I held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole
and whispered
where does it hurt?

it answered
– Warsan Shire

All around the world people are suffering. Domestically are dealing with racial inequalities, xenophobia, and homelessness. Abroad we have people also being persecuted for their beliefs, their livelihood ravaged by civil wars, and having their homes blown up by airstrikes from the righteous foreign countries trying to take out the bad guys.

After the attack in Paris I was scared. Not for myself, but because my brother is abroad and he’s the kind of guy who would go to a concert in Paris to hear music he doesn’t like just for the experience. I was worried about my brother. After getting in contact with my brother I couldn’t shake the feeling of emptiness I had – just that hollow feeling. How many sisters lost their brothers on Friday? How many people lost someone they loved? Then I thought, how many times a week does this happen to the people living in the Middle East? Why do people think it is acceptable to visit such devastation on others?

Syria is fighting a civil war inspired by the Arab Spring revolutions. It began in 2011 as a chain of peaceful protests. In July 2011, army defectors declared the formation of the Free Syrian Army and began forming fighting units. To escape the violence, over 12 million Syrian refugees fled to neighboring countries – half are children. Children affected by the Syrian conflict are at risk of becoming ill, malnourished, abused, or exploited. Millions have been forced to quit school. More than 700,000 refugees and other migrants risked their lived to travel to Europe.

The Syria crisis has affected over 12 million people. That’s more than the Haiti Earthquake, Hurricane Katrina, and the Indian Ocean Tsunami COMBINED!

Now we have the potential for refugees from Syria coming to the United States. We have half of our nation’s governors attempting to close their state off to them. The American public on whether or not allowing refugees to seek asylum in the country is a tangible threat. This really makes me wonder, what the hell is the matter with you people?!

Yes – we have issues in this country that need to be taken care of. If half of you people complaining about “your tax dollars being spent on refugees while we have homeless people” actually got up to help some homeless people, I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have a crisis anymore.

To echo Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) [yeah, I can’t believe it either] if we can’t take on our fair share of Syrian refugees we should probably just ship the Statue of Liberty back to France because we forgot what it stands for. “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

People are hurting. They are in crisis. Should the United States take in refugees from Syria? Absolutely! Should we take in all of them? Nope – it is not feasible for us to do that. What the United States should do is what we all should do every day, as much as we possibly can. We don’t have to do EVERYTHING, but we have to do SOMETHING. Most importantly…


Posted in Diversity, DiversityF15, Journal, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Six Canons of Engineering Ethics

The full Code of Ethics for Engineers can be found HERE!
The 6 Fundamental Canons of Engineering Ethics according to the National Society of Professional Engineers

Engineers, in the fulfillment of their professional duties, shall:
1. Hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public.
Engineers should always put the safety, health, and welfare of the public before all other things.
2. Perform services only in areas of their competence.
A computer engineer shouldn’t be designing bridges. This is kind of like how you wouldn’t go to a podiatrist when you really need a neurologist. Nor would you expect a podiatrist to give you any advice beyond, “You should really consult a neurologist about your chronic headaches.” No one should expect one engineer to work outside of their trained discipline, and any engineer should know what they know, and know what they don’t know.
3. Issue public statements only in an objective and truthful manner.
Which is probably why you don’t see too many of us on the news. We form opinions based on facts, we then share these facts objectively (which is what many other professions do as well). Engineers must stick to the facts and tell the truth.
4. Act for each employer or client as faithful agents or trustees.
We can’t tell Company B what Company A hired us to do. Engineers all the insider knowledge for all other these different clients on the down low.
5. Avoid deceptive acts.
We can’t deceive people either – unless we have to for like research and stuff,even then it has to be ABSOLUTELY necessary for the research to be successful. After the experiment the subject would have to be “de-briefed” or informed of the deception that took place to ameliorate the effects of unavoidable deception. Click here to learn more about deception in research.
6. Conduct themselves honorably, responsibly, ethically, and lawfully so as to enhance the honor, reputation, and usefulness of the profession.
Just in case canons 1-5 weren’t clear, number 6 kind of covers it so that there’s really no gray area. I think engineers are getting off pretty easy compared to 1790 BC. Just sayin.


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Strategies for maintaining focus when you’re wired for distraction

I have Attention Deficit Disorder, while some people don’t believe it actually exists I think that we can all agree that we can all agree that everyone displays varying degrees of its symptoms from time to time. I am wired to be distracted. When my medication wears off I am off the wall, impulsive, fidgety, and show a complete lack of focus. During the day, it’s not so bad, but as you can imagine on occasion there things in the workplace that make it difficult to get things done.
How do you become productive when you’re wired to be distracted? Become aware of yourself & have a plan thing that plays to your strengths.
Having a plan is good, planning to be flexible is better – Keep lists of what has to be done, prioritize your tasks by day (I’ve never been good at that), and then be prepared for things to change because as much as we love to think that things go according to plan, they seldom do.

Find your time of day – I work best in the mornings so I focus on my difficult or longer tasks in the morning and work on lighter tasks after lunch and toward the end of the day. It helps me from getting stressed and allows me to remain consistent in the amount of effort required to exert the same level of focus.
2013-08-23-tumblr_m08celcrnT1r3isxuo1_500Some of my colleagues love to work at night while that is something I simply cannot do, but it works so well for them. Find your time and focus your more difficult tasks during those times.
Identify your major distractors – Between the hours of 9 AM and 5 PM I hate my cellphone. It’s like Facebook Messenger, my Gmail, Outlook, and text messages all decide to blow up at the same time. It drove me nuts for months. When I’m at work I have to mute my messenger and other email accounts. Since I am a chronic worrier however, I leave my text messages and phone calls on vibrate just in case something happens.
tumblr_static_helloYounger students regularly will stop by for advice which I am happy to provide but can set me back for hours. This is one distractor I’m willing to accept. I would rather have an open door for younger researchers and students so I can serve as an effective mentor than get a few extra things knocked off my list.  tumblr_mglptftelw1rrb9xco6_r1_250
Know how stress affects you and how to deal with itStress in small does makes me superhuman. I get a massive amount of stuff done in no time, but if this stress is consistent over a prolonged period of time, I shut down. I fall into a deep depression and panic regularly. I have difficulty getting out of bed and going to work, so what do I do on those days? Those days I email my supervisor and attempt to work from home surrounded by kittens. Limiting social interactions helps tremendously, plus working from home is great because there are fewer distractions than at my office. I am aware that this is not possible for everyone. I am very fortunate to work in an environment where my supervisors are so lax about where we get our work done so long as it’s getting done.
tumblr_n0t6a8nEpG1toj4xso1_500Being able to overcome the distraction is a challenge but we can do it! It takes time, practice, and determination.
you got it dudeA post for another day considers how medication may impact your mood and ability to be productive. One post I really enjoyed reading about Adderall and medication to assist with attention deficit disorder can be found here.

Posted in GediVTF15 | 3 Comments


This semester in particular I feel stretched extremely thin. I am taking 3 classes, working 20 hours a week as a GRA, completing my prelims, planning a wedding, and running an animal rescue. This has been the most challenging semester of my life. I hope that it’s going to be worth it and that the spark that I had when I started graduate school is still there when I leave because right now I can feel flickering like a flame in the wind and I’m afraid it’s going to be extinguished.

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Setting your mind on fire with critical pedagogy

Education can function to control and contain students and maintain the status quo. Or, it empowers students to be critically engaged and active participants in society.
It is time to take education beyond the walls of the classroom. 
Focusing singularly on textbook problems and not applying them to a real context leaves students wondering “what is the point?” and that’s really not what you want the take away from your lessons to be.  Often times courses that are run like that leave the students feeling like this…
Another concept within the principle of critical pedagogy is eliminating conventional power relations – when I’m teaching I would really prefer to be called Alex, or Dr. Alex (if students really have to stick a title in there). This title + last name thing for folks we’re talking with everyday is a daily reminder of a rigid and dated power paradigm. notFriends_Family
Any time I head a prof. wanting to be addressed as Dr. S0-and-so PE I’m like
Critical pedagogy requires critical reflection and analysis. 
Like really – you can’t shut it off. You need to light your brain UP – fire those neurons. Think critically, think about things after the lecture. Discuss them with those who will talk with you about them.
Reexamines the role of educators in relation to society and environment

Be an inclusive instructor – Read more about that here
 Communicate WITH not AT students
Self explanatory – have fun, have discussion, treat them as equals. They’ll freakin’ love it.
Problem based learning – problem-solving and problem-posing
Problem based learning is not the picture on the left. It’s the one on the right. Have fun with teaching so these students have fun learning. If they’re having fun they’re more likely to be able to recall this information.
Critical consciousness which allows for the informed analysis of systemic issues
It is the responsibility of the instructor to raise awareness of critical issues in society (e.g., environment), and encourage students’ sense of themselves as active agents with the ability to shape the world in which they live. Keep it real with them – like really real.
 Some critics of this  type of pedagogy say that it will “create political radicals” honestly that’s totally fine with me. There is some division between traditional and progressive education and that statement highlights it quite well.
 The future isn’t something hidden in a corner. The future is something we build in the present. – Paulo Freire

Posted in GediVTF15 | 1 Comment

Scholarly Integrity – Post Docs & Pudding Cups

This case study is from the ORI RCR Resource Development Casebook from the Authorship and Publication chapter.
Summary of case study: A young post doc has taken a position at a famous institution with a strong publish or perish culture. She has some difficulty writing writing scientific papers in appropriate and nuanced English; so she typically asks colleagues to review and help edit her writing.
Ana (post doc) enjoys giving people ideas and supporting them. In return, she sometimes asks for help with her writing and is happy to acknowledge their assistance in her papers. But when colleagues return her manuscripts with their names included in the list of authors, Ana is stunned. It seems they feel entitled to do this. Though she feels others are taking advantage of her, she refuses to change. She gains satisfaction by thinking that she is helping to improve science. She says her goal is to be a good scientist, not to fight over who gets to be an author of her work.
Yet Ana is upset when her lab boss not only puts his name on her work, but also takes a proposal she has prepared for funding by NIH and sends it off under his name–without even discussing that with her. She mentions it to him, and he just looks at her as though she were crazy.
Ana is unsure what recourse she has. She values the opportunity to share ideas with others and get their responses, and is unwilling to do anything that will cut off that rich intellectual interaction. The theft of her ideas seems a minor price to pay for her scholarly environment.
What should Ana do?
Colleagues claiming undeserved authorship: I think that it is great that Ana is so altruistic and wants to contribute to the scientific community. However, if her colleagues did not contribute to the major components of the study development, data analysis, or anything of the sort, than they certainly do not deserve authorship. Authorship should be based on substantial intellectual contribution! Reading a manuscript and providing feedback does not make you a co-author. It makes you a decent co-worker who might be able to ask for the same sometime in the future at best. The APA provides guidelines on authorship if anyone is struggling or is interested, they can be found here.
Supervisors stealing grant proposals: That’s a big no-no. It doesn’t matter how big or small the grant is – that’s fraud, baby. That guy should be canned. Never allowed to supervise anyone ever again, be stripped of all his awards, and probably publicly shamed. I can think of nothing worse than taking a bright young researcher and disheartening them to further your own agenda. That is a selfish and horrid thing to do and that type of person should not be allowed to interact with people, let alone perform research on them.
Look – I can see why Ana wouldn’t want to speak up. It’s intimidating. There’s a major imbalance of power there, and the potential for negative recourse on her end is high being the new kid on the block, but that the no reason to stay silent. You are not an idea factory for the powers that be. You cannot allow yourself to be beaten down by those “above” you, because they’re not really above you, not ethically or morally – perhaps in rank. It can get better for you if you continue to seek opportunities and don’t confirm to the wacky power structure that they’re trying to impose on you.  It is important to stand up for yourself and your work, otherwise  people are going to walk all over you and steal your work for the rest of your life.  Or worse – people will steal your pudding cup from your lunch.

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Inclusive Pedagogy – Moving past privilege and bias toward a more inclusive climate

Before we begin, I want to break down the differences between privilege, bias, and racism.whitePrivilege
Privilege (n): a right, immunity, or benefit enjoyed only by a person (or group of people) beyond the advantages of most.check-your-privilege Below are a just a few examples – one of male privilege that I have encountered through my research in transportation safety. The other, I was less aware of until recently.
The Automotive Industry – Male Privilege
Seat belts are less safe for women (like by a lot) – When safety regulations were originally imposed on automakers in the 1960’s regulators wanted to require the use of two crash test dummies, a 95 percentile male and a 5 percentile female meaning that only 5% of men were larger than and 5% of women were smaller than the crash test dummies. Automakers pushed back on regulators until the requirement was reduced to a single crash test dummy, a 50 percentile male (the average man). Women drivers were far more likely to be severely injured than male drivers in crashes due to seat belts. Since 2011, female crash test dummies have been required in safety testing, so we’re moving forward but we have been working with 50 years of dangerous design practice in the automobile industry.

The Cosmetics Industry – White Privilege
I’ve never had an issue finding band aids that match my skin tone (unless I’m at a friend’s house who has children, then its Elsa or bust, baby). [Additional info here]
Bias (n): prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair.
Explicit bias occurs at a conscious level. Expressions of explicit of bias (discrimination, hate speech, etc.) occur as the result of deliberate thought. Thus, they can be consciously regulated. People are more motivated to control their biases if there are social norms in place which dictate that prejudice is not socially acceptable.
Implicit biases however are inescapable – everyone possesses them. The implicit associations we hold do not necessarily align with our outward beliefs or reflect what we endorse. We generally tend to hold favor toward our own “ingroup” though research has shown we can hold implicit biases (and interestingly in some cases explicit biases) against our own ingroup. The good news and bad news is that implicit biases are malleable – we can unlearn implicit associations we have formed through, though in some cases new biases can be developed over time and exposure.but


Institutional/Systemic Racism (Discrimination)
 Systematic racism – Systemic racism occurs when the way a society is structured systematically ends up giving advantages to some and disadvantages to others.
Systemic racism is something we can see every day – consider the following;bntsg

Systemic Racism in Higher Education
This is a fantastic article on institutional racism in higher education [here] you should read the checklist and see how many your favorite universities check off. I know one of mine is pretty high up on the list as demonstrated below – someday I’ll get to addressing the other offices at Tech, but this example will do nicely for now.


Presidents of Virginia Tech 1872 – Present

Now – I’m sure that by and large our past presidents have been lovely men (here’s lookin’ at you Sands!) but the fact of the matter is, they’re all “mature”, Caucasian, males in charge of this university. How would the mission of the university change if the face of Virginia Tech were a woman? A person of color? I suppose a homosexual woman of color with a physical disability would be completely out of the question, but what if? I bet faculty and staff would be getting more useful training that WebEx versions of Title IX and COI training that’s for sure. Follow on question – what if we had more empathetic leaders? Leaders who were willing to put themselves in to the shoes of the folks who are living, learning, and working here – it’s not too hard to imagine all it takes is consideration and a question,  “What can WE do?”
“What can we do to create a more inclusive environment for our students?”
“What can we do so that all of our students feel safe on campus?”

Creating an Inclusive Environment in the Classroom and the Universitywhite-privilege-9Be aware and understanding
Be understanding of the needs of your students. If you should make yourself aware of the holidays and practices of religious groups. For example being hungry really stinks (Snickers said it best, “you’re not you when you’re hungry”) but it’s one of the main components several observed religious days of multiple groups. So it is important to be considerate of the changes in demeanor. If I had to get up super early to pray and couldn’t drink coffee, I’d probably crash pretty hard in my own class too. This requires educating yourself a little bit, but we tend to cater toward a special kind of privilege with regard to the holidays we celebrate in academia (and with regard to the American government as a whole), but again, educating yourself will help to mitigate any implicit bias. Check this calendar out from University of Missouri, THIS IS WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT!

Encourage discussion
In the design of systems we have to ultimately consider the user. For example – speech recognition systems are inherently horrible (with command prompts, etc.) particularly for people with accents. If you start dropping non-American slang into the SI forget about it. From a human factors perspective it would be a fantastic discussion point to bring up issues everyone has had with these systems (or any system in general) and how the designer could have been more inclusive in their design.

Encourage the use of “I statements” over “You statements”
This one may have come from many years in therapy, but hear me out. “You statements” are typically the way we communicate (e.g. “you are no help at all”, “you are insensitive”, “you are a bigot”). These statements are typically not well received and do not offer the receiving individual any grey area or time to reflect. You’re placing them immediately in an “I am right, you are wrong” situation. The use of I statements make the speaker take responsibility for their emotions, seeing as we only know how WE are feeling. When we are able to own and share our emotions we create a bridge to allow the person we are speaking with to then get in touch with their feelings.
When you focus on what you are feeling, rather than on your opinion on the matter (as is conveyed through a “You” statement), it is non-threatening and inoffensive. So the person is less likely to jump to DEFCON 1 and they’re more likely to listen to what you have to say. It is important to identify what you are feeling rather than what the other person is doing, or how you perceive their intentions.
If someone says something that offends you, tell them, but state it in an “I” statement, not a “You” statement.

Open door policy
My door will always be open for my students when they need me. I will continuously make them aware of that. Despite my generally sarcastic nature I genuinely care about the physical and psychological well-being of my students. I will not tolerate any discriminatory action being taken against them and I hope that they would feel comfortable to speak with me about any issues that are having.

In Closingeffingeducate

Additional Resources:
This one gets all the “yeses”!:
A pretty solid list of the different types of privilege:
Table data:
Strategies to reduce the influence of implicit bias:
Awesome blog:
Times article – Gender bias:
Educational comics provided by:



Posted in DiversityF15, GediVTF15, Journal | 18 Comments

Open Access – Publish or Perish

The journal I selected is the Open Transportation Journal published by Bentham Open – the publisher is located in the United States.  The Open Transportation Journal, a peer reviewed journal, is an important and reliable source of current information on developments in the field.

Readers can study, download and/or print OPEN access articles at no cost.
Bentham OPEN is committed to disseminating research and scholarly publications as widely as possible. It supports the principle that the results of research that have been publicly funded should be freely accessible in the public domain and therefore it encourages researchers to make their research available through Open Access (OA).
Open access publishing is not without costs. To provide open access, Bentham OPEN journals partly defray the expenses of peer review, journal production, and online hosting and archiving from authors and their research sponsors by charging a publication fee for each article they publish.

There are merits to the OA concept. Publishing in recognizable journals is important- that’s not to say that widely disseminating knowledge is not a bad thing if it’s quality knowledge. The issue with OA comes back to the priorities of the editors; do they really want those publication fees, and will they take garbage articles (have more lax acceptance criteria) to get them? Or will they hold themselves to a higher standard due to the controversy of OA?

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Objectification of Women in Professional Publications


The January 2015 cover.


The April / May 2015 cover.

It all started with a letter to the editor on June 10, 2015 regarding the cover art of their publications at the onset of the 2015 year. It seems every other month there is cover art that objectifies women.







The letter to the editor is below:

Dear Mr. Stone,

I find myself reading Traffic Technology International when it arrives in my mailbox because it often contains information that is relevant to my work and interests. However, I have found myself put off by the cover art on two of the three issues in the 2015 production.  The January and the most current edition of Traffic Technology International show under dressed, un-professional women sitting in provocative or helpless positions, and to the best of my knowledge that is the extent that any female has ever been featured on the cover of this periodical. While I do not believe it is your intent, I must say that the portrayal of women in such a light is damaging to our role in this field because it further promotes the objectification of women and gender inequality.  I hope that in future issues the cover art represents women in ITS and otherwise more positively.
Alexandria M. Noble

The editor’s response to my email is below. It is quite lengthy.

Dear Alexandria,

Thank you for taking the time to write. I do very much value all feedback, good and bad! It probably won’t surprise you to learn that others share your view of the January cover. In my defence I come from a consumer background, working on titles such as Cosmopolitan, Glamour and Men’s Health, so in my past career such images are fairly run of the mill. My ambition is to create eye-catching covers that grab people’s attention and make them want to read the magazine. However, if I put you off reading then I have obviously failed in one of the most important parts of my ambition! Although perhaps I can take small comfort that at least I caught your attention.

I’m glad, that you realise it is not my intention to cause offence. Also in my defence I would say that I certainly would not shy away from under-dressed men on the cover should there be a good picture of one – Men’s Health has certainly had great success with that formula! However, really, I think you can rest assured that the likes of the January cover are unlikely to be seen again – whether it is a man or woman in the picture.

Another important point I should make is that, as with so many things, my choices are restricted by budgets. The images in question are from image libraries, therefore I do not have complete editorial control over them. We do not have the budget to shoot our own photographs – photo shoots are prohibitively expensive. All our original imagery is illustration, but I want to try to get more photography into the magazine where possible as I believe it has a greater impact. The problem being that I must work with what I can find in libraries. Which brings me to the more recent cover. Had I been able to control the shoot I would certainly not have styled the woman in the same way. I think, as you intimate, more professional attire would have been much more appropriate. However, on the flip-side, I really love the image of the car crash. As you might imagine, creating such a picture would go way beyond the price of a normal photoshoot into realms that even consumer magazines would think twice about, so we were very lucky to get this image. Accordingly I was prepared to accept the, I agree, rather unsatisfactory styling of the woman in the picture, as I feel the whole is very much more than the sum of its parts, if you see what I mean.

I hope this goes some way to explaining my thinking on these two covers. And I do hope you will continue to enjoy Traffic Technology International in the future – I’m really glad you are a keen reader and the content is useful. Again I must thank you for taking the time to write. As I am new to this role (I have just completed my first year) I am still learning what works and what doesn’t, while also trying to ensure the magazine evolves and moves with the times – comments like yours are invaluable in helping me with this process and I will certainly be bearing them in mind when planning future covers. Please accept my apologies for any offence caused. I’m hoping that I may yet find or commission some dramatic cover images that you will really love.

Best regards,

So imagine my annoyance when I check my office mail and I see this cover. I can’t understand the rationale behind the decision to use these photos in what is supposed to be a professional publication. I’ve seen nothing of the like in Popular Science or Popular Mechanics (ehhh – they may have slipped up once or twice) which makes it even more frustrating that this is an intentional decision to portray women (and now men) in this way.


August/September 2015 cover.


August/September 2015 inside photo



Two page spread of the cover photo inside of the August/September issue.

Research by Canada’s Center for Digital and Media Literacy finds a correlation between the objectification and victimization of women in video games and violence against them. The study quotes media psychologist Dr. Karen Dill-Shackleford (2011), who states: “When women are consistently shown as sex objects rather than agents, consistently depicted in demeaning and degrading ways, and consistently shown as submissive, the result is to condone and support violence against women, and anti-woman attitudes.”

Whether these images inspire anti-woman attitudes or objectification, I don’t know. But quite frankly I would have preferred to see something that actually pertains to the key topic of the magazine. The illustration to the left is supposed to allude to traffic scenarios if London were to be without power… I think a big red double decker bus sitting in traffic with all the lights out would have been a great representation. This did nothing but make me mad.

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The rainbow flag at the KKK Parade

The rainbow flag is something that we’ve seen a lot lately, especially with the SCOTUS ruling that marriage equality shall now be the law of the land. Some people view this flag as a symbol of intolerance toward religion and people of faith. That has not been my experience and I do not share those views. I am not religious, but I do believe you should be able to practice your faith in this country so long as you are not infringing on the rights and well-being of others. The rainbow flag is something that I plan on having in my wedding and intend on having front and center in many of our engagement photos.

The rainbow flag, commonly the gay pride flag and LGBT pride flag, is a symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) pride and LGBT social movements. (Other uses of rainbow flags include a symbol of peace.) The colors reflect the diversity of the LGBT community.  The flag was designed by San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker in 1978.

The rainbow flag, commonly the gay pride flag and LGBT pride flag, is a symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) pride and LGBT social movements. (Other uses of rainbow flags include a symbol of peace.) The colors reflect the diversity of the LGBT community.
The flag was designed by San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker in 1978.

A hangman's noose dangling from an automobile driven by a hooded Ku Klux Klan member is among the grim warnings to blacks to stay away from the voting places in the municipal primary election at Miami, Fla., on May 3, 1939. In spite of the threats, 616 blacks exercised their right to vote. (AP Photo)

A hangman’s noose dangling from an automobile driven by a hooded Ku Klux Klan member is among the grim warnings to blacks to stay away from the voting places in the municipal primary election at Miami, Fla., on May 3, 1939. In spite of the threats, 616 blacks exercised their right to vote. (AP Photo)


The confederate battle flag being waved at a Klan night rally in Rising Sun, MD in 1965.

While thinking about the Confederate Battle Flag for our discussion in class,  in addition to all of the buzz that has been surrounding it as of late, I found myself thinking about where my disdain for this symbol has come from. I grew up being taught to treat everyone equally, I also learned a lot about the civil rights movement and continue to learn about it as an adult. I grew up in Newark, DE very close to Rising Sun, MD – a major center for Ku Klux Klan activities. That town in the western part of the county became the home base of the United Klans of America in 1960, drawing its membership from the families of Klansmen who had belonged to the old Elk Klan Klavern. Their criteria for membership demands that joiners not be affiliated with either Jewish or Muslim faiths. They also must be “100% heterosexual,” of European heritage [though in some places, Italians don’t count], and born in America, though it has been said that most members join because of “tradition”. However, the tradition of this group includes intimidation, violence, and murder of minorities and people who don’t look and think like them.

Robed Ku Klux Klansmen watch from sidewalk, as black demonstrators march through Okolona, Miss., Saturday, August 26, 1978, to demand increased minority hiring. There were no major incidents reported between the 36 Klansmen and some 300 black demonstrators. The marchers said they intend to continue a boycott of area stores, which has been in progress over the past week. (AP Photo/JM)

Ku Klux Klansmen watch from sidewalk, as black demonstrators march through Okolona, Miss., August 26, 1978, to demand increased minority hiring. There were no major incidents reported between the 36 Klansmen and some 300 black demonstrators. (AP Photo/JM)

I found myself thinking – about a symbol that I found to mean something to me. The rainbow flag and I started thinking what it would be like if the KKK was carrying that flag. What if there was deep rooted racial tensions in that symbol that means something to me as a member of the LGBT community. What would I do in that situation? Well Photoshop did it’s best to help, but unfortunately there are some issues here that we can’t replicate (please finish having your little giggle then read on.)

kkk-gay-flag                               gayracists





We cannot replicate the deep rooted racial tensions present between the KKK and the Confederate Battle Flag. Now don’t get me wrong, the KKK hates the gays, and we’re not too fond of them either. But the violence directed toward the LGBT community has nothing on the suffering on Black Americans at the hands of these hateful bigots in white hoods. Honestly, it’s extremely difficult for me to understand. I was taught to value people more than symbols. I love the rainbow flag, but I love thy neighbor more. All thy neighbors, even thy bigoted neighbor (even though sometimes it’s REALLY hard).  I find myself being far more empathetic toward those who have been and are still being oppressed, and will try and make a change to better the lives of those people. The activities of the KKK instigates a certain level of rage in me that I can’t quite describe, as does all injustice and oppression. It makes me want to live up to my name. I won’t stand idly by while the quality of life continues to be diminished for other people (not just Americans, all people) because they are different. This is a nice jumping point to the topic of institutional racism, which is sort of like the KKK, but in a suit, not a dress.

Until I get the motivation to write on that subject (because I’m pretty sure work-life balance is actually a unicorn) I leave you with this, here is a map of all the known and active KKK groups in the country  CLICK HERE. Enjoy.

Posted in Diversity, DiversityF15, Journal | 2 Comments