Black Lives Matter

In 2015, when I was working in tech, and we were brainstorming on cultural flashpoints that we could use in content, I wrote “Black Lives Matter” on a post-it note and stuck it on the whiteboard.

“Black Lives Matter, is that a joke?” my manager said. My face burned and I said nothing. As the only black person on the team, I felt I had to at least acknowledge the movement, even if I disagreed with the tactics. But it was clear even mentioning it in the workplace was not accepted.

I wasn’t a fan of the BLM movement when it began in Missouri in 2014 after Mike Brown’s death. I’ve generally been a law and order person. I’ve never had an issue with police. My grandfather was a prison guard at the infamous Sing Sing State Prison in New York. Before that, he worked for an elite narcotics unit that Nelson Rockerfeller assembled in the 1970s. I knew police brutality existed, but I believed in the “bad apples” propaganda. The police officers, I interacted with were decent human beings. Most of them looked like me.

I wrote a series of articles critical of BLM during my time as an editor at The National Interest. Back then I believed very strongly that activism wasn’t a viable path to change for African-Americans; I felt that the state getting out of the way and not blindly voting Democrat would allow Black America to chart its own future. TNI exploited those beliefs. The anti-BLM pieces I wrote went viral and I drove views and clicks to the site.

But then I was asked to write pieces about BLM based on false information, and I pushed back. I wanted to write other pieces that were about anything other than BLM, and got nowhere. I saw emails from the president of TNI that referred to Black protesters as violent, out-of-control thugs that needed to be reined in by the police. It became pretty clear I was supposed to be a Black woman who attacked and de-legitimized Black rage. When I see Candace Owens spew her vicious lies and propaganda, I can’t help but think she’s a Marjorie 3.0.

I deeply regret that I allowed myself to be so used by the conservative media to try to undermine Black anger about police brutality. But I’m glad their efforts failed. The George Floyd protests have ushered in a new civil rights movement, and I’m glad it’s here. Justice for Black Americans has been delayed too long, and the coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated decades of inequality that are a result of racist policies and culture that leave Blacks dead last in everything: health care, education, economics, and politics. It’s time we build a more equal society. George Floyd was murdered by the police on video. Enough is enough.

As someone who has been a law and order person and a former conservative, I’ve been horrified that Republicans have cheered the use of military force against unarmed American protesters. The protesters are exercising their constitutional right of freedom of speech and assembly. Just this week the attorney general ordered federal law enforcement to use tear gas to disperse the protesters so Trump could take a photo with a Bible in front of a church. It was disgusting.

Black lives do indeed matter. They have been murdered and exploited for far too long. 400 years is enough. It is time for a society that incorporates Black people and treats them with humanity and compassion.

Lessons Learned

Hello. It’s been a while.

In honor of Juneteenth, I’d like to take the opportunity to discuss my political journey since I started this blog back in 2013.

I broke up with the GOP in the summer of 2016. Mostly because I refused to back Trump. It seemed like a no-brainer to me. It wasn’t to my friends and my extended political network. Breaking up was a mutual, messy affair. But I made it to the other side in one piece. And I like to think that I have changed for the better.

So, yes, I’m no longer the Libertarian Latina. I wanted nothing to do with Trump’s GOP, and I spent some time reflecting on how I got so close to joining such a dangerous group so I don’t repeat that mistake. Leaving the GOP cost me almost all my friendships and future professional opportunities in conservatism. My new life was difficult at first, but it’s important to stand by your principles. In doing so, I learned you must own your mistakes in order to move forward. I have made a commitment to look for ways to hold myself accountable. It’s been tough, but I’m grateful for the opportunities I have had to grow beyond this period in my life.

While I enjoyed sharing my political opinions on this blog and reading your comments, I definitely should have exercised more restraint, particularly regarding my criticism on Ta-Nehisi Coates that I wrote as an editor for The National Interest. His writings have helped me realize that it really will take something as sweeping as reparations to even begin to address the structural racism in this country. I was wrong to say that the problems of the African-American community were limited to personal choices. American history has shown that institutions have robbed African Americans (and other minorities) opportunities to make the best decisions for themselves over and over again. The fight for equal rights and opportunities will never truly be over. But reparations and other restorative legislation will be a good place to start.

I truly believed that as a country, we had moved past the pre-Civil Rights movement levels of racism in this country. I was wrong about that, and naive to believe so. Since Trump became the nominee the levels of racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia have alarmed me. Since Trump took office, he has threatened our national security, democracy, and rule of law on a daily basis. Trump’s surrogates defend his lies and reprehensible actions on network television, hoping he will see and bring them to his inner circle. When he does, it’s only a matter of time before they are unceremoniously pushed out. Our allies don’t know what to make of our internal chaos and our adversaries rejoice. By almost every measure, America and the world are in a worse position than when Obama left office two and a half years ago.

But all is not lost. People are fighting back. I think the 2020 race will be a good start in setting things right again. I voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and I hope to vote for another woman for president in 2020. As long as there is life, there is hope. It took me a long time to regain hope, but now that I’ve got it again I won’t let it go.

Thank you all.

Resume

Marjorie Romeyn-Sanabria

Education

Concordia University Irvine, Irvine, CA/Yunnan, PRC                         August 2014-February 2015

28 credits completed towards a Master of Arts in International Studies

  • Took graduate courses while working full-time as a teacher in Yunnan, China
  • GPA: 3.5/4.0
  • Interviewed residents in a local village in Chinese about their hygiene habits vis-à-vis their water supply

Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT                                                                        May 2012 Bachelor of Arts Degree, East Asian Studies

Major GPA: 3.6 Overall: 3.4

Languages: Mandarin Chinese (fluent) Spanish (proficient) French (limited proficiency)

Chinese Language Center, National Chengchi University, Taipei, Taiwan     September 2010-June 2011

  • Attained fluency in spoken Modern Standard Mandarin Chinese
  • Completed one full academic year of Mandarin Chinese
  • Eight total years of study (references available on request)

Professional and Writing Experience

OneMedMarket/OneMedChina                       Research and Editorial Intern, March 2015-May 2015

  • Researched content related to Chinese and American pharmaceutical industries
  • Wrote articles and compile fleshed-out bibliographies for upcoming newsletter
  • Conducted recruitment efforts to build out writing team

Qujing Normal University, Yunnan, China    Oral English Teacher, November 2014-January 2015

  • Prepared lessons in English about American culture, using key phrases and group activities

The American Conservative, Washington, DC     Editorial Assistant Intern, January-May 2014

  • Wrote biweekly posts on the State of the Union blog concerning culture, religion, and American civic society
  • Managed social media presence via Twitter account
  • Researched and conducted interviews for longer pieces for print magazine
  • Curated photos for blog posts

Joonbug.com, New York, New York            Editorial Assistant Intern, September-December 2013

  • Wrote 3-5 pieces per day on SceneTracker blog, covering restaurant openings, concerts, and bar crawls
  • Updated master list of PR contacts
  • Interviewed and hired contributing writers based on stringent criteria
  • Attended events on behalf of Joonbug, conduct interviews, and wrote feature articles on bands and high-end retail stores
  • Maintained relationships with various public relations firms through extensive communication

The Daily Caller, Washington DC                             Contributor, September 2013-November 2014

  • Wrote op-ed pieces concerning legislation and politician’s platforms.

Robert Jackson for Manhattan Borough President       Field Organizer, August-September 2013

  • Recruited, trained, and supervised volunteers to identify potential voters in Manhattan
  • Performed voter ID calls in both English and Spanish
  • Translated campaign literature into Chinese
  • Represented candidate at campaign events, and translated campaign slogans into Spanish and Chinese as needed

New York Life Insurance Company, New York, New York                Consultant, December 2012-May 2013

  • Ensured information from incoming applications are correctly entered into databases
  • Generated daily reports concerning accounts outside of suitability and compliance standards
  • Provided general support to Eagle Operations Processing Team as needed

Mic (formerly PolicyMic), New York, New York               Pundit, November 2012-November 2013

  • Writes articles for millennial-focused online publication on cultural trends and political commentary
  • Article “Why I am Leaving the Democratic Party” received over 75 “mics”, 6,700 views, and 300 comments
  • Article “Feminism is for White Women” received over 45 “mics” 6,300 views, and 160 comments

Resonance Magazine, Middletown, Connecticut      Contributing Editor, October 2011-May 2012

  • Shaped the new edition of East Asian Studies department journal to reflect best East and Southeast Asian journalism
  • Voted on content, cover stories, and photos

AXA Advisors, New York, New York        Cold-Caller and Client Relations Assistant, May-August 2009 & 2010

  • Called top-tier law firms in order to grow business for financial planners
  • Generated warm to hot leads that turned into clients
  • Reached out to existing clients to schedule yearly review meetings

 Media Appearances

Blacktalk Radio Network, “Let’s Build with Doshon Farad”                          March 16, 2015

  • Provided insight into the motivation of GOP senators’ submission of letter to Iran undermining America’s pending nuclear talks

Huffpost Live, “Time Suggests Banning the Word Feminist”                      November 13, 2014

  • Appeared on panel of prominent feminist advocates and writers and suggested that “feminist” has negative connotation for many Americans and feminists should rebrand their image

BBC Radio London 94.9 “Dotun Adebayo On Sunday”                                   May 11, 2014

  • Discussed U.S. interventionist strategy after the first round of Boko Haram kidnappings

 

 

A Less Perfect Union

Yesterday afternoon, President Obama delivered a speech commemorating the 50th anniversary of the historic march from Selma to Montgomery, the first in a series of marches that brought national attention to the denial of African-Americans in the Deep South. The Selma marches applied the necessary political pressure to pass the Voting Rights Act, an enormous victory for the civil rights movement. The anniversary comes on the heels of the release of the Department of Justice’s sobering report on the investigation conducted in Ferguson in the aftermath of Mike Brown’s death. The Department of Justice found evidence proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the police department in Ferguson unfairly targets African-Americans, using racial slurs, violating constitutional rights, and fabricating charges. Given the evidence, it’s no wonder resentment and distrust seethe beneath the surface in Ferguson and productive, honest communication seems difficult if not impossible.

These two events present an uncomfortable juxtaposition. One one hand, we wish to see this anniversary as a benchmark, as a way of congratulating ourselves on how far we have progressed in terms of race relations and civil rights. But we can’t. I don’t care how lofty the rhetoric is, the progress we made is not nearly enough to pat ourselves on the back for even a moment. If anything, our more perfect union that our forefathers envisioned may be in a decline. Fifty years after Selma, the deaths of unarmed black men call out for answers, protesters fill the streets, and cities burn. That isn’t progress. That’s deterioration.

When I first wrote about Ferguson, I said that African-Americans need to get their heads out of their asses. That’s true, but so does the rest of America. We have a serious race problem in this country, beginning in black homes. The black family is fractured and splintering further: 70 percent of African-American babies are born out of wedlock*, fast-tracking them to a life of poverty, crime, and premature death. That’s the ugly reality. We can lobby for better education policies, and we should. We can lobby for better housing policies, and we should. We can lobby for prison reform, and we must. But the single thing we can advocate for, that will reduce poverty, help African-Americans achieve economic stability and provide a better future for their children is marriage.This is why I am a conservative. This is why I am a Christian. We need a higher authority to restore order to our broken system, and that order comes from God. The Republican party’s views on reducing barriers (i.e. cutting bureaucratic tape and taxes) to make it easier for people to enter the labor force is exactly what a population disproportionately affected by incarceration needs. But first, the violence must end. And to do that, we must listen. Not give in to rage or bias, but really, truly listen.

Racism isn’t a Republican or Democratic problem, and doesn’t have a Republican or Democratic solution. My former boss, editor of The American Conservative paired up with liberal politician Ralph Nader and discussed their mutual skepticism of corporate capitalism in an interview for Yes! magazine. I read the whole thing like a famished child devouring a crust of bread. You should, too. They don’t make ’em like this anymore, folks: people with opposed political ideologies finding their points of convergence, not engaging in a public shouting match. A union is just that: coming together. Our union happens to be founded on our shared belief system that we are endowed by our Creator with unalienable rights. This is the foundation of our justice system. And yet, Jim Crow laws stood for nearly a hundred years. And yet racism still somehow manages to rear its ugly head. And we let it.

There are no immediate or simple answers to what seems like a simple problem. But we can’t keep pretending things are better and will improve when all the evidence indicates the opposite. We may never repair the damage caused by slavery and Jim Crow. But the impossible has never been something that deterred Americans. We can have a society where everyone, no matter the color of their skin, their ethnicity, their gender, their religion, or sexual orientation is treated equally under the law. It will take longer than we want it to. It will be challenging. But if we commit to listening to each other–not spewing rhetoric, not plotting revenge, not chalking up events to stereotypes–maybe we can find a way to stop the chaos.

I believe we can have a more perfect union. But only if we interact with our fellow citizens with respect and compassion and are patient–with each other, with the process, and with ourselves.

God bless you, and God bless America.

*The article I linked to is a very interesting piece by Ta-Nehisi Coates, who is arguing the exact opposite thing that I am, that black women (especially married black women) who are bearing fewer children is not necessarily indicative of a cultural decline. But the reasons black women are forgoing marriage may be different from those of white women. White women are likelier to go to college and complete their education with the expectation of meeting someone they deem eligible to marry in that whole process. With the rate of incarceration of black males being as high as it is, black women may be forgoing marriage because of a lack of eligible black men.

When It Isn’t About Race

I generally don’t pay attention to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, because there isn’t that much to pay attention to. He’s a prominent voice in the GOP establishment, but he’s been previously overlooked in favor of repeat presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Tea Party favorite Michele Bachmann. There’s talk of him running in 2016, but my expectations of him getting into the primary and remaining there are low. The GOP leadership doesn’t need an establishment Republican from the Deep South, at least, not this election. And if Louisiana resident and American Conservative senior editor Rod Dreher has anything to say about it, Jindal has been far from the consummate governor, which weaken his chances at the outset.

But Jindal did do something noteworthy this week; he handled a would-be racial controversy with poise, something the GOP establishment is not especially well known for. There was a brief misunderstanding about which portrait was the “official” portrait of Governor Jindal. A liberal Twitter user tweeted a portrait of the governor that was loaned by an enthusiastic but possibly color-blind constituent, who painted the governor a few shades lighter. A flurry of outrage ensured. “OMG! They’re whitewashing Bobby Jindal!” It turned out that the portrait in question was not of the governor, and that Governor Jindal indeed knew he was not light-skinned.

Governor Jindal chose to reply with humor: “You mean I’m not white?” he joked. Ever the politician, he took his opportunity to criticize his opponents: “I think the left is obsessed with race,” he said. He dismissed the backlash about the portrait as “silly” and added that “the dumbest thing we can do is try to divide people by the color of their skin…We’re all Americans.”

Jindal is of Indian ancestry, and that fact has been almost entirely irrelevant to his political career and whatever ambitions he may harbor for 2016. He may have experienced racism in the past, and may experience it now. But being a person of color does not mean every situation you are in is embroiled in racism. Sometimes, it just isn’t about race. Not even for those of us who aren’t white. Strange, I know. But it’s true.

If All the Journalists of Color Quit Because of Racism, There’d Be None Left

I was going to write about black hair today, but there was a much more interesting piece in The New Republic that  deserves my attention. Rebecca Carroll, an accomplished author, journalist, and news producer, says she’s leaving journalism because of the systemic racism she endured in her career. It’s a damn shame: a quick Google search reveals a consummate professional who never shies away from telling the most interesting stories in black culture. If she’s serious, I’ll certainly be sad to see her go.

Her complaints in the piece, while uncomfortable to read, are not new. This paragraph in particular struck me as all too familiar:

At the start of each new job, where I was almost invariably the only black editor on staff (unless it was a black publicationI have worked at a few), I would be heralded for my “voice” (and the implicit diversity it brought), until that voice became threatening or intimidating, or just too black. My ideas were “thoughtful” and “compassionate” until I argued, say, that having white journalists write the main features on a new black news venture sent the wrong message to the black online community. My editors disagreed.

Like Carroll, I’ve usually been one of the few (if not the only) nonwhite faces in the room either on editorial boards or in writing jobs. I’ve also been commended for my invaluable voice. But I knew how to avoid the confrontation that would arise from making observations that Carroll did. I found ways to diplomatically phrase my ideas so as not to incite ire. But I still bumped against a glass ceiling, and I finally realized why. I was black enough to add diversity, but not quite enough to fulfill the fantasy of having an exotic, oppressed other on staff to give the appearance of being “well-rounded”.

I’ve had plenty of liberal friends, co-workers, and employers who aren’t racist. But I’ve encountered a persistent, widespread belief that racism doesn’t exist above the Mason-Dixon line, and it galls me. The idea that racism can’t exist in cosmopolitan cities and is reserved for those Bible-thumping, Republican rednecks who think God created the world in seven days is as prevalent as it is wrong.

But that’s the crux of liberal hypocrisy: everyone is welcome except for those who don’t agree with them. God forbid you happen to know open-minded Southerners or think that the affordable housing crisis is due in part to bureaucratic mismanagement. People in New York who disagree with the fundamental idea that government always makes things better for everyone generally call themselves “independents” because they don’t want to be associated with people like Rand Paul.

When I’m Rebecca Carroll’s age, I want to be able to look back feeling satisfied about the trajectory of my career. That’s partly why I became a conservative. I was given a platform on the Right, instead of being pigeonholed as a black and Hispanic writer. At the beginning of my internship at The American Conservative, my editor warned me not to box myself in as a “black writer”. I listened to him, and wrote pieces on a wide variety of topics, from foreign policy to Washington politics and women’s issues in the workplace. I still wrote about race, and got the most feedback on those pieces, but I wasn’t just a race writer. I wasn’t defined by writing about race, and it was freeing to be able to write about an aspect of myself while exploring other topics that interested me. My editor’s advice that carried me through my internship and will likely remain with me through the remainder of my career as a writer.

Race in journalism is a complicated issue, and requires insight, wisdom, and keeping a cool head because of the intense emotionalism that inevitably arises. Being fed up with racist bullshit is a very understandable feeling. I’ve encountered my share of it, and I’m only just starting out. But it’s also part of the job. Whether you’re a rocket scientist or a doctor or a stay-at-home parent, if you’re a minority, racist bullshit is a part of your existence. You can either lament it, fight it, or rise above it. My hope is that as a conservative writer I can do a combination of the latter two things, and motivate others to do the same wherever they are.

See you all on Friday.

Monica, Hair, and Dear White People

Happy Monday, everyone!

This week’s posts are going to be on the lighter side because I’m getting ready to go to China. Today’s post is about what it’s like to be a woman on the Internet. Wednesday’s post will be about natural hair, and Friday, God willing, I’ll have a review of “Dear White People”. So here we go.

Monica Lewinsky is back. She gave a speech earlier today at the Forbes 30 Under 30 summit where she called herself “Patient Zero” of having her reputation ripped apart on the Internet. She might be right, but the point isn’t that it happened; the rancor against women on the Internet has not only continued, but intensified. It started with Lewinsky, but the ire that rages agains the female victims of Gamergate to the point where the women have to leave their homes from the amount of death threats is inexcusable.

I’m not defending Lewinsky’s decision. But Americans love to pick the bones of a pariah long after the carcass has rotted, and the Internet allows cowards to harass women with little legal recourse.

I admire Lewinsky’s courage to speak out today. But I’m not sure what her strategy is to “end cyberbullying.” How do you defeat bullies in real life, let alone the ones you can’t see? Clearly the laws need to change, and the attitudes that accept attacking women needs to change. But how do you regulate and enforce protection laws on the Internet?

A Response to the Twitter Cabal

Hey, everyone.

This past Friday I was too exhausted to do a round-up, and I have no one to blame for that for myself. I spent too much of Friday–and too much of last week in general–on Twitter having discussions with people that took up too much of my energy. I also have other projects that I’m working on outside of this blog that I’m not at liberty to discuss yet, and those deadlines are coming up very soon. Additionally, things with my visa are finally loosening up, and I should be on my way to China by the end of the month barring any further delays. I’m still learning how to balance all of this, and I appreciate your patience as I continue to learn how to manage my time.

In a way the Twitter discussions have been a very good thing. I like engaging with people and having them visit the blog so they can get more than 140-character snippets of my ideas. I also appreciate support from accounts like Black Republican. They do an amazing job of showcasing rising conservative talent in the blogosphere. I’m not talking about myself here: writers like Chidike Okeem and blogs like Hip Hop Republican get their day in court thanks to Black Republican, who take the time to make sure everyone gets a moment in the limelight.

But being on the Internet so much has also been emotionally draining. When strangers call you names and project their own assumptions about you behind the safety of an avatar, you feel it’s a lose-lose situation before the round even begins. You can’t change anyone’s opinions of you, and it’s disappointing when people resort to dumb rhetorical tactics like ad hominem attacks and straw man arguments because they don’t know how else to react when their worldview has been challenged.

Let me be clear: I’m not going to stop blogging because the Internet is full of idiots. What I am saying is that I’m going to blog smarter and and stop getting involved in discussions that aren’t productive. This week has been good for me in terms of stats and comments and I want to keep that going without feeling like I’m swinging blindfolded at a piñata.

I didn’t blog Monday, Wednesday, Friday but I did do three posts this week, and I’m happy with that. I look forward to seeing you all tomorrow with a new post.

Best,

Marjorie

Does Speaking Standard English Dilute Blackness?

“Are you white?”

The enquirer was an eight-year-old boy at my summer day camp fourteen years ago, who had stared at me for a solid minute before launching his query. His question unsettled me. The same week a fellow camper, with whom I did not get along, excluded me from a conversation with the phrase, “This is black people’s talk.” I realized at the tender age of eleven that my blackness (or Hispanic-ness, for that matter) was less defined by the color of my skin than by the way I spoke. In that scenario and many others, speaking standard American English around black people was an affront. It was perceived as both distancing myself from my heritage while attempting to ingratiate myself with a group of people that were responsible for the marginalization of my comrades. Not having African-American argot as a default linguistic setting was both a betrayal and a rejection of my community.

My inability to code switch–speak African-American argot around black people, standard English in formal settings–has been the most salient quality that has brought my blackness into question over the years. I’ve gotten comments ranging from, “your college application reads like a white person’s” to “you talk like a white girl, but you ain’t white.” I can recognize the expression of muted surprise when I open my mouth, but I’m so used to it I barely notice it anymore (it’s also 2014, and there are a lot of articulate brown people, thank goodness.)The piece in Slate today is a belated apology of sorts: we’re sorry that we’ve judged and stigmatized black people for speaking a dialect of English. But the truth is, no matter what the color of your skin is, dialects of English, whether from the South Bronx or Appalachia, aren’t welcome in mainstream America. When it comes to public speaking, job interviews, or career advancement, speaking standard English is a cultural expectation and a professional requirement. That’s not a normative statement; it doesn’t mean that there aren’t working people who speak with accents or that we should discriminate against people who don’t speak standard English at home. That’s a separate issue altogether. I’m talking about whether or not speaking standard English as a black person detracts from your blackness. And if you see blackness as a cultural identity as much as a legal or hereditary one, then it seems to. But this wasn’t always the case.

Both of my parents were raised in working-class homes and spoke standard English in their respective households. I suspect that it is because although none of my grandparents were wealthy, all of them believed speaking standard English was a way of respecting yourself and others. We don’t live in that world anymore. An allegiance to a dialect is now more important that appearing to be a sellout. Speaking standard English is not a measure of my intelligence; it’s a measure of my education. And my education is not a betrayal of my heritage. I don’t lose “blackness” because I speak Standard English. My melanin concentration isn’t contingent on correctly placed modifiers.

But, unfortunately, that’s not how a lot of the black community sees it. If you like Taylor Swift, read “colonialist” history books and “talk like a white girl”, then your blackness card is revoked; at minimum, you’re on probation. It’s sad to see a population that endured so much hatred and exclusivity practicing the similar tactics on members on their own community. Too much of blackness today is dependent on the music you listen to, the clothes you wear, and the way you speak. The same intolerance of non-standard English in the boardroom is practiced in the ghettoes.

There’s a line between celebrating your heritage and championing ignorance. My grandparents moved to New York from the South and Puerto Rico to give their children a better start in life, and that included speaking English well. My allegiance is to them, not  fitting in with hip-hop culture that has become synonymous with blackness.

What do you all think? Should we be accepting of other dialects of English in the workplace and other places? Is speaking standard English a betrayal of the black community?