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July 2, 2014

The mayor’s minimum

While attending the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Dallas, Mayor Greg Fischer recently told an NPR reporter that raising the minimum wage in Louisville “has not been a big topic of conversation in our city.”

To make such a statement is an absolute insult to community organizers, organizations and citizen activists who have pushed this issue into the public spotlight and onto the legislative agenda.

It is an affront to U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, who met with business owners and low-wage workers in Louisville last fall at Obama’s behest to drum up local support for raising the federal minimum wage.

The mayor’s words are a slap in the face to Kentucky AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan, local labor leaders, small business owners and other organizers of the national “Give America a Raise” bus tour that rallied this spring with Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes in front of the mayor’s office at Metro Hall.

To make such a statement is to disregard the diligent work of council members Attica Scott, David James and Barbara Shanklin, who listened to citizen testimony on the issue, not to mention the entire council, which recently raised the minimum wage for those who work for the city. They are also considering a law to raise the wage for all those who work within the city after similar legislation stalled at the state and federal levels.

Mayor Fischer’s statements show just how out of touch he is with the economic realities of many Louisvillians. Folks in this town have been talking about this issue for years, and Louisville would be smart to follow the lead of cities like Seattle, which voted in June to raise their minimum wage to $15 an hour, and states like Massachusetts, where Gov. Deval Patrick signed into law a statewide minimum wage of $11 an hour.

It’s also noteworthy that while in Dallas, Mayor Fischer signed on to “Mayors for the Freedom to Marry,” although he was beat to the punch by Bardstown mayor Bill Sheckles and some 400 other mayors across the nation. Better late than never, huh? I suppose he also didn’t know marriage equality was “a thing” in this city until recently, either.

In other news, a recent post by the national Tea Party Facebook page made me both lmfao and smdh. The entry was posted just a few days after the U.S. Patent Office rightfully cancelled the trademark protections of the Washington Redskins football team after finding the name to be “disparaging to Native Americans.” It featured a meme of a Cracker Jack box with the text “White Americans Find This Name Offensive.” The Tea Party’s own grammatically incorrect caption to the photo declared: “If it’s good enough for the Washington Redskins, is it also time for Obama’s patent office to CANCEL Cracker Jack’s trademark as well, right?”

This asinine post is indicative of just how oblivious Tea Partiers and other right-wing white Americans are about race. First, Cracker Jacks were invented by white people. Indigenous Americans did not deem themselves “redskins” — that was a racial slur coined by, you guessed it, white people. Furthermore, it’s been widely accepted by scholars on the subject that the slur “cracker” is grounded in history, derived from the term “whip-crackers.” Historically accurate as it may be, I don’t endorse the use of cracker, ofay, honky or any other pejorative term for white people, although I do invite proponents of the Redskins name to consider one of those terms as replacements for the franchise.

Moving on, the folks at the nonpartisan public issues group The Louisville Forum are set to host a discussion this month on “Growing Up Transgender,” but there are no trans people on the panel of experts. The panelists include an attorney, a psychiatrist, Atherton principal Thomas Aberli and a parent of a trans child. It’s hard to believe The Louisville Forum couldn’t find a single qualified trans person to discuss growing up transgender.

Trans people have to lead their own causes and plead their own cases, both because they are the most qualified to do so and because cis people, both gay and straight, far too often get it wrong when it comes to the trans community. As my friend David Lott described in a letter to the organization, “(their) approach is, at best, patronizing and paternalistic. At worst, it invalidates and dehumanizes the people they discuss by leaving out their voice and personal experience, turning a person’s essence into a pathology to be evaluated by ‘authorities’ (principals, attorneys, psychiatrists).”

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