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The GRIP subpoenaed to produce investigative records, including confidential sources, in federal case


The GRIP has received a subpoena demanding numerous confidential materials – including those involving confidential sources – be produced in a federal civil rights law suit. 1,247 more words

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Judge Watson Takes On Da Trumpeter -- Round #2

What constitutes a ‘bona fide’ relationship?  Apparently not a grandparent, at least in the eyes of Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions.

On Monday, 26 June, the Supreme Court decided to allow parts of the Trump administration’s revised travel ban to move forward, while also imposing certain limits, as the court prepares to hear arguments in October on the scope of presidential power over border security and immigration. 867 more words

Political Commentary

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What constitutes a ‘bona fide’ relationship?  Apparently not a grandparent, at least in the eyes of Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions. supreme-court-2017.jpgOn Monday, 26 June, the Supreme Court decided to allow parts of the Trump administration’s revised travel ban to move forward, while also imposing certain limits, as the court prepares to hear arguments in October on the scope of presidential power over border security and immigration. The court said the ban could not be imposed on anyone who had “a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.” However, the court failed to define ‘bona fide’, leaving the door open for the administration to write its own definition. It did, and on 28 June, the administration issued new guidelines that defined ‘close family’ as a parent (including parent-in-law), spouse, child, adult son or daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, sibling, whether whole or half. It excluded “grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers-in-laws and sisters-in-law, fiancés and any other ‘extended’ family members.” And Donald Trump was happy … very, very happy.

Judge Derrick Watson

However, on Thursday, 13 July, federal Judge Derrick Watson in Hawaii ruled that the ban should not prevent grandparents and other close relatives of residents from entering the United States. He further declared that refugees with ties to a resettlement agency that was committed to receiving them had a relationship that made them eligible to enter the country. “Common sense, for instance, dictates that close family members be defined to include grandparents. Indeed, grandparents are the epitome of close family members. The government’s definition excludes them. That simply cannot be.” And as regards refugees working through a resettlement agency … “An assurance from a United States refugee resettlement agency, in fact, meets each of the Supreme Court’s touchstones. It is formal, it is a documented contract, it is binding, it triggers responsibilities and obligations, including compensation, it is issued specific to an individual refugee only when that refugee has been approved for entry by the Department of Homeland Security.” Needless to say, Attorney General Jeff Sessions was not pleased …

Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions

“Once again, we are faced with a situation in which a single Federal District Court has undertaken by a nationwide injunction to micromanage decisions of the coequal executive branch related to our national security. The Supreme Court has had to correct this lower court once, and we will now reluctantly return directly to the Supreme Court to again vindicate the rule of law and the executive branch’s duty to protect the nation. By this decision, the district court has improperly substituted its policy preferences for the national security judgments of the Executive branch in a time of grave threats, defying both the lawful prerogatives of the Executive Branch and the directive of the Supreme Court.” And he wasted no time.  On Friday evening the Justice Department appealed to the Supreme Court to overturn Judge Watson’s ruling, arguing that Judge Watson’s interpretation “empties the Court’s decision of meaning,” because it includes “not just ‘close’ family members, but virtually all family members.” On Saturday morning, the Supreme Court filed a motion calling for the Hawaii court to respond to the Trump administration’s request by noon on Tuesday. Interestingly, I found not a single tweet from Trump himself this time.  Of course, he was in France on Thursday when the good judge made his ruling, and then when he returned home on Friday he went to the U.S. Women’s Open, so perhaps he is otherwise occupied. It should be noted that Judge Watson is the same judge who went against Trump in mid-March, just hours before the 2nd travel ban was set to begin, by issuing a nationwide temporary block to the revised travel ban.  Judge Watson is a man who stands behind his convictions and does not allow himself to be bullied.  I give him a ‘hats off’ for that!  doffing-hat Sessions and Trump make much of the fact that this ban, which primarily affects Muslims, is necessary to keep the nation safe. The reality is that we do not need to ban refugees from the United States to keep our country safe.  Almost every incident of mass murder, or ‘terrorism’ in the U.S. since 11 September 2001 has been committed by U.S. citizens.  The refugees who enter this country are families … mothers & fathers bringing their children to a country where they hope they can be safe.  Banning them does not keep us safe, and if the administration in Washington is too ignorant to see this, then they need to be replaced with people who have humanitarian values. When the administration sees a terrorist behind every tree, in every grandparent, then they have become paranoid and need to step aside and let some people who listen to facts and make decisions based on those facts and common sense rule the roost. muslim-memeThere is a reason the travel ban has been controversial from the outset.  It discriminates based on religion and it would deny sanctuary to those who are most in need.  The supporters of the ban are of the notion that they wish to “make America white again”, and they have bought into Trump’s rhetoric that Muslims are all evil, all terrorists, all looking for the means to destroy the U.S.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I imagine the Supreme Court will, by the end of next week, overrule Judge Watson’s ruling, and that is sad, for it is in direct opposition to the very values on which this nation was founded.

Never Forget: America’s Forgotten Mass Lynching: When 237 Black Sharecroppers Were Murdered In Arkansas


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Never Forget: America’s Forgotten Mass Lynching: When 237 Black Sharecroppers Were Murdered In Arkansas

Source: Never Forget: America’s Forgotten Mass Lynching: When 237 Black Sharecroppers Were Murdered In Arkansas – Counter Current News With permission from countercurrentnews.com Source: Black Main Street March 22, 2017

In 1919, after the end of World War I, Black sharecroppers in Arkansas began to unionize. This attempt to form unions, triggered white vigilantism and mass killings, that left 237 Blacks dead.

Towards the end of 1918, attorney Ulysses S. Bratton of Little Rock, Arkansas listened to Black sharecroppers tell stories of theft, exploitation, and never ending debt. One man by the name of Carter, explained how he cultivated 90 acres of cotton and then had his landlord confiscate the crop and all of his possessions. Another Black farmer, from Ratio, Arkansas said a plantation manager would not give sharecroppers an itemized record of their crop. No one realized that within a year of meeting with Mr. Bratton, one of the worst incidents of racial violence in U.S. would take place. In a report released by the Equal Justice Initiative, white people in the Delta region of the South, started a massacre that left 237 Black people dead. Even though the one-time death toll was unusually high, it was not uncommon for whites to use racial violence to intimidate Blacks. Mr. Bratton represented the deprived sharecroppers who became members of a new union, the Progressive Farmers and Household Union of America. The new union was founded by a Black Delta native named Robert Hill. With no prior organizing experience, all Robert Hill had going for him was ambition. Mr. Hill said “the union wants to know why it is that the laborers cannot control their just earnings which they work for,” as he asked Black sharecroppers to each persuade 25 new members to join a lodge.
The white elites of the region understood that the only way they could maintain their economic prosperity was to exploit Black sharecroppers and laborers. A well-to-do Northerner, E.M. “Mort” Allen, came to Arkansas and founded a new town called Elaine, which became a hub for the lucrative lumber industry. Mort Allen said the “Southern men can handle the negroes all right and peaceably,” but peaceable techniques were far from what was used to destroy the sharecroppers’ union. In an attempt to disrupt a union meeting, a white landowner was shot and killed. The sharecroppers braced for reprisals that were sure to come and formed self-defense forces. The local sheriff, Frank Kitchens, deputized a large white militia that was headquartered at the county courthouse. In the end, 237 Black people were killed because they wanted fair compensation for the crops they harvested.
No one was ever charged or any trials held for anyone that took part in the mass lynchings. The basis for these heinous crimes was the reassertion of white supremacy after veterans returned home from World War I. The white militias wanted to send a message that they were going to keep the Blacks in their ‘place.’ But what made 1919 unique, was the willingness and fortitude, of the Black sharecroppers and their community to engage in armed resistance against white oppression.  

The Elaine Lynchings: A Visit to Elaine, Arkansas, 100 Years After America’s Deadliest Race Riot

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=04z8ovqMGA4]
Birdhouses hang everywhere in the dying Delta town of Elaine, Arkansas — a distraction from the blight, neglect and century-old history of a county where hundreds of black men were lynched in 1919. On Lee Street, a diner has “Open” and “For Sale” signs in a window, but no one is there. The Elaine Fire Department is also empty, and the Elaine Public Library is closed. There are ruins of historic buildings - shells of brick and wood with empty window frames - on the town’s main street. Despite the decay, someone is trying to enliven the town. Birdhouses  with different shapes and designs hang from some of Elaine’s most dilapidated structures bringing attention to neglect. They are evidence that someone cares about Elaine. Former teacher Pat Kienzle is trying to save it one birdhouse at a time. 2015-09-04-1441326506-6102087-IMG_3928.JPG Wearing a pink hooded jogging suit and glasses with bobbed gray hair, Kienzle eagerly talked about Elaine inside the Lee Street Community Center. The retired Fayetteville school counselor was awarded a $23,000 Krista McAuliffe Fellowship named after the astronaut/teacher who died in the Space Shuttle Challenger Explosion in 1986. She used the money to create an educational program and reach out to Arkansas schools in under-performing districts. One was the Elaine School District five hours away. Kienzle had never been to the Arkansas Delta before visiting Elaine. Today, she drives there at least twice a month to help operate the community center, a nonprofit organization that helps combat poverty. “I would guess that there are some people who are just worn out from watching things go down,” she said, seated inside the community center with birdhouses scattered around her. “For quite a few years, I would come and do activities with the kids. But then they lost their school about eight years ago. When I first started coming, you could tell that this community was kind of left behind, but since 1998, it’s continued to just decline.” 2015-09-04-1441326615-4613517-IMG_4136.JPG In the last nine months, Elaine’s last grocery store and restaurant closed. School children are now bused to Marvell 30 minutes north. If Elaine residents need something, they must drive to Helena, 30 minutes away - past silver metal silos with angled tops, modest one-story houses, John Deere tractors and the Lake View community, where a number of trailers and motor homes are parked along Old Town Lake, and hundreds of leafless trees stand in the water like monsters rising from the deep. Signs entering Elaine in both directions announce the population - 636 - a community smaller than some neighborhoods or blocks in metropolitan areas. There is stillness and silence at Elaine High School, home of the Panthers. You can see posters through the windows on the walls, and a black dedication plaque says the school was established in 1984, but the doors of the building are locked with a thick chain. Homes in Elaine range from shacks to middle class, and Elaine has two low-income apartment complexes. Many buildings constructed in the early 1900s to 1950s are weathered, and rain has stripped away the paint. Others are abandoned with broken windows. And the Elaine water tower, a white rusting landmark featuring the name of the town, can be seen from every direction. Ora Scaife, 31, an administrative assistant with the Lee Street Community Center, greets people with a hug instead of a handshake. Scaife, who is African American, said the town remains racially segregated. That was demonstrated at the annual Easter egg hunt, predominantly attended by whites.
“Elaine used to be the place to be,” she said. “Every Saturday, we would come to town. We would do our grocery shopping. Then, we would get our little household items and get some corn dogs from down at Wade’s Grocery. As I got older, businesses started closing down. It kind of went up in smoke.”
Scaife graduated from Elaine High School in 2001 and moved to Baton Rouge before returning to Helena. “When the schools closed, Elaine took a hard hit,” she said. “We had three restaurants that were open at one point, but . . Elaine has slowly started to decline. We still face racial issues like a lot of other places down in the Delta. . . We have what we call the white side of town and the black side of town. And to me, as a young adult, that is something I wish wouldn’t be there. But I can honestly say, as the years have progressed, we have gotten along better.” Kienzle said she had been coming to Elaine for five years before learning about the tragic history of the town. “There was a race riot here, and it possibly is the worst one we’ve ever had in our country,” she said. “Because it’s so isolated, they were able to keep it quiet.” 2015-09-04-1441327267-4347363-IMG_3892.JPG Elaine’s History Today, one year after the turmoil in Ferguson, Missouri, race riots sparked by alleged profiling, discrimination and police militarization are still making headlines in America. But in 1919, Elaine, Arkansas, was the center of the country’s deadliest race riot. That year, a group of African American sharecroppers and their families gathered in a church just outside of Elaine. Their goal was to seek fair wages from white landowners for their labor. Someone opened fire outside the building crowded with men, women and children, killing some of the people inside, including a white deputy. Others fled, and several days of killings followed. Whites stalked blacks like a hunting expedition, chasing them into fields where they were slaughtered. Many were able to escape by taking their families to the swamps where they hid several days before the Arkansas governor ordered the National Guard to come and restore order in Elaine. In February of this year, The New York Times published an article that used data compiled by the Montgomery-based Equal Justice Initiative to visualize the number of lynchings that occurred in the South. The EJI Lynchings in America report found that more people (245) were lynched in Phillips County, Arkansas, than any other place in the nation  —  a shocking number compared to other locations that recorded 54 lynchings at most. In all, 77 black citizens — and no whites — were tried and sentenced for their alleged role in the riot. Twelve men sentenced to death received legal assistance and were eventually released from prison. A history board in town tells the story of Elaine, including the events of 1919, but Kienzle said there has never been public acknowledgment that the riot occurred. It’s another thing she hopes to change. “When we started this birdhouse project, we were not thinking about the historical part, but we wondered if in 2019, there would be some national attention,” she said. “So one of our goals is that, if there is national attention, we need to acknowledge the awful things that happened here. But that none of us had anything to do with that. . . If the city doesn’t do anything, we will at least have our own acknowledgment that simply says: ‘Regrets for the past. Hope for the future. 1919-2019.’” 2015-09-04-1441327596-2491354-IMG_3945.JPG Kienzle believes America must find a new way to minister to poverty. One of her goals is to transform Elaine into a town that’s known for more than poverty and systemic racism. The community center has a role. A few years ago, after seeing a flock of birds outside the center, Kienzle introduced the idea of crafting and painting birdhouses to children at the center. She has purchased many birdhouses with her own money that are everywhere inside the center. Some are shaped like frogs, flamingos, dogs, covered wagons, motorcycles, outhouses, log cabins, purses, and other images of Americana. A sign on the front door reads: “Birdhouses for a brighter future.” Kienzle saves them all hoping Elaine will someday become the “birdhouse capital of the world.” Historic boards in a parking area outside of Elaine tell the town’s history. One board features a photo of the Arkansas governor standing in front of the Elaine Mercantile Co. addressing a crowd after the Elaine massacre, and it reads that 1919 was known as the Red Summer because of a series of race riots in 30 states. The historic board differs from a colorful modern mural on a brick building near Elaine’s entrance. The mural’s final scene features farmland and a group of little girls — both black and white — playing beside an old gas station in front of a barn with the Elaine water tower in the background. 2015-09-04-1441327763-8263240-IMG_3972.JPG

Bullies in Blue

Our new white paper argues that putting police in schools results in criminalizing adolescents of color.

Read all about it: Bullies in Blue | American Civil Liberties Union


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Our new white paper argues that putting police in schools results in criminalizing adolescents of color.

Like many teenage boys, Nathan and Caleb, 14- and 16-year-old brothers who were students at Clarkston High School in rural Washington, liked to play pranks. At least they did until an incident at school landed both boys with felony charges. One morning the boys were in the same class with a substitute teacher watching a movie when they remembered the small bottles of fart spray they had with them. They unleashed the spray, causing students to complain with disgust and then spray their own cologne and perfume to mask the smell. Later that day, Nathan was caught with the spray. When Caleb found out, he didn’t think it would be fair for his brother to get all of the blame, so he confessed that he had been involved in the prank, too. The boys were issued suspensions and told that their prank had caused a girl to have an asthma attack.
The boys’ father chastised his kids and agreed that the suspension was appropriate punishment. The family assumed that the suspension and punishment at home would be the end of it. But when Nathan and Caleb returned to class after suspension, they were brought in for questioning by the police officer stationed at their school. A few weeks later, a letter from the prosecutor arrived in the mail. The boys were being charged with felony assault and disturbing the school — a charge similar to disorderly conduct that can be applied to students acting inappropriately in schools. The family was shocked. How could a simple prank result in a felony assault charge that the boys might have to carry for the rest of their lives? The boys were scared. Would they be put in a detention center? How would it affect their schooling? When they came of age, would they even be allowed to vote?
 Nathan and Caleb Roberts
Eventually the charges were reduced, but not without first humiliating the boys and leaving the entire family traumatized. “It’s sad to think you could go to school one day with fart spray and come home a felon,” said their father, Robert. “And for their entire life, this system would want a kid to pay for that.” This story may seem outrageous, but it is not uncommon. Every day in our nation’s schools, children as young as five are charged with “crimes” for everyday misbehavior: throwing a paper airplane, kicking a trashcan, and wearing sagging pants. In the 2013-14 school year, the most recent year for which statistics are available, schools reported over 223,000 referrals to law enforcement. A 13-year-old Texas boy who attempted to pay for school lunch with a $2 bill that turned out to be fake faced prison time on charges of felony forgery. In Virginia, a middle school student was charged with assault and battery with a weapon for throwing a baby carrot at her teacher. The criminalization of typical youth behavior has engendered a bizarre reality — students are arrested in schools, places meant to provide safe haven, for behavior that is noncriminal in any other venue.
The ACLU’s newly released white paper, “Bullies in Blue: Origins and Consequences of School Policing,” examines the origins of school policing, which has been driven by the same punitive criminal justice policies and assumptions that drove the overcriminalization of Black and Latino communities and spawned an era of mass incarceration. Tracing school policing back to civil rights struggles to end Jim Crow segregation, the report challenges assumptions that the function of police in schools is to protect children. READ THE FULL WHITE PAPER By the 1970s, police regularly patrolled newly integrating or majority Black and Latino schools in 40 states, looking for behaviors deemed disruptive under the justification that it would prevent the outbreak of larger crime. In fact, when “broken windows” theory was popularized in 1982, its architects pointed to “rowdy youth” as a critical target of the strategy, further justifying the presence of police in schools even as youth crime went down.
At its inception, the concept of preventative policing in schools targeted relatively few schools. Heinous school shootings in the late 1990s, coupled with a growing, but misplaced fear in a coming juvenile crime wave of “superpredators”, led to an expansion of school policing. This expansion was fueled by an outpouring of federal funds and enshrined in federal criminal justice and education policy. Still, school policing continued to be concentrated in low-income neighborhoods of color, although the worst of crimes — these school shootings — occurred in majority-white suburban schools. Given that school policing originated and is concentrated in Black neighborhoods, it should be no surprise that school arrests disproportionately affect students of color. Nationally, Black students are more than twice as likely as their white classmates to be referred to law enforcement. And as “Bullies in Blue” shows, in South Carolina, Black students are almost four times as likely as their white counterparts to be charged with “disturbing schools” — an unconstitutionally vague and broadly worded law that allows police to arrest students for any behavior deemed “disruptive” or “obnoxious.”

Federal COPS Grants Funding School Police Officers, 1995 - 2016

Click on the map below to see the details for each grant location.
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Our report dispels mythology that has kept school police in place. Advocates for school policing, such as the National Association of School Resource Officers, describe the role of school police as that of disciplinarian, mentor, and teacher. “Bullies in Blue” argues that those roles should not be the role of police officers who have neither the training nor direct mandate to act as mental health specialists or trauma counselors. Trained professionals and educators whose responsibility is foremost to the students and the school should fill these roles. The white paper identifies the significant risks to students’ rights when police are placed in schools. Law enforcement officers in schools often become involved in noncriminal matters, jeopardizing students’ rights to be free of unwarranted “search and seizure” in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Young people’s privacy rights are further undermined when police in schools surveil students, access student education records, and share this information with outside law enforcement. School referrals to law enforcement and arrests also disparately affect students of color and students with disabilities. School policing must be assessed for its contributions to these disparate contacts with the justice system and for infringement of students’ rights to be free from discrimination on the basis of race and disability.
“The often toxic relationship between law enforcement and communities of color frequently begins in the schools,” said Dennis Parker, director of the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program. “The atmosphere of fear and mistrust experienced by many people of color on the streets as a result of abusive and unwarranted stops and arrests has even greater consequences when it occurs in schools, which are supposed to be safe spaces conducive to learning, not places to prepare young people for a place in the criminal justice system and correctional institutions.” The fact is the use of police in schools oftentimes results in physical harm to children. “Bullies in Blue” reviews incidents where children have been body slammed, tased, pepper sprayed, choked, and placed in handcuffs. In one incident, a four-year-old was shackled in his pre-kindergarten class for throwing a temper tantrum. In another, a 16-year-old boy was arrested and struck 18 times with a metal nightstick — half of which occurred after the student had already fallen to the ground in pain.
New data from the New York Civil Liberties Union demonstrates that students are handcuffed regularly for incidents considered noncriminal even by school standards. Police are using handcuffs to “de-escalate” mental health crises or to interview students who have not done anything criminally wrong. “As with other aspects of the school to prison pipeline, students of color are far more likely to be subjected to use of force and handcuffing,” said NYCLU Advocacy Director Johanna Miller. “In incidents involving Black or Latino students, police used handcuffs 34 percent of the time versus 26 percent of the time for white students.” When children have been injured — a wrist broken, a jaw broken — law enforcement has been quick to justify their actions as legitimate, blaming students for the need to exercise force and even lying to hide their actions.

The Expansion of School Policing Through Federal COPS Grants, 1995 - 2016

The map below shows localities that received a grant for at least one school police officer. Click play to see where COPS grants added school police officers between 1995 and 2016.
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The psychological impact of school policing on children has lifelong consequences. When schools respond to children, even teenagers, by engaging law enforcement for minor discipline issues, children experience alienation, anxiety, and rejection. They then associate schools and the adults within those institutions with potential harm. Importantly, school policing also impacts how children understand and interpret notions of justice and fairness. The notion of procedural justice is critical here. If students have contact with law enforcement for minor and noncriminal reasons, they lose faith that the system of law enforcement is one that is fair. This can lead to further misbehavior and undermines student engagement. Tim Kornegay, a formerly incarcerated activist whose first encounter with the police was in 1968 at the tender age of six, said of the police in schools, “They were there to label you as a criminal and to remind you that no matter where you were, you were always subject to police contact.”
Bullies In Blue: View Infographic Students carry the mark of an arrest with peers and teachers, who see them now as troublemakers, and school police officers, who may interfere with them more regularly. Arrests can also have consequences for student achievement and life attainment. A student who is arrested in the course of schooling is twice as likely to drop out of school. If it results in a court case, their chance of dropping out skyrockets to 400 percent. For those students who do drop out of high school as a result of an arrest, the chances that they will serve time in prison increases exponentially. Police in schools do not make schools safer; caring and trained adults do. The “Bullies in Blue” report shows that there is no routine place for police in our public schools. Students with the greatest need for positive and quality education end up being those most punished in our schools.
If schools are to be positive learning environments for all students, places that nurture and protect the rights and capacities of all students, we must recognize how school policing and the criminalization of youth of color denies students access to an equitable future. “Bullies in Blue” is designed to equip advocates and activists with the real hard facts behind school policing — where it came from, how it’s justified, and what its impact is on children. We hope that advocates will join the ACLU in calling for counselors, not cops, in schools.

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Racism and Homophobia: A Reflection on Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

I spent most of my life pretending to be someone I am not.

I often found myself having to carefully choose which parts of my identity I presented, rarely existing in a space where I comfortably felt all of who I am: a queer East Asian-Brazilian American woman. 859 more words

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Racism and Homophobia: A Reflection on Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

MAY 25, 2017

Taissa Morimoto with National LGBTQ Task Force Holley Law fellows in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

I spent most of my life pretending to be someone I am not. I often found myself having to carefully choose which parts of my identity I presented, rarely existing in a space where I comfortably felt all of who I am: a queer East Asian-Brazilian American woman. Growing up in a predominately white, middle-class neighborhood meant that assimilation was necessary for social survival. Assimilation is a different experience for each person, but for me, it entailed not eating during school hours, laughing at racist jokes, and not engaging in perceived East Asian stereotypical interests. Assimilation essentially took the form of misdirected hatred towards myself. For too long, I was deprived of important parts of my culture because of comments made by classmates and because I feared being bullied. When I indulged in parts of my own culture, I was ridiculed and shamed. Yet as white people began to appropriate and immerse themselves into East Asian culture, it was considered en vogue. This trend continues tirelessly. Chinese-American food blogger Clarissa Wei said it best: “In a weird turn of events, people were making money and becoming famous for eating the things I had grown up with and had been bullied for.” I heavily relied on my being Brazilian to combat the assumptions and stereotypes I experienced daily. When people asked, “What are you?” or “What language do you speak,” I told them I was Brazilian and spoke Portuguese. I would briefly revel in the satisfaction of their disappointment with my answer and their lost opportunity to discuss their trip to Japan or show off the two Mandarin words they know. They proceeded to do so anyway. The internalization of shame of my identity grew significantly when I came out in high school. I experienced even more instances of microaggressions, though the form of harassment shifted from being bullied to being eroticized as an East Asian woman and fetishized as a queer woman. While walking down the school hallway holding my girlfriend’s hand,  boys would yell at us, egging us to kiss in front of them. Despite the ongoing harassment, once I came out as queer, I immersed myself in the LGBTQ community. I did everything I could to do all things queer. Unfortunately, I experienced microaggressions from white LGBTQ people as well. Among LGBTQ white folks, I would get questions such as, “Do you speak Asian?” and comments such as, “You are going to be my new best friend, my Christina Yang.” Instead of challenging them, I put up with their ignorance because I believed they were supporting me in ways my East Asian community never had. Although I consciously chose to be a part of a community that I felt was largely racist, the alternative was choosing a community that I felt was largely homophobic. I did not feel like I had meaningful options. My experiences are not unique. I know I am not alone in feeling that my identities clash with each other throughout daily life. According to a national survey of LGBTQ Asian and Pacific Islanders (API), 89% of respondents agreed that homophobia and/or transphobia is a problem in the broader API community and 78% of respondents agreed that API LGBTQ people experience racism within the predominately white LGBTQ community. Many queer API growing up or living in the U.S. have felt like they don’t quite fit in with any group. It is likely that I would have never recognized how similar my experiences were to others if I had not attended the National LGBTQ Task Force’s Creating Change Conference in 2017. During the day-long racial institute for LGBTQI API people, I sat among some of the most beautiful, brilliant people. I realized that, in a single day, I had met more queer API people than I had met in my entire life. And, contrary to what I had been taught my entire life, I realized that I can choose my family. The portrayal of a monolithic API experience is dangerous and isolating. For decades, it led me to believe that I did not belong to the API community – that my experiences were too different and not relatable. But, meeting so many queer people with diverse histories and experiences at Creating Change inspired me to live authentically. For me, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPIHM) is about celebrating those differences. Though most API have experienced racism and microaggressions, our experiences are infinitely diverse. AAPIHM is about shattering the shame and becoming my authentic self, even if it often runs amiss with feelings of familial obligations and expectations that have been instilled in me. It is about coming to terms with the fact that I will always love my family who does not accept a huge part of who I am. But, I am tired of feeling as if I must choose one part of my identity over another. AAPIHM is about how my identity has shaped my experiences growing up in the US. I want to celebrate it by acknowledging the racism that still exists in this country. For me, AAPIHM is about learning our collective history in this country and using it to become a better advocate. This year, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is about coming home to myself.