- Hope is fully vaxxed! Yay! She got her second vaccine yesterday. I’m so excited that we are protected now. Of course I’m still operating life as though there is a full on plague…because there’s still a full on plague. I’m not down with the lifting of mask mandates. Folks are just nasty.
- The downside is that it seems Hope might be having some nasty side effects this evening. It’s always hard to tell with her though because she is super dramatic when she’s sick. She has a low pain tolerance and just doesn’t do sick well at all. So, after all these years, it’s still really hard for me to gauge if we need to go to the urgent care. I’m hoping she will be better really soon.
- I’m supposed to go into the office for the first time in more than a year tomorrow. I have a meeting in the afternoon. Yes, it could be done by Zoom, and if Hope doesn’t feel better, it may have to be by Zoom. There’s a part of me that it looking forward to it, another part that is wary, but really I’m more anxious about remembering to go into the office at all. I’ve got a nice routine. I get up at 6, walk Yappy and finish my exercise, tidy and shower and get dressed for work. Commuting is walking to the living room. I’m seriously fretting about remembering to go to the office.
- Is it bad that I already am planning a trip to Starbucks when I get into the office? I miss my starbucks run. I also miss my starbucks points. Of course, I now get my cold brew delivered in a box from Amazon every two weeks so…I’ll be fine if I don’t make it.
- I’m tired of working in my living room, but I’m honestly not ready to go back to the office. Outside is just gross.
- Hope finally has orientation for her new job next week. Finally. This is a long onboard for a retail gig. I’m eager to get her out and going and getting back on track to find her way. She is doing much better emotionally, but still not having something meaningful to do every day continues to weigh on her.
- She recently told me that she has no idea what’s next for her. She’s not ready to go back to school. She doesn’t know if she wants to change course–maybe pursue something entirely different. Her interests seem to be changing a bit. She’s a bit lost, and it’s hard. It’s hard as a parent because this part is something she has to figure out on her own. I am here to support her, to cheer for her, to financially help with figuring it out, but the hard work of figuring out what you want to do in this chapter of life is kind of a solitary thing to figure out.
- Somehow I’m finding getting sufficient patio time difficult. That’s especially frustrating since my desk faces the patio. It’s been so gorgeous out. Patio time is one of my favorite parts of spring/summer/fall.
- Still no movement on planning a vacation. I might really just have to put the idea on ice until I no longer sense this emotional block from just dropping a text to the travel agent. I mean, this ain’t hard. I can just tap out a quick message–location, time frame, price point. I might circle back in a month and reevaluate.
- I can’t really think of a 10th thing, so I’m going to sign off and finally go get the cocktail I should’ve had 3 hours ago!
Tag Archives: African American Parents
Earlier this week, I discovered a secret that Hope had been hiding for a couple of weeks. I’d all but told her that I knew the secret ahead of the confirmation.
I love my daughter, but the art of deception and concealment are not her strong suits. In fact, Hope has rarely lied to me; if anything she often shares a little too much with me. I chalk that up to her not having too many friends her age, and the closeness of our relationship.
Anyhoo, I knew or at least was strongly suspicious about the thing she’d tried to conceal for a couple of weeks.
The actual thing she did was super stupid and a totally dumb, yet age appropriate thing. We’d already had a chat about it a few months ago, but here we are 3.5 months later revisiting the issue.
What totally sent me over was the series of bold-faced lies that were told in a sad attempt to avoid detection.
Bless Hope’s heart. I have repeatedly told her that her mom is smarter than the average bear.
I do not do lies. I especially don’t do lies with bad liars.
And Hope is a horrible liar. It’s just not in her make up. I had point blank asked questions and had given her 3 opportunities to fess up, but instead she decided to lie.
So, after I confirmed what I knew to be true, I left her a note for when she got home from work to let her know that she was busted. I told her that the stupid issue had been attended to and that she had really stepped in IT, primarily due to the lying. And then I went to bed and slept soundly.
The next morning, I get an apology via text. I read it, but didn’t respond. I was still angry, so I only spoke when necessary and waited until we were in the car headed to visit my parents to really get into the discussion.
Parents of adolescents know: the car is sacred space and prime for important chats with kids.
There we were, on 95S talking about the stupid thing, the lies and what the consequences of both things should be. I put the task to figure out what an appropriate consequence should be on Hope.
She was baffled by this task.
Hell, I was baffled by this task, which is low key why I put it on her.
And then I dropped it, because I didn’t want it to ruin the day.
We visited with Grammy and Grandpa, had a delicious lunch and headed downtown to join some BLM protesters who have taken over the grounds of a monument to Robert E. Lee. The statue is slated to come down sometime soon, as are other confederate statues across the city. In fact, one was removed less than 24 hours after our visit. #goodriddance
After we had returned from our trip, I raised the issue of consequences again. Hope did not come up with many ideas, so I tossed a few out. We agreed on a couple of scenarios and I dropped it. In all, the consequences were minor compared to what my parents did for less, but I think they will hit her where she feels the impact of her poor decisions. I also told her that the next infraction would have stiffer penalties.
She swears she learned her lesson, but the reality is that there will be other stupid things. Hope is 19,a little immature, vulnerable to some bad influences, and eager to have connection with folks her own age—sometimes too eager.
And with stupid games, come stupid prizes. That is just a part of life, right?
We’re fine. Hope is fine, and we’ve endured another stupid first, and the stupid prizes that go with it.
- During my bucket list trip to Athens Hope hugged me as I cried going up the steps into the Acropolis, when we got to Mycenae and when we walked around ancient Corinth.
- Countless therapeutic breakthroughs.
- Hope’s first crush on a boy at school. That crush lasted way longer than it should have but gosh at the beginning it was the cutest.
- That time I took Hope to see Bruno Mars in concert. I would seriously set body parts to see the look on her face when he stepped out on stage the first time. It was a level of joy I had never experienced.
- The first New Year’s Eve dinner at our preferred restaurant had a waiter who catered to Hope all night. She beamed and had such a great time trying different foods and sipping her “mocktail.”
- The first time Hope and I had a serious discussion about sex. Everyone seems to fret about talking to their kids about this topic; I remember thinking this is challenging but *we* are doing great. I remain proud of the relationship I have with Hope; it’s led to a comfort level that allows her to ask me anything, anytime, anywhere. And yes, sometimes it *can* be a little awkward, but I wouldn’t trade it.
- The time we rode rides at Busch Gardens on a band trip. She was sad at first because her classmates dumped her. I’d just had a beer with other parents (yep, we were drankin’!) when Hope asked me to go ride with her. I was green because I had chugged my beer, but I was delighted that hanging out with Mom was the default setting.
- Seeing Hope in her band uniform for the first time.
- Seeing Hope in her Air Force JROTC uniform, in her dress uniform and at graduation.
- Seeing Hope the first time she tried on a formal dress for prom. She was breathtaking. And when she tried on THE dress…I had to pull out my hanky. So very beautiful.
- Hearing Hope tell me how much fun she’d had at prom and how much her feet hurt from her high heels.
- When Hope told me where she wanted to go to college.
- At graduation the moment when Hope saw her birth aunt in the aisle snapping pictures as she descended the stairs to return to her seat. The tears that flowed that day…we were a mess of emotions with lot of chatter about all the events we had to celebrate together in the coming years.
- Dropping Hope off at college. Packing up the car, driving down, moving her in, and then preparing to drive home. I was so filled with emotion I drove a little ways away and pulled over and cried.
- The sweet relationship that Hope and my dad have forged over popsicles. He always makes sure there are some in the house for her; if we surprise them he immediately runs to the nearest store to get some.
- The letters that Hope has written me over the years and how they track the growth in our relationship. I pull them out sometimes and just hold them to my heart.
And yes, there are so, so many more moments of delight in mothering my dear Hope. I hope you’ve enjoyed my recounting and that you will spend some time thinking about the delightful moments you’ve had with your own families.
I dropped Hope off at a little over 6 weeks ago. We talked once or twice a week on the phone, and over the last few weeks, we texted nearly daily.
Well, 44 days after dropping Hope off at college, I saw her yesterday.
Oh my, did I hug my baby girl.
The waves of love were nearly overwhelming. My chest was a little tight, and I fought back the single Chilly Willy tear as I held Hope to me. I smelled and dug my fingers in her hair. I looked at her skin. I turned her around and over like a baby to check her all over.
She giggled. She swatted my hands. And then she surrendered into my arms and exhaled.
And we stood there for a while.
Hope’s room was tidy! She admitted to cleaning up before I arrived, but it was clear that there was a decent sense of order to begin with. Clothes were hung up in the closet!!! She’s using her calendar. She’s working hard.
She looks good. Her hair is growing; her skin looks clear.
I met her friends. The boy with the blue afro. The girl with the emotional support cat. The girl who bounded down the hall like Tigger to say hello. They call Hope “Grandma” because she always wears a sweater and mother hens folks when they’ve consumed too much of things they have no business consuming (don’t even ask!).
We went shopping for sweaters, cruised Amazon for new sneakers to wear with the step team she tried out for and made last week.
She confessed not leaving campus much. She realizes that her social anxiety isn’t just anxiety but true blue introversion; peopleing can really be exhausting so she hangs with her small gang of friends.
I listened as she shared how much she misses me and Yappy and wants to come home for the weekend, but has real FOMO (fear of missing out) when the gang gets together on the weekends. We agreed she’d come home in a few weeks to go to the dentist, get a medication tune up and cuddle with Yappy on the couch.
She gobbled her favorite pizza at the local joint she frequents across the street from campus, and I showed her that she could walk to the local Family Dollar just a short walk down the hill from school.
We talked. We laughed. We scrolled Instagram together and shared some of our favorite hashtags to follow (mostly dog related).
I found a local diner and took her to brunch and caught her up on all the family stuff going on. Her cousin called while we were out, and I eavesdropped while they chatted business: coursework.
She proudly showed me her notebook where she has her whole college coursework career mapped out. I learned that somehow she’s taking 17 credit hours this semester; more than I would have recommended but she is pushing herself so she can wring everything out of this time.
My daughter is blossoming. She still giggles, but there’s a growing maturity that I can hear in her voice.
Over breakfast, I told her how incredibly proud I am of her and all she’s accomplished. She balked, asking me what and why? I reminded her of the first day we met. I shared how I saw a scared little girl in the body of a 12-year-old. I told her how I marveled at her commitment to survival up to that moment and through to this one. I told her how this year just marked so much change and accomplishment that it’s sometimes overwhelming to consider it all.
The reality is that Hope is in college. She says it’s hard, and it is, but she’s thriving.
I’m so blessed to have been a part of her journey. It’s such an honor to be her mom. I can’t imagine what life would be without her. There have been times when it has been so hard, but to see her thriving is just so beautiful.
This chapter of our journey is so…I’m not sure what the right words are to describe it. What I do know is that Hope has grown tremendously in these 44 days since she’s been away. It foreshadows a crazy transformation that is underway. It’s nothing short of magical to watch and be a part of.
So, Parents’ weekend was amazing. Hope is amazing. We’re amazing. 😊
BTW—Hope wants more questions! She’s serious about wanting the share her experiences as a FFY and an adoptee, so yeah, send questions!
So, this is where we are with me at home and Hope off at college:
Yeah, so, I do in fact miss Hope, but not like when she went away to boarding school last year. I really was so sad after she left for the year. I fell into a bit of a depression and felt a little rudderless during the first couple of weeks.
I do not feel rudderless this go ‘round. I feel…different. Not sure I have a word for it yet. I miss Hope. We text every other day or so and talk on Sundays. She sounds happy, if a little anxious. She seems to be thriving socially. I do miss her, but, no I’m not crying over her departure. When folks ask me how I’m doing with my empty nest, and I reply “FINE!” they seem to be disappointed that I’m not falling to pieces.
One thing is the same as when I experienced my first empty nest last year: the fatigue. Active daily parenting is frigging exhausting and when your regular parenting involves a lot of anxiety and a major life change on the immediate horizon, it’s a wonder you can get up in the morning.
This past weekend I enjoyed the ridiculous luxury of taking 2-3 hour naps Saturday and Sunday. It was decadent, and with the break in the weather serving the smallest whiff of fall, this was prime napping weather. I was couch-drunk most of the weekend.
So, yeah, there’s that.
Well, I’m back in the dating hunt, which is….challenging. Dating when you’re older feels different. Your priorities are different. You are forced to even see yourself differently. The rose-colored glasses come off pretty quickly. Trying to be intentional about getting out, meeting people and dating raises my insecurities about all kinds of things.
Don’t get me wrong, I think I’m a catch. I know I am, but for whom? Some standards have gone way up like I really want to be with someone with same or similar educational attainment and a solid career. But as we slide into the late forties, how I think about myself and others is morphing. I still see myself through youthful glasses, and then I see the pool of men and I think, “Oh, we are aging. I mean, we still look good (some more than others), but that glossy veneer has worn away.” It’s a sobering gut check.
But I’m still out here trying to foster a healthy and robust social life.
And then there’s my role in the adoption community. I mean, it hasn’t changed, but it kind of feels like it has. I’m pondering what things I will write about, how will express the feelings of watching Hope navigate this next chapter. I’m taking on some volunteer consulting around diversity and adoption agencies. I’m looking forward to that and hoping it might turn into some other opportunities since how people of color show up and engage in and around the adoption community is important to me.
I’m diving into work and feeling like there are new challenges and opportunities ahead with my career. I see a shift in my work on the horizon. I’ll be getting a new colleague soon, launching new studies, debuting some new research. I’m passionate about my career, so I’m excited, but I’m also…already thinking about my exit strategy. I’m thinking about what my next chapter will be, when will I be able to retire and what will I need to do to make that happen. Even then, I’m eager to plan my retirement. I’m curious what and who I will be then. There have been a few evenings since Hope has been gone, when I just sat on the patio and dreamed about what that chapter might look like. With Hope in college, it seems like I can think about it for the first time in a long time.
And Hope…I do worry, maybe worry isn’t quite the right word. I’m concerned. It’s not eating at me yet, but it’s rambling around in the back of my head.
Is she overwhelmed?
Does she feel ready?
Is she ready?
A recent chat with AbsurdlyHotTherapist suggests that she’s really internalized the anxiety about being in college. She’s saying she’s fine to me, but being a bit of a pill in therapy.
How long is that sustainable?
And what plans should I put in place to guard against a meltdown or pick her up after one?
What would life be like if she isn’t successful on that path? As resilient as she is, would she recover from that?
So, yeah, I’m concerned now that classes will officially start in 4 days. I’m going deep into the prayer closet this weekend.
I’m holding it all together and trying to map my next moves with and without Hope. I’m trying to be judicious with the mug cakes and get more exercise to compensate for this evening delight I’m currently digging.
But all in all, I’m good.
Hope will graduate in 55 days, and it’s still unclear what will happen after that, other than coming home.
In total, my daughter applied to 5 schools. Her school required 3 applications. She initially applied to 3, accidentally applied to one and purposefully added the last school. To date, she has only been accepted to one school—the one she accidentally applied to. We are waiting to hear from two schools, but I’m not optimistic this late in the application season.
This process has been…somewhat grueling. There’s a lot of hurry up and wait in college admissions. There’s also a lot of big emotions. You are asking people to judge you on past performance and potential and to make a determination about whether you can be successful there. There’s a lot of vulnerability there.
It feels even more vulnerable when you aren’t the best student, test taker and have spent the last 5 years in a family of overachievers.
AbsurdlyHotTherapist reached out recently to tell me how things were going with Hope. I knew things were rough; I also knew that this admissions process was weighing on her self-esteem and that the fear of what’s next was also weighing heavily. I asked if we really should just change course and go back to the community college plan; he said yes. So, I reached out to the guidance counselor and suggested that maybe all this college stuff was making things really difficult for Hope. She replied that essentially Hope is not ready for college.
So, we’re back where we started, and that’s ok. Except that now we’ve coached Hope to have hope about going to a 4 year school, made her go through the process and basically watched her fail. So now the original plan feels like plan b because of failure rather than plan a because of appropriateness.
As a mom who had high hopes and expectations for Hope and insisted that she throw herself into this process, I feel like a lot of this is my fault. Hope made a big decision to go to this school (which she sometimes seems to regret now) and that decision triggered my own instincts to aim much higher than what might’ve been appropriate for my daughter academically and emotionally. I feel horrible about contributing to all this. I feel awful that I contributed to Hope’s stress.
And yet, I also feel like some of this pressure was necessary. Hope’s struggles with school are both extrinsic and intrinsic; some aspects of this part of our journey is a major reckoning of natural consequences. She and I’ve discussed this, and she sees her own role in the struggle that is school. But we both see and acknowledge that there are definitely things beyond her control.
I’ve worked really hard to set Hope up for success, conventional success and other forms as well. I haven’t been perfect, hardly, but I love my daughter. If I could change everything for her, I would. Heck, the recent college admissions scandal had one family paying $15,000 to facilitate admission; I joked with friends that I could scrape that together on behalf of Hope. My circle of pals always talk about this kind of thing; how unfair it is, and how so few have access to those kinds of resources, access and privilege. We talk about it, but we also largely have access to all three because we are incredibly hardworking and fortunate.
A recent brunch outing with a friend revealed a link to a contact at the first-choice school where Hope was not admitted; my friend offered to inquire on our behalf, maybe her application could be “re-reviewed.”
Gosh, I wanted to say yes. It was on the tip of my tongue. This is the kind of privilege that we all want right? You want to have those well-placed contacts at your fingertips to assist you, to help you garner the access that you want, even if you don’t deserve it. It didn’t shock me that someone in my circle probably had a connect, but throughout the process, I never once considered reaching out.
I paused a moment, wishing I could smooth this path for Hope. I declined the intervention. That school fairly quickly denied Hope. It felt like a swift and painful rebuke. But the reality is that even if I could get her in; then what? She goes and finds that she legit wasn’t ready to go there. She struggles academically, emotionally, socially and then what? Possibly flunk out because she should not have been there, and her application indicated such.
I imagined a fix on my end that just set Hope up for devastation. I could never do that to her.
So, now I’m back to figuring out our current plan. Do we go visit the school where Hope was admitted and figure out whether it might actually be a blessing in disguise? Or do we concede that maybe this 4 year college thing really is a bit premature? Or something else?
I don’t know.
I also am afraid. What if Hope doesn’t launch? What if her room becomes akin to her living in my non-existent basement? How long will it take for her to mature and figure things out? Will she find her calling, and not just some career that *sounds* cool? Can I continue to be patient while she figures this out? And how will this affect us financially?
It feels selfish to say these things, but I would be lying if I didn’t acknowledge these thoughts and more were swirling around in my head.
I adore Hope. I believe in her; I do. I know she is afraid and worried about the future.
And so am I.
One of the most striking things I’ve discovered during my time as a parent is how deeply I feel things. I believe that I was really in touch with my emotions before parenting. I spent a lot of time in therapy wrestling with big emotions, feelings I had, things I believed about myself and the world. I thought I understood feelings before being a parent.
Yeah, I didn’t understand ish.
I did not, nay could not, anticipate how deeply I would feel things. How the very core of my being might be overwhelmed by joy or pride or how I could feel so crushed, sad and disappointed that there didn’t seem to be any sobbing that could even come close to helping make sense of what I was feeling.
I didn’t have a clue.
Over and over I’ve had moments while parenting Hope that the jumble of emotions I felt was so messy, so convoluted that I couldn’t really say what I was feeling. Even now, sometimes I think about Hope, something we are experiencing and it’s almost like I have a phantom feeling in my chest—love, joy, sadness, sometimes despair (no worries, my doc says my heart is fine). In these moments I often find that I need to shove my feelings into an emotional closet so that I can be what Hope needs in those moments. I am there to help her navigate her own emotions and figure things out, even when I really have no idea how I’m doing that for myself.
This week brought new emotional drama for both Hope and me. After weeks of waiting oh so anxiously, for decisions on Hope’s college application, two flat envelopes showed up. Flat envelopes in college admissions is rarely good news.
To be fair, one flat envelope indicated that consideration of her application had been put on hold to allow her the chance to strengthen her application. The other envelope was an admissions denial. Hope did not get into her (our) 1st choice school. They encouraged her to do a year somewhere and reapply. She’s sad, but it really helps that there’s one school in the bag and 3 others we are waiting on.
As someone who works in higher education, I know that the other 3 schools are iffy and become more iffy with each day that passes.
But yo, the parenting emotions are so damn real! I knew I was anxious, constantly offering up prayers, but when I got her message (& saw the first flat envelope), my heart broke. I wanted this for her so badly, even if I knew that she might finally meet her “natural consequences” match. Hey, you don’t do your work, you fail classes, you don’t get admitted to the 1st choice. Still I found myself hoping, praying that she would get the fat envelope.
Hope’s academic performance last semester was not even lackluster; at some point it looked like she was phoning it in. When the semester grades posted, I clucked to myself that this upped the risk of not be admitted anywhere. These were the grades that would go to the schools. I could feel the natural consequence reckoning coming. I know that at some point, Hope didn’t really believe me that all of this mattered in how colleges would look at her. I remember listening to her anxiety a month or so ago as the reality seemed to really hit her.
Oh…they have expectations of me academically. Wow!
There was a season in my parenting when I would have piled on with “I told you so!” or “See? Do you believe me now?” Then I got a clue that maybe that wasn’t helpful; in fact, it was only really to validate that I was right. Again, not helpful, but possibly harmful.
So, I learned to keep that internal momologue monologue to myself.
When I learned about the flat envelopes, I needed a moment to gather myself. I’m an overachiever–ridiculously so. I’ve never received a flat envelope, so this is uncharted territory. I didn’t want to be right, and I desperately wished that her natural consequence comeuppance came at some other time, in some other form. I knew that the reject stung and probably undermined the little confidence that she had mustered during this process. I felt horrible that and guilty that maybe I pushed too hard, that maybe we should have not applied there, that maybe the college counselor who recommended the school was so wrong and this was partly her fault. The guilty feeling that I had set my daughter up for failure gnawed at me.
As a parent though, I had to switch gears immediately, check in on Hope’s well-being. Of course, she is sad about the first choice and unclear how she feels about the admissions hold. I’ll have a better sense of her emotions when I see her this weekend, but I’ve been working my brain extra hard to pivot this into a pep talks about schools that are the right fit, that there are alternative pathways (transferring later), that there are still possible options out there since all decisions hadn’t been made yet. Also, hey, look, you do have a safe school, so there’s that. #brightside
I feel like I’ve made a good case, put on a genuine face for her, and I genuinely do believe all of those things. Absolutely. I also know that what she needs to hear right now, that reassurance that she’s going to be fine and that I believe she’s going to be fine, and I still believe in her. #teamHope It happens to lots of kids.
So, stay tuned and hope for chunky envelopes.
I grew up watching tennis in the hometown of the late, great Arthur Ashe (#RVArepresent!). I love tennis.
I loved Billy Jean, Chris Everett, Martina, Monica and so many others. I remember John McEnroe showing his entire arse every time he stepped onto the court. Calling refs and opponents out, tossing and smashing racquets, and just being *free* to be an complete arsehole with little to no consequence. I thought he was crazy, but I loved it.
When the Williams sisters came on the scene it was like one of the ultimate #BlackfacesinWhiteSpaces chapters of all time. And to that end, they were reminded that this wasn’t their space all of the damn time. They were ostracized on so many fronts–being from the ‘hood,’ being coached by their dad who gave zero effs about White folks, wearing braids with beads that swung and made noise when they played, ‘crip walking’ on the courts and clothing choices and so on. They were characterized as the antithesis of White girl tennis gentility.
As Serena went onto straight DOMINATE (this is not debatable, she’s #GOAT) we also saw how the officials and the media treated her. Extra drug testing and ridiculous media questions. Tomfoolery abounds when it comes to how she’s treated. Just last month, folks were asking if she felt some kinda way about Sharapova’s “beauty” and banned from wearing a body suit because it wasn’t respectful to the “space” (again, a presumably White space). Chile…
So, here we go during the final of the US Open. Yeah, she was losing anyway; we could all see where things were likely heading. Yeah, she went in on that referee after she was cited for receiving coaching (that she apparently didn’t even see). And now, here we are watching the world be purposefully obtuse about her overall treatment and seeing what it looks like when she got *sick and tired* of that ref’s shyt. Oh, sure, as an elite athlete she should keep her cool (#didMcEnroeevertho, and as much as I loved Ashe he was about some respectability shyt too), but that was a bogus initial call, one that has not even KINDA been applied equitably for other players, male or female. That call straight questioned her integrity, which frankly has been questioned her entire career. #thisaintnew And in her own words on the court, she knew she was losing, but she wanted to lose fairly. The referee’s calls regarding her “tantrum” were precipitated by the accusatory call concerning her integrity. #poisonoustreefruit
But all of that is beside the point, right? She lost to a lovely young upstart, Naomi Osaka, who has her own narrative of battling some media bull-shyt. How many times has she had to remind the media that she is in fact, biracial: both Japanese and black Haitian? #BecauseAsianisWhiteAdjacent
Peep this clip where she gets this reporter together right quick! I love her.
Oh and how does institutional “rules are rules” messiness (euphemism for misogynoir) work? Naomi Osaka’s legit win over Serena will forever be tainted, and that’s soooo not fair to her; she’s a badass in her own right.
And if you needed a bullcrap image that characterizes the whole mess, it’s this one.
Eff you Mark Knight.
Let’s take a quickie inventory, shall we?
- Serena portrayed with exaggerated Black features.
- Serena portrayed as ‘heavy,’ or you know “thick, big boned” as we Black women are presumed to be.
- The tightly pulled back hair that has ALL curl patterns (otherwise and often characterized as nappy), but appears literally snatched on her head giving the appearance of being nearly bald, cause you know “bald-headed b’s” are a thing we get called.
- Nod to the tutu that she deliberately sported as a poke in the eye of the recently banned French Open “disrespectful to the White space” Wakandan cat suit.
- The random pacifier rounds out this angry Black woman tableau.
- Meanwhile, the ref is shown asking Naomi to throw the game to end the presumably unwarranted “tantrum.”
- Naomi is absurdly shown as a diminutive, lithe, blonde, White woman, #damsel, which she is most certainly not.
Again, this is the lovely, US Open champ, Naomi Osaka:
Now I could continue on with the venting but I want to talk about what this kinda stuff means for parents of Black and Brown children, and specifically Black and Brown girls.
I posted on my personal social media streams this weekend that women, and women of color in particular, are long accustomed to having our very existence policed. (Wanna debate this? Fight me).
We can’t be too emotional, but we can’t be stoic either. Are we right for this kind of work? Where is your husband and how does he feel about your education/work/housekeeping/sexual activity/reproductive and medical choices/parenting approach/religious observations? We need to have our bathrooms monitored and legislated. Our hair has to be socially acceptable. Our skin has to be socially desirable, but really primarily for sexual proclivities because, we are loose and wanton by nature. Our clothing and shoe choices may make us responsible for male dominance behaviors. Staying out late gives us a bad reputation. Having personal and professional goals may make us men haters and *that* is really damaging to egos. Infertility is almost always our fault, but you know there’s limited access to adequate and appropriate health care has to be pre-approved by men because…see wantonness above. We don’t get to be sexually liberated unless we’re ok with being called sluts or whores. We are blamed for our singleness, but men’s desire is wholly based on our behaviors and presentation. Do we really have the temperament to be in positions of decision and power? Our outrage always has to be muted, especially if it’s emanating from Black and Brown bodies, because it’s often too detrimental and dangerous for it to be fully on display. We are downright disrespectful and scary.
For my Black daughter…my Black daughter with a trauma background who has trouble navigating this life socially, all of this is a crushing reality. I’m teaching her to be strong, to speak her mind, to be free. But for her safety, I also have to teach her how to display that strength in non-threatening ways, how to bite her tongue damn near off because she might be characterized as too sassy and how to choose her places to demonstrate her freedom, which is to say, not be free at all. In fact, I’m teaching her to put her authentic self in packaging that is palatable for folks who don’t look like us and that really does make me simmer all the time. #itsnotright
She already sees that while she can be at the top of her game, she will still just be seen as an uppity, angry Black woman, throwing a tantrum if she deigns to be a vocal self-advocate. And she will be punished for it. And other women of color close by would do well to learn the lesson to not display similar behaviors. As a reward, they will be awarded White proximity, even if it means erasing visual characteristics that otherwise differentiate them. Their Browness and their Blackness will be erased, and we’ll all walk around acting like that’s a good thing! #effthat
My daughter struggles with confrontation. She has a strong sense of integrity (as long as it doesn’t pertain to keeping the laptop too long or eating candy in the middle of the night). Hope simmers for a long time but trust when she blows, she blows! I’ve had to go down to the school many times after she has finally blown a gasket. I’ve had to explain what happens behind the scenes and bring copies of previous emails regarding situations that were never addressed that led to this very moment. I’ve had to reasonably discuss, cajole, sweet talk and finally legally threaten folks to both meet her where she is *and* provide appropriate consequences for behavior. I also know that if it weren’t for the DR that I insist on using in front of my name and the resources available at my fingertips, that my efforts to be her advocate and protector would not be as successful as they have been as a woman of color without the DR juice. I tell people often that I thought I went to get a doctorate to be an educational researcher; now I know that the true reason is to have enough gravitas to roll into the school making demands I otherwise would not have been even allowed to make on behalf of a daughter whose special needs demand that I do just that on the regular.
We talk about girl power. We talk about #BlackGirlMagic. We talk about feminism. We talk about womanism. We talk about equality, equity, fairness. We talk about the future for girls and women. We talk about what we want for them.
And then we see this shyt and get the clear reminder that our behavior and our identities (especially those in relation to Whiteness) continue to be policed in a manner as to remind us of our place.
Be happy you’re here.
Be not whatever else it is you are.
I’m so over this ish. My heart breaks for both Serena and Naomi. Parents, especially White parents of children of color, check this shyt. This is why that colorblind stuff is some bullshyt. This is what we mean about persistent misogynoir. This what we mean when it’s so institutionalized that shyt is casually at play in front of our faces.
Not doing comments on this post…it’s just…nah, I just can’t. If you’re not feeling it, go not feel it somewhere else. I can’t today.
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.
How do I explain this so the masses understand my fixation on school…ok here goes.
I love school; even when it was hard I loved school. I like learning. I’m curious. I watch historical shows, google subtopics and gobble up Wikipedia pages right down to the footnotes. I appreciated the challenge that school brought. When it came to my doctoral work, I actually liked the rhythm and pace of things even though it was grueling. The writing and rewriting…I was creating something, and it was and remains awesome.
I love school.
I’ve benefited greatly from my academic pursuits. Good job, buying a house, got a car, planning for retirement. Definitely enjoying the material trappings of hard work and earned accolades. I’m proud of my accomplishments. I had big aspirations when I was a little girl. I thought I would be an attorney someday. I realized early in college that I didn’t want to do that, but I also believed that I would earn a doctorate in something. I would one day be Dr. ABM. I have always been ambitious as hell. #heymomImadeit
Walking across that stage being hooded was an amazing feeling.
And then there’s there the reality of what it means to me to be educated.
One of the things I value most about all this schooling is that I feel like it gives me a little social privilege which can counterbalance the reality of living in black skin. I’m a little more welcome in white spaces. The education does not make me better than anyone, but it makes a lot of white people see me differently. And if white folks think I’m safe because I’m educated, well then, I might actually be a little safer while walking around in this skin. I move in circles that are sometimes uncomfortable, but I have the right letters, the right credentials, I “belong,” and so I’m safe.
It’s true what we tell our kids about working two or three times as hard to get half as far. I busted my ass, and loved it, to get *here* and one of the fruits of my labor is moving a little easier in white spaces.
Hope came along right as I was finishing my doctorate, and as helpful as being Dr. ABM at work has been these last few years, the real benefit of having $70K in educational debt comes when I step across the threshold off Hope’s school. Hope’s first summer here, she got into trouble at her summer camp and they were planning to kick her out. I met with the camp director who immediately started berating me. I held my hand up, insisted that we start over with proper introductions because I’m not going out like that—“Let’s start over. Hi, I’m Dr. ABM and you are?” By the time it was over he was apologizing profusely, Hope was allowed to stay in camp and got a promotion to junior camp counselor and I didn’t have to pay for the rest of the summer. Maybe it was the Dr, maybe not, but I know everything changed when I introduced myself as Dr. ABM. That was a moment when my privilege was extended to Hope.
I’ve found that my educational privilege has played out in numerous ways shielding Hope and I from a lot of drama. It was a lot easier for me to be *that* parent with the Dr in front of my name. The conversations always change when meeting participants who initially see me as some kind of stereotype black mother progress to seeing me as an educated professional mom. It’s always clear when some kind of back story for me and Hope is challenged and somehow the acceptable version of us is welcomed …my education somehow makes us safe, different and sadly, respectable.
This is the reality of racism, and it’s so utterly apparent to me since I finished my degree. It’s nearly stunning. In my 45 years, 8 with a president who looks like me, I’ve never been as afraid for myself or my kid’s future. I dreamed of what having kids would be like. I worried a lot about countless things, but these last few years, my fear of racially motivated harm has escalated sharply. I feel like there’s a part of me that’s always unsettled and looking to avoid the inevitable hurt that racism brings.
So, when I wrestle with my emotions around Hope’s academic experiences it’s largely motivated by fear, not by any expectations of Hope in particular. I am terrified that she won’t have this little buffer of safety that I feel like education can provide (even when it doesn’t, really). What happens when Hope isn’t covered by what little privilege I have amassed to buffer us from some of racism’s ugliness? I already worry about her various vulnerabilities. It’s not just that I want her to do well for the sake of doing well, I just worry myself sick that someone will read her wrong and she will end up in trouble or worse…dead. I don’t know if doing well on her SAT will protect her from being harmed, but my sense is that not trying will certainly not offer any protection.
I’ve started to see school as an avenue for self-protection.
So, when well-meaning, kind of shared experience having white parents urge me to let it go, to not worry about school, to let Hope handle it all and fail on her own…it’s not that I disagree, but I feel like there’s a huge part of the story of my worry that is completely unheard or not even considered.
Their stories are considered universal—everyone can and should relate because well, I’ll be frank, white is normative. Their kids fail and it’s heartbreaking. It is, but it’s not failing in a system that already doesn’t give two shits about you.
My worries about school are very different; this is about Hope’s survival in a racist world. This is about amassing elements of protection that can provide small buffers of the worst of a life routinely disrupted by racism. This is about being considered safe enough to be granted entrée into white spaces where more opportunities and resources await. This is about liberation and freedom.
The stakes feel so much higher and not just because I’m an absurd high achiever, but because I’m scared shitless. So, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to completely let the school thing go.
And Hope is starting to understand this. It isn’t really just about her performance; it’s about the long game. I know she struggles with her interpretation of my academic push; I also know that somewhere in there she wants to do well. I’m also keenly aware that there’s an additional layer of pressure on her because of what I’ve achieved. People see me and wonder why Hope isn’t doing better; they often assume she’s rebelling.
My desires for Hope are expansive, but honestly I just want to keep her safe. Education is one avenue to help do that. I don’t know how it will all work out. I have no idea.
I do know that being educated and working in academia doesn’t always offer the protection I wish it did. Even in my job, I feel it. I had hate mail too; I’ve had students say nasty things about me and to me. I’ve had professors say I was a “troublemaker.”
And yet, I still think it’s one of the best options we’ve got.
So, this is why I fixate on Hope and school. This is why it’s so important to me. This is why I can’t just let it go.