#GivingTuesday for Racial Justice

60 years ago today Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Her actions help kick off the Montgomery bus boycott, a nonviolent campaign to challenge segregation. Her actions defied the culture of white supremacy 60 years ago and you can do something much less challenging to stand against white supremacy today by joining Showing Up for Racial Justice as a sustaining member.

Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) is an organization of white folks who are dedicated to conspiring with people of color to act against white supremacist culture in the US. We do this through a variety of means including are teach-ins, direct action protests, and civil disobedience. There are chapters located throughout the US.

Today SURJ is launching a membership initiative. Please join me in becoming a sustaining member of SURJ by donating a minimum of $5 per month. We also ask that SURJ members make a matching monthly donation to a people of color led organization of your choice.

As a member of SURJ you get to enjoy:

  • A well-resourced, kick-ass SURJ doing what we do – organizing tens of thousands of white people for real, meaningful racial justice victories.
  • The chance to be part of building a powerful multi-racial majority to challenge racism in all its forms.
  • The opportunity to show up, shoulder to shoulder with millions of other white people taking collective action for racial justice.
  • Invitations to leadership development opportunities
  • Twice yearly updates
  • Support from SURJ staff to meaningfully participate in campaigns and projects
  • Connections to our extensive network of chapters, affiliates and local leaders (100+ chapters and affiliates and growing!)
  • Opportunities to build deep and lasting connections with other members, through in-person meetings and trainings, meet ups at conferences, and online.

If you’re a white person looking to take action in supporting racial justice then I encourage you to join me in being a member of SURJ. The path doesn’t always seem clear for white people to stand against white supremacy but we make the road by walking and you can start your journey by becoming a member and joining a chapter today.

Any questions or comments about membership in SURJ? Leave them below!

Social Media and Activism

Social media has had a huge impact on how we communicate with one another. This impact has affected traditional news media in several ways from a decline in the sales of newspapers to how the cable news networks report on breaking stories. This has caused several newspapers to make the decision to close down. This has caused formerly reliable news networks such as CNN to report “breaking” news based on tweets that appear to be from the scene of whatever breaking news but when these tweets turn out to be inaccurate the public is misled. The biggest issue that happened recently is related to the Boston Marathon bombing.

Social media has also influenced how we define our relationships, share our memories or what we’re doing, how we take pictures, and many other aspects that have just become part of our daily lives and routines. With such wide ranging influence social media would obviously influence how we protest policies and make our voices heard when they need to be heard. Online activism has popped up recently with many different forms.

One of the forms is the traditional petition with a crowd-sourced twist. Change.org has been a major leader in providing people with opportunities to voice their concerns to governments, corporations, and individuals. Some successful campaigns include making sure that the Florida State Attorney’s office filed murder charges against George Zimmerman and having Bank of America reverse their decision to charge their customers a monthly fee for having debit cards. Change.org has increased my knowledge of several issues that have been going on around the world and helped me, in small ways, contribute to making a difference.

Another method has just been asking people to tweet on a hashtag, change their profile picture, or donate money to a crowdfunding site (i.e. GoFundMe, Kickstarter, and indiegogo). These methods have also been useful in helping me learn more about what is happening in regards to issues around the world. Social media has also provided an outlet for some news to reach a larger audience when the traditional news media isn’t reporting it. The latest example of this is the protest in Gezi Park in Turkey.

And despite all of these larger examples, people question whether social media makes a difference. My thought that it does. Regardless of how small your contribution appears, making a contribution is making a difference. When the Supreme Court of the United States was hearing arguments for Proposition 8 the Human Rights Campaign released a modified version of their logo for people to use as their Facebook profile pictures and suddenly my Facebook feed was seemingly stuffed full of people who agree with marriage equality.

Now this may seem very trivial, but if my feed was awash in symbols of marriage Human Rights Campaign Marriage Equality Symbolequality, I’m willing to bet that many other people had the same experience as I did. Some of those people probably did not (or still do not) believe that marriage should be open to everyone. Now, they may not have changed their mind just by seeing a ton of red equal signs, but they certainly became aware of the prevalence of the support for marriage equality. And sometimes this little awareness can push someone to change. That little change can open up a larger door and challenge thinking more than we know especially when this online activism is tied to more meaningful and educational  conversations or campaigns.

I’m clearly not saying that all we need to do to create change is tweet, change our Facebook profile picture, blog, pay $25 to a crowd funded cause, or sign a petition but these little things help. These little things help contribute to a larger push for change. We need to keep the momentum going and remember that we can always be doing more. We can always be looking for ways to engage our community in service and education. We can be looking for ways to make change to the institutionalized systems of oppression that run throughout our societies. Working for change from our keyboards is still working for change. But we can always find ways to do more.

Is this justice?

In April 2000, my dad was shot and killed. I’ve been through a lot of different phases related to this incident and I’ve obviously had a very different life because of it. The police caught the young men who shot my dad about a week after it happened and they went to prison. It was for a few years, the longest sentence was 30 years. As far as I know, the death penalty never entered into the conversation at the trial. In hindsight, I’m glad that it didn’t. At the time I was very conflicted and part of me believed that the death penalty was a means of serving justice and the another part of me believed that it was state sponsored murder.

Speaking in my own experiences and reflecting 11 years after my dad’s death, I don’t believe it would have made me feel any closure to know that the men involved were dead. I haven’t spoken to anyone else who has had a similar experience to mine to know what they would feel, but I’ll go out on a limb and say that I don’t think it provides many people with closure. I don’t think it provides society with closure. I believe that the death penalty is a relic of the old testament. At its core it is an eye for an eye policy. It is state sponsored murder.

I know there are varying beliefs related to the death penalty and its relevance. I’m simply presenting mine. In the wake of the uncertainty of Troy Davis’ execution I needed to make a decision. There are movements going on and activism is taking place. I want to be a part of that change because I don’t believe that murdering criminals does anything for our society.

American Civil Liberties Union

The Innocence Project

My moment of hesitation

As a heterosexual, able-bodied, white cis-gendered male, I have a lot of unearned privileges in society that were taught to me through everything I interacted with. Whether it was media, school, etc. One of the only areas in which I don’t carry privilege is in my spiritual identity. I identify as an atheist. (An identity that I’m still exploring and potentially adjusting)

The only time ever that I felt hesitation in declaring my identity was during an exercise at a training retreat that I was taking part in. We all stood in a circle and stepped into the middle of the circle if we identified as {insert your social identity here}. In attendance at the retreat was every one of my new colleagues and all of our supervisors. I had yet to have a full conversation with everyone and suddenly became nervous when asked to step into the circle if you identify as atheist.

Now, I had no reason to be nervous. I was in a room of open-minded people who appreciate diversity and multiple perspectives. And yet, I still feared for the slightest moment that I would be judged for my identity. That is based on the inherent Christian privilege of the United States that implies that anything not Christian is wrong.

Due to my other social identities, I hadn’t felt that sense of not-belonging before and it wasn’t until much later when I was reflecting on my identities that I realized what that moment meant. And if I can feel momentary hesitation and fear about identifying as an atheist what does that mean for someone who identifies as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, genderqueer? What does it mean for someone whose identity is visible? What about someone who is African American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, Asian American/Pacific Islander? This line of questioning shook me to my core. It opened my eyes a little more to the socialized oppression and privilege prevalent in our society in ways that I previously had not experienced due to my visible privileged identities. It led me to want to become an activist and advocate. It shifted my perspective and professional identity. It made me strive to learn more about myself and our society. It made me engage in social justice advocacy and education.

For these reasons I am grateful for my moment of fear.

A letter to a Senator

A letter that I wrote to my State Senator:

Senator Stein,

My name is Aaron Hood and I am a graduate student at North Carolina State University. I’m writing you because North Carolina prohibits gay couples from marrying. I find it disheartening that two people who love each other are barred from entering into a legal relationship that our society has chosen to define as the ultimate commitment that one person can make to another. Marriage has become the way in which many relationships are defined in North Carolina and our fellow citizens who identify as gay or lesbian cannot define their relationship using this societal norm.

Several people who are my colleagues are prevented from being married to their partner for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with their love for each other. These issues that stand in the way of gay marriage are simply issues of ignorance and fear. People fear what they do not know. What they think they  don’t know is how gay relationships work. I think that there is an assumption that somehow gay couples are vastly different from heterosexual couples, but the emotions that guide gay couples are exactly the same. They are emotions of passion and love that make people want to commit to sharing an entire lifetime with another person. Amid the issues within our global community, I can see no reason why demonstrations of passion and love should be prohibited or even limited.

I’m not a lawyer; I do not know the steps, logistically and politically, that it will take to repeal any laws that ban same sex marriage or what it would take a gain support for same sex marriage. However, I ask that you consider working to encourage love among our fellow North Carolinians during your time in the state senate. Because same sex marriage truly has everything to do with love, anything else is just conjecture.


Aaron Hood