bias exists, if we can swallow our frickin’ pride and admit that we do this, we can reverse it. I really hope the teachers that participated in that study are now looking at their classrooms with a different perspective. It won’t happen overnight, but we can retrain our brains to come up with new conclusions, and expect different outcomes.

It took me about four years. Now, when I’m out walking my dogs and I see a black man, my conditioning goes to ‘dude-I-don’t-know’ instead of ‘dangerous-black-man.’ If it’s night, that conditioning goes to ‘potential rapist,’ but to be fair that’s my conditioned reaction for any man I see at night regardless of race. When outside by myself at night, all men make me equally nervous. Which is an issue all by itself but as long as the rape culture persists it’s warranted. Don’t get me wrong, I have every faith that my dogs would defend me if I was attacked, however, they are puggles, not German Shepherds. I’m fairly certain that the worst they could do is give someone a permanent limp. So I keep my eyes open. However, for the first time in my life, my heart doesn’t speed up more at the sight of a black man then it does at the sight of a white man. And I consider that progress.



Onwards and Upwards

Three and a half years ago I started on a journey that has led me to a place I never could have imagined. After pitching my idea to a magazine and being accepted, I wrote my first Heroine of History article. It was a short biographical piece about Mary Elizabeth Bowser, who was arguably the best placed Union spy during the American Civil War. This was my first attempt at biography, and I loved it. It wasn’t easy, but I loved unearthing her story and telling it.

That is largely how I’ve felt about all of the women that I’ve written about. Those biographies are the hardest things that I write. The research alone is daunting. The Internet is amazing in that there are literally millions of resources right at your fingertips. But anybody can post things on the Internet, so who’s to say what is fact and what is fiction. That’s not to say that books are 100% reliable either. I have read many an erroneous account in a book. I would guess that close to two-thirds of all of my research time is spent corroborating or dispelling facts.
I’m researching Shirley Chisholm right now. Two sources say that she was born on November 20, 1924, three sources say that she was born on November 30, 1924, five sources say November 1924, and a handful of sources don’t mention her birthday at all. Now multiply that by almost every relevant fact about the woman. Half the time I feel like I’m taking a poll: “Was Shirley Chisholm the oldest of four children or the oldest of eight children?”

I spend hours weeding through similar yet varied information, and then picking and choosing which “facts” seem to be the most factual. Then comes the daunting task of telling their story in a way that honors their life. I obviously pick these women because I find them inspirational, so I therefore want to do them justice.

And none of this takes into account the content of the stories. Yes, these are amazing, take-charge, get-things-done, and overcome-the-odds, inspirational women. However, in order to overcome something bad must happen first. So these stories are also full of loss, poverty, abuse, racism, sexism, disappointment and the destruction of dreams. It is heavy stuff.


Yet, they are also the most fulfilling. The more I research and the more I delve into these stories, the more I come to realize that these women have something in common. Regardless of race, social status, background, era, etc., all of these women place their focus on something external. Their communities, the disenfranchised, the downtrodden, those who have trouble speaking for themselves. These women served. They lifted up those around them, and in doing so, lifted themselves up too.

One of the most magical things about helping others, is that it is almost impossible to do so without also helping yourself. I can’t think of a single time that I willing offered and gave my help that I didn’t feel better about myself afterwards. Despite the hours of work and the emotional drain that each of these biographies takes, I feel better after having written them. I feel better after telling their story, after doing my part to ensure that their deeds won’t slip into the darkest corners of history to wilt away forgotten.


I also feel better knowing that I have done my part to pass their inspiration on. Every person needs a hero to look up to, and it’s even better if you can relate to that hero. I had one growing up, and it’s her story that started me down this road in the first place, and so it is in her honor and the honor of every other heroine that has lent me their strength that I’ve decided that it is high time to expand beyond the Heroines of History. What started as a simple magazine article, has grown into so much more. The ball is rolling on two new steps – okay, being nudged down the road is a bit more accurate than rolling – but I am excited for these two new ventures: Through Her Eyes and the Heart of a Heroine Alliance. Onwards and upwards, here we go!



No, Lincoln Did Not Run on a Third Party Platform

There has been a meme floating around to advocate voting for a third party candidate by saying that Lincoln was a third party candidate and those votes weren’t wasted. I hate to be the one to burst everyone’s bubble, but Lincoln was not a third party candidate. Bruce Catton’s book The Coming Fury has a somewhat dry, but excellent accounting of the election that preceded the outbreak of the Civil War. However, if reading a long book about history isn’t your idea of fun, here’s my summation.



The Whig party, Lincoln’s original party, began to split in the 1850’s and that is when the Republican Party came into existence. Please note, at that time Republicans were liberal and Democrats were conservative. The Whig split was due in large part to opinions about slavery. Despite what I was taught as a kid, the Civil War was not fought over whether the slaves should be freed. Lincoln introduced that objective with the Emancipation Proclamation which went into effect mid-war, in 1863. This was an attempt to give Northerners who were growing weary of the fighting a rallying cry that they could gather around. Not to mention, cutting off any possible support for the South from abolitionist countries like England. But that’s a totally different conversation, so let’s get back to before the war even started. Among other factors, the Civil War was fought over the possible expansion of slavery and the right of the Federal government to control slavery.

In the 1850’s, leading into the 1860 election, the hot button topic was whether or not slavery should be allowed in new territories and then subsequent states as they were established. As well as the enforcement of fugitive slave laws. The extreme liberals, who were a minority, wanted complete abolition. However, most liberals were content if slavery stayed in the South, wasn’t allowed to expand into new territories, and remained under the jurisdiction of the Federal government. See the Missouri Compromise map below.


The Conservatives wanted the fugitive slave laws more strictly enforced and an amendment to be passed stating that the Federal government had no authority to ever abolish slavery – or “the peculiar institution” as they called it. The extreme conservatives, or “Fire-Eaters” as they were branded, wanted all of that and assurances that any new territory that fell South of the Mason-Dixon Line would become a slave state. This is a simplification obviously, but this is the main issue that split, then dissolved the Whig Party by the 1852 and 1856 election respectively. This opened the stage for the Republican Party to form.

With the dissolution of their party, many Whigs stepped out of politics for a while, if not permanently, and/or changed parties. Northern Whigs tended to gravitate to the new Republican Party. Deep-south Whigs went to the Know Nothing Party, upper-south Whigs went to the Constitutional Union Party and those remaining filtered over to the Democrats. The Know Nothing Party was only prominent for a few years and their stances were based mainly on the beliefs that Irish Catholic and German immigrants were ruining America – some sentiments never change. The Constitutional Union Party was anti-secession and believed that the Constitution was the first and final word for all governing. They hoped that by not taking a stand as either pro or anti-slavery, the whole issue would go away. Their party pretty much dissolved completely with secession.

By 1860, the Whig party was all but gone. Lincoln ran under the Republican ticket, however, he was far from a favorite. The people running his campaign though, were very smart. They realized that there were so many hot button topics that anyone who drew large amounts of attention wouldn’t be able to get elected. William Seward was so outspoken that it would be nearly impossible for him to get a majority vote at the convention. However he was going to lead the first vote because he did have quite a bit of popularity. So Lincoln’s campaign manager – at this point in time the candidates themselves didn’t go out on the campaign trail, they stayed home – made agreements with several crucial states that when the second or third vote came around they would switch their vote to Lincoln. They did the same with states backing Salmon Chase. So by playing up the underdog card, they were able to sway enough states who voted for Seward or Chase in the first and second vote to switch to Lincoln by the third vote. Thus, Lincoln gained a majority and won the convention nomination.



Meanwhile back at the Democratic convention,* they were splitting into two. When the Democrats refused to adopt the platform that the “Fire-Eaters” insisted upon, the Fire-Eaters literally walked out of the convention and formed their own. So for the 1860 election, there were two Democratic conventions and two Democratic nominees. Both claiming that they were in the right and they represented the true Democrats. Again, those running Lincoln’s campaign were savvy. They approached the states who were backing the non-Fire-Eater Democratic nominee and convinced them that their man wouldn’t be able to win with their party split. However, as Lincoln opposed slavery expanding into new territories, but was content to let it exist where it already was this was an agreeable compromise for them. In this way, Lincoln was able to get some of the Democratic votes and gain the White House. The Know Nothing Party and Constitutional Union Party were mere blips on the radar and didn’t have a chance at propelling their candidates into the White House.


So, was Lincoln a member of the Whig Party? When it existed, yes. Was he a third party candidate during the 1860 election? No. And thus, I will stop spewing a history lesson at you.



*Okay, technically speaking the Democratic convention that split occurred before the Republican convention, but I couldn’t resist the throwback to one of my favorite childhood books.




My Book is Unintentionally Racist

My book is unintentionally racist. No, not my novel. That one takes place during the Civil War and is intentionally racist. It has to be to claim any sort of historical accuracy. I am talking about my children’s book, 10 Cheeky Monkeys. It’s a counting book that also teaches vocabulary words, and by happenstance because of current events portrays racism. At first I was content to sweep in under the rug and explain it away by evoking my white privilege of “You’re reading too much into it.” But quite frankly, I can’t do that anymore. I am revoking my white privilege and talking about the fact that it’s there. It isn’t something that I can do anything about at this point, I don’t have the money that it would cost to change it, but I can acknowledge that it is there instead of ignoring it.

You see, I’ve come to believe that one of the biggest problems facing us today in regards to race is everyday good people ignoring or not acknowledging racism when they see it. Or not even realizing that it is there, while meanwhile it is a constant thorn in the sides of people of color. Before the Civil War abolitionists had something to fight for: the abolishment of slavery. It was a tangible, worthy goal with easily recorded wins. Lincoln introduced the Emancipation Proclamation and the end of the Civil War secured the last nail in the coffin lid of slavery. However, something that ingrained isn’t given up that easily. The slave codes were reworded and reworked and largely became the Jim Crow laws. I realize that this is an over simplification and what follows is also a simplification, but I don’t want to bore you with too much of a history lesson, so I beg you to stick with me.

Then came the Civil Rights Movement. Again, there was something tangible to fight against, something to direct the attack. Desegregate, overturn the Jim Crow laws, and end the violence and abject fear that was running rampant in the South. These goals were easily articulated and the wins were easily recorded. However, again, something that ingrained does not go away easily. And I don’t want to harp solely on the South here. There were race riots in New York during the Civil War. In fact, before the war broke out, one of the top proposals of the anti-slavery movement was to stick all of the freed blacks on a boat and send them back to Africa. They weren’t looking for equality, they just didn’t want slavery anymore. Same for the Civil Rights movement. There were plenty of people who were all for blacks having “equal rights,” as long as they didn’t move up north into their neighborhoods. Our country is entrenched in a history of racism, and while the Jim Crow laws were overturned, the sentiments remained.

Our problem today, is that with the advent of cell phone videos and live streaming it is much easier to broadcast the stories of a select group out to a wide audience. And to quote Fannie Lou Hamer, a large majority of the black population is “Sick and tired or being sick and tired.” They are sick of the constant, insidious racism that they encounter every day and tired of it being brushed aside like it’s no big deal. It is a big deal, and unlike the activists of the past, the activists of today don’t have anything they can point to, anything that they can definitively fight against.

Sadly, for some that focus has fallen on the police as it is their onerous job to mete out a lot of this injustice. There are cities in this country that make hundreds of thousands of dollars off their poorest communities from fines and tickets. Guess who has to dole those out? The cops. If they don’t, they lose their jobs. If they do they become the enemy of the very people they have sworn to protect. EVERY ONE is set up for failure in this system. Yes, there are a select few in blue who use their power and position to unduly harass and prosecute the black communities that they are supposed to serve. They are a problem and they need to go. Racism and bigotry have no business in uniform. But even with all of them gone, it is the system as a whole that needs an overhaul.

Even if a fairy godmother could come down and snap her fingers to fix the entire system overnight, we would still have a race problem in this country and the activists of today would still be lacking a handhold for their fight. It is the hearts and minds of the general populace that need to change. But it is a general awareness that is lacking amongst a large portion of the white population that a problem even exists. That is itself one of the biggest problems, and it is perpetuated every time we see or do something racist and let it slide, because, “What’s the big deal?”

The big deal is that this country abolished slavery 151 years ago, yet has still failed to systematically treat and address the black population as equal. Don’t believe me, go to Google and type in “Obama monkey.” That is the respect shown to our commander-in-chief. Yes, all presidents get made fun of, but that is not all-in-fun ribbing. Those images are racist. If you’re still skeptical that a problem exists, type in “Leslie Jones Twitter.” That’s just the blatant racism hurled at black people, the subtle, latent racism often sneaks by under the radar of whites. It makes me shudder that we have progressed so little.

So with that said, I am calling myself out. There is a portion of my book 10 Cheeky Monkeys that can be interpreted as racist. Here are the pages next to their inspiration.


I specifically asked my illustrator to add in the police car as a throwback to a piece I did in my portfolio when I graduated from college. I of course can’t find that to add a picture, but it would be of a white guy eating his pizza as fast as he can before the police can come and arrest him. Now here are the pages next to images that are more likely to come to mind with our recent news cycles.

News Cycle

Is it intentional? No.  Does it eerily mirror events that are popping up in the news far too frequently? Yes. Do I personally feel that it perpetuates racist stereotypes? Yes. Do I accept that as the publisher of this book and the one who requested the illustration change, that this is my doing? Yes. Does that make me a racist? No. Does that make my illustrator a racist? Absolutely not. Good, well-intentioned people do racist things every day without realizing that they are doing so. That doesn’t make them racists. However, it is time we started noticing how our words and decisions impact those of color. It is time we unlearn our years of privilege and learn to do better. Myself included.



F*ck the Hashtags, Give Me Action

I feel sick. In my gut, in my heart and in my soul. I have spent considerable amounts of time studying the backward thinking that caused the Civil War. The oppression that the suffragists fought against, and the stark cruelty and abject depravity of the Civil Rights movement. I wish I could stand back and look at our country today and marvel at how far we have come. But I can’t, because we haven’t gone anywhere. The racism is still there, the intolerance and oppression are still there, and it has got to stop. The indomitable Maya Angelou once said:


America, specifically white America, you know better, so start doing better. Black men are not inherently dangerous, or the boogey man lurking in the shadows that our ancestors would have us believe. Homosexuals are not backwards or trying to denigrate and ruin your so called family values. Immigrants are not destroying our nation by bringing in their foreign tongues and diverse cultures. So get over yourselves. White is not right, or better. English is not our official national language and Christianity is not our official national religion – because we don’t have either a national language or religion. Why? This map explains the language matter better than I can, and as for religion, the first amendment of our Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

Our founding fathers did the best they knew how to create a canvas of tolerance. Sadly we have failed the test of tolerance from day one and we continue to do so today. This country has the potential of being a great melting pot of people and culture and religion, but we will never achieve that if we continue to allow those in power – ie white Christian men – to skim anything different than themselves out of the pot. We will never achieve that if we continue to allow the thinking to pervade that anything different than white and Christian is bad.


I have great respect for our brothers and sisters in blue who do a largely thankless and hard job. I believe that there are many who do outstanding jobs. However, with that respect comes a higher level of accountability, and it is time to lay that accountability on the table. Blatant racism and prejudice should have no home in a blue uniform and it is time to clean house. It is time that we as a people demand to know what the accountability process is for our local law enforcement. It is time that we investigate what kind of oversight is in place. Is it union-based or strictly in-house? If so, then it is time that we demand there be civilian oversight as well. Police are going to stand up and protect their own, as they should for the most part, but an outside check is severely lacking to provide the needed balance.


Write to your mayor, your governor, your city-councils and let them know that we the people, who elected them, want transparency in our police forces. Write to your representatives and tell them the same. Follow-up. If you sent an email, send a physical letter. If you’ve done both and nothing has happened, make a phone call. If you’ve done all three and nothing has happened, then vote them out in November. There are more than 400 congressional seats up for re-election and innumerable local government seats. Let it be known that this will be a topic not just for discussion, but for action and only those willing to act will get the votes. The time for hashtags is over. Now is the time for action.

Elie quote

*For additional reading, I highly recommend the following articles: What You Can Do About Police Brutality, Concrete Ways to Be an Ally to Black PeopleWhite Silence, The Next Time Someone Says All Lives Matter, What White Folks and Non-Black POC Need to Understand About Systematic Racism, and I Recorded the Racist Things People Did to Me.

I Lied, I Do Care

I have been doing a lot of research lately on a truly remarkable woman, who is known for a simple thing. Like every mother out there, she loved her son. What makes her remarkable is that she publicly stated – in a letter to the editor of the New York Post – that she loved her homosexual son. It was 1972, and this was a first. I don’t want to go into detail because she is the subject of my next Heroine of History, but this research has been weighing on me. As much as I am inspired by her actions, I am upset that they were necessary in the first place. I am more upset, that they are still necessary.

For years I used to proclaim that I didn’t care if a person was black, white, Asian, Hispanic, gay, straight, bi, trans, etc. I cared if they were kind, if they were trustworthy, if their presence in my life made my life better. Labels were just labels, and I paid them no heed. While I still very much believe in the latter, I have come to discover that I was wrong about the former. I lied, I do care. I care very much for my friends of color and my LGBTQ friends. At times I find that I care more for them, because it makes me sick to see the things that are said and the things that are done to people because they look or love differently.

It broke my heart when a black friend made a request that should he ever be killed by police and painted in the media as just another thug, that we, his friends, stand up for him and try to set the record straight. To make sure that somebody was talking about the kind, generous, intelligent and incredibly talented artist. That somebody was talking about how much this well-rounded member of our community would be missed. That somebody was talking about more than the color of his skin and how he must have deserved what he got. This request shook me to the core. It made me realize that I do care that he is black, because I care very deeply that he ever had to have that thought. That he ever had to dwell on that thought for so long that it became a need to express his feelings. No one should ever have to feel so devalued as a race, or as a person that they have to ask for advocacy. Because of that, I care.

Because of the fact that this country is in a state-by-state battle to legitimize same-sex marriage, I care. Just the thought of that pisses me off. The fact that there are people out there who seriously believe that there is anything wrong or illegitimate about one person loving another makes me see red. The fact that my friends, and their community, are exposed on a daily basis to descriptors like – wrong, unnatural, gross, immoral, etc – makes me want to punch people in the face. Do you want to know what’s unnatural? Judging and condemning people that you’ve never met. I honestly can’t think of anything more unnatural than that, and yet people do it all the time. Because of that, I care.

I care because I was asked today if I thought my open support of equality would negatively impact the sales of my new children’s book. To that question I have only one response – I am proud to be an ally, and you can expect to see my Heroines of History article championing gay rights later this month. Perhaps I’ll be able to find a black lesbian to feature next. Challenge accepted.