Category Archives: Articles

Introducing Greater Four Corners Action Coalition

Introducing Greater Four Corners Action Coalition: Fighting to Empower the Residents of Dorchester and Mattapan

By Bob Hatchey

For 28 years, the Greater Four Corners Action Coalition, (GFCAC), has been advocating to improve the quality of life and empower the residents of two of Boston’s poorest neighborhoods. Unfortunately, the recent economic boom that has helped Boston to become one of America’s fastest-growing cities has left neighborhoods such as Dorchester and Mattapan behind. Organizations like GFCAC work very hard to see that residents of these neighborhoods get a fairer shake.

GFCAC began in 1991 when a group of residents, Clergy and law enforcement officials got together to strategize on ways to improve the lives of its residents. They were originally known as the Four Corners Public Safety project. In the early days, they created neighborhood watch groups and worked to reduce crime and get neighborhood youth involved in sports and other worthwhile activities. They worked to steer youth away from crime and toward improvement and increased community involvement. Four Corners refers to a intersection where Bowdoin and Washington Street meet.

Today, GFCAC concentrates on Transportation justice, equity, neighborhood stabilization and public safety. GFCAC organizes events for youth and conducts training for residents. One of the trainings focuses on mortgage foreclosure prevention. Residents are taught their rights as homeowners and how to effectively negotiate with banks.

Mela Miles is the lead community organizer for GFCAC. She is most interested in transportation justice. “In the early 1980’s, they moved the Orange line out of our neighborhood and replaced it with buses which lowered the quality of life here”, she says. “We had to fight hard attending many public meetings, and the MBTA finally offered us the Silver Line”. She called it the “Silver Lie” because it did not offer nearly the same kind of transit into down town as the Orange line once did. The portion of the Silver Line that traverses this neighborhood is above ground bus or “bus rapid transit and must contend with very heavy traffic. The only rapid part is the tunnel that goes out to Logan Airport.

Earlier this year, Mela Miles and the GFCAC convinced State representative Daniel Cullinane to file H2985, An Act establishing rapid transportation for the Fairmount Corridor. This bill, if passed into law, would make major improvements to the MBTA’s commuter rail Fairmount line. This line traverses 9.2 miles through the neighborhoods of Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan and Hyde Park. This corridor is very poorly served by the MBTA especially when compared with many other neighborhoods currently served by rapid transit. H2985 would make this above ground line run much more like the rapid transit lines and it would be known as the Indigo Line. Trains would run on this line every 15 minutes during rush hour and every 30 minutes during the rest of the day. This would give these neighborhoods something very close to the service that neighborhoods currently served by rapid transit take for granted.

State Senator Nick Collins has also filed an accompanying Senate bill and its number is S2046.

Very recently the advocacy of Mela Miles, GFCAC and others paid off in a big way with the opening of the Blue Hill Station on the Fairmount line. This station has already cut the commute time from Mattapan into downtown Boston from around 1 hour to a much more manageable 20 minutes. Residents of Mattapan now hope that it will be a destination, not just a place from which to commute. Apparently, service has been improving on the Fairmount line with fewer missed and diverted trains.

Aa you can see, GFCAC has cemented itself as a valuable resource to the residents of Dorchester and Mattapan. The future of GFCAC looks bright.

MA Supreme Judicial Court to Hear Barnstable Needle Access Case February 9

GLAD and AIDS Action to Argue that MA Law Permits and Promotes Needle Access

On Thursday, February 9, the Supreme Judicial Court will hear arguments in the case AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod v. Town of Barnstable, in which AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod (ASGCC) will argue that its program providing sterile needles to people who inject drugs is indisputably legal under Massachusetts law.
“This case will determine the scope of our ability to stem the tide of HIV and Hepatitis C transmission among people who inject drugs and prevent deaths from fatal overdoses” said GLAD’s AIDS Law Project Director Ben Klein, who will present argument at the SJC. “The Legislature repealed all restrictions on the possession and distribution of needles in 2006 in order to address this public health crisis. It is important for the SJC to declare that providing clients with sterile needles is entirely lawful.”

Beyond Numbers: Homelessness in Boston

don't forgetIn discussions concerning homelessness, and many other issues of social injustice for that matter, the humanity of the problems at hand can often become clouded by the facelessness of statistics and research findings. Quantitative data holds undeniable importance when it comes to understanding the large extent to which Boston has insufficient resources for homeless people.

The Long Island shelter was closed in October of 2014, a few months before New England was hit with a record-breaking winter. News outlets and other sources explained the effect of the city’s failure to replace all the services that once existed on Long Island in terms of “demand for beds,” using the term “recovery beds” to refer to spaces reserved for individuals fighting addiction. Framed in this technical manner, the discourse surrounding homeless people paints a broad picture of the numerical scale of the issue, while not doing much to dispel the presumed anonymity of the people affected by the shelter’s closing, and by the dearth of facilities for homeless people in Boston in general.

The 700 people who were displaced from Long Island represent more than bars on a graph. They represent 700 distinct collections of experiences and personalities, people grappling with debt, addiction, and many other circumstances which invariably led them to that point, circumstances that could just as easily have occurred in the lives of anyone else. They are among the tens of thousands of individuals concerned with the next source of food and warmth, and with the prospect of leaving the transience of homelessness behind for a more stable situation in the face of a society that often places the blame of their current situation on their own supposed vices and poor decisions.

Figures and statistics can be overwhelming, but the media, public officials and policymakers aren’t completely to blame for the impersonal way those who are fortunate enough to have housing tend to interact with homelessness, if we choose to interact with it at all. With temperatures declining and another winter looming over the region, it’s crucial to be mindful of the fact that we have neighbors who have a new set of worries to consider with the arrival of cold weather. Many are trapped in a cyclical process of bureaucracy, with the search for temporary protection from the elements, employment and permanent housing all rendered almost impossible by the absence of a fixed address.

In engaging with the issue of homelessness, it’s important to recognize that its roots lie in systemic inequality and injustice. Haley House is an example of an organization that is not only working to alleviate the day-to-day suffering of homeless people but is also trying to address this inequality on the level of community involvement and social enterprise. With a variety of innovative projects including an affordable housing initiative in South Boston, soup kitchen, food pantry and the Bakery Café among others, Haley House is dedicated to the promotion of the physical, economic and social well-being of the community. You can find out more about the organization here.

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Lessons Of Ferguson For Massachusetts

Originally posted here by WBUR on November 25, 2014.

Written by Carol Rose, Executive Director of ACLU of Massachusetts.

The anger, grief and disillusionment felt by many following the decision of a St. Louis grand jury not to issue an indictment against the Ferguson, Missouri, police officer who shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black man, has been met by public officials in Boston and nationwide with public calls for peace.

Calls for peace are understandable. Calls for calm are not.

The Boston Police Department, for example, issued public warnings to be on the lookout for “outside agitators.” Presumably, the BPD was unaware that the phrase “outside agitators” was made famous in 1964 by the segregationist governor of Alabama, George Wallace, to warn against the advocacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “Outside agitators” was also the term invoked by the infamous Birmingham Police Commissioner Eugene “Bull” Connor to justify turning dogs and fire hoses on black protesters seeking justice.

Similarly, households of students in the Boston Public Schools reportedly received robo-calls from the BPD this past Saturday, urging them to be peaceful following the grand jury’s decision in Ferguson.

Of course, the BPD is right that we don’t need more violence. But where was the letter acknowledging that the people of Boston, and all over this country, have not only a right but a reason to be upset about racial injustice? Where were the robo-calls to young people in Boston acknowledging the BPD’s own documented history of treating people of color differently from white people?

Boston demonstration in reaction to Grand Jury decision in Ferguson; November 25

Boston demonstration in reaction to Grand Jury decision in Ferguson; November 25

I believe that most law enforcement officers work with courage and respect for the communities that they are sworn to protect and serve. But we ignore at our peril the patterns of racial bias in police stop and frisk practices, as well as police use of excessive and sometimes fatal force without adequate investigation and accountability.

And if you don’t think what happened in Ferguson can happen here, think again.  In many ways, it already has.

Do the names Malcolm Gracia, Mark Joseph McMullen or Denis Reynoso ring a bell? They should. Each of these Massachusetts men was recently killed by police officers. In each case, there was no independent investigation into the police shootings.

Malcolm Gracia, age 15, was fatally shot by two New Bedford police officers in 2012. The incident began with a stop and frisk, when officers stopped two teenage boys as they left a neighborhood basketball court. The encounter quickly escalated as officers surrounded the two boys. One officer reportedly grabbed Gracia, who reportedly then pulled a knife and stabbed the officer. Other officers fired two sets of three shots; the first set appears to have brought Gracia down to one knee, and the second set included a fatal shot to Gracia’s head.

The district attorney who investigated declared the shooting justified. But the DA’s report failed to justify the second, ultimately fatal, set of shots. It also failed to examine adequately the stop and frisk practices of the police, which lead to the confrontation in the first place.

The ACLU, NAACP and Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights called upon Attorney General Martha Coakley to conduct an inquest into Malcolm Gracia’s death. It never happened.

Mark Joseph McMullen, a 44-year-old black man, was shot by white Boston police officers in 2011. Again, the local DA declared the police shooting justified. Again, the ACLU, NAACP and Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights requested an inquest to restore public confidence. Again, there was no independent investigation. Instead, the Boston Police Department presented the Schroeder Brothers Memorial Medal — “the highest medal given . . . in recognition of bravery” — to the officers who fatally shot Mark McMullen.

Honoring police officers involved in fatal shootings seems to be a pattern. Just five days ago, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and the State Police awarded medals of bravery to three Lynn police officers who last year shot and killed Denis Reynoso, a veteran of the Iraq War who was reportedly suffering from PTSD when he was killed by police in 2013.

Beyond these shootings, consider the plight of tens of thousands of black Bostonians who are stopped, interrogated, frisked and searched by Boston Police Officers simply because of their race. Despite their stories — and a recent ACLU-issued report documenting racial bias in stop-and-frisk practices — the Boston Police Department has yet to announce a single policy change to address the problem.

We needn’t look to Ferguson to realize that racialized policing undermines public safety. We should not wait for violent street protests to reform police practices in ways that would enhance both public trust and public safety.

We need only take an honest look at ourselves.

Of course, people of color and their allies in Boston, Ferguson, Birmingham and the rest of America don’t need “outside agitators” to stand up for their rights. They are doing it on their own.

But they shouldn’t have to. As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” we all have an equal obligation to stand up to racial injustice:

Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial outside agitator idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

Perhaps that is the real lesson of Ferguson.

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Two Pastors and 90-year-old Face Jail Time for Feeding Homeless


November 3, 2014;WPLG Local 10 (Miami, FL)

This past week, two pastors and a 90-year-old man were charged by Fort Lauderdale police for violating a new city ordinance banning public food sharing. Arnold Abbott, 90, was the first to be charged. Having run a nonprofit that has been feeding the homeless in Fort Lauderdale for over 20 years, Abbott has faced obstacles to his mission from the city before. In 1999, Abbott won a lawsuit against the city after restrictions against feeding the homeless on Fort Lauderdale Beach were announced. And legal action might be needed again, as Abbott and the local pastors face up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine for their charitable work.

In 2012, NPQ covered a similar situation concerning food sharing in Philadelphia. Before that, in 2011, it wasFood not Bombs in an Orlando park. And according to surveys found in the October 2014 report from the National Coalition for the Homeless, “Share No More,” 12 cities, in addition to Ft. Lauderdale and Philadelphia, passed property use restrictions for feeding the homeless in 2013-2014. Such ordinances block the use of public space in terms of public food sharing, claiming that providing food to people experiencing homelessness causes traffic congestion and an increase in littering. Other cities cite food safety among the reasoning behind their anti-food sharing regulation. As such, nonprofits and others looking to distribute food in these cities often need to obtain a variety of special permits—a process that can be costly and time consuming for smaller organizations and individuals.

Such criminalization of the homeless and of people offering assistance is being fought by organizations like the National Coalition for the Homeless, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, and the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. Claiming that regulations and restrictions on the homeless and their supports are not only ineffective and cost-inefficient as policy but also inhumane, advocacy against such marginalization of the homeless is reaching international levels. In November, the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty will ask the U.N. Committee Against Torture to review the U.S.’s human rights treaty commitments to rule that the criminalization violates our country’s human rights obligations. Such rights include the right to food, as confirmed by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 1999, the Commission on Human Rights in 2000 and the United Nations Organization for Food and Agriculture in 2003.

By ending criminalization, efforts can be put into policies that help the individuals who are suffering from homelessness achieve success rather than penalizing them for their human needs. Such goals can only be achieved through resolving the causes of homelessness – not by banning support services to those that need them.—Michele Bittner


Originally posted by: Non Profit Quarterly


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Mass. voters back paid sick leave

Voters have approved a ballot question that supporters say will give Massachusetts the nation’s strongest requirement for providing paid sick time to workers, according to the Associated Press.

Question 4 entitles people to earn up to 40 hours of paid sick time each year if they work for businesses with 11 or more employees; staff at smaller companies would earn 40 hours of annual unpaid sick time.

Proponents of the ballot initiative said the change would improve productivity and public health, because workers now have to choose between going to work sick and losing income.

Those who urged a no vote argued that small businesses need flexibility and should not have their hands tied by new regulations.

November 05, 2014   Boston Globe


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New Health Department Regulations Help Transgender Population

Originally posted by the ACLU.

Posted October 24, 2014.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island and Youth Pride Inc. today commended the RI Department of Health for adopting new “vital records” regulations this week that will make it easier for transgender people to revise the gender designation on their birth certificate.

Beyond the intrinsic value of having a birth certificate that corresponds to their identity, transgender people may have a strong need to change the gender marker on their birth certificate for many critical reasons related to employment, schooling, as well as social recognition of their gender.

Until now, the DOH essentially required gender reassignment surgery in order to change the gender designation on a birth certificate. The current medical consensus is clear that surgery is neither appropriate nor necessary for many transgender people, and such a requirement therefore imposes an unreasonable and unwarranted burden.

Under the new policy, the DOH will allow a gender marker change based on certification by a medical provider that the individual has undergone surgical and/or hormone treatment or “other treatment appropriate for the individual.” In order to protect individual privacy, the regulations also allow new birth certificates with the appropriate gender designation to be issued without indicating that the birth certificate has been changed.

Across the country, other agencies have adopted inclusive policies similar to this one. In recent years, for example, the U.S. Department of State and the Social Security Administration have revised their policies to recognize that gender transitions do not require surgery. The states of Oregon, Washington, Vermont and California, as well as the District of Columbia, have also adopted comparable standards to ensure that transgender individuals can obtain accurate identification without proof of surgery. This approach recognizes that the state should not be substituting its judgment over that of licensed health care professionals.

“This is another great step towards equality and inclusion for transgender Rhode Islanders,” said Kerri Kanelos, Executive Director of Youth Pride Inc. “These updated regulations will now allow transgender people to obtain accurate birth certificates that match their other vital documents, as they access employment, housing, education, and many other systems that require this documentation.”

ACLU of RI executive director Steven Brown added: “Rhode Island was one of the first states to ban discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression. Yet we know that transgender individuals continue to face severe and blatant discrimination. It is critical that they be able to obtain, without unnecessary obstacles, essential documentation from the state to accurately reflect their identity. Adoption of these regulations goes a long way in furthering the state’s leadership in protecting transgender rights.”

Under the new rules, the medical certifications can be provided by physicians, registered nurses and physician assistants. The ACLU and YPI both said they hoped that at some point in the future the DOH would expand the list to include qualified mental health professionals, who also regularly provide treatment for transgender individuals.

The ACLU of RI and Youth Pride Inc. previously testified in support of these regulations helping transgender people. The new rules take effect in twenty days.

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A Super Simple Way To Cut Teen Pregnancy And Abortion Rates By 75 Percent


Originally posted on October 2nd, 2014 by ThinkProgress



Providing teenage girls with affordable access to long-lasting contraception, like intrauterine devices (IUDs), can cut their rates of unintended pregnancy and abortion by more than 75 percent, according to a new study published in theNew England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday. The data suggests that teens can effectively prevent pregnancy when they’re educated about their full range of sexual health options.

The results come from a large research project, called the Contraceptive CHOICEstudy, being conducted in St. Louis. Researchers there are studying the impact of providing a group of low-income women with the birth control method of their choice free of charge, which is the same policy at the heart of the health law’s contraception mandate.

The latest data was derived from tracking a group of 1,404 teen girls enrolled in the Contraceptive CHOICE project, the vast majority of whom were already sexually active and at particular risk for unintended pregnancy. After those girls received counseling about their different birth control options, and were given a chance to select any method free of charge, 72 percent of the group opted for an IUD or an implant, which are more effective methods because they involve less user error. That’s dramatically higher than the national rate of teen IUD use, which currently hovers around five percent.

choice projectAnd after that, researchersobserved a significant declinein the pregnancy, birth, and abortion rates among those teens. While sexually experienced U.S. teens have an annual pregnancy rate of 158.5 per 1000, for instance, that rate was just 34 per 1000among the teen participants in the CHOICE project.

Altogether, over five years, researchers observed that the pregnancy rate dropped by 79 percent and the abortion rate declined by 77 percent for the girls who participated in their study. Plus, while African American teens have a higher unintended pregnancy rate than white teens nationwide, that racial disparity virtually disappeared in the CHOICE project.

Experts are hailing the “landmark” results, which come just a few days after the American Academy of Pediatrics officially endorsed IUDs as the “first line” of contraception that doctors should recommend to teens. Two years ago, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology took the same position.

“If we provide great contraceptive care and access to all of our teens in the U.S., this is what we could see,” Gina Secura, the lead author of the study and a senior epidemiologist at the Washington University School of Medicine, told Al Jazeera. “We are still in a country where it just makes us skeevy to talk about sex, especially with young folks. It’s a real bummer because we actually have a medical intervention that will work, and we just need to be better about talking about it.”

Previous research has found that parents tend to be uncomfortable with the idea that doctors might recommend IUDs to their teenage children, perhaps partly because they’re worried it will give kids more of a license to be sexually promiscuous. That’s the same attitude that has fueled the resistance to other policies that could effectively prevent teen pregnancies, like implementing comprehensive sex ed across the country. While researchers recommend that sexual health classes should start as early as age 10, many public school districts still resist any efforts to move away from “abstinence-only” courses that tell kids having sex will make them dirty.

Doctors are optimistic about move toward IUDs — the number of teens using them tripled between 2007 and 2009 — and hope the trend will continue. State-level programs that have expanded teens’ access to IUDs have seen similarly encouraging results as the CHOICE project. In Colorado, teen births have dropped by 40 percent over the past five years for this reason.

But without insurance coverage, cost can be a barrier; IUDs can be more than $1,000 upon insertion. Although the health care reform law eliminates that cost, craft chain Hobby Lobby’s recent win at the Supreme Court has given other companies an opening to try to drop coverage for this particular type of birth control.

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Link to original article: What My Bike Has Taught Me About White Privilege.

The phrase “white privilege” is one that rubs a lot of white people the wrong way. It can trigger something in them that shuts down conversation or at least makes them very defensive. (Especially those who grew up relatively less privileged than other folks around them). And I’ve seen more than once where this happens and the next move in the conversation is for the person who brought up white privilege to say, “The reason you’re getting defensive is because you’re feeling the discomfort of having your privilege exposed.”

I’m sure that’s true sometimes. And I’m sure there are a lot of people, white and otherwise, who can attest to a kind of a-ha moment or paradigm shift where they “got” what privilege means and they did realize they had been getting defensive because they were uncomfortable at having their privilege exposed. But I would guess that more often than not, the frustration and the shutting down is about something else. It comes from the fact that nobody wants to be a racist. And the move “you only think that because you’re looking at this from the perspective of privilege” or the more terse and confrontational “check your privilege!” kind of sound like an accusation that someone is a racist (if they don’t already understand privilege). And the phrase “white privilege” kind of sounds like, “You are a racist and there’s nothing you can do about it because you were born that way.”

And if this were what “white privilege” meant—which it is not—defensiveness and frustration would be the appropriate response. But privilege talk is not intended to make a moral assessment or a moral claim about the privileged at all. It is about systemic imbalance. It is about injustices that have arisen because of the history of racism that birthed the way things are now. It’s not saying, “You’re a bad person because you’re white.” It’s saying, “The system is skewed in ways that you maybe haven’t realized or had to think about precisely because it’s skewed in YOUR favor.”

I am white. So I have not experienced racial privilege from the “under” side firsthand. But my children (and a lot of other people I love) are not white. And so I care about privilege and what it means for racial justice in our country. And one experience I have had firsthand, which has helped me to understand privilege and listen to privilege talk without feeling defensive, is riding my bike.


Now, I know, it sounds a little goofy at first. But stick with me. Because I think that this analogy might help some white people understand privilege talk without feeling like they’re having their character attacked.

About five years ago I decide to start riding my bike as my primary mode of transportation. As in, on the street, in traffic. Which is enjoyable for a number of reasons (exercise, wind in yer face, the cool feeling of going fast, etc.) But the thing is, I don’t live in Portland or Minneapolis. I live in the capital city of the epicenter of the auto industry: Lansing, MI. This is not, by any stretch, a bike-friendly town. And often, it is down-right dangerous to be a bike commuter here.

Now sometimes its dangerous for me because people in cars are just blatantly a**holes to me. If I am in the road—where I legally belong—people will yell at me to get on the sidewalk. If I am on the sidewalk—which is sometimes the safest place to be—people will yell at me to get on the road. People in cars think its funny to roll down their window and yell something right when they get beside me. Or to splash me on purpose. People I have never met are angry at me for just being on a bike in “their” road and they let me know with colorful language and other acts of aggression.

I can imagine that for people of color life in a white-majority context feels a bit like being on a bicycle in midst of traffic. They have the right to be on the road, and laws on the books to make it equitable, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are on a bike in a world made for cars. Experiencing this when I’m on my bike in traffic has helped me to understand what privilege talk is really about.

Now most people in cars are not intentionally aggressive toward me. But even if all the jerks had their licenses revoked tomorrow, the road would still be a dangerous place for me. Because the whole transportation infrastructure privileges the automobile. It is born out of a history rooted in the auto industry that took for granted that everyone should use a car as their mode of transportation. It was not built to be convenient or economical or safe for me.

And so people in cars—nice, non-aggressive people—put me in danger all the time because they see the road from the privileged perspective of a car. E.g., I ride on the right side of the right lane. Some people fail to change lanes to pass me (as they would for another car) or even give me a wide berth. Some people fly by just inches from me not realizing how scary/dangerous that is for me (like if I were to swerve to miss some roadkill just as they pass). These folks aren’t aggressive or hostile toward me, but they don’t realize that a pothole or a build up of gravel or a broken bottle, which they haven’t given me enough room to avoid–because in a car they don’t need to be aware of these things–could send me flying from my bike or cost me a bent rim or a flat tire.

So the semi driver who rushes past throwing gravel in my face in his hot wake isn’t necessarily a bad guy. He could be sitting in his cab listening to Christian radio and thinking about nice things he can do for his wife. But the fact that “the system” allows him to do those things instead of being mindful of me is a privilege he has that I don’t. (I have to be hyper-aware of him).

This is what privilege is about.  Like drivers, nice, non-aggressive white people can move in the world without thinking about the  “potholes” or the “gravel” that people of color have to navigate, or how things that they do—not intending to hurt or endanger anyone—might actually be making life more difficult or more dangerous for a person of color.

Nice, non-aggressive drivers that don’t do anything at all to endanger me are still privileged to pull out of their driveway each morning and know that there are roads that go all the way to their destination. They don’t have to wonder if there are bike lanes and what route they will take to stay safe. In the winter, they can be certain that the snow will be plowed out of their lane into my lane and not the other way around.


And it’s not just the fact that the whole transportation infrastructure is built around the car. It’s the law, which is poorly enforced when cyclists are hit by cars, the fact that gas is subsidized by the government and bike tires aren’t, and just the general mindset of a culture that is in love with cars after a hundred years of propaganda and still thinks that bikes are toys for kids and triathletes.

So when I say the semi driver is privileged, it isn’t a way of calling him a bad person or a man-slaughterer or saying he didn’t really earn his truck, but just way of acknowledging all that–infrastructure, laws, gov’t, culture–and the fact that if he and I get in a collision, I will probably die and he will just have to clean the blood off of his bumper. In the same way, talking about racial privilege isn’t a way of telling white people they are bad people or racists or that they didn’t really earn what they have.

It’s a way of trying to make visible the fact that system is not neutral, it is not a level-playing field, it’s not the same experience for everyone. There are biases and imbalances and injustices built into the warp and woof of our culture. (The recent events in Ferguson, MO should be evidence enough of this–more thoughts on that here). Not because you personally are a racist, but because the system has a history and was built around this category “race” and that’s not going to go away overnight (or even in 100 years). To go back to my analogy: Bike lanes are relatively new, and still just kind of an appendage on a system that is inherently car-centric.

So–white readers–the next time someone drops the p-word, try to remember they aren’t calling you a racist or saying you didn’t really earn your college degree, they just want you to try empathize with how scary it is to be on a bike sometimes (metaphorically speaking).

One last thing: Now, I know what it is like to be a white person engaged in racial reconciliation or justice work and to feel like privilege language is being used to silence you or to feel frustrated that you are genuinely trying to be a part of the solution not the problem but every time you open your mouth someone says, “Check you privilege.” (I.e., even though privilege language doesn’t mean “You are one of the bad guys,” some people do use it that way). So if you’ll permit me to get a few more miles out of this bike analogy (ya see what I did there?), I think it can help encourage white folks  who have felt that frustration to stay engaged and stay humble.

I have a lot of “conversations” with drivers. Now, rationally, I know that most drivers are not jerks. But I have a long and consistent history of bad experiences with drivers and so, when I’ve already been honked at or yelled at that day, or when I’ve read a blog post about a fellow cyclist who’s been mowed down by a careless driver, it’s hard for me to stay civil.

But when I’m not so civil with a “privileged” driver, it’s not because I hate him/her, or think s/he is evil. It’s because it’s the third time that day I got some gravel in the face. So try to remember that even if you don’t feel like a “semi driver,” a person of color might be experiencing you the way a person on a bike experiences being passed by a semi. Even if you’re listening to Christian radio.

Is the Use of Overhead Ratios to Judge Nonprofits a Meaningful Measure? Donor Centered Organizations Say Probably Not.

Recently, a fascinating conversation has sprung up regarding ways to measure the efficacy of nonprofit organizations. Now, three authorities on the nonprofit world have joined forces to caution the public against relying to heavily on one of the most commonly-used evaluation tools for researching nonprofits. Guidestar, Charity Navigator, and the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance have written a letter which debunks the idea that overhead ratios are a way to thoroughly investigate an organization. Check out the article here, and read the letter that the three groups wrote here.