Tag Archives: African American Life

Trauma Whirlwinds

I am in the midst of a trauma related whirlwind the details of which are not mine to share.

This moment has clearly revealed Hope’s true vulnerabilities out in the world, and it’s requiring an enormous amount of emotional restraint from me.

I am a mess of sadness, heartbreak and unmitigated rage. That rage is not directed at Hope, but a third party who also has peeped my daughter’s vulnerabilities. It is taking everything in me not to round up my squad and take matters into my own hands. I also know that If I shared what is happening with Hope with some folks in my life, things would get very, very out of hand very, very, very fast.

And trust, I am so tempted to let that ish play out.

Via Giphy

But Hope needs me, and I am acutely aware of how much she needs me in this moment. She needs me as a mom. She needs me as a woman who has lived through some things. She needs me to just love her and reassure her that it’s going to be ok.

I am committed to keeping a 30K foot view of what is happening to my daughter. I can clearly see what is driving the behavior and what is driving the emotion and the need. I know that this mess is trying to fill a hole that has existed for a long, long time; I know this has everything to do with her life before me and the pieces of life that are still missing.

I know that there is nothing that I can really do or say to fill that hole; it’s primal. I get it. It’s also breaking my heart.

During the last day, I have tried to reason with her. I listen to her without judgment. I’m trying to keep the lines of communication open. The only way to do that is to keep my own emotions in check.

Via Giphy

Last night I had to take a late evening walk just to call a friend to let out my own emotions. There I was out with goofy Yappy walking the neighborhood in the dark, in the rain with a headlamp letting it all out, so I could come back with my own emotional mask on to reengage.

I’m glad I had that chance because I walked back into a whole ‘nother bucket of bs.

There is a silver lining in this moment; this moment could be so worse. It could be so much more devastating, but Hope was already questioning her feelings about her choices. She wanted to talk to AbsurdlyHotTherapist about it but hasn’t been able to get an appointment. I’m encouraged that she was trying to figure out how to work through this mess on her own and in a healthy way. I’ve reached out to him to beg for an appointment and to give him a heads up on what’s happening. I need her to have that unbiased third party to help her.

Hope is a horrible liar; she also is horrible at keeping her own secrets, much less anyone else’s. She almost always tells me or AHT what’s up or creates a situation in which I find out (See stupid games from last month). She told me that her lies are more about wanting to avoid disappointing me than a fear of something like me putting her out.

On the one hand she trusts that I’m not going to threaten her physical wellbeing, but I do wonder if she thinks my expectations of her are too high? It’s got me wondering if expectations are too high for her? I need my own barometer check.

Ultimately, I know that we will get through this, but I don’t know how long it will take. I don’t know what the collateral damage will be. I don’t know…what is around the corner.

I also know, that this could happen again and again.

Trauma stuff is hard.

Adoption stuff is hard.

There are very real wounds.

I know I am not capable of fully healing her; I can only support her, love her, be there for her in these moments. She is transitioning into adulthood, and I worry a bit about how much my protection can extend around her. Before it seemed like a nice little bubble, now it’s just this amorphous thing and I can’t control the environment for her. I know that is normal, that actually aspects of this is normal for kids her age. I also know that as a middle-aged woman, I’m still, *still* dealing with some bullshit from my own youth, and I didn’t any a fraction of the drama in my life that Hope’s had in hers. I worry about where that leaves her.

All I know is that I’m still her ride or die. I always will be, but whew…this phase of parenting is not easy.

via Giphy

I Think I’ve Turned the Corner (Again)

So, I’m hopefully making progress on this COVID-19 thing.

The nighttime is the worst time. I can power through the day, but once night falls, the coughing starts again, the difficulty in regulating body temperature comes back and once I get comfortable, I actually feel like I could eat something.

I feel better overall, but I’ve learned not to trust it—even if it lasts a few days.

Mostly though, I am tired a lot. I didn’t take a nap yesterday and I’m paying for it today. I just feel like I could sleep for days.

sick

But I am feeling better. I also feel like it’s just going to take a while to feel like myself again.

Hope has been amazing since my symptoms came back last week. She checks on me, always asking if I need anything. It almost makes me want to drag this out a bit. #kidding

We have many masks in the house now and I’ve been ‘officially’ cleared to walk Yappy as long as I have on a mask and maintain distance. That makes me feel better—getting out for fresh air and a little exercise. Of course, I overdid it this morning by walking my usual 2 miles. Now I feel like I could sleep 8 hours.

I’m logging back on to work tomorrow; I have a wonderfully supportive office. I’m a little anxious that my schedule looks heavy tomorrow, so I’ll have to rearrange things a bit. I know I want to work, but I have really come to grips with my physical limitations right now

I’m not well—and my wonderful reader Rose dressed me down properly with that declaration this weekend (again, thank you so much!).

There really has been so much discussion in the media about the physical symptoms of the virus, but there hasn’t been as much discussion of the emotional toll this is taking on both the sick and the well.

Social distancing has been hard for folks, especially those of us who are extroverts. The lack of energy from others has been challenging for me. I had two solid meltdowns before I became sick. I am careful not to rely on Hope to fill that need. 1) It’s not her job and 2) I’m sensitive that she’s an introvert.

Being in quarantine has been especially difficult and isolating. Before my post last week, I had told only family and a few close friends about being sick. I still don’t share it with many outside of the blog. In some ways it is like watching the world go by. Most of my friends are not sick and don’t seem to know many people who are sick. They are adjusting to the new normal and while they take the pandemic seriously, it hasn’t necessarily touched them personally.

I’m happy about that. I don’t wish this on people.

But it’s isolating. And who knows, maybe they are just like me and not broadcasting it. I don’t know, but it is lonely being one of the countless people directly affected, even in the midst of something so widespread.

Then there is the fear that this will happen again. We don’t even have enough tests for confirmation of symptomatic cases, and we’re trying to get serology and antigen testing, but now folks are second guessing whether having it might make you immune to having it again. That is hella scary. The thought of going through this again this fall is really frightening. I don’t even want to experience this “mild” version again. I probably will volunteer for the vaccine trials due to fear—damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

There’s also the folks who seem intent on sacrificing all of us. They don’t want to social distance. They don’t want to wear masks. They think this is a hoax. They think this is a play to move the country more socialist. They think their rights are being infringed upon. They wave confederate and gadsen flags which dog whistle all kinds of stuff. And they don’t believe science, which is increasingly baffling to me.

Huh

Make it make sense!

I totally get the awful way the economy came to a screeching halt. I also get how desperate families are to get and keep needed resources, food and housing in particular. We are talking basic Maslow’s Hierarchy here. I get the fear and desperation. I also know how privileged I am to not be in that predicament where I am missing paychecks, wondering if we can afford food and if I’ll be able to pay the mortgage. I get it.

But I don’t get the crazy parts—the dash of white supremacy and refusal to believe science. That is just point-blank crazy to me.

Let me hip you to a reality: Science is a thing folks, and it is not antithetical to religious tenets. I was always taught that science is God’s way of showing us the awesomeness of his creation. The miracle of life is truly mysterious, and science is revelatory. God gives us peeks beyond the veil through science.

COVID-19 is not the flu, and it’s not a hoax. It’s killed over 40K people in just two months in the US, and it will kill more. You can’t be pro-choice when it only benefits you. You can’t tiptoe through religious texts to cherry pick that parts that uphold your hollow arguments. You can’t prioritize the economy while ignoring “Blessed are those who mourn…” or “Blessed are the merciful…” I mean, sure you can, but be ready for folks to call you out on the abject hypocrisy of doing so.

This whole thing is a dumpster fire, and we have a fire hose with low water pressure.

Anyway, I am on the mend—hopefully. I initially wanted to believe this was just a 2 weeks and done thing. For some it is, for some others, 3, sometimes 4 weeks is more realistic. I seem to be in the latter category. I’m learning to respect my limitations, even if I loathe them. I’m learning to take a daily nap. I’m learning that rest is essential. I do not know what the rest of this week will look like; I’m guessing it will involve some rescheduled meetings and a lot of breaks.

For now, I can only listen to my body and her needs and respect what she tells me to do.

Be well folks.


Pandemic Chronicles vol. 1

Today is my 19th day of “social distancing” and my conclusion is, this is rough.

But of course, it’s a small price to pay for my health and the health of everyone else.

But it is rough.

Last week, I made it to about Wednesday before I hit the total wall slide emotionally. Work is draining me. There seem to be expectations that we all genuinely will be as or more productive teleworking…in the middle of an effing pandemic that hasn’t hit its peak yet and we actually don’t know when it will.

Yeah, I’m totally planning on crunching out data reports, launching some studies and being the all around boss chick!

No, I’m not.

I get up, walk and get dressed every morning. I go through my ever growing things to do list. I try to cram in video chats with my parents, my sisters, maybe a friend or two during the course of the day.

I’ve already lost track of how many Zoom calls I’ve been on because no one just wants to call anymore. By the way, I officially hate video chatting for work. It’s useful, but these last 19 days it has been so overutilized that I can barely stand getting on another one. It’s like the text message that should be an email? Zoom is the video conference that really should’ve been a phone call.

Every work day, I’m figuring out what one task is the most essential thing I have to do that day and what other two, maybe three things are light enough to for me to handle on the same day. The fact that I can only accomplish two things a day fills me with guilt and, frankly a heap of self-disappointment. I’m usually a high performer. My personal standard is extraordinarily high. I and my sisters take enormous pride in the fact that our 100% is a lot of people’s 150%.

And now, I really just am frozen in place. Every day is a struggle to remain functional. I have even not exercised like I normally do this week.

It’s bad y’all.

The reality is that I’m anxious as hell.

I’m preoccupied with people who know people who are sick. I’m afraid about getting sick or Hope getting sick. I’m afraid if I get sick then can Hope really take care of me? I’m worried about how long this will last. I’m worried about how I’m going to deal with not being triggered by Hope’s utter refusal to do what I ask her to do when I ask her to do it (It happens so often I’m just…UGH!). I’m freaked that if my parents get sick the most recent video chat might be our last.

I miss normalcy.

I’m not used to being this kind of worrywart. I don’t like it. So then I feel guilty about it. I’m just a mess really.

I don’t mind working at home. Honestly that’s not the thing—it’s why I’m working from home that is so upsetting.

I only watch the news for about 30 minutes a day. I avoid a lot of internet chatter about COVID-19, even though that’s what everyone is posting about. I have switched up my Instagram to follow dogs, lots of dog accounts. I don’t want to hear a lot of toxic positivity. I don’t want to hear about the Super Christians who just believe that they are immune because Jesus. I don’t want to hear that I should do more yoga, eat better and get some exercise. I don’t want to hear that the new found flexibility of full-time telework should allow me to really maximize effort. I don’t want to hear from exes. I don’t want to think about the two who are already on the other side of the veil.

I actually would prefer not to have to think for a few days.

And this is me after a week off from work. Yeah, that happened barely two weeks ago.

I did renew my online yoga membership. I am ordering yarn from Amazon to start a new, as yet identified project. I’m watching Tiger King on Netflix (Weird!). I’m dancing to DJs spinning on Instagram. I’m playing Boggle with Hope—taking no mercy, but seeing her step her game up to try to best me.  I’m talking to Yappy, who looks at me lovingly. He also has given me a window into the secret life he leads when we’re out of the house. That life includes drinking from the toilet. WTH?

I’m grateful that my therapist has transitioned to an online practice. I have an appointment this week. Thank goodness.

I can’t even imagine trying to do homeschooling and such. One of my sisters is a kindergarten teacher. She’s got 4 kids and is now teaching kindergarten online.

Kindergarten.

Really?

Really.

Like it is just maddening. She’s not really able to homeschool her own littles because it is utter chaos.

My other sister works in IT and is working to ensure that our internet doesn’t go down. She’s on the outside of the bubble. I worry about her a lot.

Ok, I’m starting to ramble, and I’m sure you get the point.

I’m not exactly ok.

I will be, but right now I’m not. I see a mental health day coming soon. Definitely.

How are you all holding up?


Thoughts on Mortality & Grief

I have reached the age where it is not terribly uncommon that my peers are having strokes, heart attacks, cancer, body part replacement, and major illnesses requiring longer recovery times. I’ve also reached the age where some of us don’t make it; we succumb to our ailments.

Realizing that you are in this phase of life and that it will never subside, nay that it will actually get worse as you age, is a bit disorienting. I still see my friends through the lens of our prime. I see us as young, wandering the streets of Adams Morgan in DC on the weekends, having Jacks and cokes with a giant slice of pizza after the clubs close and before we head home to sleep it off so we can do it again the next night.

I notice our gray hairs; I wave at our children and marvel at how much they’ve grown. We all aren’t as slim as we used to be, but we’re still young at heart and fly in spirit.

Our parents are aging, even if we are in denial about our own aging process. Some of our parents are dying and leaving us behind to ponder what to do without them.

I began thinking about my own mortality right around the age of 30 when a close friend died very suddenly due to a brain aneurysm. He had just moved into a custom built home with his girlfriend. He was dead about 4 days after moving in. I was devastated. We were young. We were finally getting serious about life. Friends were marrying, having kids. I had just bought my own home a couple of years before. The loss left a huge hole in our friend group that was so hard to recover from.

Fast forward nearly 20 years and I am still thinking about mortality. The only difference is that I also think about grief so much more now. I’ve had to learn a lot about grief since becoming Hope’s mother.

I’ve learned that I think about death a lot and what it feels like to lose people you love. I’ve had wrap my head around what Hope’s grief must feel like. I still have my parents, and I think about losing them and how hard that will be. I learned that grief is hella messy. It’s like this Gordian knot of a bunch of different emotions that is so hard to untangle that it’s easier to give up and just wallow in the mess. I’ve read a lot, and I’ve talked to a lot of people as I try to understand how to work through and around grief.

I’ve learned it’s so hard.

I’ve briefly mentioned in other posts that one of my exes died last year. His death was incredibly sad for me, but it wasn’t entirely shocking. His history suggested that without intervention and a major life turn around that he would probably die young, and he did. I still struggle with his death. I harbor feelings about what might have happened if I hadn’t left him a decade ago. Could I have saved him?

I know I couldn’t have, but I still think about it. And I’m still working through it. I’m always a work in progress.

My messy feelings about that loss were compounded this weekend when I learned that Elihu, my more recent ex and love that appeared sporadically in this space, passed way this weekend. I feel like I’ve been in shock for days now. I haven’t dropped a tear; I haven’t heaved. I wish I could cry; I feel like it would help me get through this, but it’s not happened yet.

Instead I feel white hot anger.

And profound sadness.

And confusion.

And more anger.

And more sadness.

And despair.

And guilt.

And I’ve questioned whether he’s really gone.

I’ve run scenarios in my head.

I’ve tried to make sense of it.

I can’t. None of it makes sense.

I know that it is true. I know that it is real. And my heart hurts; my head hurts.

It just hurts so badly.

grief

via Pinterest

I replay the best, most glorious times in my head. I remember the pain of our separation. I remember settling into a distant friendship that I never let bloom into a full friendship because I knew reconciliation might come up and I didn’t want that. I feel regret for that distance even though I know it was probably for the best.

I replay his laugh and his deep baritone voice that spoke beautifully accented English.

And I’m just so sad and mad and a bunch of other feelings that I just can’t even name.

The grief is overwhelming.

I’m reminded of all the friends and acquaintances who have passed away in the last 5 years. The number is impressive for all the wrong reasons, and the number continues to grow. Still being here, still living this life… It makes me so grateful that I’m healthy, but it’s terrifies me that at anytime I could fall victim to my own demise. I am increasingly preoccupied by death.

I would rather be focused on living.

So, I’m trying to get myself together this week. I’ll continue to be kind to myself. I’ve contacted an attorney to update all my estate plans, and I had the morbid conversation with Hope about my final wishes. Doing these things eases the intensity of the feelings. They give me a sense of control when everything seems a little out of control.

The intensity of these feelings will pass. I will continue to experience this phenomenon though…the notification that someone else I know has left this life. I’ll go through this again. I don’t like the notion of getting used to it, but I know that there will be some level of acceptance that comes. Acceptance allows the feelings to wash over me without drowning me. I see that with my parents, and I saw it with my grandparents.

I didn’t anticipate contemplating acceptance of mortality without fear at this point in my life, but here we are.

I’m grateful to my daughter for being so kind to me the last few days. Hope is incredibly empathetic on most days, but I know of all the people in my life that she gets this. She sees my grief. She reminds me that life goes on. She says the things I’ve said to her over the last 6 years. It’s a great comfort to me. It also is confirmation that maybe, just maybe I helped her with her grief.

I’m hopeful that like her, I can somehow integrate this grief in ways that allow me to keep moving forward.

Time will tell.


Radical Self Care

I just returned from Puerto Rico, and I’m realizing I don’t do this kind of radical self-care often enough.

Every morning, I got up to walk. I love my daily walks with Yappy. It’s usually dark, and I’ve got to stop a half million times to allow him to sniff, try to reach the errant, tossed away chicken bone or pop a squat. I often go back out for a quick walk without him. These last few days I’ve walked close to 5 miles every morning, coming back to the hotel drenched in sweat, feeling alive and a little more tan.

I picked up some yogurt from the market, got cleaned up and headed to the beach. I enjoyed the sounds of the ocean, lulling me into a morning nap facilitated by early drinking and an edible or two. I read a trashy book, hit the ice cream shop for lunch and relocated to the pool in the afternoon.

beach2

I discovered a little carry out shop across the street from the hotel; they make the best calzone crust I’ve ever had. I also purchased a bottle of rum and have practically had Cuba Libres on tap the last several days.

beach

I lounged in my king sized bed, channel surfing in the evenings, briefly considering going out, or at least going down to the cigar bar to smoke and drink in the luxe lobby.

Lounging stayed winning during this brief reprieve.

I’ve experienced so few moments of irritation over the last few days that they seem almost a distant memory. Oh, I remember them though and Holy Homeboy, white folks are at the heart of each moment. Now, just remember that part of what precipitated my quick vacation scheduling is having been pushed to the brink by white folks during a meeting on diversity and inclusion, so this is a sensitive thing right now.

Practically empty beach, no please come stand in front my chair to take your selfies for 15 minutes.

Whiny group of 10 traveling together who asked if I would move chairs so they could also sit together at the pool. This chair? The one I’ve been sitting in for 90 minutes? No. I’m good. Cue their melodrama of moving to another row to sit together. #theaudacity

I had time to do a lot of thinking and reflecting on this trip, but honestly…I didn’t. I thought I might take some time to think about my next career moves, maybe spend some time thinking about some of the volunteering I’ve been doing. I thought I might think about finding my way around this dating thing. I thought I might think about a lot of things.

Instead, I gave my brain a much needed rest. I thought about very little. I rested.

beach

Why is it that I had to hit a wall to embrace just doing nothing for a few days? I mean, I know that the daily routine isn’t designed for just being without expectation, but wow, not doing anything for 3 days should not feel so radical or costly. And yet it does.

I’m glad to be home, waiting for the boarder to bring Yappy home. I’m looking forward to getting back into my routine for a few weeks. I’ve got a trip to Hawaii in a few weeks for work. I’m looking forward to freshening my tan and enjoying time with colleagues.

In the meantime, I’m going to find a few minutes every day to just be, to just breathe and to just rest.

Challenging all of you to do the same.


When Magic Ain’t Enough

First things first: Hope is doing marvelously. She has friends; she is social. She is trying to stay on top of her schoolwork. She joined a club last week. She’s doing great. She’s also still open to questions for her column, so…Ask Hope by sending an email to adoptiveblackmom@gmail.com.

Me?

I’m not doing so hot.

It’s not an empty nest thing, though some of it is probably a change thing. No, it’s really about work and personal life. I hit an emotional wall a week ago that was just incredibly damaging, and while I grinned and bore it; I’m not ok. And this week I feel like it shows across every aspect of my life.

I recently celebrated 15 years in my job as a diversity and inclusion professional. I love my work; I know I’m making a difference. There is so much work to do, but I can look at several generations of students and see the impact that my work along with the work of so many others.

I’ve got research projects and consultations and student organizations. I give lectures, conduct workshops and create assessment tools. I’ve written policies, standards, papers and books.

I’m not bragging. I’ve just worked hard.

Along the way I went back to school, did a couple of degrees and half raised an amazing daughter.

I feel like if I totally checked out right this moment, I will have left a mark, and that’s immensely satisfying even when I see so much more that can and should be done.

But it has all has come at a cost.

I’ve been one of few people of color broadly and very few black people and even fewer black women, in countless spaces over the last 15 years. I’m used to it. I can hold my own in such spaces, but these spaces aren’t always inclusive or hospitable. I’ve been called names. I’ve heard racist jokes. I’ve been harassed. When I went natural and chopped my hair off the first time, a white male colleague said I looked exotic. I have given lectures that were rated poorly because I didn’t have any effs to give about white fragility.

I’ve coached, coddled, chastised and championed.

I love this work, but it is emotionally exhausting creating content to reach, teach, and move people in ways that keeps them engaged and not triggered by their own fragility. It comes at a high cost that I’m willing to pay if it means that I can make this profession better. My commitment to this work is also why I continue writing about my life and parenting experience in this space, why Mimi and I hosted Add Water and Stir and why I’m now trying to move into doing some consulting with adoption agencies interested in exploring these issues.

I recently participated in a work-related meeting that demonstrated clearly to me that there is still so much more work to be done. It was in a space that positioned me as an outsider, that felt very silencing and was wholly oblivious to how problematic it all felt for those of us who were outsiders—either by professional discipline or race.

No one was mean. No one said anything inappropriate. No one was overtly racist. But it was very superficial and wildly damaging to me emotionally.

It’s been a week, and I haven’t recovered. I’m still working, still producing, still rolling, but feeling like the walking wounded. That space wrung what little Black Girl Magic I had left. It’s gone. It’s like the experience just zapped it. I am broken.

Couple that with a continued barrage of trash on the dating scene and I’m on the ropes. I’m just done. Last week, I pulled my profile down and shuttered myself like I was preparing for a hurricane. It was like a one-two punch and the ref is just hovering over me counting….1. 2. 3. 4. 5…..

I can’t get up.

I’m emotionally empty.

depressed

People can see it. People can feel the icky energy rolling off of me. My therapist knew as soon as I walked into her office yesterday that I was not ok. She remarked that my energy was similar to when I started going to her shortly after Hope’s arrival when I was deep in the depths of post-adoption depression.

And she’s right. I sobbed in her office. I finally said how unseen I felt at the meeting; how so much of my work seems in vain, how the dating scene is trash, but I would love to have a life companion and that I’m hella glad Hope is away at school while I’m seriously falling apart.

My empty nest fall was *not* supposed to be like this. The work I love is not supposed to make me so miserable. Dating should not make me wonder if the next dude is going to be awful to me too.

I’m not going to stay in this dark place though. I’ve booked a 5 star get-a-way for two weeks from now on a whim. I thought as the bill was rising higher and higher as I as I was upgrading this and that, this is getting pricey. Then I asked what would I be like in two weeks if I don’t do this or something like it? What if I didn’t invest in myself? And what would Hope do/say/feel if she saw me like this?  I might be ok, but the people around me will surely suffer—actually I will suffer most of all.

So, I booked exactly what I wanted and needed for 5 days away in a location that’s warm, sunny, beachy, with lots of rum, good food and lots of brown people—majority brown people. I need to be in a space where black and brown folks are the dominant culture for a few days. I need to feel emotionally safe; I need to not be directly under the searing gaze of white folks for a few days. #yeahIsaidit #lovebutyallareexhausting

And tomorrow, I’ll be calling up the doc and getting some new meds. A vacation time-out will help a lot, but I know it is not a panacea for what ails me. I know that it will not bring my magic back. Chemistry will help bring my magic back. So will eating right and continuing to make plans that focus on my restoration

Parents weekend is next week, so I will get to see my beautiful Hope then. I’m so excited about seeing her and getting a glimpse into the life she is creating for herself. I’m so proud of her. With my restoration plan coming into focus; I feel better about the ABM she will see next weekend. The vacation will jump start a new chapter for me; I’m committed to that.

I do not like the dark space. I do not like feeling like I’m wandering or wondering. I want to come back from this. I want to keep going; I want to be strong and magical. I also want to be better at preventing this kind of emotional spiral.

Practice makes perfect right?


When Racism Consumes Everything

I don’t overtly talk politics in this space. There are numerous reasons for that, but ultimately, my very existence is a political act. There are countless adoptive parents who author blogs; I follow and read a fair number. But there aren’t that many who are authored by people of color. I’ve seen blogs come and go since I started my blog years ago.

I wanted to focus on the day to day experiences of a Black woman who adopted a tween. There have certainly been times when I tackled politics head on in this space, and if you follow me on Twitter (@adoptiveblkmom) you already know where I stand.

Since the president’s offensive tweet last week, I’ve been ducking and dodging a lot of the news. I tend to watch the news as I get ready for work and for a short time on the weekend. I listen to an absurd number of podcasts, several politically oriented. This week the podcasts largely focused on 1) whether the tweets were racist, 2) should we use the term “racist” and 3) what does it all mean.

I avoided a lot of it. I avoided it because it was stupid and exhausting. It’s like living in that movie Groundhog Day; it just happens over and over and over…it just never ends.

This president is a racist, full stop, without any equivocation.

This is not debatable; he has a lengthy history of racist behavior…he’s a racist. #fact #theend

This president has followers who are also racist and/or have a high tolerance and comfort level with being racist adjacent.

This president has colleagues are also racist and/or have a high tolerance and comfort level with being racist adjacent.

These things are objectively true. #allofthem #facts #nodebate

And what does that mean for folks like me and Hope? I’m glad you asked.

It means that sometimes we worry if spaces we enter are going to be safe…are we the only ones? Is someone going to yell at us? Will we get decent service? Will the cops be called because we didn’t get into line quickly enough at Starbucks because Hope is notoriously slow at ordering the SAME DAMN THING EVERYTIME we go so I slip into the loo while waiting for her to once again conclude that she wants a grande caramel macchiato?

It means that I’ve had meetings with school administrators that start out assuming that I have no effing idea what’s going on, because really how could I, talking down to me despite my having a doctorate in education. It makes for a contentious meeting from the jump when I have to gather them right on up within the first 5 minutes of the meeting.

It means that some of Hope’s odd trauma-based behaviors are often attributed to my piss poor parenting because I’m a single Black mother. That’s got to be the reason, right? This also requires me to get folks together.

It means as I help prepare to send Hope to this predominantly White college in a small city in Virginia where the largest evangelical Christian university with a president that openly cosigns on the president’s foolishness coexists, I have to have conversations with her about what might happen when she leaves campus to go into town, what to do in worst case scenarios and how to just stay safe. I spend more time coaching around racial safety than I do sexual safety, as she heads off to college.

It means that we have a dashcam in the car.

It means that I as a single woman who used to “taste the rainbow” when it comes to dating have committed to swiping left on just about all White guys and every dude whose profile indicates they are conservative. I don’t have a problem with the politics (I might vehemently disagree but we can be cool), but I can’t risk that their version of conservatism includes White nationalism.

It means that Hope’s political identity is being shaped by all of this; she will vote in her first presidential election next year. I see the jaded cynicism already seeping in. Despite my deep love of politics and my lessons in civics that I’ve put her through these last 5 years, she’s the type of kiddo who is at great risk of just sitting out of the political system all together. If you don’t think the system is fair or you believe that you are marginalized in it, where’s the justification to participate?

It means when I point out what bullshyte this president is, people actually ask me “Why are you so angry?” Really? Why aren’t you angry? Gee why the eff would anyone be angry? #sarcasm

It means that Hope’s grandparents are talking about how they feel like they did in the 50s and 60s; it’s not good. I worry that that emotional toil of reliving the racial animus they grew up with is literally shaving days, months and even years from their lives. That’s less time with me and my sisters, but it’s less time with their grandchildren, the youngest being just a month old.

It means that even as I do my best to avoid all of this stuff, I’m hyper conscious that the rise and pervasiveness of racism, sexism, misogyny, homo/transphobia shapes my day, every day, all day. It influences what I choose to watch on TV, what I choose to listen to in the car, what books and magazines I choose to pick up, what people I share things with, what people I consciously avoid, how I view safety for myself and my daughter, how I plan my future, where I bank and invest my resources, how I use what privilege I have, what routes through certain neighborhoods I choose to take, how I use Yappy as a friendly opening, why I insist on being called ‘Dr.” in certain situations, where I choose to go to church and what I look for in those environments, why I choose to go to the grocery store in that neighborhood because the one in mine doesn’t have as nice product offerings, what concerns I have when visiting a new health care provider, will that person believe my complaints about ailments and offer appropriate treatment, how I’m expected to conform to certain beauty standards, that my skin color means I need to buy certain beauty products that aren’t always widely available, that natural or nudes in any product are not made for me and Hope, how our hair isn’t universally considered “professional” growing in its natural state from our scalp. And it goes on and on and on.

All of these things and so much more fly through my mind at least once a day on top of just daily living stuff like, should I cook those chicken thighs I took out this morning and I wonder if I Hope is willing to chop the veggies without a lot of pushback.

Every breath I take, every move I make, I am usually reminded that I am different and that my ability to be present in that space is viewed as a privilege and not as a right.

Even in adoption, I was and am aware that for some I’m viewed as unique. Every “best of list” I make, I’m conscious of the fact that there’s rarely more than one person of color who made the list. I am proud to be recognized, grateful even, but I also wonder why the few others out there aren’t also being recognized. Is there space for just one and am I non-threatening enough to make the list? Am I being tokenized? Yeah, pervasive racism will make you down your own achievements and recognitions.

And we’re seeing greater discourse around Black and brown children being separated from their parents. Separation is being used as a threat to reduce asylum seekers. We hear things about how “those” parents don’t deserve their children. We hear about the youngest of those children being placed in foster homes, and we’ll likely see these brown children adopted without consideration for reunification. All of this while the older children languish in cages or group homes. We see schools actually threatening child welfare agency engagement over unpaid school lunches. We see more Black and brown kids moving to White families prompting me to question whether this is a genocidal effort to kill our cultures, to “whiten up” our children, to just destroy our families. It is painful, extraordinarily painful and there are folks out there who actually believe that me putting this out there is radical, not helpful, not collaborative. And then in the end, the gaslighting will resume: “Why are you so angry?”

It is effing exhausting y’all. I’m tired. And this week I’m not angry, I’m enraged.

The thing about all this is whether all these emotions are sustainable? At what point does Stockholm Syndrome kick in, making many folks just give up and give in to the awful rhetoric that is permeating our lives? Do I have the present strength of my ancestors who toiled as enslaved laborers, to withstand this?

We’ve got at least another year of this, and quite possibly 4 more years beyond this, in the event there is a reelection. This racism isn’t new; none of it is. It’s just cool to be open with it now. The environment allows emboldened, overt racism now. It doesn’t feel good or even safe. It is taking an emotional toll.

It’s important that folks who call themselves allies to take up the mantle. I don’t care how you came to allyhood; be a good ally. Being a good ally means being an anti-racist. Being “not” racist ain’t good enough. We need to you go hard into anti-racism.

If you are a TRAP, whether you acknowledge that your kid will feel these things, know that they will. Accept that. This is learned, survivalist knowledge. It is the awful knowledge that we learn and accumulate in order to survive. Your privilege only extends so far over your children. Know that because it is the truth. You need to put your life on the line for them—not just them but for everyone who looks like them. If you’re down with colorblind ideology bs, you are a part of the problem. If you aren’t interested in learning the language of antiracism and the confrontations that are necessary to be actively anti-racist, your silent unwillingness is complicity. Full stop, no excuses, the end.

These are strange exhausting times. We all gotta do better at fighting back. You can believe in some conservative ideologies, but really, draw some lines, practice decency and acknowledge the dignity and human rights of others. I’m calling on folks to do effing better.

Your neighbor’s lives depend on it—whether in terms of the day to day or in terms of total life expectancy.

Let’s all do better, continue to fight and fight harder.


Thoughts on Ralph & Blackface

Earlier this week I posted a story about a guest speaker at a private school who dressed in blackface to teach about a white missionary.

Capture

Chile…

I am sick to death of revisiting conversations about blackface, but here we are in an endless news cycle discussing this image from the Virginia governor’s med school yearbook, circa 1984.

yearbook

via Google Images

Lawd heyzeus. Really?

Yes, really, in 1984.

Now, I grew up in Richmond, VA, and most of my extended family still live there. The Klan was, and no doubt low key probably still is, a big thing there; I remember seeing them march on occasion down Monument Avenue—or the Avenue of Losers as I like to call the tribute street to the Confederate leaders. Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson shared a holiday in January; which eventually became Lee-Jackson-King Day—yes, Martin Luther King, Jr. shares a holiday with confederate leaders, because #virginaisforhatersandlovers

I don’t recall seeing a lot of blackface, but I certainly knew what it was and that it was a no-no. Folks who wore blackface, well, they were to be avoided because they probably wore or knew people who wore hoods.

So, Ralph Northam, Virginia’s beleaguered governor, included a picture of two dudes on his personalized med school yearbook page. One dude is dressed in blackface, and the other is dressed in a Klan ensemble.

He apologized this past Friday for the picture.

On Saturday he said (paraphrased), “I’ve been really looking at it and I don’t think it was me. I called some old classmates to see if they thought it was me, and I’m pretty sure that’s not me.”

Notinmyhouse

Bruh.

But he continued, “I’m pretty sure because there was this other time I did blackface as Michael Jackson and I used shoe polish to ‘darken’ my face and the shoe polish was hard to get off.”

giphy-downsized

Say what now?

Da faq?

To be clear, he denied being in the Klan robe, but says he’s not the one in blackface either because he did blackface some *other* time, and the time in the picture wasn’t it, despite the fact that its on his personalized yearbook page.

The page he now says he doesn’t know how it came to be.

When I tell y’all that this foolishness is exhausting, it is an understatement.

exhausted

It’s convenient that he cops to the blackface because clearly of the two absurdly racist folks in the picture copping to blackface is infinitely still better than admitting to being the one in the Klan robe.

This is where we are folks—the choice between a robe and shoe polish, and shoe polish is the lesser of evils.

Just ugh.

And he has not resigned and doesn’t seem to intend to. And that is really the demonstration of privilege here. When you have ascended to the highest position, your day of reckoning comes and you think it doesn’t apply to you because it just doesn’t.

Here’s the thing, Ralph, the MJ blackface wearer, may really be a new creature. He may have genuinely eschewed being the racist prick that this image suggests. He may genuinely believe in social justice. He may be genuine in his friendships and relationships with people of color—incidentally during the explanatory presser this weekend he shouted out having African American friends and I laughed heartily. He may even come up with the story of his parents marching with King because, why not?

It could all be true, and he still has to go, because when you do dirt and it comes to light then a day of reckoning follows. How is anyone supposed to take him seriously after this? I know I can’t.

And to the MAGA folks and their whataboutisms…have all the seats. All of them. In the back. In fact, turn your chairs to face the wall! Your political house is infested from the top down, go handle that and then we can talk. Dems are in surgery right now excising this problem.

So, Hope and I were chatting about this last night; she’s away on a school trip but called to wish her mama a happy birthday (because she’s awesome!). She’d heard a bit of what was happening, and I was filling her in. She was bewildered about how this yearbook photo came back to bite Ralph in the arse.

It was a teachable moment about how a picture in a book went viral and how easily it could happen, so just think how easy a picture already on the internet could go viral.

I’m a GenXer; I grew up in an analog world and transitioned to digital as I emerged into adulthood. I’m grateful that a lot of dumb stuff wasn’t documented in film or on jump drives. My daughter has never known a world where snapping a picture didn’t involve a swipe or tap. We had a nice chat about what that meant for her, and her friends and how she controls her image because yeah, actions and images have consequences, even if those consequences don’t pop off for 35 years. Parents, remind your kids that sometimes pictures have big consequences so gauge yourselves accordingly.

So here’s my shout out to Gov. Northam:

Ralph, I voted for you. I was rooting for you, and you’ve said some dumb ish this week, but this is ridiculous.

I quit you.

Here’s the thing…it’s not just about this picture; it’s the larger story that it tells.

Best case scenario, it wasn’t you (that time because it wasn’t the Michael Jackson blackface time…smh). You still rolled with a crew who included folks who thought it was cool. You were ok with it. You thought it was hilarious; you probably thought it was just jokes and who was going to have a problem with any of it anyway because it was just a group of like minded folks doing like minded things. So this is also about the character of those with whom you surround yourself.

I don’t buy that you didn’t know that picture was in the yearbook. In my yearbooks, I carefully thought about my quotes and the pictures I was asked to approve to include. You included that photo because it was funny and characterized you and the funny guy folks knew you to be. Just jokes, right? There’s no hipster irony on the page; irony doesn’t seem like it was a thing for you. Those pictures encapsulated who you were and who folks knew you to be. This page is how you chose to be remembered during med school. This is what you wanted your friends and would-be colleagues to see and remember you as the funny, authentic guy you were in med school. And we see it Ralph.

And it was all so casual that it was utterly forgettable, which is what makes it just so shocking in context 35 years later. The casual racism was so insidious that you didn’t even remember it; that looking back you marvel at how the page could have possibly been approved because it was sooooo racist to include the picture that you couldn’t have possibly done that! No Ralph, it was so casual and occurred in an environment that was so casually, persistently racist that of course the image was approved for inclusion.

Tell us Ralph, as you flip through your yearbook, did you have any POC classmates? Gosh, I wonder what it felt like for them just learning and being in an environment that would think nothing of approving such images for inclusion in what would also be *their* med school yearbook. But of course, it’s clear that no one, including you, really thought about that much, huh?

If fact, it was so just regular for you and those who surrounded you that when your campaign managers over the years no doubt asked you before each campaign, “Is there anything out there that could be a problem?” you replied, No.

No?

Of course no, because even if you had left all of that behind, it was so casual, so reflective of you in that moment, that you had forgotten about it. I mean, it was just a picture of two fun loving dudes yucking it up at a party in blackface and a Klansman hood. It’s forgettable when it happens so often and it doesn’t impact you because you’re white. It was just this thing you had done in your “youth” at 25 (an age by which apparently POC are socially believed to be middle aged by comparison; y’all stay accusing our children of adult behavior while white kids get to be kids until they’re like 45, but I digress).

And so even if you are the real deal now, a believer in social justice, your drawers have skid marks. We don’t expect perfection and demanding that you be held accountable for being and/or wanting to be remembered as a racist prick in your mid-20s isn’t a high bar as far as accountability goes.

And even if this story was planted by opposition as payback for some other political stuff, the fact remains that it was there for the plucking. It was there because you created it, because again, it was your memory page that was a snapshot of who you were and how you wanted your friends and colleagues to remember you. You can downplay it, but it is what it is.

And now, here we are, watching you at a press conference say that that isn’t you in the picture because that wasn’t the time you actually did blackface for a contest. Of COURSE it’s not you in the Klan robe. I mean, really…Ralph. #sarcasm

Your wife had to say it was “inappropriate circumstances” when you looked around to see if there was enough room to actually show you could still moonwalk. #unreal #eagerfordistraction

You topped it off with the cherry—but I have African American friends. #thegotomoveofreformedracists

Sigh, we know, Ralph, we know, and we still need you to step down and gracefully exit stage left.

You can even moonwalk if you like.

moonwalk

via Giphy

I hope that you live out the rest of your life truly devoted to social justice issues and teaching kids and young adults to be mindful of the company they keep and how they portray their images online and in print. You can be a great spokesperson for the repercussions of bad decisions and what reform can do for you.

I know it will take some time for you to get to that place, but for now, please, just go.

Beat it.

beat it.gif

via Giphy

Post Script: The irony of doing blackface to mimic a person whose skin was lightening by the month…just sigh…smh.


Black Beauty

Hope was home for the recent holiday, and while she was here, she decided to cut her hair. Hope had decided some time ago that she regretted relaxing her hair and wanted to “go natural” again. After about 7 months of growing it out, we snipped off the relaxed ends and basked in the glory that is now her little Afro.

Ok, so maybe I basked; Hope seemed beside herself with shock, anxiety and the ever present teen worries about how others would see her.

When Hope came to home nearly 5 years ago, she had a lot of hair that I lovingly nurtured right on down to her shoulders. It was not chemically treated. I twisted it, coiled it, braided it, did all kinds of things with it. Hope was really proud of her hair; she got a lot of compliments. She learned to really embrace how her naturally curly, coily hair looked.

Hope has thick hair. It’s not just that each strand is thick; there are also a lot of strands. I swear when I first started doing her hair, I thought I was wrestling a carpet!

As she got older, and I shifted more of the burden of doing her hair to her, things got…difficult. My daughter’s care-taking abilities didn’t produce the same results, and eventually she decided that she wanted to relax it.

I hated the idea. I wanted her to love her hair and to learn to properly care for it. It had been years since I’d given up relaxing my own hair, and there was a part of me that took it really personally that my daughter wanted to relax her hair.

I had failed to promote the beauty of our hair.

I had failed to foster a sense of pride in our hair in its natural state.

I had failed to cultivate a sense of beauty that didn’t adhere to Euro-centric beauty norms.

I had failed to get her to love herself.

In spite of these failures, I also support one’s ability to wear their hair however they please. So, I asked her hair dresser to relax her hair.

Oh there was lots of hair swinging. There were smiles. There was hair flipping. Hope’s hair grew and then…all the things that happened before the relaxer happened. Poor maintenance; lazy care, heat damage, split ends and breakage. There were a couple of heavy “trims” that took inches off.

And I was spending a small fortune getting her hair done.

We ended up in the same place as before, which made me feel as though my prior failures had been confirmed in this hair relaxing exercise.

Then one night I was watching hair videos on YouTube when Hope said she regretted relaxing her hair. She thought it would be easier, but it wasn’t.

I still have teeth marks on my tongue from where I nearly bit it off so as not to say, “I told you so!”

So she begin the journey to grow her hair out with the first major development happening during her fall break.

I’m delighted that she grew her hair out and that she wants to embrace the fullness and textures of her natural hair. That said, I know that rocking a teeny weeny Afro (TWA) is a shock at first. You see all your other features and you can feel weird about them.

Is my forehead really that big?

Were my ears so noticeable when my hair was longer?

I swear my acne was not this noticeable with bangs.

My nose is big.

My skin is so dark.

My teeth are big.

I need earrings to distract from this.

I don’t like the way I look.

People will make fun of me.

I’m never going to look like Becky (No, you’re right and you’re not supposed to.)

It’s all so loaded. Helping her reframe her thoughts about beauty is hard. Helping her think about the fact that six months from now she will have a lot more hair is hard. Helping her believe that she doesn’t need to “fix” anything is hard.

Self-acceptance is hard at almost any age; it’s especially hard at 17.

I think she’s stunning. Her chocolate skin is dark and creamy. Her almond shaped eyes sparkle. With the hair away from her face, her acne quickly faded. I finally was able to coax a pair of small, classy earrings on her. With her militaristic posture and figure I’d kill for, I think she’s an 18 out of 10.

But to hear her tell it, I’m mom so none that counts.

Understanding how oppression shapes even the way we see our beauty is exhausting; really, it is. Teaching that…it’s not only exhausting but also infuriating. I silently rage thinking about the fact that my daughter questions her beauty because kinky coily hair isn’t universally seen as gorgeous. I cut my eyes at the folks at her school who looked perplexed like they weren’t sure to compliment Hope when she returned rocking her afro. I nearly cried when she cast her eyes down when she saw folks see her hair for the first time.

Hope is gloriously gorgeous. She already doesn’t know how lovely she is; the short hair is a radical change that makes her glow. She doesn’t believe that though.

That’s not my fault even though I feel like I failed in instilling that.

It’s all of our faults. That nearly exclusive white standard of beauty is so embedded in our psyche that our brown and black kids hardly know and appreciate African diasporic beauty when they see it. And that makes me sad and mad, really mad.

I look forward to the day when my daughter looks in the mirror, smiles at her reflection and turns on her heels to go knowingly, purposefully slay us all.


Black in Europe

In 2001, my mom and I visited Europe for the first time. We went to Amsterdam, and it was awesome. We went on to visit numerous countries in Europe over the next decade. We met cool people, saw amazing things, ate great food and had a good time.

One thing that we noted whenever we traveled was our blackness. I mean, Europe is pretty white, like really white. In all of our years of traveling, we only had one bad experience. It was in Dublin; some dude rolled up to us speaking Gaelic. He said “Something, something, something ‘nigger’ something, something.” Oh we heard it. You don’t mishear that. It was a record scratch moment. We side stepped him and headed into a pub. An hour or so later, walking back to our hotel another Irishman strolled up to us to apologize on behalf of Dublin for his countryman’s behavior. He witnessed the verbal attack and was disgusted. Frankly his apology was more stunning than the original attack. Back home, apologies just don’t happen. #realtalk

Wait, there’s a place where white folks actually apologize for racist behavior? #wheretheydothatat? #shocked #howifellinlovewithIreland

Up until last year, we hadn’t traveled for a long while. I went back to graduate school. Then Hope came along, and there just wasn’t time or opportunity. About two years ago a colleague helped me put together an abstract for an international meeting and the next thing you know, I was giving a short talk at a meeting in Helsinki. I took my mom.

Of all of our travels, Finland was the WHITEST place I’d ever been. It was so white that folks openly stared at us; a child actually walked into a closed door staring at us. We went for a day or so without seeing any other people of color. I remember posting on Facebook about seeing two African immigrants on the public tram and they nodded at us. #universalblackacknowledgement We were nearly giddy to see skinfolk!

Despite being black in an uber-white space, I never felt hated. Oh, I felt kinda weird, like a curiosity, but I never felt like I was psychically or physically in danger. I never felt like I wasn’t supposed to be there, and I feel that at least a couple of times a week in America, my homeland. It didn’t feel bad. Odd, yes; bad, no. Socializing with folks from other countries naturally turned to the current state of political affairs and 45’s presence in the White House. Feelings around that ran from rampant curiosity to downright pity at the state of affairs.

Traveling as an American was different…it elicited different responses, sad responses. We simply aren’t the beacon of light on the hill anymore.

So, a year later, I got the idea to take both mom and Hope to Europe when I attended this year’s meeting. I arranged for us to spend some time in Paris before heading to Switzerland. I’ve already blogged about our vacation drama, but I want to share a few observations from my time abroad.

Paris feels radically different than it did when we first visited in the mid-2000s. The Champs Élysées feels a lot more lowbrow than it did years ago—I mean there’s a Five Guys burger place on the Champs! #ButWHY The city feels more crowded now, not necessarily in a bad way, just more populated. It’s a LOT more brown, like a lot. Like a lot a lot. The impact of immigration is very visible. It’s a different city, and it’s still beautiful.

One of the things I’ve always taken special note of when I was abroad is how easily recognizable black Americans are. My French is shaky, but thanks to many years of studying Latin, my reading and auditory comprehension is passable. People in shops and restaurants would murmur about us being Americans. We are easily distinguishable from African immigrants, our diasporic skinfolk. This identity put us in a special category—one that wasn’t necessarily good or bad, just different, certainly curious because most Americans in general don’t travel and frankly African Americans really don’t travel—if we do it’s often to the Caribbean. And yet, I still felt, safe, not unwelcome in Europe where folks find us curious.

And I kept thinking about how 45 (I really try not to utter his name) says don’t let happen to the US what happened to France. France, or least Paris, is a lot more brown. Things are really, really different there and the brown part seems to have a lot to do with the change. I’m guessing that 45 also sees that, and that’s what he’s signaling despite his love for fast food and no doubt delight at being able to go to Five Guys.

It’s not hard to make the leap in this language that brown equals bad. It’s certainly not hard to make the leap that our biggest immigration concerns in the US are centered around brown people, either to the south or east of us, but not the north or northeast of us. It’s not hard to see how other countries have adapted to increased brownness, no doubt with growing pains, but somehow grafting in these new dimensions of the country’s identity.

We also saw it in Switzerland. Certainly much more homogeneous than Paris, but still way more diverse than Finland. #lowbartho And you know what? It was fine. Folks of different hues going on about their daily lives.

We did hear about the waves of white nationalism that are moving across Europe, but interestingly the media doesn’t seem to feed the story. White nationalists are painted as fringe, illegitimate, a pall on society; they aren’t shown in “balanced” context that the US media has come to favor, offering hatred a platform for open promotion and even inviting social justice advocates the opportunity to debate purveyors of white supremacy. Of course, Europe, while still wildly imperfect and wrestling with many of its own demons, knows intimately the cost of legitimizing hatred.

I wish America did. I’m praying that we don’t stay on the path of learning the hard way.

Every trip I’m reminded just how privileged I am as an individual, but also as a black woman.  I know that the desire and the ability to travel is special. I’m trying to teach Hope that as well. It’s hard though since she hasn’t situated how these experiences really reconcile with life before our family existed. Layer on issues around race and privilege and it’s just a lot. It’s a lot for me and given how my mom was one of 4 kids to integrate her school in the 60s, well over a decade after the Brown v. Board integration decision, it’s a lot for her too. For all of us, despite the new technicolor Europe we discovered on this trip, Europe is still hella white, and we still are hyper aware of it. And it still makes you feel…some kinda way.

I’ve been reflecting a lot on this year; here we are in the fourth quarter already. I realized that one of the things I’ve been unconsciously doing has been turning into the skids, the skids being those things that make me uncomfortable. Given how incredibly unsafe white spaces have felt in the US in recent years, I’ve found myself figuring out ways of leveraging the discomfort or the space to my benefit. I was a little more conscious of it this time, but after pondering our time in Paris and especially at the Louvre, I realized just how hard I worked to create a specific Black Faces in White Spaces experience for me, Hope and Grammy.

I made Hope and Grammy watch Beyonce’s and Jay-Z’s Apesh*t video, and then we deliberately went to see all the things in the video. We marveled at the beauty, but we also marveled at how crowded the exhibits were, how much access the Carter’s actually had in filming the video and how blackity-black that video is in such a crazy white pace. Then we thought about being there ourselves and how blackity black that felt in those spaces. That was some awesomely wild ish. I’m not a Beyhive member, but I am a fan and that video dropped at the right time for me and mine. Pulling that artistic thread gave us a little bit of an anchor during our trip. I don’t know if we needed it, but upon reflection it was really nice to have. It’s really nice to ruminate on it now as well.

Despite all the other drama around our trip, this part, the part about being both back and Black in Europe gave me a lot to ponder about politics, about identity (they are wrestling with what it means to be European all over the continent), race and color, and about privilege. Now that I’ve got some distance from the family drama and the fall of out the bug phobia, I can really appreciate the experience. I’m grateful  and I’m grateful that I got to share it with my family.


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