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February 2020 Newsletter
Hello All! I hope this email finds you energized and active. If you are in the St. Louis area, I hope you’ll come by Webster University on Thursday, February 27th, where I’ll be sharing my thoughts on what it means to be an ally during polarized times. This is a wonderful opportunity for me to share some of the lessons I have learned over the past few years, and how a both/and frame of mind helps me navigate tension-filled situations.
 
In honor of African American History Month, let us take note. The year 2020 marks the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment and the culmination of the women’s suffrage movement.  The year 2020 also marks the sesquicentennial of the Fifteenth Amendment (1870) and the right of black men to the ballot after the Civil War.  The theme speaks, therefore, to the ongoing struggle on the part of both black men and black women for the right to vote.” Read more…

Prosecutor Alleges Racist Conspiracy

Did you hear about this? It’s a novel approach and worth watching. “St. Louis Prosecutor Kimberly Gardner has filed a lawsuit against the city of St. Louis and the local police union alleging the city has conspired to prevent her from doing her job. …Gardner, who is the first Black circuit attorney in St. Louis, cited a little-used federal law that was passed following the Civil War known as the Ku Klux Klan act, stating that her rights had been violated.”

In the midst of today’s social and political upheaval, it is important to take a step back and observe the drama unfolding around us from a different angle. Michael Meade brilliantly calls our attention to the mythopoetic in order to help us more wisely address what we face together.
This interactive website helps us understand the causes and consequences of our polarization. Consider the impacts on our potential to address the challenges we face. This is not good. - “In a country that cannot come to a consensus on fundamental questions — how restricted capitalism should be, whether immigrants are a burden or a boon, to what extent the legacy of slavery continues to shape American life — textbook publishers are caught in the middle. On these questions and others, classroom materials are not only shaded by politics, but are also helping to shape a generation of future voters.”
 
In the face of hate, uplift those who seek understanding. “Winona Guo and Priya Vulchi were just two 17-year-olds hoping to change the way students talk about race when they developed the textbook The Classroom Index with the help of Princeton University’s department of African American studies back in 2017. …[They] say they were inspired to take action after realizing they didn’t have their first meaningful discussion about race in school until the 10th grade. They wanted to better understand the privilege and oppression that came with their Asian identities, and also how race influenced how they interacted with others.
 
Amplifying the Hopeful
Do you know about Sines v. Kessler? You should! It is a federal suit against a range of white supremacist individuals and groups that has the potential to hold them accountable for their conspiracy to commit racially-motivated violence. Visit Integrity First for America to view a history of the case, including the judgements handed down so far that have paved the way for their October 2020 trial date.

Last Thursday, I had the opportunity to visit the Leo Baeck Temple to listen to Roberta Kaplan, lead counsel in the case, and Amy Spitalnick, Executive Director of Integrity First for America, the organization created to support the case. It was stunning to hear the details of what it takes to move a case like this to trial. If you want to watch the program and learn more about their strategy, view it at this link.
 
This is a wonderful model of what to do when hate groups come to your community. “More than 250 people stood hand in hand…to denounce the appearance of a white nationalist group in Brooklyn. …The banner seen Saturday didn’t carry an explicit message of hate, reading only ‘Defend American Labor.’ But it did display the web address for the nationalist group known as Patriot Front, one of a new crop of hate groups that relies on less overt messaging around heritage and patriotism in their recruitment efforts.
This website is a connection point, a place for people to learn and connect when faced with hate entering their homes and community. Learn about CTRL+ALT+DEL–HATE. Check out the resources that can help us learn how compassion and love are the way to set people free.
Ok, so the content isn’t necessarily hopeful. But, the fact that this podcast exists is fantastic! If you want to know what the hate mongers (white nationalists) are saying/doing without having to listen to them directly, this is how. According to this Daily Beast article, since launching in January 2019, this podcast has already “helped lead people back from the brink of radicalization, drawn plaudits from researchers of violent extremism, and attracted an audience of thousands of regular listeners.” I am now one of the regular listeners! Daniel Harper, the host, says, “So much of what I try to get across is to emphasize the humanity in these people, without shying away from how terrible the things that they say are.” ”One email he received this year, he said, was from someone who told him they were in a “dark head space” and on the path to becoming a mass shooter. But listening to the show, the emailer said, helped walk them back from the edge.” The latest episode on The Base and the Boogaloo is particularly useful!
 
Let Us Not Shy Away
This deserves your attention.  “Trolls on the online forum 4chan celebrated on New Year's Day as a fake Twitter (TWTR) account seeking to stoke tensions between Jewish and black Americans amid a string of anti-Semitic attacks in New York provoked outrage. Even as the trolls celebrated, the account went unchecked by Twitter for hours despite dozens of users saying they reported the account to the social media company.” "As a fellow Jew who was frightened by the string of anti-Semitic attacks, I am frightened," the fake account, which used the name "Elaine Goldschmidt," tweeted Wednesday. Using the n-word to describe black Americans, "Goldschmidt" added they "were supposed to be on our side. Now, we have lost control of them." “The account bore clear hallmarks of the kind of fake beloved by racist trolls: It used a supposedly stereotypical Jewish name, its bio contained extreme statements that trolls use to parody liberals, it was just set up on Wednesday, and its profile image was a stolen picture of a real person -- a Scottish comedian who's been a 4chan target and who did not authorize the use of her photo….All the while, trolls on 4chan, which is known as a hotbed of online hate and is often used to coordinate the spread of hate online, celebrated Twitter's inaction and expressed admiration for the person who set up the account.”
Watch this 4-minute video clip explaining how 4chan and 8chan became playgrounds for white nationalists and how they spread the culture of hate.
Join the AWARE Sunday Dialogue for white anti-racists, occurring on the 3rd Sunday of every month, 3-5PM Pacific via the Zoom online platform. We focus on our “personal solidarity” process, which means connecting, sharing, and learning from one another. If you have not signed up for the interest list (required to receive the RSVP link), please sign up here.
Registration is open for AWARE-LA’s Summer Institute - Unmasking Whiteness 2020. This event will take place in Los Angeles from Thursday-Sunday, July 23-26, 2020. Click here for more information. Registration is already half-filled, so mark your calendars and register soon if you are interested.
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For more information, please visit:
shellytochluk.com

Contact me at:
shelly@unitybridges.org or stochluk@msmu.edu

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Shelly Tochluk · 10 Chester Place · Los Angeles, CA 90007 · USA

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