Sunday, October 08, 2006

Grace Ross Interview

QUEER TODAY: Welcome to!

GRACE ROSS: Thanks! :-)

QUEER TODAY: First off, what does the "rainbow" in green-rainbow stand for? Is it two parties combined, or something different from the Green party?

GRACE ROSS: The Rainbow came out of Mel King's run for Mayor of Boston. He almost made it as an African American - and he had this amazing campaign with every constituency represented - folks often worked in neighborhood groups - like the rainbow of ethnic/racial etc. diversity. The idea comes from the biblical concept of a "rainbow people". Jesse Jackson picked it up with Mel's permission - but in Mass, it became its own party and eventually hooked up with the Greens.

We are the state affiliate of the national green party - we are a combined party - so we have a little more emphasis on racial/social/economic justice than some traditional Green parties. Some other states have merged parties with their local Greens too.

QUEER TODAY: Fascinating. I bet a lot of people do not know that. Has your own spirituality had an impact on your political activities?


QUEER TODAY: What is your spiritual/religious background?

GRACE ROSS: My background is Episcopalian - although I don't identify as Christian any more.

QUEER TODAY: One of my living inspirations is the Dalai Lama. Is there any particular current day leader who inspires you?

GRACE ROSS: Yes, Mel King is still one of my heroes

GRACE ROSS: Chuck Turner

GRACE ROSS: some of the others I think of actually died in my lifetime - Audre Lorde, Barbara Deming,

Thich Nat Han is still alive. And Chai Ling dies during the Beiging uprising…

QUEER TODAY: Chuck Turner is a great man. Changing direction, recently Laura Kristy, a writer for Bay Windows, criticized you in print for not coming out as the first openly lesbian candidate for governor during the first debate in which the host commented about how Kerry would be the first woman, and Deval the first African American. How do you feel about that, and do you plan on mentioning it in future debates?

GRACE ROSS: Huh, we could probably talk about this a bunch - I actually wrote a reply to Bay Windows- I hope they will publish

QUEER TODAY: Could you tell us the gist of your reply?

GRACE ROSS: It's in the two paragraph description of me on the front page of our website. I have been out for a long time - long before it was accepted as now nor as safe (although we have much farther to go on safety)

And I courted the glbt media around May and June when all the pride events were - they covered me some - mostly they did not.

And it's funny too - Bay Windows did not ask me in for an endorsement interview. How out I am is partly up to the GLBT media - if they want me out it is a significant percentage in their hands

GRACE ROSS: Because it is in my two paragraph bio, it gets read at most of the events I formally speak at, I get asked about married and kids al the time - so I get a moment then

GRACE ROSS: But partly I think things have changed. I have been on right-wing talk shows - they’ve mentioned that I am a lesbian in their lead in and then they move onto something else

GRACE ROSS: I used to hold hands with my lovers, and kiss good-bye at the airports, etc. when that was considered pretty unsafe - I think Massachusetts is just in another place

QUEER TODAY: Do you think you'll come out on TV during one of the future debates?

GRACE ROSS: Yeah, if it fits in. The host could have said it that first time. If I had a partner now it would naturally come out as part of the flow - maybe one of your readers could quickly find her for me and then it would just be obvious :-)

QUEER TODAY: we'll do our best !

QUEER TODAY: Many queer people are frustrated with the lgbt organizations' prioritization of gay marriage over struggles like safety in schools and on the streets especially considering lgbt youth suicide rates are still rising and rising, and the list goes on. Do you have any thoughts on that ?

GRACE ROSS: Yes, I have always felt that the deeper issues of safety and discrimination in other areas need to not get subsumed, and the intersections with other issues like race and gender need to not get put aside.

QUEER TODAY: mm hmmm!

GRACE ROSS: Much of my activism around glbt issues had to do with dealing with the teen suicide rate and lesbian issues too

GRACE ROSS: On the coming out issue- Also, it is clear in my style and dress - folks need to remember that there are many important issues - in an hour debate you get maybe 9 minutes of air time and I am running to represent the whole state - so as I said if it fits the flow - since Patrick is not really addressing racism and Healey, not sexism and none of them economic divide issues - there is lots to cover...

QUEER TODAY: word. I have been especially disappointed in the way Healey and Patrick discuss residents of our state who are not considered "legal" Both seem to play on peoples' fear and racism. Do you have any thoughts on that?

GRACE ROSS: Yes, I find the anti-immigrant triggers really disturbing and they warp the issues

GRACE ROSS: Healey and Mihos have said disturbing things- Patrick just waffles… like on many things - I once heard him say something really strong and great on this issue but that seems to have disappeared

GRACE ROSS: The thing I keep pointing out in talking to people in public about immigration is that immigration issues only surface when the economy is bad. Its a "look over there" tactic but the rich, powerful forces that are making policies that ruin our economy - then they want us to blame some poor immigrants who for instance, clean the toilets after midnight in down town office buildings and are too scared to stand up and demand health and safety equipment because of being deported.

GRACE ROSS: And somehow they had the power to alter decades of policy that lead to fewer jobs that pay less and have fewer benefits????

QUEER TODAY: Right on.

QUEER TODAY: Have you ever chatted with Deval off-stage and if so what was that like?

GRACE ROSS: Actually I have been with Patrick and Mihos a lot - we had dozens of forums and debates over the last several months

GRACE ROSS: What do you want to know about Patrick?

QUEER TODAY: Are the two of you friendly to each other? Do you ever discuss politics or issues off stage?

GRACE ROSS: ah, Patrick is a gentleman. I generally get along with Mihos too.

GRACE ROSS: I think they are all nice people one-on-one. and have been very respectful of me

GRACE ROSS: Talking issues? Not so much, more little things, some teasing about things.

GRACE ROSS: Patrick tends not to pin himself down on issues.

QUEER TODAY: Many people I know say that they would love to vote for you, but they are afraid that if they do Healey could win - which would be devastating. What is your response to those folks?

GRACE ROSS: Well, remember that I am the only candidate that pulls down a regular salary, the other three are all multi-millionaires. They are three of the 14,400 richest people in the US. The income of folks in their income range has almost tripled in the last fifteen years - while most of the rest of us have lost ground an are not really making ends meet

GRACE ROSS: First, many of my votes will come from those who don't get polled because they don't vote enough- they were not necessarily going to vote for anyone if I was not around

GRACE ROSS: second, Green votes generally come from both Democrats and Republicans (when anyone has bothered to exit poll folks who voted Green) - so don't assume my presence pulls votes from Patrick

GRACE ROSS: Third, you need to ask yourself what you really want? Patrick and I are pretty different. And in terms of economic policies, I don't think I know the difference between Patrick and Healey. On environmental policies, they are both good on different things - although I have seen Healey put out more, different things - Patrick would sign RGGI, she says not.

GRACE ROSS: Finally, Healy will have to do a lot to make herself actually viable. she is not showing strong leadership skills

GRACE ROSS: If you always vote for less than what you want, you will always get less. Do you work on glbt issues because the powers that be tell you you can win?

QUEER TODAY: hell no

GRACE ROSS: Why do you vote for what they tell you you can win?

QUEER TODAY: I think it is usually out of fear that people I know do that... fear of the worst. I can't say I'm friends with many conservatives so I'm not sure why they do it.

GRACE ROSS: If everyone who had ever worked for something important had waited to be told they could win, we would still have slavery, no public education, most of us still would not have the vote, not worker protections or social security, and we'd still be subjects of England I think

QUEER TODAY: that’s right

GRACE ROSS: The polls pretty much poll likely voters, the other campaigns poll likely voters. when someone like me wins it will be because of the folks not getting polled mostly. How will you know if your withholding your vote for someone like me and/or your friends doing it won't be the last votes that might have put me over the top?

GRACE ROSS: We have kids killing each other in the streets, we have more than a quarter dropping gout, almost 50% of African American kids, more than 50% of Latino kids. We have 60% of us still in a recession when it is supposed to be a boom. and that 60% is carrying more than our part of the tax burden because those on the top pay about half per dollar of what we pay

GRACE ROSS: We are barely making ends met and our services are still cut. what happens in they next economic downturn when we are already in so much economic trouble?

QUEER TODAY: You are bringing up a lot of issues that make people feel trapped, hopeless, and doomed. The environment is another one of those areas. How do you keep your hope alive in such volatile times?

GRACE ROSS: and then global warming - when I decided to run, lots of folks were already scared -every indicator in the last year has been moving faster than originally predicted. We already have spiraling allergy rates (that's global warming), and things like encephalitis. and they say not more fall foliage trees in twenty years.

GRACE ROSS: My point is - when is it going to be bad enough that settling for the least bad is not going to be good enough? I have concrete plans and the ability to inspire others to work together in the thousands (maybe more). and the other candidates have nothing significant to offer in terms of major change

QUEER TODAY: excellent answer.

GRACE ROSS: sorry, I got on a roll there - but my point is - what are you waiting for?

GRACE ROSS: Hope? Well, I have seen some pretty big changes in my life time = brought about by us regular people!

GRACE ROSS: and history is full of them - in fact that is pretty much the only time we get the changes we need

GRACE ROSS: you know folks point to Martin Luther King - but remember he started out as one of us -

GRACE ROSS: When the civil rights movement really took off during the Montgomery bus boycott - yeah, there was Martin Luther King (just starting gout) and other local religious leaders - but it was 50,000 regular folks walking for about a year that really made that change happen, most of them we will never know - they walked, licked envelopes, cooked meals, handed out fliers, made phone calls.

GRACE ROSS: each of them lead us to the changes we have now. they were all leaders together -- each of them was critical to that change

QUEER TODAY: I think a lot of folks my age- 23 - feel like the corporations run everything, its too late to save the environment, and we are all thousands and thousands of dollars in debt because we were lied too - we were told that when we got out of college we'd get good paying jobs. Now what? So many of us feel hopeless.

GRACE ROSS: yes, well, what you say is true. Corporations do control a lot and you were lied to. Much of the American dream is often beyond most people

GRACE ROSS: but women got the vote when only men could give it to them. Lincoln sign abolition when slaves could not vote. Workers got the forty hour work week in another time when corporations controlled almost everything in their lives

GRACE ROSS: Remember - they never tell us when we are about to succeed. when the Berlin wall came down it seemed like it came out of no where - but it turned out that there had been activism on the ground inside the soviet union we had never heard about. Organize, get good at it and change will happen - it is only when we give up that they win.

GRACE ROSS: Remember that even the death camps under Hitler - one of them the prisoners actually freed themselves from!

QUEER TODAY: You speak the truth and it is so inspiring to have your voice, the voice of regular folks, expressed far and wide. I was wondering, are there any fundamental differences between your views and the green-rainbow party platform as compared to the socialist and workers world parties ?

GRACE ROSS: Wow, I don't think I know the socialist and workers world platforms very well.

GRACE ROSS: Of course, we have a fair amount of diversity of opinion in a party with 11,000 members and growing. we have ten key values - some of which would surely jibe but I don't know about others - and we are probably not as specific in a number of areas

QUEER TODAY: Back to some smaller local issues that people in the blogosphere wonder about - what are your positions on ballot questions 1 and 2 (wine in grocery stores, and fusion voting)

GRACE ROSS: Fusion voting is mostly opposed by my party- it will help third parties nip at the heals of the major parties, it will make it harder for us to get people to actually run as third party candidates we think although it would make it easier for two third parties to work together. We'll see…

GRACE ROSS: As for question 1 - I lean against it. I need to study it more but it seems like it makes it easier to get alcohol which is already easy enough now in many neighborhoods. And it leads to more consolidation, I think, which is not necessarily good.

QUEER TODAY: Would you legalize marijuana for personal use? And would you like to expand further on some drug policy ideas of yours?

GRACE ROSS: In general, I think we need to look at regulation and taxation of drugs - bringing them above ground so we have more control and treating addiction as what it is - a medical issue (that radical fringe group the AMA says it is). Part of the ridiculous numbers in jail here unlike other countries is not having universal, government sponsored health coverage for everyone and criminalizing addiction.

QUEER TODAY: I was fortunate enough to spend some time in the Netherlands during college, and I was told that their addiction rates to "hard drugs" are much lower than here. And what do they have? Legalized marijuana and universal health care.

GRACE ROSS: During prohibition, alcohol became a lucrative under ground industry. More folks died and alcohol got mixed with some pretty dangerous substances - sound familiar?


GRACE ROSS: I have never understood why the government which can regulate what types of fruit flies get into the US by controlling if a person brings in a piece of fruit, but cannot seem to control huge million dollar drug shipments - which clearly the kids on the street cannot afford to bring in - so someone somewhere with a lot of money is somehow getting overlooked - and I find it hard to believe that just "happens"

GRACE ROSS: so I would want to look into, with other government leaders, decriminalization - see what we can propose

GRACE ROSS: Yeah, well we spend 43,000 per year per prison cell inmate. 1/3 of folks in Massachusetts prisons are awaiting trial (not even convicted yet). Almost half of our inmates are non-violent offenders - most drug related. And treatment costs pennies on the dollar of incarceration. I think they are being tough on the tax payer not tough on crime.

QUEER TODAY: I attended the protest against Dick Cheney that you spoke at, and all of the sudden the police came and took away your equipment. In all the frenzy I had no idea what happened. Could you explain?

GRACE ROSS: Oh, yeah - the equipment got arrested!


GRACE ROSS: I think we can safely say I am the only candidate whose free speech rights have been directly violated this campaign!

GRACE ROSS: I guess they had been told they could not use amplification near the entrance to the Cheney event so they moved the equipment pretty far away across the street. the cops did not consider that enough- they said they had checked with the officer when he said it that he meant they couldn’t use it on that side of the street so by implication the other side should be okay

QUEER TODAY: I don't drive, and I am really frustrated at the amount of time and money spent on the big dig instead of my local bus and subway system. And now they want to charge more for them!? Thoughts?

GRACE ROSS: Look, if you or I had a car in the shop, drove it out and the engine fell out - we'd be back at the shop telling them they can put the engine back and, no, we are not going to pay anything more for it

QUEER TODAY: that's right, and you wouldn't let them randomly search your body either!

GRACE ROSS: Common sense - the state had a contract, they were suppose to deliver a bill of goods - they did not. and then the other candidates talk about running the state like a business - which business - Enron? Wal-Mart?

GRACE ROSS: I would have had the CEOs of the contractors and subcontractors in my office the morning after the tunnel fell in and I'd have told them, either tell me now or deal with me in court later

GRACE ROSS: Instead Romney's off for three or four days figuring out who to blame - wonder if anyone shredded documents and erased hard drives in the mean time?

GRACE ROSS: Instead it will cost us millions in investigations - we'll never uncover what they know about what short cuts they took to cut corners. I keep imagining them down there in dive suits tiring to figure out what is wrong from the outside. Seriously it cannot be done really.

GRACE ROSS: Oh, and they still have not finished an delivered on the public transportation side of what they were suppose to do. Seven times to cost of the original bid! And this is our government! (dems and repubs signed off on all those over-runs, including the profit margin the companies wanted!)

QUEER TODAY: It's extremely frustrating. Curious, are you a vegetarian?

GRACE ROSS: Yes, I am a vegetarian - although I do eat fish

QUEER TODAY: Me too, I fell back into the fish thing a couple of years ago. I blame sushi. I still think it is wrong and I hope to be vegan one day.

QUEER TODAY: How long have you been vegetarian?

GRACE ROSS: Since sophomore year of college

QUEER TODAY: That’s great!

GRACE ROSS: The sushi reached out and grabbed you one day?

QUEER TODAY: My ex boyfriend was an international student from a small island in Japan and he pressured me to try it hehe

GRACE ROSS: Yeah, those vicious boy friends - be careful :-)

QUEER TODAY: Where in MA do you live?

GRACE ROSS: Worcester - middle of the state

QUEER TODAY: Grace this has been really great. Is there anything else you'd like to say to the readers of before we end here… after 2AM ? lol

GRACE ROSS: Yeah, I noticed the 2am too - have TV at 12:45 - so I need some sleep -let me think a second?


GRACE ROSS: Mostly, I think I want to remind your readers that change does not necessary come how we think, It's not linear - just as problems are systemic so is the process of change. It is our work together that makes the difference.

GRACE ROSS: I have spent 20+ years as a community organizer (among other things) and have made a goal of learning as much as I could about how to work well with others and how to create change and make myself the best vehicle for change i could.

GRACE ROSS: Given some really serious problems, I felt that someone who was a regular person and with my sets of skills needed to step in now - someone who could help lead the change. It was not something Id did because it was easy or comfortable

GRACE ROSS: But this was something I could do and I can lead this state if people vote me in. It is most important that each of you do what you can even if it is not easy or comfortable. If we each do our part, we can get there, I know it - And we will get there together.


QUEER TODAY: Grace I sincerely thank you for taking the time to speak with the activists and readers of QueerToday I wish you the best of luck. And I will be sure to say hi the next time we cross paths wherever that may be!

GRACE ROSS: Wonderful - now some sleep I think we both need! Keep up the good work - Thanks, yours, grace



Ryan Adams said...

Very interesting. I really like her, even if I don't agree with all her positions. However, she really handicapped herself by going green-rainbow.

After Nader and the stuff that's going down in Pennsylvania, among other things, it will have to be a long time before I'd consider voting green.

Mark D. Snyder said...

But if she wasn't green, she wouldn't be in the debates...

Colby E. Peterson said...

Wonderful candid interview. Thanks for the work, QueerToday!

Gerry Scoppettuolo said...

We in Workers World Party would never support any candidate with such close ties to the the Democratic party or corporate America as Deval Patrick. But, on the other hand, we would never run a candidate against him either. His candidacy represents at a significant level, aspects of self determination by Black america and a victory for Black liberation struggles, even if they are not exactly how WWP ses things. It is more than a little shameful, I think, for Grace Ross, a white woman of privilege, to be criticising Deval Patrick for his alleged shortcomings in addressing racism more formally. We think his candidacy addresses the question of racism.

Second: what would Grace Ross' prescription for the many liberations we need be? It seems to me she would want the Green Rainbow Party to be ascendant as a third party in the legislative process and push for liberal demands that few of us would disagree with.

However, she would have to leave intact the system of private profits amd corporate ownership of production and workers, perhaps believing that these terrible conditions can be moderated under her more liberal approach or that corporate control can somehow be legislated out of existence.

This is impossible, it's utopian and gives false hope to people.

There can be no real solutions to imperialist/corporate driven war expansion without directly confronting the whole capitalist system and replacing it with socialist control by the people. Exquisite critiques of the evils of capitalism and homophobia cannot replace a theory to explain our oppression and a concrete plan for change. The legislative system,
controlled by the rich, their corporations and the pentagon can never be a vehicle for real change. Advances like marriage equality, civil rights laws, etc are transitional demands and, once won, are under constant attack because the exploitative system that spawned them - and needs them - still exists. We win concessions, not liberation or freedom, from the bully. Merely progressive policies leave intact the great engine of capitalist oppression that exploits workers, steals the value of our labor, takes that value in the form of profits and uses it against us while maintaining a bourgeois legislative process that proclaims that all is theoretically possible, and yet delivers little if anything.

We in Workers World Party have a theory that explains the oppression and a plan for overthrowing it. The theory is based in Marxism/Leninism and the explanations offered on topics of wages, labor, capital, class struggle, the extraction of surplus value (profits) from working people; the necessary expansion of capitalist markets internationally (imperialism) and the consequent many wars of imperialist conquest by Western liberal democracies like the U.S, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, against the peoples of Africa, Vietnam, Korea, Colombia Palestine and the list goes on and on.

The year I came out (1975) I read the Communist Manifesto while a student at UMass/Boston. It explained a lot to me and still does. I was a closeted queer man working blue collar jobs in Boston since the age of 16, unloading trucks, working as a shipper-receiver etc. I knew what it meant to be exploited and mistreated as a worker. Socialism explained exactly to me that I was a working class man first. The queer oppression came along with this and is driven by the needs of capitalism (please read Leslie Feinberg, Lavender and Red at

I would love for all of us to have our own teach-ins in the queer community to examine these ideas - and with great love and respect - discuss them with each other. For it is with great love and respect that we must hold for each other as queer comrades in the struggle. My guess is that there we may not agree on everything - that's OK.

When can we start?

Mark D. Snyder said...

I agree with everything you said except.... Ross is white and therefor has white privelage - yes. However she does not have economic privilege nor does she have the privelage of being heterosexual.

I think it is valid for her to voice her concerns that Deval has not adequately addressed issues of race through is words in the debates.