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May15

Promundo in the Press: April 2017

Categories // Member Blogs

This article was originally published on promundoglobal.org.

Welcome to “Promundo in the Press,” a monthly recap of media that mention Promundo or MenCare, the global fatherhood campaign that Promundo co-coordinates. We know that in order to create a truly equal, nonviolent world in which men and boys are allies in the fight for gender justice, we need to spread the word. Here are the top 10 featured articles from April:

  1. The New York Times profiles Promundo’s The Man Box report in “Manhood in the age of Trump.”
  2. USA Today highlights Promundo’s The Man Box report in “Guys, trapped in a ‘Man Box’?”
  3. Dr. Wendy Walsh interviewed Promundo President and CEO Gary Barker on KFI AM 640 in “Gary Barker, co-author of ‘The Man Box Study.”
  4. Maclean’s covers Justin Trudeau’s interview at the Women in the World Summit, where he is asked about the “Man Box” in reference to Frank Bruni’s New York Times piece citing Promundo’s research (see above).  Video is available here (see 22:42).
  5. WNYC Studios’ Note to Self podcast cites Promundo’s The Man Box report in an episode called “Cucked: Defining Manhood the Alt-Right Way.”
  6. In Stylist, Promundo Senior Fellow Nikki van der Gaag mentions the MenCare campaign in “No more excuses: Why it’s time men joined the fight for gender equality.”
  7. Fusion features an op-ed that cites Promundo’s The Man Box report, titled “I Went to See Matt McGorry Talk About Toxic Masculinity and Left With a Tote Full of Axe Products.”
  8. Georgia Today covers a MenCare event in “Fathers From Telavi Join MenCare Campaign.”
  9. In Spanish media outlet El País, Promundo Senior Fellow Rixtar Bacete cites The Man Box report in “Molinos machistas y vientos igualitarios.”
  10. Ditch the Label highlights Promundo’s Man Box research in “Putting the Q Into LGBTQ – 8 Things to Know About Questioning Your Sexuality.”

 

Nov16

Every Religious Person in America Must Help Our Muslim Brethren

Written by // Rabbi Burton Visotzky Categories // Member Blogs

Rabbi Burton L. Visotzky directs the Milstein Center for Interreligious Dialogue and is the author of Aphrodite and the Rabbis
 
Joseph Q. Jarvis is a public health consultant and is currently serving as bishop of an LDS Ward in Salt Lake City
 
'We cannot afford to be divided'
 
For many in this country, the 2016 election was a cause for sorrow and consternation. For others, it has been a moment to exalt and rejoice. The chasm between supporters of the two candidates seems as large as the nation itself. It is as though there were two distinct and irreconcilable Americas uncovered on Nov. 8. We write together although we represent very different parts of the American polity. One of us is a Mormon bishop, living in red-state Utah, who, until the President-elect was nominated, counted himself a life-long Republican. The other is a Jewish rabbi, living in true-blue New York City, and a life-long Democrat. What unites us is so much greater than the divisions implied by those descriptors.
 
As religious leaders who embrace the freedoms that America affords us, we both are disturbed by the rancor and rhetoric of the election campaign. Secretary Hillary Clinton had been famous for the listening tour she undertook when she ran for senator. In this campaign, however, she ignored a significant segment of the population, many of them former Democrats, and dismissed many as a “basket of deplorables.” This was an insult to many Americans and was not easily forgiven.
 
President-elect Donald Trump, for his part, ran a campaign that countenanced xenophobia, misogyny, racism, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. It deployed a barrage of hateful rhetoric and condoned white supremacist memes. We pray that such language is behind us now and that both sides repent of their political sins.
 
This elevation of party and partisanship failed America. We cannot afford to be divided in this fashion. We cannot continue to be red America versus blue America. Only as a united America can we find a way forward, together. The great religious principle that should guide us is to “love our neighbor as ourselves.” So we must stand against any attempt to marginalize Muslims or any other religious minority. As a Jew and a Mormon, we know only too well the horrible consequences of such demonization of the religious other. We must remember that there were Muslims in this land even before we became a country. We must remember the indigenous religions of this country: those of the native Americans and that of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints. Judaism, Christianity and Islam all share the notion that we stem from common ancestors: Adam and Eve. We are one great family of American citizens, no matter what religion, what God we worship, or how we worship.
 
As we think of our common ancestry, almost all of us, no matter whom we voted for, can relate to the idea that we are a “nation of immigrants.” Whether ourselves, our parents, our grandparents or perhaps further back in history almost all of us have immigrant pasts. This country was made great by the labor and imaginations of immigrants. We must embrace the immigrant, most especially the refugee population, whether we want to keep stronger together or make America great again.
 
We literally are sickened by the poor state of health care and the crisis of gun violence. We call for a continued reform of our insurance practices so that even more Americans can have access to health care. We call for a renovation of our medical practices, putting patient care and financial efficiency before profits. And we call for a sensible gun regulation policy that respects the Second Amendment of our constitution while ending the scourge of gun violence.
 
We share common hopes for our nation, and for our children and grandchildren. We invite everyone to work for one America. There is a way forward. It is not the path of partisan politics. Nor can it be the path of winner takes all. Rather, it is the straight path which begins with personal righteousness, justice and equity. The biblical precept of love serves as a good touchstone to judge our actions. If we could but do for our neighbors as we wish for ourselves, we can be “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Nov11

Promoting Love

Written by // Elaine Davenport Categories // Member Blogs

Just yesterday I wrote about the need for fostering resistance, and one way to do that is by promoting love. Radical love is itself an act of resistance, especially in the face of radical hate. That’s why Project for the Advancement of Our Common Humanity created the Love Rally.
 
We hosted the Love Rally back in April just a few days after the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death, whose words and work are an inspiration for PACH, “Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”
 
The event brought together educators, activists, artists, and thought leaders of all ages and backgrounds and faiths. It highlights those who continue to work toward a just and humane society by fighting against racism, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, islamophobia, anti-semitism and other forms of hate.
 
In this time of great division, it’s important to remember actions, stories, and experiences of love and resistance. I encourage you to watch and share the video below for a celebration of humanity and justice. And we hope you’ll join us at PACH’s next Love Rally in 2017. Let’s drown out the voices of radical hate with radical love!

Nov10

Fostering Resistance

Written by // Elaine Davenport Categories // Member Blogs

Yesterday America woke up to election results that reflect a great division in our country. The electorate was almost evenly split between the two main party candidates, with the winner’s campaign representing the hatred of all people who are not White, male, American, straight, rich, and Christian. It also represents the entrenchment of the “hierarchy of humanness” that exists in our capitalist, white supremacist, and patriarchal modern culture in which some are considered more human than others. Paolo Freire described this same hierarchy in his book Pedagogy of the Oppressed. No matter what language we use to describe it, the result is the same: the dehumanization of all and a lack of a belief in a common humanity.
 
The human sciences consistently reveal that humans are empathic, social, altruistic, and cooperative, yet our modern culture devalues and disconnects us from these capacities. Stereotypes about gender, race, class, sexuality, and religion divide us, leading us to overlook our common humanity. According to research with girls and boys, this clash between nature and culture creates a crisis of connection in which they learn, as they develop, to privilege autonomy over relationships, individual interests over the common good, and the hierarchy of humanness. This crisis during childhood and adolescence sets the psychological stage for further isolation. Consequences include distrust, depression, suicide, mass violence, and declining rates of empathy, all of which are evident across the U.S.
 
However, the sciences also suggest we have the capacities within ourselves to resist the crisis of connection and to create a more just, and humane society. We can resist by not buying into the culture of fear that the new president-elect and his followers are capitalizing on and promoting. We can resist by educating ourselves and not buying into stereotypes. We can resist by valuing people over profits. We can resist by not participating in the power struggle for more privilege, but rather pursuing freedom and justice for all. Resisting is a joyous action and one that keeps us healthy, sane, and together.
 
The results of this election have drawn attention to just how much work there is to do in fighting dehumanization and disrupting the hierarchy of humanness. We at the Project for the Advancement of Our Common Humanity at NYU (PACH; pach.org) are ready to redouble our efforts to fight all forms of dehumanization and oppression that this American culture throws our way. Please join with us and let us know how and where we can join with you in resistance.
Oct11

Starting from a New Place in Police-Community Relations

Written by // Elaine Davenport Categories // Member Blogs

This weekend’s presidential debate took place mere miles from Ferguson, Missouri, yet there was no mention of the tension and division that characterizes police-community relations. No matter your opinion on shootings of and by police, it is clear that our society is mired in conflict about what policing should look like and the role that stereotyping of and implicit bias towards people of color plays. Proposed solutions vary: a Junior Citizens Police Academy started by a high school principal in Coney Island brings together police officers and high school students to build trust through open dialogue in and out of the classroom, the LAPD recently issued a new policy that calls for officers to treat the homeless with compassion and empathy, police departments across the country are adopting implicit bias training, Campaign Zero delivered a ten-point manifesto that proposes policy solutions such as using independent investigators in cases of police force and demilitarizing local departments, and Black Lives Matter members (among others) are investigating the idea of police-free communities.
 
At PACH, we always start by looking at the root of the problem. According to decades of research, biases, stereotypes, and distrust among groups are often caused by a lack of empathy between those who are different from each other. In the case of police officers and community members, each is not able to see themselves in the other and thus implicit bias, stereotyping, and distrust more easily evolve into violence. The long-term solution therefore must be rooted in the recognition of a common humanity, the first step toward building more caring and connected communities. In response to this empathy gap, PACH is engaged in efforts to spark conversation about policing, violence, bias, and stereotyping that includes cops and members of the communities they serve. Our initiatives seek to inform and foster emerging community policing 2.0 strategies that move beyond having police officers and community members interacting with each other. We start from a new place, helping each see themselves in the other. Engagement is critical but it is not enough; unlocking empathy is essential for decreasing the mistrust and violence and building the kind of relationship that is at the core of understanding and connected communities.
 
As part of this effort we launched the We Are Human (WAH) video campaign in four communities in California, Los Angeles, Oakland, Richmond, and Stockton. This campaign captures video self-portraits of people, a mix of police officers and community members, answering five questions that underscore our common humanity. Each of the questions has been found to evoke responses that reveal remarkable similarities across diverse communities. These videos are only the beginning of PACH’s efforts to contribute to solutions to the current tension. The necessary foundation of any effective relationship is seeing the humanity in the other, and the only way to solve our problems as a community and society is through collective action and collaboration. We need each other. That’s what it means to be human.
Oct10

Announcing "We Are Human" Campaign Series

Written by // Niobe Way Categories // Member Blogs

Dear Friends:

As evident by continuing reports of officer shootings of community members and assaults on police officers by community members, there is a dire need for stronger police/community relations across the United States. Community policing, a philosophy that emerged in the 1980’s, holds the potential to significantly improve relations and promising new steps are being explored. Yet, despite having been around for over three decades, identifying specific approaches that would truly diminish the mistrust between communities and police has continued to prove elusive. This is likely because it requires addressing the underlying societal stereotypes and implicit bias that are at the root of the mistrust. To maximize the efficacy of community policing, we must blend all that we know about effective law enforcement practices with what we know from the social and behavioral sciences.

According to decades of research, biases, stereotypes, and distrust among groups are often caused by a lack of empathy between those who are different from each other. In the case of police officers and community members, each is not able to see themselves in the other and thus implicit bias, stereotyping, and distrust more easily evolve into violence. The long-term solution is, indeed, a form of community policing—but one that is rooted in the recognition of a common humanity, a necessary foundation for building more caring and connected communities.

In response to this empathy gap, the Project for the Advancement of Our Common Humanity at New York University launched the We Are Human (WAH) video campaign in four communities in California (Los Angeles, Oakland, Richmond, and Stockton). This campaign captures video self-portraits of people answering five questions that underscore our common humanity.  Each of the questions has been found to evoke responses that reveal remarkable similarities across diverse communities. The video promotion of our series can be found here (or see below). The complete series will be posted on our website shortly.

The video series is part of PACH’s larger effort to help community members and police officers to recognize the humanity of people from communities that are different from their own. In addition to the video series, we are developing "The Listening Project" where youth and cops will be trained as interviewers and interview each other to gain a deeper understanding of each other’s experiences.

Please spread the word by sharing this letter. If you would like to learn more or get your community involved in our efforts, please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Oct05

To the Editor: Canada’s Refugee Model

Written by // Niobe Way Categories // Member Blogs

To the Editor:
 
Re “Our Immigrants, Our Strength,” by Bill de Blasio, Anne Hidalgo and Sadiq Khan (Op-Ed, Sept. 20):
 
Kudos to the writers — the mayors of New York, Paris and London, respectively — for their efforts toward inclusion for refugees entering their cities. They could do much better, however, if they followed the model of Canada in terms of how they treat refugees.
 
Rather than pursuing an inclusive approach because, as suggested by the mayors, violence by refugees is infrequent, Canadians follow an inclusive approach because they know that violence is more likely to be prevented when people are treated humanely.
 
Canada provides refugees with free medical care, housing and job assistance and even cash to help them buy basic household items and clothing. Refugees to Canada do not live in camps but in houses in Canadian communities.
 
They are not considered refugees once they enter Canada but permanent residents and can eventually become citizens. Canada’s humane approach to “outsiders” is a likely reason it has yet to experience a major terrorist attack.
 
NIOBE WAY
Jul28

In the end love will win, but we will need an education first

Written by // David E. Kirkland Categories // Member Blogs

On November 17, 1999, a Michigan jury found, then-13 year-old Nathaniel Abraham guilty of second-degree murder for a killing committed when Abraham was 11. At the time, the young African-American boy was believed to be the youngest American ever charged and convicted of murder as an adult. Abraham’s story reflects the heightening, yet longstanding, public spectacle of viewing Black bodies through prisms of racial and developmental bias – lenses through which Black innocence evaporate into the (il)logics of prejudice.
 
Such prejudice is often masked socially in a painful ritual of rhetorical charades. For example, many media accounts used sensational turns of phrase such as “adult crime equals adult time” to justify the erasure of Black innocence in Abraham’s case. In the more recent cases of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, some media outlets have used descriptors such as “petty criminal” and “dangerous thug” to justify the murders of these young men.
 
By now, it is common knowledge that, over the course of two days, two Black men lost their lives to police terror. One was Sterling, a father and family man gunned down by police in Baton Rouge, LA. There is graphic video of two police officers pinning down the 37-year old Sterling before shooting him as he lies on the ground. The other is Castile, who while sitting in a car with his girlfriend and her four-year old daughter, was gunned downed by a police officer after being asked for his identification.
 
With tragic events of police killings of Black people happening almost daily across our country, we are reminded of how powerfully perceptions play out in the real world. Thus, there is no longer room to deny the power of perceptions, as in ignorance, in maintaining racial biases that cost us daily innocent life. In the context of unchecked bias, skin color argues as convincingly as words for some, where in the American imagination race can condition one’s perceptions of innocence and guilt.
 
For example, a recent report from the Human Rights Watch found that, in the state of Florida, 12,000 children – a disproportionate number of whom are Black – have been moved from the juvenile to adult court system in the past five years. While they make up 27 percent of those who enter Florida’s juvenile justice system, Black boys account for more than half of all transfers to the adult system. Florida isn’t alone in this tragic neutering of Black innocence.
 
In Cook County, Illinois, Black boys are much more likely to be tried as adults in criminal court as well. The Juvenile Justice Initiative reports that, although only 44 percent of the children in Cook County are Black, 83 percent of its juveniles tried as adults were Black. Given such instances, it came as little surprise to many when innocence Black teens such as Trayvon Martin are gunned down by an armed and hostile vigilantes, such as George Zimmerman. In contexts of over-policing and hyper-punishing the Black body, perceptions of Black innocence would likely disappear beneath the erasure of a public gaze, distorted by silent systems of prejudice prevalent in the American mainstream.
 
It is meaningful, then, that Trayvon Martin, like Nathaniel Abraham, was merely a boy when he perished. The same meaning rings true for twelve-year-old Tamir Rice, who while wielding a toy gun, was murdered by a Cleveland police officer who saw Rice as older and less innocence than he actually was. Not unlike Zimmerman or the Cleveland officer who gunned down Rice, a significant population of Americans, including a vast number of White Americans, fail to recognize the innocence and humanity of their fellow Black citizens. The language ascribed to Black people tends to frame them as, in the cases of Sterling and Castile, hostile and criminal, and, in the case of Martin and Rice (and a litany of others), vicious and less innocent.
 
In our quest to achieve greater equity in society, we must better contextualize humanity beyond race and in spite of (and to interrupt) systems of disparity that are likely reinforced through racial stereotypes.
 
In so doing, I have been wondering about the role of schooling in shaping better people. For example, how does one finish school still holding discriminatory perceptions of people? Are we not doing our jobs as educators?
 
Just as we wouldn’t allow students to finish school unable to read, write or calculate, why must we let them finish school unable to love and accept others? What if we made being human, like being literate, a prerequisite to graduation? What if our school systems made it a priority to ensure that each student leaves more human and more respectful of life than when they entered?
 
These are important questions that we must ask in this time of national reflection – questions that deal with fostering fully humanized citizens sensitive to other humans. In asking and daring to answer such questions, we demand more of our schools and also of ourselves. Perhaps equally important, we position education as a site of hope to eradicate all forms of ignorance and nurture people who are fully responsive to how we can best share our world.
 
In order to redress the consequences of racial bias – which, I believe, are at the root of the murders of Sterling, Castile, Martin, Rice, and many others – we must promote a counter-campaign for ideological justice, where we renew the importance of heightening our humanity through formal systems of education. With this, it is important that we begin to demand that formal education endorses standards (such as Common Core Human Standards) and curricula (such as anti-bias curricula) that challenge longstanding racial biases and the logics of associated with discrimination (and all of their consequences including racism, misogyny, patriarchy, xenophobia, colonialism, and so on).
 
But the use of education to eradicate racial bias cannot be limited to communities concentrated with people of color because the origins of racial bias are rooted in homogenous settings and White privilege. Privilege is when you don’t think something is a problem because it’s not your problem. While it has become vogue to teach about race, social justice and equity to students of color, White students who attend schools that are overwhelmingly White may need this kind of education the most. Exposing such students to new standards, curricula and pedagogies will broaden their worldviews.
 
What I am proposing is a paradigm shift in education, transferring the focus of instruction from skills, content, and capacities to relationships, from disparity and discrimination to a focus on our needs and capacities as human beings to bridge empathic, cooperative, and social gaps that hinder learning, development, and societal harmony. This is an education for greater compassion because it affirms all students equally, whereby challenging us to commit ourselves to the hard work of interrupting biases and dismantling systems of historic violence against our nation’s (and our world’s) most vulnerable citizens. Left unchecked, such systems promise to play out in patterns of death and destruction rehearsed repeatedly each day (as we are now seeing).
 
Then let us commit space and time in formal education to reconciling that the true value of learning is in greater compassion and saved lives. Though histories and institutions of inequity and oppression are deep and resilient, our courage and resolve cannot only match the depths of this particular kind of despair, they can exceed them. However, change will start in classrooms with teachers seeing, treating and listening to all students so that no one graduates our school systems unable to trust, respect and understand people who do not look like they do.
 
We will need an education first, but in the end love will win.
Jul28

Insisting on our Common Humanity

Written by // Niobe Way Categories // Member Blogs

“Where do we go from here?” asks Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. at the Convention of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1967.  I ask the same question as I sit in Paris, the city in which I was born at about the same time of King’s speech, and listen to the latest news from Nice, Dallas, Minnesota, Louisiana, Istanbul, and Baghdad. Where do we go in a world in which so many innocent humans are being slaughtered by other humans?
 
King answers his own question by saying that we move forward by linking justice, power, and love and understanding that “justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.” President Obama adds, in his recent speeches, that what stands against love is our failure to recognize our common humanity. We will not find justice and peace, in other words, until we insist on our human capacity to empathize, listen to each other, and see ourselves in the other.
 
Our common humanity is evident everywhere. It is seen in Istanbul when the colors of the French Flag were displayed on the Bosphorus Bridge to show solidarity with the French after the Nice attack. It is seen in the hundreds of peaceful rallies in the U.S. that occurred immediately after the latest violence in Dallas, Minnesota, and Louisiana. It is seen in the thousands if not millions of refugees who have been welcomed in countries such as Canada and Germany and it is evident in the daily stories that go viral on the internet of strangers helping strangers. Humans have a remarkable capacity to care for each other.  
 
The work of primatologist Frans de Vaal and evolutionary anthropologist Sarah Hrdy affirms that humans are, by nature, empathic, cooperative, altruistic, and social. Yet our modern “me, myself, and I” culture that privileges the self over community and the right to own guns over human rights encourages us to forget our humanity. We forget that Muslim, Jewish, and Christian parents want the same thing for their children; that Black. Latino, Asian, and White teenagers want the same thing for themselves and their parents; that White Police Officers and people of color want the same thing for their communities. We forget that we all want the same thing which is to live in caring communities with excellent schools, to be seen, heard, understood, taken seriously, listened to, respected, and able to live a comfortable life with our friends and family members. We forget that we all want equity, justice, opportunity, possibility, and love. We forget, in other words, that we all want for ourselves, our parents, and our children to be seen and treated as human beings.
 
In a “We are Human” Campaign that the Project for the Advancement of Our Common Humanity (pach.org) conducted, we asked police officers and community members across the state of California (Oakland, Richmond, Stockton, and L.A.) and students, faculty, and administrators on the NYU campus in Abu Dhabi about their fears, hopes, experiences of trust, and favorite memories. What we heard was that a common fear was losing a loved one; a common hope was finding a partner and having children or having their children find happiness and success. Across race, gender, class, religion, and nationality, people spoke of trusting their mothers, fathers, spouses, siblings, and best friends and their favorite memories of togetherness with their family and friends. When asked the question “if you really knew me, you would know...” men and women from different communities and parts of the world said that they are caring people who want to help others and make the world a better place. 
 
The answer to King’s question is that we must remember what we know already which is that we are human and thus have extraordinary capacities for care and empathy. Love must win but not, as King warned us, a “sentimental and anemic love,” a “demanding love” or a love that insists on our own humanity and the humanity of others if we are to live in a more just and humane world.
 
Jul27

The Call for Humanity

Written by // Elaine Davenport Categories // Member Blogs

In a week like this it is harder than ever to remember that humans have a natural tendency and ability for love and care. According to evolutionary anthropologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, our capacity for empathy and mutual understanding is, in fact, integral to our survival as a species, but the murders of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Lorne Ahrens, and Michael Smith are devoid of that humanity. Having witnessed their deaths (and so many others such as Eric Garner, Walter Scott, Sandra Bland, and more), thanks to smart phone cameras and social media, the feelings of pain, anger, hopelessness and disconnection from each other that arise every time we hear about another senseless and unjust death are only heightened. It would be so easy to retreat in anger and fear.
 
Instead I go to Union Square where people have gathered to protest injustice. I see people holding signs, “Free Hugs.” Several wear T-shirts and hats that affirm, “Black Lives Matter.” I see two women walk by whose long hair, similar noses, and matching gaits mark them as sisters. Friends acknowledge each other on the steps next to me. Couples hold hands and lean into each other. I am here by myself, but I get what I needed: a reminder that we as humans can and do take care of each other. 
 
Activists begin to speak as rain starts to fall. Lightning cracks across the sky as a young Black man exhorts us to be accountable, not only for ourselves, but for each other. He begs us not to give into the impulse to match violence with violence. His words echo those of another activist, Martin Luther King, Jr. “Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.” Dare I add to his words by saying that love at its best is using our power to demand justice?
 
The kind of love that King described is a powerful, radical, transformative, and humanizing love. The GoFundMe campaign, started by Issa Rae, to raise money for Alton Sterling’s children is that kind of love. Campaign Zero’s creation of policy recommendations for more responsible policing is that kind of love. The Black Lives Matter movement, which has never as a movement advocated violence, but simply demanded humane treatment, justice, and equity for Black people, is that kind of love. The dozens of peaceful protests that have happened across the country in the past two years against police brutality and other forms of violence are that kind of love. That is the kind of love and power and action I know humanity is capable of and we need to start acting more like humans here and now. 
Jul27

The Orlando Mass Shooting and a Crisis of Connection

Written by // Elaine Davenport Categories // Member Blogs

When I heard the news about the mass shooting in Orlando, I was still on a weekend yoga retreat. It was a jarring juxtaposition – a group of women in upstate New York were celebrating abundance and joy at the same time a man in Florida was committing acts of destruction and hate.  At one point in the retreat we chose a partner and meditated for five minutes while maintaining eye contact. It is an intensely uncomfortable experience at first, but ultimately one of deep connection to another human being. Did the killer in Orlando look any of his victims in the eye? Did he ever pause to notice their humanity?
 
It is difficult to capture the complexity of responding to a situation like the tragedy in Orlando. People have noted that the killer, Omar Mateen, attacked a gay club on Latin night, thus targeting both the LGBTQ community and Latinos. He is reported to be an Islamic state sympathizer, which heightens the fear of Islamic radicalism in some, and the fear of a xenophobic, anti-Islamic backlash in others. The guns he used renew debate over gun control, which for me recalled Obama’s appearance on PBS NewsHour less than two weeks ago in which recounted his frustration that current laws prohibit the CDC from studying gun deaths; how can we address a problem we don’t understand?
 
Yet there is a root cause of all these issues – homophobia, racism, xenophobia, mass violence – and it is our denial of others’ humanity. At what point did the shooter in Orlando lose his capacity to recognize the humanity in Edward Sotomayor, Jr., Stanley Almodovar III, Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, Juan Ramon Guerrero, Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, Luis S. Vielma, KJ Morris and his other victims? Or in his own wife, whom he allegedly abused? Human brains are wired to feel empathy for others. We are naturally competitive, but also naturally collaborative and caring. That is not a skill we need to be taught, instead it is a capacity we learn to suppress.  In the case of Mateen, he learned his lesson all too well. Brock Turner also learned that lesson, as demonstrated by his treatment of the woman he sexually assaulted when she was unconscious. Donald Trump daily expresses his lack of compassion for fellow humans, even his fellow Americans, via disparaging comments about women, people of Mexican descent, people of the Muslim faith, and others.
 
It is important to recognize the root issue of the Orlando mass shooting. Yes we should stand behind the calls for protecting the life and liberty of LGBTQ people and working toward gun control legislation, but we should also ask for more than that. We need to work together to address the crisis of connection, to retain and regain our capacity for empathy and love; otherwise the weeds of hatred, violence, and abuse will continue to grow and spread.
Jul27

Ferguson: Another Side of the Story

Written by // Jimmie Briggs Categories // Member Blogs

The Ferguson Moment turns to the people of Ferguson, Missouri—activists, pastors, police officers, elected officials, teachers—to explore what made their community such a flashpoint for the conversation around civil rights, racial justice, and equality following the death of Michael Brown Jr. in 2014.
 
The Ferguson Moment is one of six projects Voice of Witness is currently incubating through the VOW Story Fund, which provides oral history training, editorial guidance, and project funding to human rights storytellers in need of institutional support. Click here to see how you can support the VOW Story Fund today.
 
We hope you enjoy the interview below with The Ferguson Moment editor Jimmie Briggs, an award-winning journalist and human rights advocate who grew up in St. Louis, Missouri.
 
How did you become invested in this issue?
 
I am originally from the St. Louis/Ferguson community, and my mom was a middle school teacher and then a high school guidance counselor there. I was inspired to create this project in response to what I’d felt was an incomplete narrative presented by the national media about the community of Ferguson and the people who live there following the death of Michael Brown in 2014.
 
Can you tell us about one compelling moment you’ve had so far?
 
Recently I had the opportunity to attend a multi-racial meeting of Fergusonians at a local white church. At first glance, it would’ve seemed an unlikely group of people coming together to talk about race and healing. Consisting predominantly of middle-aged to older white residents, I was one of three African-Americans present.
 
Over several hours, I listened as people spoke of deeply felt trauma about the community divisions, and their own fears about the future. They weren’t a monolithic group—even in their skin color—but they were searching and hoping for common ground.
 
What emerged were voices and individual journeys that I had yet to hear depicted in the broad media coverage about Ferguson. The longtime traveling salesman who’d met enough people across the country to learn that not only was everyone a potential customer, but they were also equal. Or, the older couple originally from a rural Western state who recounted telling their workplace colleagues upon moving to the community that to them, “soul food” was simply what they called “down home cookin.” Then there was the co-pastor of the church where the meeting was taking place. The church’s congregation was white, as was he, but his wife was black.
 
How are you involving the community in the project? What would support allow you to do this summer/fall?
 
The Ferguson community will have an integral role in the project. I’ll be doing key oral histories myself, but I also intend to train local residents to interview each other. I’m hosting information sessions and open conversations as a way to introduce myself and the project, but also to find people who want to tell their stories.
 
Moving forward with the project through the fall means having the resources to make regular trips between my home in New York City and the Ferguson community, as well as having the necessary transcription services, and financial stability to focus on interviews and research in a strategic manner.
 
There’s already buzz, and I’m excited. This trip is really about saying, We can do this. I’m doing it, and I want to hear why you want to be part of it. Let’s work towards making something special.
Jul27

How America's Picture Of Masculinity Negatively Affects Boys

Categories // Member Blogs

By Matt Oleson

Violence, poor school performance and loneliness are just some of the negative effects linked to the traditional masculine culture has on boys in the U.S., according to some psychologists.
 
Pew Research Center finds young men are falling behind women in academic performance and they’re more likely to commit suicide than their female counterparts.
 
Niobe Way, a professor of applied psychology at New York University, said American culture is a major culprit.
 
"We’ve constructed masculinity so it’s something that doesn’t entail emotional vulnerability or relationships, so it’s a pretty lonely image," said Way. "It’s American masculinity that puts the pressure on boys to not sound like girls."
 
Way said it’s a common misconception to think boys are wired differently and have fewer emotions than girls. However, during her 25 years as a counselor and psychologist, she said she found young boys have the capacity to share emotions and form relationships as well as anyone.
 
"All parents will tell beautiful stories about their sons and daughters that say beautiful, honest, open things about the world," said Way. "And then we squash it because we somehow give it a gender rather than saying it’s a human thing."
 
The pressure to squash emotions can have obvious consequences. According to Way, right around the time that boys reach the age of 15 and start to disassociate from their feelings, men become five times more likely than women to commit suicide. She also notes that young men between the age of 16 and 22 account for the majority of mass killings in the U.S.
 
Despite the negative consequences of this societal pressure to "man up," Way said her findings give her hope.
 
"This shows that this is a human capacity that we squash, rather than it not existing from the start," said Way. "The goal is to nourish these behaviors from the beginning, and have conversations about emotions and relationships, which can help boys hold onto their emotional intelligence."
 
Way said she encourages parents, teachers and mentors to have serious conversations with boys and also to act as models to show them it’s ok to have emotions. She said it’s these connections and efforts that help boys grow into healthy, thriving adults.
Feb11

What's Love Got to Do With It?

Written by // Niobe Way Categories // Member Blogs

As he stands there with a wide smile and open arms at the Toronto airport in December welcoming the first refugee families from Syria off the plane where he will not only offer them housing, clothing, and food but also health insurance and citizenship, I think to myself "now there is someone who leads with love." Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada, has shown us, as has Angela Merkel with her acceptance of millions of refugees, that there is another way to respond to violence and war. While Americans are busy thinking about how to build walls to keep out Muslims and Central Americans and defending their ability to own assault weapons, Canadians and Germans are busy figuring out how to effectively integrate Muslim refugees into their countries and fighting violence not with guns but with proactive strategies to combat violence at its root. They are busy thinking about how to build stronger and more inclusive communities and we are busy protecting our individual rights to bear arms and fighting over whose exclusionary agendas are going to win the presidency. Why are the Canadians and even the Germans in 2015 nicer than we are?

The answers most likely lie with America's obsession with the self and individual rights to the exclusion of the community and human rights and to the stereotypes we perpetuate of each other. We tell our children not to listen to others and focus on themselves. We tell them, according to a Harvard University Research Study of parents across the United States, that academic achievement is more important than caring for one another. We define maturity and manhood as being self-sufficient and independent rather than being able to have and maintain healthy relationships. We flood the internet and our daily interactions with dehumanizing stereotypes about gender, race, religion, sexuality, and social class that disconnect us from each other and lead to more hate and violence.

Yet it's hard to focus on caring and our common humanity when we see police officers kill innocent people, when we know about or experience sexual assault at college, when we hear about young men killing scores of people in schools and college campuses, or when ISIS is beheading Muslims and Christians alike. So, instead, we focus on hating. We hate the men who commit the violent crimes. We hate police officers. We hate the people who live in the countries with wars or the people with no jobs. We hate Donald Drumpf, the government, and/or Hillary Clinton. We blame these people for our alienation and our dissatisfaction. While some of the people we hate may be truly blameworthy, that's missing the point. The larger strategy of responding to hate with more hate and violence with more violence is simply not working.

So what's the alternative? What would Justin Trudeau do? (WWJTD?) What if we responded to the hate and violence by building stronger families, schools, and communities? What if we responded to the next school shooting with town hall meetings to discuss how we can build more connected schools and communities that reach across differences rather than simply "tolerate" (or not) difference? What if we responded to the next terrorist attack by taking in, as Trudeau did, thousands of refugees and provide them with health insurance, housing, clothing, and food? What if we responded to the next sexual assault on campus by bringing together men and women on college campuses to have open and honest conversations about why such assaults are happening? What if we responded to the next shooting of a black man by a white officer with figuring out how to better support, financially and otherwise, community policing that entails officers and community members working together to protect their communities. In other words, what if we responded to the next act of hate with love. It is commonly heard in the news, and President Obama indicated as well, that Drumpf helps ISIS recruit. Trudeau and Merkel, however, hurt their recruitment efforts.

Martin Luther King said in 1965 in a speech at Oberlin College (where I grew up): "What we are facing today is the fact that through our scientific and technological genius we've made of this world a neighborhood. And now through our moral and ethical commitment we must make of it a brotherhood. We must all learn to live together as brothers - or we will all perish together as fools. This is the great issue facing us today. No individual can live alone; no nation can live alone. We are tied together."

What if we took his words seriously, made a "moral and ethical commitment" to our common humanity, and focused our efforts on building a stronger brotherhood, sisterhood, and a more just and humane world? Violence, suicide, and income inequality would surely diminish. The United States must figure out how to lead with love, as our Canadian neighbors are doing, if we don't want to "perish together as fools."


Niobe Way is Professor of Applied Psychology at New York University's Steinhardt School and the Founder of the Project for the Advancement of Our Common Humanity (PACH). PACH is a sponsor of the Love Rally taking place in Washington Square Park in New York City on February 14th from 1-3pm.*

*Due to weather concerns the Love Rally is being rescheduled to a date in April 2016.

Nov16

Response to Rising Mortality Rates for Working-Class Whites

Written by // Niobe Way Categories // Member Blogs

New York Times
To the Editor:

If we pay attention to the social science research, we can know exactly why the mortality rates of middle-aged white Americans have been rising dramatically since 1999, as Paul Krugman notes. In our increasingly self-obsessed American culture, we have sacrificed our communities and close friendships for our “selfies” and our individual ambitions, and the consequences have been devastating.

Since 2000, we have skyrocketing rates of social isolation, loneliness, suicide and mass violence, particularly among white men. Mix social isolation with economic problems and you are likely to also get high rates of drug and alcohol abuse.

The reason “Hispanic Americans are considerably poorer than whites, but have much lower mortality” is they have been able to maintain stronger communities and are thus less socially isolated. Until we recognize that our distinctly American privileging of the self over the community is killing those of us who are not part of a loving and tight-knit community, the mortality rates will continue to increase.

NIOBE WAY

New York

The writer is a professor of applied psychology at New York University and the founder of the Project for the Advancement of Our Common Humanity

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