Tag Archives: Race

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.


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.


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


Vote Your Conscience

It’s pretty rare for me to engage in direct political conversation on this space, and I gotta admit that this is really deliberate for me. I live in the DC metro area; we breathe politics here. I was a lobbyist for almost 10 years, with an undergrad degree in government and politics. Politics are my occupational first love. What’s happening in the US right now almost defies words. I often imagine that it is like watching the midpoint of the fall of a great republic, which is shocking given that we’ve survived a lot of other bull ish.

I know who I’m voting for next month, but I won’t publicly endorse the candidate or name them since I do think that it’s a deeply personal decision, especially this year. (Of course, if you follow me on twitter, you already know who I’m voting for.) So many of us are making voting decisions based on who we can tolerate more and hate less.

This is my first election as a parent, and things are different.  And in this election, that is an understatement. The crazy in the American election season this year is unprecedented.

Like many parents, so much of my political decision making is influenced by the future I want for my daughter. But even though this is my first political rodeo as a parent, I’m still voting in part based on who I think will eff up my daughter’s future less.

I am Black woman, raising a young Black daughter.

I’m guessing that you *should* be able to figure out who I’m not voting for in a few weeks.

Yesterday I was popping around a few adoption support groups when I came across a post by a parent who was defending her support of the GOP presidential nominee despite having children of color (though for me the argument could be made to just stop the sentence with “children.”). She posted about how she hated Clinton more. I get that.

What I couldn’t wrap my head around was the tacit acceptance of racist, homophobic, misogynistic, rapey, ablest, gutter language spouted by a candidate that has emboldened some pretty awful citizens to come out from their hiding places. I also couldn’t understand how that reality could be reconciled with the desire to raise children of color, or girls, or special needs children or just children to live in a safe country that values and embraces them.

What about our shared values?

Maybe we don’t have shared values.

Maybe we never did.

For me, ultimately, this is what a lot of the national discourse has been reduced to.

I’m not nearly as afraid of terrorists or undocumented immigrants or increased taxes or Russia as I am about my black daughter potentially being killed by American police, being sexually assaulted, being marginalized and bullied at her school, being accosted on the street by some crazy racist, sexist person who makes her feel threatened.

For me, the devil beyond the borders isn’t nearly as frightening as the one within them.

With each week, the discourse worsens and my fear escalates.

I genuinely worry for our collective futures.

I worry for our children.

I worry for my beautiful black daughter.

I worry for Hope.

I’m not naïve. I don’t expect everyone to vote the way I will. I don’t believe that we all share the same beliefs and values. I don’t believe that everyone hopes the best for me or people who look like me—both Black and a woman.

But I still hope that people will invest some critical thought into their votes.

If you’re really ok with a candidate who believes cozying up to White supremacists is ok, then vote your conscience.

If you’re really ok with a candidate who believes “locker room” talk includes descriptions of sexual assault, then vote your conscience.

If you’re really ok with a candidate who blasts his sexual assault accusers but can still fix his mouth to bring up the affairs of a candidate’s husband as though they are more legitimate and/or somehow different than his own narrative, then vote your conscience.

If you’re really ok with a candidate who openly mocks women’s looks and bodies and believes in punishing women in for having a voice, then vote your conscience.

If you’re really ok with a candidate who openly mocks those with disabilities, vote your conscience.

If you’re really ok with a candidate who conflates being Black with living in hellish inner cities, then vote your conscience.

If you’re really ok with a candidate who doesn’t include men and adoptive families in his family leave plan, then vote your conscience.

If you’re ok with a candidate who practiced housing discrimination, then vote your conscience.

If you’re ok with a candidate who has defended the killing of unarmed people of color by law enforcement, then vote your conscience.

If you’re ok with a candidate who cloaks himself in religion when it is expedient, specifically when there is a need to be forgiven, then vote your conscience.

If you’re ok with a candidate who lives on Twitter but doesn’t disavow a hashtag like #repealthe19th then vote your conscience.

If you’re ok with a candidate who embraces voters who actually wear racist and sexist paraphernalia with his name emblazoned on it, then vote your conscience.

If you’re ok with a candidate who waxes philosophical about a time when America was great and various citizens were legally subjugated, then vote your conscience.

I could go on; there is so much more.

Vote your conscience.

Or not.

It’s hard to focus on actual policy when the mud is so thick.

I need a shower after just comprising a list.

I don’t suggest that there isn’t mud on all sides, certainly there is, and none of it makes me excited about this election. But again, my fears are more immediate, more personal.

So, this post isn’t an endorsement of anyone, but it is a call for folks to really think about what their vote means, what their conscience is really saying to them, and what they really want for the future of America.

For me, I want something different. I don’t have many options, but I definitely, definitely want something different.

I hope you do too.



Coming Up for Air

After being pulled over last week, I just needed to step away. I threw myself into work and into making sure Hope was ok.

I still watched the news, but I muted it when stories I couldn’t handle jumped on the screen. I watched a lot of Hulu. I did a lot of work. We skipped Back to School night to rest, eat a bunch of McDonalds, and chill out on the couch.

By the weekend I was prepping for a business trip. Hope was talking about missing me, which always makes me feel good. Not because I like her missing me, but I like being missed.

I touched down in the Midwest, and found more of my mojo.

It helps to feel needed, to feel competent, to feel like you matter.

Work gives me that. This weirdo gives me that.


Several days later, I’m home and prepping to head out for a quick trip to Texas to give a talk.

Bits of my humanity are sliding back into place, but it’s hard when you see another event, another hashtag #AlfredOlango, and the face of a crying child talking about her fears.


It really is exhausting.

Last week, Mimi asked me about my feelings when I was stopped. It took me a few minutes to get the words out.

I was terrified, but not for me. I do not fear death. I mean, I’m not exactly looking forward to it or anything, and I’d really prefer not to meet death anytime soon. I’d like to have a long, healthy life.

What frightened me was the possibility of Hope being left alone…again.

I mean, I have a will, arrangements have been made for her to be raised in a loving home. But the issue is more trauma for her.

It is the way in which families of victims of police violence become collateral damage in the aftermath.

Victims’ bodies are often left where they fall, for as long as four hours. There never seem to be efforts to save the lives of the victims; people handcuff the dead. They step over them. They mill around with no sense of urgency over what transpired moments before.

And there’s always video. Oh, sure the dash and body cams aren’t reliable, but there’s almost always cell phone footage or security cam footage.

It is released and the victim is shown repeatedly laying there lifelessly.

I couldn’t bear to think about what that would do to my daughter.

I’m fortunate to not have any mug shots or untoward photos out there that would be used by the media, but my name would be a hashtag and would be posted, shared, tweeted and retweeted and posted for days.

Having already survived so much loss, the thought of my daughter facing that breaks my very heart; it is crushing. It is scary; worse than any horror movie.

That’s why I cried that day; I can’t possibly leave my beautiful girl.

It really is challenging to be emotionally healthy during these times.

I’m better this week. I’ve got my bearings.

I’m emerging from the deep and coming up for air.

My family is safe. The bills (and ticket) are paid. Hope and Yappy are acting dorky. There’s a band practice to shuttle her to in a few minutes. Elihu and I are planning a hot date night this weekend. We have a good life. I love the life we’ve built.

Today we are fine. We are floating about in our little bubble, praying that it never is pierced by violence.

Traffic Stop Protocol

Hope and I are taking a trip to the beach this weekend. Note, this is not a vacation since both Hope and Yappy are accompanying me—this is a trip.

If you are traveling with your kids, it’s never a vacation. It’s a trip.

Posted by Add Water and Stir Podcast on Saturday, July 9, 2016

In the wake of all that’s happening in the world, tonight I will be giving my daughter another briefing on what must happen during a traffic stop.

I got a ticket about two months ago on the way to visit my parents. Hope followed my lead, remained quiet and made no sudden moves. Yappy was in the back seat, and the dog believes every human has the potential to be his best friend. Tail wagging, mouth open giving a toothy grin, he appeared harmless, charming even.

But that was before two more deaths of unarmed black men, the deaths of 8 police officers and this week’s shooting of an unarmed black man who was assisting an autistic black man and trying to get him out of the street with his toy truck, which some numb nut called in as a possible gun.

So, before we head out on a long, hopefully uneventful, fun filled weekend at the beach, I will remind my daughter what she must do if we are stopped by police.

  • Remain calm.
  • Before the officers approach the car, calmly turn on the video on your phone. I have purchased more data for this trip and set your settings to automatically upload anything you record to our family cloud where it will be safe.
  • Put the phone on the center console.
  • Make no sudden moves.
  • No reaching into your purse, there is not enough lip gloss or mascara in the world to explain how that might be misconstrued as you reaching for a gun.
  • Always carry your student ID, as it’s the only ID you currently have. You are tall and womanly and you might be mistaken for someone older; you need to be able to establish you’re just a kid.
  • If you are asked for ID, ask for permission to reach into your purse to retrieve it. See reason above.
  • Put your hands in your lap or put them on the dashboard so they are always visible. See reason above.
  • It’s all “yes, ma’ams, no ma’ams, yes sirs, no sirs” for the duration of the stop as anything else might be considered you being mouthy.
  • If you are asked to step out of the car, ask for permission to release your seat belt.
  • Do not put your hands in your pocket after you exit the car, no matter how fidgety you might be because you are afraid.
  • Remain as still as possible.
  • Try not to cry and please don’t scream no matter how scared you might be.
  • Let them search your purse.
  • Answer all questions clearly and as politely as possible.
  • I will reassure you as much as I am allowed to that we will be ok.
  • If we are separated in any way ask to call your grandparents; they will drop everything to come get you. I printed cards with their number and put it in your wallet since they may take your phone. Tell them where the number is. Better yet, write their number with a Sharpie in your hand before we leave.
  • When our stop is completed, we will stop at the first safe place so that you can let all of the emotions out. We will take as long as you need. I have put fresh handkerchiefs in the glove box.

As for me, I’ll also be turning on my video with an automatic upload setting, and I’ll be following all the same rules.

Yappy will try to get by on his adorable looks and charm. He will very likely be successful with this approach because well, he’s Yappy.

We live and travel the Interstate 95 corridor all the time.  This is a heavily policed interstate from end to end. It is known for being a big trafficking route for drugs, guns and sex workers on the East Coast, consequently, there are lots of troopers along our travel route. It is also notorious for being problematic when you are DWB–driving while black.

I’ve traveled this route for my whole life, especially so for the last nearly 30 years. I’ve got a few speeding tickets along the way, very few. The likelihood that anything terrible would happen may be small.

But the likelihood was small for all of the people who have died unarmed too. Statistics seem remote until you are a part of the few.

I’m not anti-police by any stretch of the imagination. I understand and appreciate the sacrifices that they make each and every day. I am grateful to them and all public safety servants.

I also know that they are not supposed to be my enemy.

I also know that I’m not supposed to be afraid of them.

I also know that having to go step by step through a survival protocol with my daughter on how to just be OK during a traffic stop should be unnecessary. I know that having to explain the nuances of why she has to be sure to have her student identification and why my highly emotional child has to contain herself for our safety is supposed to be unnecessary.

I use my cruise control a lot when driving long distances. I’ll definitely be using it tomorrow as we depart on a 5 hour journey to the shore.

If we get stopped on this journey, I hope that we will be like Yappy and can rely on a cute, but compliant, charm offensive to ease the burden of DWB.



Thoughts on Racial Identity Development

I’ve been fretting lately…fretting about Hope and her Blackness or rather her racial development.

Did you know that moving from the initial stage (pre-encounter stage) of racial identity development to the second stage (encounter stage) is usually precipitated by a negative encounter around race for people of color?

In lay terms, we all are getting along peachy keen until some dingbat says/does something racist, pointing out that the brown or black kid is different and that difference is bad.

For me, this happened when I was little, before I even started kindergarten. It’s a moment that I have long likened to eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

The evil is knowing that people hate me because of my skin color and might go so far as to hurt and/or kill me. The good is having this knowledge and avoiding the naiveté that might get you killed. Racial identity is built on this foundation. If you are privileged not to have to this experience then your identity as a racialized person is stunted, and your privilege is allowed to bloom, so says the research.

I know that there have been events in Hope’s life that meet the criteria that would push a regular kid to the next stage of racial development, but given all that she’s endured it doesn’t seem to have registered. So much of her development in general was negatively affected. The racial piece, well, maybe it just didn’t register when she was just trying to survive.

I get all that. I really do. That said, racial identity development then is recognized as just another area that has to catch up.

When Hope first moved in 2.5 years ago, I remember being a bit put off because all the posters of pop stars were white, with very, very few exceptions—Selena Gomez, the Black girl in 5th Harmony and Bruno Mars. Turns out there aren’t really any teeny bopper pop stars of color these days. Hope’s not really into Beyonce or Rihanna so…yeah, white kids on the wall it is.

We dealt a little while with colorism and issues around Hope wishing she had lighter brown skin. Ughhhhh, she still vocalizes this when we go shopping for tinted moisturizers (#damnmakeup).

Then I noticed she only liked white or Hispanic boys; there aren’t many Black kids in the band and only like one or two boys and ok, they aren’t her type. So there aren’t many kids of color in her social circles here; they heavily populated her circles back home, but it’s like she left it all behind.

Recently, I realized during a social outing that she deliberately avoids kids of color; she doesn’t even want to associate with them. Same with my efforts to have us “friend date” other families with kids of color. She wants nothing to do with it.

I know she struggled with my version of Blackness; I was really different than the Black folk she had previously experienced. She even told me one time that in some ways it was like I wasn’t really Black. I struggled with that, and I don’t know if it’s my perceived unicorn status or what, but she is ok with me and my bougie, upwardly mobile, educated black folk. But she doesn’t seem interested in accepting the black diaspora.

And maybe it’s too much for me to expect from her at this point. She is still healing from all her trauma, embracing Blackness as an identity is probably not even on her subconscious list of things with which to grapple.

It doesn’t stop my fretting though, as I watch my beloved Hope cloak herself in social Whiteness. Even if I hope it never happens, I know that something will happen, something that will hurt her. I hope that her friends will be wonderful allies. They are good kids, but they aren’t forced to think about the things I think about, the dangers that our color expose us to, they don’t have to think about it unless they choose to.

From a parenting perspective it’s odd; I am glad that she’s bridging some of her social challenges, but I feel some kind of way about her not having any brown or black friends and her refusal to pursue any of those kinds of relationships. I’d love to see a mix of folks in her life who love her and support her. I want her to have safe spaces—sure her White friends can offer that, but I fret that having no friends of color limits her safe spaces if and when something goes down.

Add to this, my abject horror in thinking about police brutality, microaggressions, the resurgence of laws codifying acceptable discrimination and a nation’s willingness to increasingly accept racist discourse.

I worry.

Actually, describing my emotion as worry is an understatement. I am afraid. I’m also aware that all of this has a huge impact on my own well-being. I think the current political environment has exacerbated my emotion around Hope’s racial identity development. It’s complicated. I also know that this process is a natural one; it is not something I can control. I can’t control when, where or how it might happen.

I can only be there for my daughter. That’s it.

But it doesn’t feel like enough. Hugging her tight and soothing her over what might feel like an enormously painful betrayal, just doesn’t feel like enough. Teaching her how to move past it doesn’t feel like enough. Nurturing her healing doesn’t feel like enough.

I wish I could make it all go away. I wish I could make racism all go away. I wish I could make the need for this kind of identity development vanish. I just wish I could protect her from every other thing that might make her path hard; she’s suffered enough. I just want to keep her safe.

But I can’t, not from everything.

I know that, but it still breaks my heart.

Thoughts on Charleston

I am really tired of writing about the challenges of feeling unsafe walking around in Black skin, raising a Black child.

I am tired of feeling like it is open season on Black lives.

I am tired of being fearful of watching the news, choosing to binge watch Hulu or Netflix because the reality of living in this skin means that it is more likely than not the news will relay a story of the death of a brother or sister…at the hands of someone White…because that’s what makes national news these days.

Oh sure, yeah, I hear the rumbling excuses used to distract us from living under the threat of social terrorism—“What about Black on Black crime?”

What about it?

I am tired of hearing about why we can’t get serious gun control in the US.

I am tired of seeing, reading, hearing about how White mass killers are “loners with emotional problems” who write racist manifestos, tell friends and family that they want to start a racial war, and are gifted a gun by parents.

I am shocked that this young killer was taken alive, given a bullet-proof vest and humanely taken into custody. That alone seems to be a privilege not afforded to Black folk who are walking down the street.

I fear that a time will come when my economic and educational privilege will be shown, in dramatic and terrifying fashion, not to trump the disadvantage of my skin color.

I am angered by the unmitigated gall of South Carolina to fly what I believe to be the treasonous flag of the Confederacy;  the Confederacy lost. We’re supposed to be a union.

I grieve for the dead:

Rev. Clementa Pinckney
Rev. Sharonda Singleton
Myra Thompson
Tywanza Sanders
Ethel Lee Lance
Cynthia Hurd
Rev. Daniel L. Simmons Sr.
Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor
Susie Jackson

I am so weary of this general subject matter. I feel compelled to write about it too often.

I am scared for Hope. I don’t want to keep explaining this ish to her. There is no explanation. None. I feel a sense of anguish after this massacre in Mother Emanuel. It is shameful. It is horrendous. I don’t know how the families can offer forgiveness. I am clearly not as far in my faith as they are, because I can’t offer that at all.

I am not even sure I can write anything else…the grief, sorrow and anger are just too much. I’ll just end with what my dear friend Mimi said on one of our early Add Water and Stir podcasts: “We’re trying to raise kids here!”

Girl Bye

I am not here for Rachel Dolezal.

I am not here for her brand of blackface.

I am not here for the flippant and co-opted use of the term “transracial” to explain her choice to identify as Black.

I am not here for the ability to put down and pick up privilege at will and at the expense of an entire culture.

I am not here for a faux brand of “keeping it real.”

I am not here for the appropriation of color and culture.

So, check it, this week the parents of Rachel Dolezal, president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP, went on local TV and blew up her spot as a White woman who’s been posing as racially Black for nearly a decade. Apparently, Ms. Dolezal has a special affinity for Black folk, culture, skin, hair, etc, etc.; so much so, that she simply put it on.

No really: She. Put. Black. On.


She put it on like it was a sweater and carried a culture and history around in her handbag. She constructed a back story, you know, “of the struggle,” complete with a fake Black father. She darkened her skin. She permed her hair and/or scored some fabulous curly fro wigs, dreads and braids. She taught Black history. She painted Black and Brown bodies and stories, some she claimed to be autobiographical. She fought the power with a fro and an afro pick.

Oooooh weeee. Wooosaaaaa.

That’s what’s really interesting to me. She’s “committed to the cause,” with a clear interest, personally and academically, in Black life and Black issues; she has a compelling CV dedicated to civil rights, equity and inclusion. I’m here for White allies. I’m here for White folk who take a personal and academic interest in the African diaspora.

And I’m all down for inclusion…authentic inclusion.

But…I can’t with this chick. I cannot.

I’m not sure what her deal is; honestly I don’t even care, but this idea that you can just decide one day that because you like a culture so much that you’ll just…become a member…

#nope #memberapplicationdenied


But Rachel wasn’t about that life, she wanted a different connection, a different identity, so she just created one. Really girl? Really?


It takes mega-privilege, epic-privilege, next-level kinda privilege and serious cajones to just recreate yourself as a different race, especially since you still could just drop that identity when it suits or benefits you, and you know that folks who you knew “before you were Black” have receipts.

Rachel Dolezal is a liar, plain and simple. She’s co-opted stories like mine, being a Black woman, and actually profited from it. I just can’t!

I am not here for her foolery.

I’m not tripping over her being president of the NAACP—be an ally of any shade and be a leader—I don’t care; I’m tripping that she created a life and a set of experiences out of thin air, simply because she wanted to, because she “felt” Black, because ultimately “we’re all from Africa..”

Gurl… #smh

Race, ethnicity and identity are complicated things; they are. And lots of folks struggle to construct their racial identity, struggle to figure out what and how to acknowledge contributing heritages, struggle to either find a box to fit in or create a new box for themselves. And generally I’m not one to get too huffy on how people identify, but I do have a problem with racial and cultural appropriation, and I believe this is what Ms. Dolezal has engaged in. I’ve got a problem when you construct a whole false reality based on another race and culture. Where’s the respect in that? Imitation isn’t always flattering and putting on Blackness isn’t either.

Ms. Dolezal is expected to address the controversy in what is probably expected to be the most interesting NAACP meeting in recent history. I’m curious about what she will say. I’m curious about how and why she chose Blackness. I’m curious to see how the world responds (especially Black Twitter; I’m guessing the clowning/dragging will continue, just head there and search #AskRachel and commence to cackling).

I’ll watch, ‘cause I’m petty like that. But I’m guessing there is nothing she’s going to come up with that’s going to get drafted to my team.

I’m not claiming Rachel. #nopenopenope

I hope she puts that tube of self-tanner down and unleashes that sew-in and lives as I do, in her own skin, with some visits with a professional somewhere.

I am not here for Rachel Dolezal.


Talking about #Ferguson

Oy!  My mind has been in a million places this week.  Apologies for the mistaken title and reference.


Hope and I were in a bit of a bubble for the last week and half or so. After I made the decision to say goodbye to The Furry One, I just kind of shut down. Truth be told I’m still kind of closed for business, but that’s for another post. We certainly were aware that Michael Brown was killed by a police officer. I was aware of the decline of Jefferson into a bit of chaos over the last week, but mentally and emotionally I was elsewhere. There was a lot of Disney Channel watching. There was a lot of Shark Week. There was little news watching, together anyway.

I would watch the news late at night. Read the news articles, watch videos, read blogs about Brown, his death, the frustrated, hurt and angry town besieged by tanks, snipers and a media circus. My heart hurt. My head hurt. I’d turn it off and return to my own grief. I’ve done this every day for 10 days.

Last night I told Hope we were going to watch Anderson 360 to.

Sigh. She whined. And then she started to watch. Then she started to wonder out loud and the questions came.

The questions she had. The commentary on race. How she described what she was hearing, thinking, seeing, believing. It’s disheartening. She deconstructed *everything.* I hardly know what to even say about it all.

The idea that somehow she has to be less threatening to others as a young black child…we talked about that. There was a lot of, “…and that’s why mom tells you to…” do something that is a tactic to be as non-threatening as possible. You have to earn the right to be completely authentic, delightfully and meaningfully confrontational and candid as a brown child. Not everyone will be comfortable with that you. These were difficult things I told her.

She hates the police. She sees them as the “system.” She’s always been very data-driven and evidence based, and Hope’s evidence says, most compellingly, that the system and all its players are not to be trusted. I wonder whether she will always have such distrust. I shudder at how she might react to being confronted by law enforcement. I cry when I think that she might be killed because of her lack of trust in those who are sworn to protect and serve.

Her anger, and mine, about an unarmed young man, just 5 years her senior, being shot in the street and left there for hours was palpable. I think she would march in the streets if she could. I would so be there with her.

I’ve been thinking about all the code-switching I’ve been trying to teach her. These lessons are second nature to me, but she questions me all the time about them. “But why do I have to….” “Because,” I reply, “You don’t want people thinking XX about you.” What I really mean is, you will find a lot of White people who think XX about you already, and you can’t give them any reason to keep believing that or worse: you need to make the White people around you feel comfortable.

Grammy has long told me this world is made for the comfort of a dominant few.

I don’t want to teach my kid to not like or trust any group of people. But I also have a responsibility to talk about and teach her ways to navigate in brown skin. I wish it wasn’t different, but it is. It’s a blessing to be privileged in so many ways, but to lack privilege in something so obvious as the color of our skin…

Sigh. It’s hard to discuss and explain to a 13 year old who’s only lived with me since January. I remember when she asked me months ago why was it ok to kill Black boys? It must be ok because it happens with alarming frequency followed by narratives that paint the kids as deserving of their plight and a killer walking away into the sunset. That’s what she sees. A lot of times that’s what I see.

I’ve been doing diversity work for more than a decade. I’m good at it too. But now, with my own kid, with her unique history…it’s a whole different ball game.

There’s so very much more I could stumble through on this topic in this space but I’m going to just have to leave this right here for the moment.  There’s been another shooting in St. Louis.

Sigh. #JusticeforMikeBrown


Privilege, Adoption and Melissa Harris-Perry

So, I’ve been chewing on the recent joke debacle involving Melissa Harris-Perry, her round table guests, Mitt Romney’s recently adopted Black child and the tear filled apology MHP delivered this weekend.

Don’t know what the drama’s about?  Peep the view below.


So, let me disclose a few things upfront.

First, politically, I’m pretty liberal.  I used to lean so far left that I might tip over, but I’ve found myself flirting with being more moderate in recent years.   That said: I’m not a fan of Mitt Romney.

Second, professionally I work on diversity issues.  I met Melissa years ago before she blew up on MSNBC.  We share colleagues, and we share a mentor in common.  I appreciate her social critiques.  She’s a smart cookie.  It’s awesome to see another young woman of color doing big things and wrestling with big issues—and doing that ish on national TV!  You. Go. Girl.

Third, I LOVE that song, “One of these things is not like the others…” I’ve been known to use it in my teaching.

Fourth, I’m unabashedly irreverent when it comes to issues of diversity.  I have good/bad days on issues of race, sexuality, religion and the list goes on and on.  It find it absurd that as a diversity professional I have so much job security because people can’t seem to just get over their ish about issues of difference.  I find it appalling that since Obama became president my work has actually become harder than it was 10 years ago because people want to wax philosophical about “wanting their America back.”  I find it disturbing that we could play that game “…in bed” with some of the stupid things people say, just instead of saying “in bed” we might substitute “from the Black guy” or “because of the lesbian” or “from the Muslim” or “because of the poor people.” Yeah, I said that.

So, now that the disclosures have been made, what do I really think about the clip shown above?

Truth be told, not much.

I think it was used to make a lot of political hay on both sides. I have a lot of thoughts about what wasn’t said in the clip but what seems to be a part of the narrative about transracial adoption and privilege.

We live in a world that spins on privilege.  Don’t know what privilege is?  Peggy McIntosh’s Unpacking the Knapsack of White Privilege is a good place for you to do some foundational reading on racial privilege.  Having privilege is having social capital that grants you ease in a navigating through our social and institutional structures.  Privilege can be based on race, gender, class, religion, sexuality, all sorts of characteristics.  You can be privileged in some areas of your life and not privileged in others.  Some might say that being both Black and a woman, I lack some social privilege.  I know that I have felt not privileged or even equal at times because I am both Black and female.  But I’m educated; I am middle class; I live in a prominent city; I am straight; I am Christian; English is my first language and I am a native born US citizen.

I’ve got privilege for days because my degrees give me social credibility; I can afford a nice lifestyle and have choices about where to live and how to educate Hope, I live in a city that affords me more choices than some other places; I am not personally affected by laws that prohibit LGBT folks from marrying; I practice a faith that some folks think is the only one that matters; no one asks me to repeat things because of an accent that is something other than the traditionally Southern dialect that I sometimes slip into, and I have a US passport easily acquired by producing my “Virginia is For Lovers” birth certificate.

Except for the times when the Black thing and the woman thing are problems for people, life is pretty good, right?  Pretty much.  (I’m still wondering if I’m in a Mitt Romney “binder full of women” somewhere!)

The Romneys are privileged in many ways that also matter in our society (I know some of us Christians can give the Mormons some shade, but hey, they’re still Christian).  Some no doubt twisty road brought some members of their family to the decision to adopt, and they adopted a Black child.  I think it’s awesome.  Yeah, I caught some feelings and threw some side eye when I heard the lovely little baby’s name meant “dark one” or black in Gaellic (um, yeah…), but it’s really none of my damn business.  I wish them well.  I thought the picture was charming, and yeah, I’m curious what Mittens thought when he first got the news that his kids were adopting a Black child.  <shrug>

Do I think the family will have to navigate some issues in terms of racial identity? Probably.  Do I think Mitt is a racist?  No, but I don’t think he gets the concept of privilege at all—this adoption might give him a taste.  Do I think he and the rest of the Romney brood are trying to figure out how this thing is going to work out?  Probably.  Do I think they are all stretching like the rest of us adoptive parents?  Yep.  There’s just some stuff on this adoption journey that I think privilege can’t buffer.  Make that a lot of stuff.

I think that the narrative of White families of privilege adopting Black children is glamorized.  I commented on another blog recently about how few People of Color (POC) I see in adoption promotional media.  We’re out here, but I think that the privilege of race frequently marginalizes us out of the adoption narrative.  Do I think that the class privilege is real for a lot of these White adoptive families?  Not as much as I used to.  Admittedly, I certainly see privilege among my fellow POCs who have chosen to adopt, myself included.  Do I think that POCs often sit back and question why White families adopt Black children?  Yep, and I’ve been curious as well.  Do I think that we all wonder about the social implications with respect to racial identity and personal development?  Yep.  It all seems and feels so complicated.   A lot of times it is complicated.

Socially, we typically don’t like things that are different. We simply don’t–it requires us to stretch and stretching can be uncomfortable. Seeing families that are not what we expect makes us uncomfortable. Reading narratives that are different from what we think it should be make us uncomfortable. What do we typically do with unavoidable discomfort? Often we joke, make light of it and fall into a ridiculous denial of the issues at hand. That is when our humanity is vulnerable and visible, and we are most likely to fail in living up to our potential.

The MHP story was just a tiny pebble on a beach of rocks related to perceptions about adoption, race, class, with a dash of politics on the side.

I did stumble across something else here.  I realized as this all played out that same race and biological families have some social privilege that adoptive families don’t.  Certainly same race adoptions can fly under the radar and acquire assumed bio-privilege (They can “pass”).  But transracial adoptions?  Nope, it’s too obvious and too different.  Had little baby Romney been White, none of this would ever have happened because he wouldn’t have stood out in the big family picture with Grandpa Mitt.  I should also note that had Grandpa Mitt been a left-leaning Democrat this probably never would’ve happened either; Democrat social privilege might’ve led to a celebration of sorts that played into the “See, the Democrats really like us!  They really, really like us” narrative.  Sigh.

Does this make MHP or her guest jokesters racist?  I think they were uncomfortable figuring out how to reconcile a family led by someone who struggled with garnering Black folks to vote for him with said politico now having a Black grandkid. Hell, I think it’s a bit ironic too <shrug>.   But I don’t think that’s racist (a term that gets thrown around wayyyyy too much if you ask me). The episode showed discomfort with the perceived irony about the mishmash of all kinds of social privilege being turned upside down.

So peep the apology:

And Melissa trips over this particular issue of biological privilege in her apology.  I think she realized it when she looked at her own multiracial family and saw the hypocrisy of giggling about a Black child bouncing on the knee of White guy who appears to be excited about his family.  I’m sure some of those kinds of pictures are in Melissa’s house somewhere, but the privilege of biological family wasn’t something she was consciously aware of.  I’m not sure she still has a name for it, but make no mistake—this was still about privilege.

So there’s my dime store commentary of the Harris-Perry/Romney Joke episode.   Privilege is real, and it’s everywhere, even in adoption.  I wish my colleague well and I wish the Romneys well.


Incidentally, I thought joke about the family picture looking like the GOP convention was funny.  Yeah, I did; sue me.  Did you watch the convention?  I did.  I even sat through the foolishness of old Clint Eastwood talking to a chair for an hour.  I swear I felt like the networks showed Condi Rice like 50-11 times in hopes that no one noticed that there weren’t that many people of color in attendance.   Where is the outrage about that?  Why we didn’t we, in critical mass, attend a convention with a platform that didn’t resonate or seem terribly inclusive?  Hmmm, there’s a quandary for you…<pursed lips, shaking head, low hum>

Yeah, that last bit was some shade.

Oh, if I could bang out 1500 words at a time on my dissertation…smh.

K E Garland

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