Tag Archives: Race

Mourning Ahmaud Arbery

On the day Ahmaud Arbery took his last run, 911 calls shine new ...

I refuse to watch the video of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. I made a conscientious decision a few years ago to stop watching such videos. There is a part of me that wants to bear witness, but the reality is that I cannot take it. I simply cannot.

After years of watching Black men, women and children murdered by White folks has left me with a bit of a shattered heart.

How many more times am I supposed to duct tape it back together only to have it shattered again?

If you’ve been under a rock or just consumed by news of COVID-19 and nothing else, Ahmaud Arbery, a 25 year old Black man was shot to death by two White men while he was out jogging in a Georgia neighborhood back in February. Two men chased down Ahmaud in a truck, alleging that he was a burglary suspect and that they were attempting a citizen’s arrest. Never mind that reports indicated there had not been a burglary in the neighborhood since New Year’s. They chased him down the street, and with another neighbor in another car, boxed him in, confronted him and demanded that he stop. He allegedly fought back, and he was shot dead with a shotgun.

I can’t imagine the fear he must have felt when he realized the truck was following him, when the yelling started, when he realized he couldn’t run to safety, that he would have to fight for his life, and the moment when he breathed his last breath.

I walk Yappy just about every morning. We usually walk 1-2 miles. We walk in all of the seasons (unless it’s pouring as Yappy generally does not do rain!). I walk through 2-3 neighborhoods regularly. I try to let Yappy be my ambassador because the silly dog will happily greet just about anyone. Not that long ago, we ran into an White neighbor who noted that I “didn’t live around here.” His tone was clear. I replied that I lived nearby, but that I’d been walking Yappy on that street for 5 years, it’s odd he hadn’t seen us before. I made a point to wave at another neighbor who I see often on my walks. I avoided that block for a week afterward; I got the picture that I didn’t belong.

Thankfully, he opted not to hop in his Volvo and chase us down the street. He could have.

And hey, there’s new construction going up across the street. I walk by the home nearly every day. Have I checked it out? Sure. Did it ever occur to me that I could be seen as a burglar, be chased and murdered for checking out the new house? No.

When the video of Amhaud’s lynching went viral my heart sank. I didn’t need to see it. My heart broke for Ahmaud’s family, knowing that their son’s and brother’s last few moments were being consumed around the world. I found myself feeling despair.

This keeps happening, and we go through the paces again and again.

Black person is murdered for FILL IN THE BLANK while minding their own gotdamn business.

No arrest is made, and initial police reports are that it was justified.

Magical videos appear showing that the murder is not justified.

Character assassination of Black person begins along with the common refrain, “If Black person had just FILL IN THE BLANK, they would not have been shot.” (For Ahmaud it was a juvie record)

Arrest is made without incident. Sometimes there’s even a stop for food on the way to the jailhouse.

White murderer is rarely indicted by the grand jury.

Farce of a trial is had, typically resulting in a not guilty verdict.

And then we start it over again; unless some rando person decided not to wait and just gunned down another Black person who was FILL IN THE BLANK while minding their own gotdamn business.

Are you exhausted? I know I am.

And we can’t even march in the streets right now. Yes, we can call, email, text and share all kinds of information, but the desire to march in the streets and put our anger and our grief on display can’t happen because of the pandemic—which by the way we are disproportionately dying from as well.

It is traumatizing. Not just hearing about and watching someone else’s death, but also worrying about what I might be doing while minding my own gotdamn business that will get me killed. It is traumatizing and exhausting in a way that you can feel in the very marrow of your bones and in the soles of your feet. You just want to find a panic room and stay there, where it’s safe. But we know that’s not realistic—pandemic related stay at home orders notwithstanding. This persistent emotional trauma shortens our life, as if we needed anything else to worry about since we know that the healthcare system can be trash towards us.

Last week, I just spazzed out. I was emotionally spent. I’m still dealing with a lot of emotional stuff having to do with being sick and not being able to see my family and worrying about Hope’s future with the pandemic looming over her undergraduate plans. Work has not stopped churning, and unreasonable expectations of productivity persist. And then when I sift through social media, there are folks who expect Black folks to do the emotional labor of helping *them* through this difficult time.

I am weary, just weary.

It’s enough to just make me want to stay in bed forever. I tapped out a couple of days ago. I masked up and went stress shopping at the local market. Cake, ice cream, snacks, margarita mix, one lonely pack of baby spinach and a bunch of overpriced meat to put in the freezer. All told I spent a $100, and then I just sat in my car. I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t.

I still haven’t cried, and I need to so badly.

Hope knows how emotional I can be; she sometimes teases me about it. She knows when not to tease me; she’s constantly checking in to make sure I’m ok.

She’s still worried about me being sick. She still doesn’t understand how hard I work sometimes (we do not share the same work ethic; we are very different in that respect), but she does know the depression that covers me when a murder like Ahmaud’s happens.

The mourning is real. I wear it like a bathrobe. I sit with it. I try to bury myself in it. The sadness. The grief. The struggle to remember that #notall White folks are dangerous, that I had loving White people in my life who are dear friends and colleagues. I know it’s not everyone, but I also know that so many folks will stay silent about these injustices. Silence is complicity. If you are my friend, you say you care about me then you need to speak up and get your people together. Please don’t ask me what you should do—I BEEN TOLD YOU. Be an antiracist and get to getting your people together. Dassit.

There is so much despair, the despair about what will become of us as a people, and me and Hope as individuals—what will become of us? Are we safe? Should I keep walking my dog in the mornings? Even in the nice neighborhood across the way? Is there anyway I can figure out how to prevent something like this from happening other than to stay hidden in my house, like I’m on some underground railroad?

I can tell you that I didn’t survive the last few weeks of being sick for this shit.

When White folk ask me why I’m so consumed by race all the time I usually respond how could I not be? At every turn this society is quick to remind me that my and my family’s melanted skin can be a problem.

I am so very tired.

None of this is ok.

My faith in the justice system is limited. My belief that Ahmaud’s family will see real justice is limited. My belief that I am safe on my morning walk is non-existent. I know that even with a cute dog, walking down the street to get some exercise is threatening.

And there is nothing I can really do to change that.

It’s really just too much.


White Gazes

This weekend social media was abuzz with commentary on Tyler Perry’s latest movie playing on Netflix (A Fall From Grace). I scrolled past most of it because I wasn’t in the mood this weekend for a TP flick. I’ll also admit to being one of many critics of his storytelling. I support him and want him to succeed, but his storytelling is mediocre. He recently boasted of his work ethic and how he writes everything he produces alone; well, it shows. A good writing room and/or a good editor can turn good writing into brilliant writing.

But I digress, this isn’t about TP and his Netflix movie, it’s about the critiques, who’s making them and who’s watching those who are critical.

An old friend recently posted something akin to if you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all on social media today. I wrote a response that despite all of TP’s contributions, it is still more than appropriate for us to have a critical conversation about his work. His contributions to Black American culture are obvious, noteworthy and meaningful. At the same time, in my opinion, his work is lacking, often recycled and full of misogynoir. She eventually deleted her posted and I slid into her DMs to apologize for blowing up her post and to inquire about how she was really feeling.

Turns out, there was a lot of defensiveness because White folks in her life were yucking it up about how TP’s stuff is so bad that he was being dragged by other Black folks. All of this made it easier to dismiss all of Black creatives. She wished that we could have these critical discussions in private, away from the White Gaze but we can’t so the default position is to say nothing bad, nothing critical. She emphasized that this lesson in “can’t say anything nice, then say nothing at all” is one of her core parenting values.

Ah, I got it.

Again, this isn’t about Tyler Perry at all. It’s about White folks.

Seriously, so much of this life is about White folks that it is seriously a mystery how we get anything done.

In a nutshell, the White Gaze is the world as we know it through white eyes. White folks write the history. White folks teach the history; anything that is not directly connected to them and/or their production of history is easily discounted, dismissed and forgotten. The White Gaze prioritizes white identity and centers white experience in all things. It dictates the way we talk, the way we dress, how we think about presentation, how we engage, how we are paid or not, how we raise our kids, and how we engage socially. It impacts us in countless ways, all day, every day. And it’s not even malicious, it’s just unconscious White supremacy at work.

This notion that we can have a meaningful community debate about the quality of Black art privately…well, we can’t on a large scale. . The same way I consumed the tweets, insta-posts and FB feeds White folks do as well. The fair and meaningful critique, similar to that which they might produce for art created by other White folks, is viewed differently and used to dismiss all.

The White Gaze is crushing because it’s always present.

After our interaction in the DMs, I thought a lot about what it meant and in what ways the White Gaze has shaped my life and my parenting.

When I was younger, my business dress was very conservative. I wanted to be taken “seriously” by all of the White folks where I worked. I remember the first time I cut my hair short and how all of the mostly White men I was around commented that I was so exotic. I grew my hair out. I kept my color schemes muted; didn’t want to be accused of being too loud or looking unprofessional. I worked on my public speaking and disavowed as much of any lingering southern accent as possible. I wanted to fit in, and very specifically, I wanted to fit in with White folks.

I eventually aged, and I began shedding f*cks. I largely wear things that are comfortable, sometimes colorful and I relish speaking in my own authentic voice. I’m matured and feel more free now.

I also know that I have this freedom from the Gaze only because of the capital I amassed from decades of succumbing to it. I’ve earned my freedom, but I also know it has limits. The Gaze always creates limits.

So when Hope came along, I was committed to trying to raise a strong Black woman who was self-assured and confident (we’re still working on this). I think back to my emphasis on manners and certain kinds of interactions. I think about the little weekend classes I sent her to on Saturday afternoons, and how I leveraged every bit of privilege I have amassed to her benefit—usually in rooms where I was the only Black or brown person. When she acted out, it was always uncomfortable, but when she acted out in front of White folks, my cheeks burned hot with embarrassment. I know the tableau we presented could easily be extrapolated to pathologize more Black folks. Suddenly, we were a stereotype, live and in color (pun intended).

Fear of the Gaze lingers just outside my front door. Heck, it’s in the house, and sometimes this blog is influenced by it.

During my afternoon pondering, I considered all the ways I silently conditioned my daughter to survive this Gaze. I considered how she pipes down when we’re in front of White people and it’s always the best of the best manners. I considered how stressed she gets when she has to dress formally; it’s not just that the clothes aren’t always comfortable, but there is a fret about how she will be viewed in the ensembles. I think about some of the clothes I’ve bought her since she left for college. Some of the things that I (and many of us) would consider basics, I know she has no interest in and that I am trying to affect her presentation—when there’s nothing wrong with her presentation. I am hyper aware that my parents conditioned me that in formal situations (read White situations) I need to have on my best clothes, best manners, best diction…best everything, and the pressure was enormous. One wrong move didn’t just ice me out, but might others out as well. I thought about all the ways I have conditioned Hope…not even intentionally (I’ve done that too) but unconsciously conditioned and modeled certain behaviors that help me navigate the Gaze.

And then, because I totally go down rabbit holes, I wondered how transracially adopted kids learn about the White Gaze. I wondered who teaches them about it and how especially immersed they are in it? And if their parents eff with that colorblind foolishness that centers whiteness…what then?

The White Gaze is oppressive without even trying to be.

So while I won’t be checking out of Tyler Perry’s stuff I still want him to win. As much as I think his writing is mediocre, I think that equality means that all folks have successful yet mediocre artists producing successful yet mediocre art. His wins also mean that I am free enough to criticize him publicly without care for the White Gaze and its oppression. A world in which that works is a world where parents like me are also free from having to coach our kids how to survive the Gaze as well.

That’s a world where I want to be.


Thoughts on “How to Deal” with Racists

I was cruising around social media on New Year’s Day and throughout all the lovely end of year tributes and proclamations for 2020. During my scroll-fest, I kept stumbling upon posts by white folks seeking counsel on how to deal with racist family members. Not all the posts were adoption related; some dealt with awkward family moments during the holiday dinner and others dealt with business folks who were dealing with racist clients or colleagues.

For some, the revelation that their friends/family/colleagues were racist AF was not new. They had long known that these individuals in their lives had trash ideas about folks who are not White. It had only recently become an issue that needed “dealing with” when they announced something monumental like an adoption, an engagement or a new client or job. In other words, these posters *knew* and either giggled along at the racist jokes/commentary or sat silently when the behaviors were occurring. In either case, the information was not shocking; it was only shocking that somehow the racism was directed at them as  proxy for their child/partner/client/colleague.

For other folks, these revelations were new; allegedly (heavy on the emphasis here) there was no previous evidence of being racist. For them, this new knowledge was shocking and triggered a spin into cognitive dissonance as they wondered whether Uncle Jim was always an arsehole (I guarantee you he was).

All of the posts sought counsel on how to navigate this new knowledge which I find to be just…sigh…sooooo privileged.  We really need a book, “How to be friends/family/colleagues with a racist without personal moral and emotional quagmires.”

Sigh. I swear this is exhausting.

Listen, racists are going to be racist. It’s what they do. Racists are as predictable as the sun rising and setting.

Grandma got racist during this administration? Nah, grandma got bold during this administration; trust, she was racist long before this administration came into power.

You are floored that your parents don’t want a black grandbaby…I’m guessing they have that one or two “acceptable black friends” that have never received an invitation to their home in 40+ years.

As a Black woman, I’m always more shocked by the folks who are shocked that they now “see racists.”

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I’ve never had that luxury. I had to learn to spot them early in order to just live. Honestly, spotting them is not hard; they typically are more than happy to reveal themselves. And if you miss the first hint, don’t worry, they will predictably show themselves again.

So, when White folks are *gasp* stunned to find that friends/family/colleagues are racist, I’m usually like really? You didn’t know? How did you not know? And now you want to know how to deal? What does that even mean?

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Does it mean that you are trying to deradicalize them?

Does it mean that you want to find a way of not banishing them out of your life?

Does it mean that you want your would-be Black/brown child to still be able to have a relationship with these folks because #friendsandfamilyareeverything?

Does it mean that you need an exit strategy before you straight up ghost them?

What does “deal with” mean?

Let me tell you something: I don’t deal with racists.

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I do diversity work professionally. Once I peep the racist, I’m cordial but frozen tundra frigid, not just chilly. If they are in my workshop, I’ll include them, I’ll make sure they don’t derail the program for everyone else, and I’ll also ice them with a quickness if necessary. And I get paid to deal with this stuff, and I just refuse to give them more than a passing professional thought once I’ve peeped them.

But let me run up on a racist outside of work….

I have zero time or tolerance. If I address them at all it will be with enough smoke to hide a major metropolitan city.

Here’s what I’m not going to do: I’m not going to spend any time with them. I’m not bring my kid around them. I’m going to let my friends/family/colleagues know that that person is not safe to be around. I treat them like a biblical leper. #canceled #mymoodforever

So all of this handwringing over racists…why?

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Because exacto-blading racist friends/family/colleagues is hard? Yeah, so is being Black living in a world committed to racism and white supremacy. So, yeah, I’m sure it is hard for folks to cancel these people, but the alternative is what…subjecting yourself and your kids to a bunch of rancid foolery?

How Sway, how????

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That’s going to be a hard no from me, and I ain’t posting a response to your ridiculous inquiry. #IsaidwhatIsaid

Every day, I read comments made by foster and adoptive parents raging about the deficiencies of biological parents. While some hope these parents get it together to be able to parent or have an open adoption, more than a few advocate zero contact at all. None. And while in some specific instances this might be warranted for safety reasons, folks are out here trying to rationalize hanging out with racists?

Really?

This is what we are doing in the year of our good Beyonce 2020?

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Come on, people. #dobetter

If grandma was a pedophile this wouldn’t even be an issue. Trust that exposure to racism is damaging, and it’s not just damaging to kids, it’s damaging to everyone. I can’t even believe this needs to be said.

Kick these folks to the curb, full stop. Protect your kids and protect yourself.  Stop making excuses and space for this kinda radical behavior. Let them know why you are cancelling them; let them know that it is a consequence of bad behavior. Let them know that reinstatement will only be considered after a presentation of sufficient evidence of changed hearts and minds over a sustained period of time, and that they could still be cancelled at any time.

And then walk away.

Dassit. Walk. Stroll. Strut. Roll out.

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Stop trying to make a way for racists. Stop it.

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Stop trying to rationalize; stop trying to be nice; stop trying to be understanding. Have some principles and be out.

Friends/family/colleagues don’t let friends/family/colleagues hang out with racists.

Just stop it, and go pick up a copy of Ibram X. Kendi’s book, How to be an Antiracist.

 

 

 


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.


Looking for a Segregated House

I’ve been thinking a lot about going back to church. We essentially stopped going earlier this year. I wasn’t getting what I needed, so I just stopped going.

The UU church philosophy is a good for me, but the congregation we attended isn’t. I loved the pastor, who seemed to take a genuine interest in me and Hope after services on Sunday. Her homilies often cover topics that I’m passionate about like civil rights and racial reconciliation through a faith lens, but the congregation is not very diverse in terms of race or age–the mean age is well more than 10 years older than me. Additionally, our presence seemed to grow the congregation’s racial diversity by a third; on more than one occasion Hope and I were the only non-White folks in attendance.  I wish I could say I didn’t notice this, but not acknowledging that would be absurd. 

Then there was that one homily about Black Lives Matter that some of the congregants complained about at the little meet and greet right after the service. A gentleman asked me if I agreed with the pastor’s homily because he thought the pastor was getting way out of line with this BLM discussion. I was polite but firm that it was refreshing to be a part of a church with a leader who recognized the need to talk about race, injustice and how the fit in the practice of Unitarianism. He promptly excused himself to get some juice, and never rejoined the conversation he initiated. You can only imagine how welcomed I felt in that moment. #sarcasm

Shortly after the election of my discontent, I just became even warier of where I worshipped. Real talk: Honestly, it’s been a hard year trusting White folks. Yes, yes, I know #notall, but really as a larger block, White folks stayed disappointing me this year. The demographics that led to the election of the person currently occupying the American White House (I try to refrain from uttering his name, kinda like #Beetlejuice) undermined a lot of the interracial trust I’d worked hard to personally cultivate.  I found the number of ministers who spoke in his favor to undermine what little remaining faith I had in the clergy, and White clergy with national platforms that I held in reasonably high regard cosigning his foolery?? Don’t even get me started.  As we now ponder the upcoming Alabama election that includes a candidate who allegedly trolled for teenage girls at the local mall and thought this behavior was ok as long as he asked for permission from their parents, I am mystified by how many pastors have come to his defense. It’s hard to have faith in folks who are supposed to lead and counsel our moral compasses these days. #Istaydisappointed #whygotochurchanyway

So, yeah, I’m having a hard time reconciling what I believe and what I see in practice and how much I want to be associated with any of it and why on earth would I want Hope to be exposed. Seriously, this is a major thing when you ain’t sure you want your kid to go to church because the pastor and congregation may be publicly cosigning on some bullschnitt. 

After I was grown and owning a home of my own, I have cyclically gone to church. Every few years or so I would feel very strongly the desire to go and be in fellowship somewhere. And then that desire and/or need would fade and I would step down to couch worship and then no fellowship or formal worship anywhere. I’m starting to cycle back into wanting to be in fellowship somewhere, but everything feels very different now.

As an adult, I’ve been adamant about my desire to be in fellowship in spaces that were diverse and integrated. Sundays are the most segregated day of the week; I don’t want that for myself and I don’t want that for Hope either. I also want to be somewhere that was going to be progressive in its profession and practice of faith; I’m not checking for homophobic sermons, rants about liberals or a congregation that believes that American Christians are under attack, what with all the Christian privilege in this country. I’m also not checking for pastors advancing the prosperity gospel. I’m just not interested in these and a few other key things central to my faith, but that leaves A LOT of fertile ground to talk and teach about.

But there’s something else these days: I need to be in spaces that are spiritually, psychically and racially safe. I slug it out in very White spaces day in and day out talking about and promoting diversity, and it exhausts me. I love my job, but make no mistake facilitating discussions about diversity and inclusion is not easy work, and I don’t even think I’m on the real front lines of this work. I come home sometimes spiritually and psychically empty because it’s just that hard. And although I have constructed a life in which some of my closest ride or die friends are White (and I LOVE Y’ALL so much it hurts), the day to day grind this last year has worn on my racial identity more than any other period of my life. Sitting around watching young White folks carrying tiki torches at night talkin’ bout how threatened *they*  feel because some statues of Civil War losers erected purely to intimidate Black folks might come down will really mess with you. Hearing your mother, who integrated her high school 50 years ago, talk about having similar fears that she had during Jim Crow effs with you. Having a White House occupant who still believes in the guilt of the DNA exonerated Central Park Five and who will tweet nasty things at Black and brown folks who he doesn’t think are respectful or grateful enough just grates at you. Wondering what the worst case racial scenario when you’re brown or black in this country might look like in the coming years will keep you up watching the ceiling fan turn at night. These times…these times are or should be hard for the emotional and spiritually minded among us. 

In thinking about all of that and feeling the need to be in fellowship somewhere, I know that more than anything I want to be in a safe space on Sunday morning. I need to be in a safe space on Sunday morning. I need that safety so that I can manage the other 6 days of the week. And #notall churches are safe for people who look like me. #reallyrealtalk

So, for the first time in more than 20 years, I’m going to start looking for a Black church to attend. I realized this after a lot of thought. It kind of goes against all the things I believe in related to diversity, but I’m at this place where…I worry that this is the only way I will make it through this particular spiritual cycle. I need to be safe, I need Hope’s spiritual journey to be safe, and my trust factor has fallen such that my desire to worship in a broader community has taken a backseat to my need for safe spiritual food.

I mentioned it to Hope recently and found that my daughter wants that kind of safety too. If she goes, she wants to be in a space with people who look like us (which by itself should be the topic of another post since how she engages and identifies as a woman of color is fraught with some serious baggage). 

What does it say about the state of things when folks who really want to integrate must segregate for their own safety? Well, it doesn’t say anything new; it just says that this has been the way for so long and it’s just bubbling up and affecting more people.

And what else does it say when churches aren’t safe spaces for everyone?

Hope and I are making a list of local Black churches and will commence to visiting soon. 

I’ll say this…it will be good to hear some high-quality gospel choirs. I’ve appreciated the diversity of congregations I’ve joined or visited, but the music…um, it was just ok. Nobody does gospel like Black churches, so… yeah. We look forward to visiting.

There is no guarantee that we will find what we are looking for, but I’m hopeful. Still, I do really need to sit and reconcile how this diversity professional has been run off from worshipping in diverse spaces because it’s just potentially too painful. Looking for a segregated house of worship wasn’t a part of my plan.


Gazes

Greetings from Finland! What an awesome trip it’s been so far. Finland is really quite lovely. My mother and I’ve have figured out the public transit system, ventured to Tallinn, Estonia, and tried very hard to learn a few Finnish words.  I gotta say the language is different than anything I’ve ever heard, and I thought I’d really heard a lot. I’m not a neophyte traveler, but I have been this far north east in Europe. It’s definitely worth the trip, but the language is not an easy one to pick up. That said, the people have been very nice and generally a accommodating.

But then there is the gaze. 

I mean, in the US, we talk about the White Gaze a lot in terms of race. I’m not going to go into a full on explanation about White Gaze here. In a nutshell, the white gaze is white privilege and supremacy on full on display in such a manner that everything not white is wholly defined as and by its non-whiteness. Everything and everyone else is other.

As a black woman in America, I often feel subjected to this gaze, sometimes at work, sometimes when shopping, at church—where it’s diverse almost more so because Hope and I show up sometimes—at the condo board meeting…you know; it can just happen anywhere. But that particular form of white gaze, the American tradition of white gaze, I’m used to, if not annoyed by. 

My usual experience of traveling abroad involves white gaze, but usually a kinder, gentler gaze. In some countries, my experience with the gaze has been more exocticized—the affluent black American who likes to travel. I get hit on a lot, and bevies have been known to be sent from the other end of the bar with a raised glass, a wink and compliment.

But Finland. Oh Finland. This white gaze is so damn strong. 

My very being is other here. 

So Finland is super homogenous—Finnish folk, Swedish folk, Russian folk, Roma folk (who are admittedly a little more tan than the others, but still…white) and a really small smattering of Asian and north African immigrant folk. So, it’s like whiter than your average white. It’s seriously Clorox white here. Now Helsinki is a very cosmopolitan city with lots of tourists and a huge convention center, so there are lots of folks coming through here. That said, I’m guessing that your average Fin can go a long damn time without seeing someone like me anywhere around other than on a tv or movie screen. So, to see me on the street? Well that’s just an anomaly of huge proportions. 

Apparently, I’m like a leprechaun, but I’m not sure that I bring good luck. In fact the overt clutching and moving of some purses suggest that mayhaps I do not bring luck at all. 

I saw a child walk into a door while staring at me. Ok, I’ll give the kid a break, but the grown women and men who openly gape. Ugh. 

Immigration control acted like someone like me shouldn’t  or maybe couldn’t possibly be attending an international education meeting. The limo driver acted as though he were mute the 20 minute drive to my hotel, prompting my mother to tell me to give him a big tip to prove that we black folks know how to act. (It was he who needed a lesson in how to act.)The least he deserved was a tip, and it annoyed the hell out of me to give him that cash after he ignored us. But that’s what we do—people of color are always trying to prove belong in a world that was not intended for us. 

Things have eased up in the last couple of days. Our trip to Estonia was lovely, with low levels of gaze. Either the gaze was so low key it wasn’t bothersome or the engagement felt so genuine that it was easy to answer questions and to share how we ended up shopping in the town square. During our ferry ride, I decided to meet white gaze with black gaze for the rest of the trip. Open air, direct eye contact lessens the gaze. It makes folks aware that they are staring. It reverses the issues of comfort. It triggers the acknowledgement that being defined and subjected to another’s gaze doesn’t feel all that great. 

For me it allows me to take some of my comfort and my power back. It allows me to resist being a curiosity, no matter how innocently. 

No, I don’t think any of this behavior is intrinsically malicious, and the Finns are, apparently, known for being reserved. But the behavior does inherently reinforce a system of white supremacy that I openly resist. 

With every person of color, especially black folks, we exchange a small smile and the universal nod of acknowledgement. There is no gaze, but there is acknowledgement. It feels nice. 

I am not sure how Hope would cope with this experience. I know she doesn’t like to be gazed upon. I know she sometimes struggles with finding her own beauty in her brown skin. Because she lives with me, understands what I do and is exposed to things designed to embrace her blackness, I think like me, she might be hyper aware of her being a novelty in this setting. In some ways, I am sad about that for both of us—It’s like James Baldwin suggested that to be black and to be conscious of your blackness is to be aware and reactive all the time. 

It is exhausting. I kind of wish we were sometimes ignorant about what it is to wear this skin and to be this person. But that’s not even a realistic desire. 

My mother, having grown up in a different era also is hyper aware of the gaze we have experienced on this trip. She seems to experience a wider range of emotions: disappointment, sadness, anger, frustration and fear. She chastised me about meeting the white gaze with a black one. She worried that it might trigger “them.” She doesn’t like it when they are triggered. She was raised in an era where knowing your place and choosing forms of resistance were the difference between literal life and death. I don’t pretend to know what that kind of emotional confinement feels like. But I see it in her; I hear her when she talks about how things are returning to how that period felt for her so many years ago. 

I don’t mean to make this trip sound miserable. It is far from it. It has been a grand experience and experiment. Most of the people we have met are kind. We have shopped. We’ve ventured to places that weren’t even on our bucket list. We are wiser from our time here. 

We have a day left in Helsinki before we head back to the states. After a week under the glare of this gaze, I will be happy to return to the gaze I know. It still sucks, but I know it. I’ve studied it. I get it. I know how to push back on it. 

I know this because…it’s home. 


Silence in Adoptionland

When you are a part of a marginalized group, you learn early on that the norm is white unless otherwise stated. You learn a language that includes sign posts that hip you that the space is not white owned or dominated.

Take for instance the American Medical Association and the National Medical Association. The AMA is race-neutral, which is a super kind way of saying white, while the NMA is a group that represents docs of African descent. The latter is going to include conversations very specifically about people like me—both professionally and medically. Those conversations will happen in the AMA, but not at the level of detail they will within the safe confines of NMA.

“National” is often a sign post for those of us who are not white, and we need those spaces. You want to know why?

Well, because sometimes being in spaces where white is the default norm is hazardous to our mental and emotional wellbeing. The micro and macro-agressions. The casual racism. The casual over-familiarity. The defensiveness. The “not all white people…” statements. The folks who take our information, repackage it and profit from it as though it was original content. The “why is it always about race with you people” or “I’m just a part of the human race” or my personal favorite, “I don’t see race at all.” #Iaintclear

And if I or people like me try to engage, the resulting triggered fragility can simply spin out of control, leaving those of us who are “other” to feel abandoned, hurt, lonely, and demonized as the mean, angry person who attacked some nice well-meaning white person. Oh, we mad, we are mad.

When I started my journey, silly and naïve, I sought support in various places, both on-ground and online. I often found that in both places I was the lonely,only or one of very few.

I am constantly self-assessing and checking my need for self-care with respect to race because I work in the diversity and inclusion space professionally. I thought I would do that and handle whatever came my way in the adoption space.

What I found was one of the least diverse spaces I have ever voluntarily joined. I felt like there were so many ways I didn’t fit—I was black, single, increasingly non-religious, adopting an older kid and living in a super urban area. I know I’m not alone, but boy there are times when I click into or walk into a space looking for support and the first thing I have to do emotionally is put my shield up.

How am I supposed to get support when I feel like I have to arm myself against the supporters? It often just doesn’t work and is an exercise in wasted time and emotional energy.

Yesterday, I wrote about being invisible in Adoptionland, but other times, my presence is seen but only as a source of information, not as an equal in receiving support. I’ve found myself just withdrawing at times because I felt I was being asked to contribute to well-meaning folks who want to be good parents, but who didn’t see me as someone struggling with similar issues in adoption.

Marginalization is so pervasive in our lives.

So, I lurk. I go to support groups and don’t say much as much as I used to.  I try to hit the like button sometimes in online spaces. I get really picky about where I want to use my voice and how to use it strategically. I’m not just posting or commenting all willy-nilly. I have to tailor my response so that it’s palatable, non-threatening, and/or not too angry. I make sure I put the word “some” in front of “white folks” so that I don’t trigger someone into going into an “All Lives” rant.  I have to brace myself for the comment that challenges the factual recounting of my lived experience. I have to go take a short walk before responding so that I can keep people at the keyboards and tables when I do respond. I have to keep my wits about me because one wrong comment and my view point is just discarded like this morning’s gum that was chewed for over two hours.

Speaking in white spaces is exhausting. It’s just requires physical and emotional capital that is sometimes too much, and it doesn’t always payoff.

I often read things online or hear things in person and wonder, is it worth the cost to respond? Nah, I could be teaching Hope to improve her checkers game instead. Or just picking my toenails, you know, Hey, I could get in my car and drive around hoping not to get pulled over by cops!

I could just be doing something else productive.

There are so few signposts in Adoptionland to let me know I am welcome and that my voice is valued. I watch the reactions to the comments made by other people of color,  and I try to support them, but I also really, really monitor the reactions to their posts.

I wonder if things will get heated because feelings get hurt. Will someone get chastised or worse, banned?

I wonder would I have more fun and get more out of watching dumb pet videos. #probably

So, I silently lurk in the back of the room or behind my avatar, no doubt with others. I’ve already got enough on my plate as a single mom to an older adoptee struggling to live beyond her history of trauma.

I don’t need the drama of being shouted down in spaces when I’m seeking support.

So often, this space is my only safe space in Adoptionland, and I had to create it for myself. That’s saying something.

So, it’s just too much and it’s so much easier to stay silent.


Race Issues in Adoption-Part 1

I recently had the pleasure of doing a long form interview with TraumaMamaDrama! I’m grateful for the opportunity to talk about these race, adoption and parenting with her.

Take a looksee at Part 1 of my interview!

Race Issues in Adoption – Part 1


A Sad Mystery

There was a time when we would hear about police violence and people of color. We would see evidence, but without excessive documentation and a stand-up witness, it was easy for folks to just look the other way with little effort.

Today, technology has changed everything. We have the ability to capture real-time evidence of the good, the bad and the ugly.

We also have a much better idea of what happened in the absence of cameras.

The ugly part is that it hasn’t changed much. It seems that the only thing it’s changed is that we now require a bit more effort from those who are determined to look away as injustice persists.

Two years ago, in November, we learned that Darren Wilson would have no consequences from killing Michael Brown.

Last December we learned that the police who murdered Tamir Rice just seconds after pulling up in their car would not face charges.

Today, a judge declared a mistrial in the murder of Walter Scott, a Black man who was shot in the back by police, who then attempted to plant a weapon on him.

There was a video of the whole thing.

One juror said he just couldn’t find Michael Slager guilty.

That juror looked away. When the judge heard about the hung jury days ago, he sent them back in to work it out. That juror essentially turned his chair around.

That’s a lot of effort.

And now more jurors “have questions.” #really?

And so, now, with a video that shows a man being shot in the back, there is no justice. Oh, sure, his family has already reached a settlement with the city, but the larger question of social justice…it remains unanswered.

So, how do we talk about this? Do I just tell Hope, “Ooops, they did it again?”

It really does become exhausting having some kind of hope that one day my daughter will be able to really see justice.

It’s like I’ve concluded that I won’t see it. My parents probably have only seen it fleetingly, but probably not.

What does the future hold for us?

And in the current national climate?

What should those of us parenting children of color think? What should we teach them? What will keep them safe? What will ensure they get justice if they ever need it?

It is a sad mystery.


If You Voted for Him — john pavlovitz

I have always been a believer in voice. Your voice is who you are. How you use it is a demonstration of your personal power.

Wars have been waged over voice—who has it, who doesn’t, how it is used.

I was always taught and been taught that silence is assent.

And this year, that is true.

In fact, I can’t think of another time in my life when it has been truer.

Just under half of the voting electorate voted for someone who seems to share very few of my beliefs or values.

Half.

It’s kind of like those old sayings when you go to college: Look to your left. Now, look to your right. One of those folks won’t be there at graduation.

Instead, now, the ending goes: One of those folks voted for the guy openly praised and endorsed by hate groups and restrictive regimes around the world.

So, you say, that you don’t share those beliefs?

Tell me.

Show me.

Stand with me.

Tell me, show me and stand with me.

Reblogged…

If you voted for him, I really need you to hear something right now: I believe you. I believe you when you say that you’re not a racist. I believe you when you say that you’re not a bigot. I believe you when you say you’re not homophobic. I believe you when you say you’re……

via If You Voted for Him — john pavlovitz


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