Janet Mock takes on Toxic Masculinity, How We Fail Native American Students, and Equal Pay

August 4, 2017

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Here’s our pick of news, writing, and research this week that investigates political questions at the intersections of gender, race, and region.

1. Dear Men of “The Breakfast Club”: Trans Women Aren’t a Prop, Ploy, or Sexual Predators
Janet Mock for Allure: “Until cis people — especially heteronormative men — are able to interrogate their own toxic masculinity and realize their own gender performance is literally killing trans women, cis men will continue to persecute trans women and blame them for their own deaths. If you think trans women should disclose and ‘be honest,’ then why don’t you work on making the damn world safe for us to exist in the first place? The ‘I’d kill a woman if I found out’ rhetoric is precisely why so many women hold themselves so tight — the stigma and shame attached to our desires need to be abolished. We must navigate difficult conversations about desire and identity, about the fact that trans girls exist, and for as long as we’ve existed we’ve been desired by men (including high-profile ones who won’t ever own their desires) who are not working toward gaining the tools to deal with their attraction.”

2. How America Is Failing Native American Students
Rebecca Clarren for The Nation: “Here in the Jefferson County 509J School District, more than a third of all American Indian students in sixth through 12th grades were suspended at least once during the 2015–16 school year, making them more than twice as likely to be suspended from school as their white peers. Native Americans make up one-third of the district’s student population but receive nearly two-thirds of the expulsions. They are the kids that the district has “thrown away,” said Dawn Smith, a former elementary-school teacher and administrator who worked for the district for nearly 30 years.”

3. Waiting for an Equal Pay Champion
Fatima Goss Graves for U.S. News & World Report: “Yet, if anything should kick the fight for equal pay into high gear, it is the startling data on the wages black women are paid: Black women working full time, year-round are paid only 63 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men – a gap significantly larger than the overall gender wage gap of 20 cents. As a result, black women will typically have to work 19 months – until July 31, Black Women’s Equal Pay Day – to make as much white, non-Hispanic men made in the previous 12-month calendar year. That means they stand to lose more than $800,000 to the race and gender wage gap over the course of their career.”

4. Let Black Kids Just Be Kids
Robin Bernstein for The New York Times: “As long as white children are constructed as innocent, we must continue to demand that children of color are as well. Because the idea of childhood innocence carries so much political force, we can’t allow it to be a whites-only club. The problem, however, is that every time we insist that the gates of innocence open to children of color, we limit ourselves by language, a ‘frame,’ as the linguist George Lakoff would say, that is embedded in racism. When we argue that black and brown children are as innocent as white children, and we must, we assume that childhood innocence is purely positive. But the idea of childhood innocence itself is not innocent: It’s part of a 200-year-old history of white supremacy.”

5. When Should a Child Be Taken from His Parents?
Larissa MacFarquhar for The New Yorker: “Mary Anne Mendenhall worked at the Bronx Defenders, on East 161st Street, a few blocks from the courthouse. She and her colleagues represented parents in family court, and so they often found themselves at odds with A.C.S. and the foster-care agencies. They believed that A.C.S. frequently drew the line between neglect and poverty in the wrong place—that parents lived in unsafe apartments without enough food and left their children home alone because they had no choice. What was required much of the time, the defenders believed, was not parenting classes but material assistance—housing, childcare, medication, food. They also believed that family court was racist. Why, when the Bronx was forty per cent white, were nearly a hundred per cent of their clients black or Latino? Why was the percentage of the population in foster care twice as high in the Bronx as it was on Staten Island? They believed that child protection had become for black women what the criminal-justice system was for black men.”