I will never be as confident about anything as many mediocre white men seem to be about everything.

I'm a capable, talented woman of color. I'm pretty sure of myself and my ability, but I've got my limits. Some people just ... don't.

And, sadly, many of those people, who lack self-awareness or good friends who question their intentions, decide the best use of their time, resources, and position of privilege is to run for office.


Jeb Bush (center) and Chris Christie chat at a Republican debate. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

Because who's better to speak for the many diverse and rapidly-changing communities that make up this great country than a straight white man?

Answer: Pretty much anybody.

That's why 20-something political operatives and white men Jack Teter and Kyle Huelsman launched the Can You Not PAC.

Their mission is simple: ask, persuade, and/or disempower people with privilege (specifically straight white men) from running for public office in progressive urban areas. And with the help of an advisory board, the group plans to endorse a slate of women, people of color, and LGBTQ candidates instead.

"It is our job to bring down the confidence level of mediocre straight white men to their corresponding level of competence," the duo told Upworthy. "We are in a crisis of under-qualified, over-confident candidates."

Photo by Mark Lyons/Getty Images.

They're not making this up.

In a recent study out of American University, men are nearly 60% more likely than women to evaluate themselves as "very qualified" to run for elected office. Among the men who assessed themselves as "not qualified," 55% of them have still considered the idea of running for office despite their qualifications (or lack thereof).

The whole thing began as a joke, but now it has taken off. After starting at the state level, with a Colorado Political Committee, the founders are thinking about expansion.

"After receiving contributions from coast to coast, we realized there was a whole country of people who are tired of electing Ken Doll lookalikes," they said.

Martin O'Malley, everybody! Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images.

And no, this is not a case of self-loathing. It's political science.

Jack and Kyle are firm believers in progressive politics, and the data doesn't lie. A 2012 study from Emory University revealed African-Americans elected to the state legislature are more likely than other Democrats with similar constituencies to introduce measures that combat racial discrimination and improve access to health care.

Similarly, women in state legislatures are more likely to introduce legislation about reproductive health, bills dealing with children, women's health, and welfare.

So for people interested in progressive change, supporting women and people of color just makes sense.

But some would argue that if this all about dismantling ego and checking privilege, should two white dudes be leading the way?

Asking straight white men to take a seat is far from a new idea. People of color, women, and LGBTQ individuals have been raising this mantle since time eternal. There are organizations like Emily's List, Equality PAC, and the Latino Victory Project that encourage women, LGBTQ people, and people of color to pursue public office.



But Can You Not is the first one to actively encourage straight white men to sit out. That difference is especially noteworthy.

"I really, really firmly believe that it’s the absolute obligation of people in positions of privilege to dismantle oppressive power structures," Jack said. That goes for men calling B.S. on sexism, white people checking their privilege, and cisgender people speaking out against hateful legislation like North Carolina's recent "bathroom bill," HB2.


U.S. Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth speaks at the Emily's List 30th Anniversary Gala. Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images for EMILY's List.

As one might assume, the Can You Not PAC is not without critics.

"We’ve been getting push back from two places: white supremacists who want to kill us, and young progressive white dudes who maybe want to run some day," Kyle said.

The former is difficult to reason with, but getting the latter on board is crucial and has already lead to some enlightening conversations.

Photo by iStock.

"People get defensive, as they should — anyone who wants to run for office better be ready to explain to people why they’re the best representative of their community," he added.

And hey, idealist, progressive white guys: Can You Not is not suggesting you abandon your political dreams altogether. As Jack said,

"We’re saying that aspirational young white guys who want to be in politics because they love the 'West Wing' should use their passion and their time and their talent to make politics look less like them — because it’s good government, because it’s good progressive policy, and because it’s the right thing to do to fight hundreds of years of egregious overrepresentation of straight white men to the disservice of marginalized communities all over the country. Sometimes the best thing you can do is step aside so other people can lead."

We've been a country for nearly 240 years, and straight white guys have been a majority of the decisionmakers (for better or worse) for the entire time.

No matter where you fall politically, adding new and diverse voices is vital to sustaining thoughtful dialogue and best representing this country's rapidly changing demographics. There's no better time than right this minute for traditionally underrepresented voices to stand up and drive the nation forward, with or without groups like Can You Not.

"In short: Women, LGBT folks, and people of color don’t need straight white men to save them or to speak for them in politics," Jack said. "They need them to get the hell out of the way."


Photo by WOCInTech Chat/Flickr (cropped).


Images courtesy of Letters of Love
True

When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

Your weekly roundup of internet sunshine.

Hey everyone! Hope you're staying safe and healthy, and if you're not, at least you know you're not alone. I mean, omicron? Phew. Pandemics certainly know how to keep us on our toes.

If you need a respite or distraction from all that, we've got you covered. If immersing yourself in cute animal videos and feel-good stories of human awesomeness is wrong, who wants to be right? Nobody, that's who.

We all need a break from the less pleasant parts of life, and cheering ourselves up with simple, happy things is a tried and true way to push those endorphins and lift our mood for a bit.

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
True

The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

The scarf, a simple accessory that some find an essential fashion piece. Both fashionable and function with the warmth they provide, scarves can be a valuable gift for any occasion or person. Here, we've selected our best selling scarves from our store. At Upworthy Market, when you purchase a product, you directly support the artisans who craft their own products, so with every purchase, you're doing good. These scarves are not only unique, but they are hand-made by local artisans and all under $30.

1. Fair Trade Woven Dark Gray Alpaca Blend Scarf

Celinda Jaco selects a cozy blend of Andean alpaca for this handsome men's scarf. Classic in style, it features fine stripes of white and black woven through the dark grey textile. Hand-tied fringe completes a distinguished design.

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