Tag Archives: Racism

I Need to Talk about the US Open…

I grew up watching tennis in the hometown of the late, great Arthur Ashe (#RVArepresent!). I love tennis.

ASHE

Via Google

I loved Billy Jean, Chris Everett, Martina, Monica and so many others. I remember John McEnroe showing his entire arse every time he stepped onto the court. Calling refs and opponents out, tossing and smashing racquets, and just being *free* to be an complete arsehole with little to no consequence. I thought he was crazy, but I loved it.

When the Williams sisters came on the scene it was like one of the ultimate #BlackfacesinWhiteSpaces chapters of all time. And to that end, they were reminded that this wasn’t their space all of the damn time. They were ostracized on so many fronts–being from the ‘hood,’ being coached by their dad who gave zero effs about White folks, wearing braids with beads that swung and made noise when they played, ‘crip walking’ on the courts and clothing choices and so on. They were characterized as the antithesis of White girl tennis gentility.

As Serena went onto straight DOMINATE (this is not debatable, she’s #GOAT) we also saw how the officials and the media treated her. Extra drug testing and ridiculous media questions. Tomfoolery abounds when it comes to how she’s treated. Just last month, folks were asking if she felt some kinda way about Sharapova’s “beauty” and banned from wearing a body suit because it wasn’t respectful to the “space” (again, a presumably White space). Chile…

Kimmy2

Via Giphy

So, here we go during the final of the US Open. Yeah, she was losing anyway; we could all see where things were likely heading. Yeah, she went in on that referee after she was cited for receiving coaching (that she apparently didn’t even see). And now, here we are watching the world be purposefully obtuse about her overall treatment and seeing what it looks like when she got *sick and tired* of that ref’s shyt. Oh, sure, as an elite athlete she should keep her cool (#didMcEnroeevertho, and as much as I loved Ashe he was about some respectability shyt too), but that was a bogus initial call, one that has not even KINDA been applied equitably for other players, male or female. That call straight questioned her integrity, which frankly has been questioned her entire career. #thisaintnew And in her own words on the court, she knew she was losing, but she wanted to lose fairly. The referee’s calls regarding her “tantrum” were precipitated by the accusatory call concerning her integrity. #poisonoustreefruit

But all of that is beside the point, right? She lost to a lovely young upstart, Naomi Osaka, who has her own narrative of battling some media bull-shyt. How many times has she had to remind the media that she is in fact, biracial: both Japanese and black Haitian? #BecauseAsianisWhiteAdjacent

Peep this clip where she gets this reporter together right quick! I love her.

Oh and how does institutional “rules are rules” messiness (euphemism for misogynoir) work? Naomi Osaka’s legit win over Serena will forever be tainted, and that’s soooo not fair to her; she’s a badass in her own right.

And if you needed a bullcrap image that characterizes the whole mess, it’s this one.

Rage

Via Google

Eff you Mark Knight.

Let’s take a quickie inventory, shall we?

  • Serena portrayed with exaggerated Black features.
  • Serena portrayed as ‘heavy,’ or you know “thick, big boned” as we Black women are presumed to be.
  • The tightly pulled back hair that has ALL curl patterns (otherwise and often characterized as nappy), but appears literally snatched on her head giving the appearance of being nearly bald, cause you know “bald-headed b’s” are a thing we get called.
  • Nod to the tutu that she deliberately sported as a poke in the eye of the recently banned French Open “disrespectful to the White space” Wakandan cat suit.
  • The random pacifier rounds out this angry Black woman tableau.
  • Meanwhile, the ref is shown asking Naomi to throw the game to end the presumably unwarranted “tantrum.”
  • Naomi is absurdly shown as a diminutive, lithe, blonde, White woman, #damsel, which she is most certainly not.

Again, this is the lovely, US Open champ, Naomi Osaka:

Rage.jpg

Via Google

Now I could continue on with the venting but I want to talk about what this kinda stuff means for parents of Black and Brown children, and specifically Black and Brown girls.

I posted on my personal social media streams this weekend that women, and women of color in particular, are long accustomed to having our very existence policed. (Wanna debate this? Fight me).

We can’t be too emotional, but we can’t be stoic either. Are we right for this kind of work? Where is your husband and how does he feel about your education/work/housekeeping/sexual activity/reproductive and medical choices/parenting approach/religious observations? We need to have our bathrooms monitored and legislated. Our hair has to be socially acceptable. Our skin has to be socially desirable, but really primarily for sexual proclivities because, we are loose and wanton by nature. Our clothing and shoe choices may make us responsible for male dominance behaviors. Staying out late gives us a bad reputation. Having personal and professional goals may make us men haters and *that* is really damaging to egos. Infertility is almost always our fault, but you know there’s limited access to adequate and appropriate health care has to be pre-approved by men because…see wantonness above. We don’t get to be sexually liberated unless we’re ok with being called sluts or whores. We are blamed for our singleness, but men’s desire is wholly based on our behaviors and presentation. Do we really have the temperament to be in positions of decision and power? Our outrage always has to be muted, especially if it’s emanating from Black and Brown bodies, because it’s often too detrimental and dangerous for it to be fully on display. We are downright disrespectful and scary.

For my Black daughter…my Black daughter with a trauma background who has trouble navigating this life socially, all of this is a crushing reality. I’m teaching her to be strong, to speak her mind, to be free. But for her safety, I also have to teach her how to display that strength in non-threatening ways, how to bite her tongue damn near off because she might be characterized as too sassy and how to choose her places to demonstrate her freedom, which is to say, not be free at all. In fact, I’m teaching her to put her authentic self in packaging that is palatable for folks who don’t look like us and that really does make me simmer all the time. #itsnotright

She already sees that while she can be at the top of her game, she will still just be seen as an uppity, angry Black woman, throwing a tantrum if she deigns to be a vocal self-advocate. And she will be punished for it. And other women of color close by would do well to learn the lesson to not display similar behaviors. As a reward, they will be awarded White proximity, even if it means erasing visual characteristics that otherwise differentiate them. Their Browness and their Blackness will be erased, and we’ll all walk around acting like that’s a good thing! #effthat

My daughter struggles with confrontation. She has a strong sense of integrity (as long as it doesn’t pertain to keeping the laptop too long or eating candy in the middle of the night). Hope simmers for a long time but trust when she blows, she blows! I’ve had to go down to the school many times after she has finally blown a gasket. I’ve had to explain what happens behind the scenes and bring copies of previous emails regarding situations that were never addressed that led to this very moment. I’ve had to reasonably discuss, cajole, sweet talk and finally legally threaten folks to both meet her where she is *and* provide appropriate consequences for behavior. I also know that if it weren’t for the DR that I insist on using in front of my name and the resources available at my fingertips, that my efforts to be her advocate and protector would not be as successful as they have been as a woman of color without the DR juice. I tell people often that I thought I went to get a doctorate to be an educational researcher; now I know that the true reason is to have enough gravitas to roll into the school making demands I otherwise would not have been even allowed to make on behalf of a daughter whose special needs demand that I do just that on the regular.

We talk about girl power. We talk about #BlackGirlMagic. We talk about feminism. We talk about womanism. We talk about equality, equity, fairness. We talk about the future for girls and women. We talk about what we want for them.

And then we see this shyt and get the clear reminder that our behavior and our identities (especially those in relation to Whiteness) continue to be policed in a manner as to remind us of our place.

Be genteel.

Be polite.

Be nice.

Be happy you’re here.

Be not whatever else it is you are.

I’m so over this ish. My heart breaks for both Serena and Naomi. Parents, especially White parents of children of color, check this shyt. This is why that colorblind stuff is some bullshyt. This is what we mean about persistent misogynoir. This what we mean when it’s so institutionalized that shyt is casually at play in front of our faces.

Not doing comments on this post…it’s just…nah, I just can’t. If you’re not feeling it, go not feel it somewhere else. I can’t today.

 

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The Deal with Me & School

How do I explain this so the masses understand my fixation on school…ok here goes.

I love school; even when it was hard I loved school. I like learning. I’m curious. I watch historical shows, google subtopics and gobble up Wikipedia pages right down to the footnotes. I appreciated the challenge that school brought. When it came to my doctoral work, I actually liked the rhythm and pace of things even though it was grueling. The writing and rewriting…I was creating something, and it was and remains awesome.

I love school.

I’ve benefited greatly from my academic pursuits. Good job, buying a house, got a car, planning for retirement. Definitely enjoying the material trappings of hard work and earned accolades. I’m proud of my accomplishments. I had big aspirations when I was a little girl. I thought I would be an attorney someday. I realized early in college that I didn’t want to do that, but I also believed that I would earn a doctorate in something. I would one day be Dr. ABM. I have always been ambitious as hell. #heymomImadeit

Walking across that stage being hooded was an amazing feeling.

Graduation

Best Day Ever!

And then there’s there the reality of what it means to me to be educated.

One of the things I value most about all this schooling is that I feel like it gives me a little social privilege which can counterbalance the reality of living in black skin. I’m a little more welcome in white spaces. The education does not make me better than anyone, but it makes a lot of white people see me differently. And if white folks think I’m safe because I’m educated, well then, I might actually be a little safer while walking around in this skin. I move in circles that are sometimes uncomfortable, but I have the right letters, the right credentials, I “belong,” and so I’m safe.

It’s true what we tell our kids about working two or three times as hard to get half as far. I busted my ass, and loved it, to get *here* and one of the fruits of my labor is moving a little easier in white spaces.

Hope came along right as I was finishing my doctorate, and as helpful as being Dr. ABM at work has been these last few years, the real benefit of having $70K in educational debt comes when I step across the threshold off Hope’s school.  Hope’s first summer here, she got into trouble at her summer camp and they were planning to kick her out. I met with the camp director who immediately started berating me. I held my hand up, insisted that we start over with proper introductions because I’m not going out like that—“Let’s start over. Hi, I’m Dr. ABM and you are?” By the time it was over he was apologizing profusely, Hope was allowed to stay in camp and got a promotion to junior camp counselor and I didn’t have to pay for the rest of the summer. Maybe it was the Dr, maybe not, but I know everything changed when I introduced myself as Dr. ABM. That was a moment when my privilege was extended to Hope.

I’ve found that my educational privilege has played out in numerous ways shielding Hope and I from a lot of drama. It was a lot easier for me to be *that* parent with the Dr in front of my name. The conversations always change when meeting participants who initially see me as some kind of stereotype black mother progress to seeing me as an educated professional mom. It’s always clear when some kind of back story for me and Hope is challenged and somehow the acceptable version of us is welcomed …my education somehow makes us safe, different and sadly, respectable.

This is the reality of racism, and it’s so utterly apparent to me since I finished my degree. It’s nearly stunning. In my 45 years, 8 with a president who looks like me, I’ve never been as afraid for myself or my kid’s future. I dreamed of what having kids would be like. I worried a lot about countless things, but these last few years, my fear of racially motivated harm has escalated sharply. I feel like there’s a part of me that’s always unsettled and looking to avoid the inevitable hurt that racism brings.

So, when I wrestle with my emotions around Hope’s academic experiences it’s largely motivated by fear, not by any expectations of Hope in particular.  I am terrified that she won’t have this little buffer of safety that I feel like education can provide (even when it doesn’t, really). What happens when Hope isn’t covered by what little privilege I have amassed to buffer us from some of racism’s ugliness? I already worry about her various vulnerabilities. It’s not just that I want her to do well for the sake of doing well, I just worry myself sick that someone will read her wrong and she will end up in trouble or worse…dead. I don’t know if doing well on her SAT will protect her from being harmed, but my sense is that not trying will certainly not offer any protection.

I’ve started to see school as an avenue for self-protection.

So, when well-meaning, kind of shared experience having white parents urge me to let it go, to not worry about school, to let Hope handle it all and fail on her own…it’s not that I disagree, but I feel like there’s a huge part of the story of my worry that is completely unheard or not even considered.

Their stories are considered universal—everyone can and should relate because well, I’ll be frank, white is normative. Their kids fail and it’s heartbreaking. It is, but it’s not failing in a system that already doesn’t give two shits about you.

My worries about school are very different; this is about Hope’s survival in a racist world. This is about amassing elements of protection that can provide small buffers of the worst of a life routinely disrupted by racism. This is about being considered safe enough to be granted entrée into white spaces where more opportunities and resources await. This is about liberation and freedom.

The stakes feel so much higher and not just because I’m an absurd high achiever, but because I’m scared shitless. So, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to completely let the school thing go.

And Hope is starting to understand this. It isn’t really just about her performance; it’s about the long game. I know she struggles with her interpretation of my academic push; I also know that somewhere in there she wants to do well. I’m also keenly aware that there’s an additional layer of pressure on her because of what I’ve achieved. People see me and wonder why Hope isn’t doing better; they often assume she’s rebelling.

My desires for Hope are expansive, but honestly I just want to keep her safe. Education is one avenue to help do that. I don’t know how it will all work out. I have no idea.

I do know that being educated and working in academia doesn’t always offer the protection I wish it did. Even in my job, I feel it. I had hate mail too; I’ve had students say nasty things about me and to me. I’ve had professors say I was a “troublemaker.”

And yet, I still think it’s one of the best options we’ve got.

So, this is why I fixate on Hope and school. This is why it’s so important to me. This is why I can’t just let it go.


Thoughts on Charlottesville

When I was a young woman in undergrad, the animals men who nearly beat Rodney King to death were acquitted of using excessive force in that arrest and beating. A week of riots followed.

I could take a detour and talk about how little things have changed in the 25 years sinc except that these days kill shots have replaced physical beatings, but I won’t. I want to talk about what it was like those days and what it was like to go to a predominantly white institution as a young black woman.

The transition from high school to college is an important one. It’s exciting, and it’s scary. There are so many decisions to make, not just about school, but big life decisions. I now refer to the undergrad period as baby adulting. It was a crazy time.

I grew up in a place where white supremacy was visible. I could drive down a grand avenue with monuments to civil war losers. I remember the occasional detour on the way to church because the klan was marching in full regalia on Sunday morning. I remember going to see visit more plantations than I ever cared to, leading to a self-imposed moratorium on plantation visits since the early 90s.

As I started my applications to go to college, I knew that my family had limited resources. Scholarships were going to be essential to my success and to ensuring future college access for my younger sisters.

University of Virginia was near the top of my list as a Virginia resident. It’s a beautiful campus, steeped in history and tradition—even if that tradition purposefully excluded me. My grades were very good, but even back then UVA was very competitive. I worried about whether I would even get in.

I was floored during the application season when I received a handwritten note from the admissions dean about my essay. She asked to set up a time to talk, during which she strongly encouraged me to attend UVA.

I wrote about an event in pre-school that I still remember vividly. On a summer day on a playground, I became aware that being black was going to be problematic. I learned this at a incredibly young age, from another kid, who learned that being white was definitely better. She had learned that lesson at home from her parents. That story was the backbone for all of my college essays. To this day, the original essay written for a Black History Month contest, remains one of the most compelling things I’ve ever written. Occasionally, I’ll pull it out and it still breaks my heart.

For numerous reasons, not the least of which is that Charlottesville is gorgeous but racist #AF and that I got a full ride elsewhere, I chose to go further north to George Mason University. #patriot4life But the challenges of being one of about 1,000 black students of a campus of roughly 25,000 at the time were real.

There was the classmate whom I competed for the scholarship against who insinuated I bested her only because of the whole black thing.

There were the professors who talked down to me in from of my white classmates as I fought back anger and occasional mad, hot tears.

There was the dean of students who was visibly uncomfortable with black students in his office.

There was the isolation of being the only lonely in most classes over the course of four years.

And because I have a problem with perfectionism and self-pressure there was the challenge of being a model minority student always trying to prove that I belonged to be there.

That was layered on top of roommate squabbles, college boyfriend drama, daddy pop ups (he would visit unannounced—a major style cramp), a ravaging eating disorder and course work.

I loved and hated college.

When the LA riots broke out after the acquittal, I remember falling into an overwhelming sadness. It was consuming and distracting as it hit just before semester finals. I sometimes think back to what it was like for some of my classmates who weren’t plugged in. I was a student scholar and had access to the best of everything and everyone on campus—wonderful professors, additional resources, amazing mentors, 9 other black scholar classmates in my cohort. I actually had support systems during my undergrad years.

And it was still hard.

And exhausting.

And sometimes scary.

After the 1992 riots I found myself reaching out to acquaintances I barely knew at Howard University. Howard, an HBCU, was in DC proper, a fairly lengthy train ride into the city from cloistered Fairfax. It seemed to take forever to get there, but I was grateful it was accessible. I would go to hang out there some weekends. Eat a Happy Meal at the Black Mac—the McDonald’s near campus, post up at the library, just watch critical masses of other black folk roll by. It was…safe. I didn’t have to do anything there. I didn’t have to do anything but just be…just be black and be around other black folk. It was emotionally warm and fuzzy even if I didn’t really know that many people there.

It was safe. So safe that I entertained ideas of giving up my generous scholarship and transferring, just so I didn’t have to do the black thing at GMU anymore. Some days it was just too hard.  My parents got me together right quick on that. I graduated from GMU and ended up going there for grad school as well.

Tonight, though, as I watch the continuing drama unfold in Charlottesville, I’m wondering whether and hoping that the students of color at UVA have a safe place to go just be like I did. I’m so proud to see so many standing up for justice, but I know the toll it takes just wearing this skin and going to school. This burden is heavy. I hope they have one another to lean on, that they have a place to refill and recharge as they start their semester. I hope that UVA is prepared to support them properly and to make sure they are safe. I hope their professors offer mentoring and support. I hope professors choose to be bold and discuss these events and weave the lessons into their syllabi. As a mom, I just worry that these baby adults are in danger. If it’s one thing I’ve learned these last few years, it’s that parenting fears are the worst—you just want your kid to be ok in situations where you have zero ability to protect them.

That. Kind. Of. Fear. Is. The. Worst.

It’s not just that these lazy, ironic AF white supremacists are walking around carrying end-of-summer-sale torches named for a Polynesian creation story (Seriously, they can’t even make their own damn torches? Or did they just want a two-fer in repelling mosquitos AND intimidating people?). It’s that they are intentional and strategic in their intimidation efforts; that they are mowing down people with cars and that so many are sporting MAGA hats without a single word of chastisement from the dude in the White House who’s cool with cozying up to them.

Really who wants to go try to learn in the midst of that? And yet, that’s exactly what we’ve been expected to do for generations (even if Betsy DeVos likes to talk about our being leaders in school choice because of #racistsegregation #idiot).

This is all so exhausting. And sad. And Scary.

It’s undergrad all over again.

It seriously doesn’t feel like it’s ever going to end, which just brings the dark depression back.

It’s just hard.

So, tonight I’m offering my couch and floor to POC UVA students who just want to leave and go somewhere safe. I’m farther than a metro ride, but I’m happy to help you transfer and get settled somewhere else. Know that I and many others like me, feel your pain and stand with you. But I also want you to be as safe as you are strong. Reach out and Ill reach back.

I get it; I really get it.


In What World

In my 44 years of circling the sun, I have always been subjected to some sort of bias. It hasn’t always been racism, sometimes it’s sexism and misogyny. Sometimes it’s been ageism.

I’ve been hurt. I’ve been angered. I’ve risen up, fallen down and risen again to fight my own oppression. Somehow, along the way, I tripped into a career devoted largely to advancing social justice in graduate education.

I just returned from a conference devoted to social justice in education. I met lots of people, shared lots of things, commiserated, learned, talked and pondered. I consider this meeting my annual professional development meeting, and I always come back with some new ideas and contacts.

For the last few years, I have felt a ratcheting up of racist (and other “ism” oriented) language in the atmosphere. I look forward to this conference in late May to hear the latest, to verify and validate that what I’m hearing, seeing and feeling is in fact what I’m hearing, seeing and feeling.

On the real…it’s getting hot in here.

For me the ominous foreshadowing has been brewing almost since Obama was first elected and birtherism emerged. During this last 18 months, and the last 6 in particular, the season has opened to say all the racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, horrible things that are on one’s mind under the guise of free speech and with little expectation of consequences.

We already saw that it was increasingly dangerous for black folk to, well, breathe, and now it’s just getting progressively worse. Just days after the 2016, election I allowed Hope to come home early because she had been subjected to horribly racist language by some of her classmates. She just crumbled.

Grammy, my mom, integrated her high school many years ago. It pains me to hear her say that the current national discourse is increasingly reminiscent of her youth in rural central Virginia.

And if she’s having flashbacks; I’m having flash-forwards.

I believe I can take care of myself, but Hope…

My daughter is on the precipice of adulthood. In a few short years, she will finish high school. She will likely go to college locally as she continues to take time to emotionally and academically catch up. She is among a cohort of kids who know a different kind of world than the one even I grew up in.

Born after 9/11, she may have recognized Bush II, but really, more than half of her life, Obama was president, and while that did not prevent “isms” from touching her…it gave her a different outlook.

And now…I can say that it’s radically different.

It’s hard to teach a child to show respect when there are major demonstrations that respect is a passé construct. The conflated notions of “tell it like it is” and free speech make it difficult to help her navigate how to engage socially. It’s also hard to teach her to turn the other cheek when she comes from a background that has already taught her that such grace just means she’ll get that one hurt too.

Hope desperately wants to be a “good” girl—her words not mine—but she already struggles with impulsiveness and many present public models are just fresh examples that impulsiveness rules the day.

Parenting is extraordinarily difficult. In what world are the current circumstances supposed to make us great (again) or even just a little easier?  And are these the circumstances that are supposed to create an environment and culture that helps me and my daughter feel safer, provide a good education, not feel pushed out due to our cocoa colored skin? Is this behavior supposed to make us, me and Hope, great or even just feel great??

Does this make you feel great??

pope

BLEND IN WITH WHITE PEOPLE?

Or this?

whitenational

Recent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, VA

How about this?

Portand

Because speech shouldn’t have consequences.

Yeah, me neither. I could really, really go hard into the political, but really, I’m more worried about the crass culture war and what its long-term prognosis will be.  How long will it be before we’re all great? How long before some leadership says hey, this is not how we should treat each other? How long before we acknowledge our individual and collective humanities? Is it in my lifetime? Is it in Hope’s?

In what world can I believe that my daughter and her brown and black friends and families will be consistently treated as though they are great? In what world will I be assured that their humanity will be seen and acknowledged?

In what world?


When Racism, Douchery and Adoption Collide

So this weekend known d-bag Iowa Congressman Steve King said this:

This dude. Usually he’s vomiting some sort of racist foolishness, but then he said this:

“It’s the culture, not the blood. If you could go anywhere in the world and adopt these little babies and put them into households that were already assimilated into America, those babies will grow up as American as any other baby.”

Sigh. Ok, let’s break this all the way down: Rep. King actually advocated international adoption for the purposes of advancing American culture against “somebody else’s babies.” Based on his frequent commentary those “somebody” folks are people of color primarily from Africa and the Middle East who are not Christian.

I got to say, that while I find 99.9999999998% of what comes out of this man’s mouth and typing fingers abhorrent; I appreciate his honesty. Lots of racists hide. They used to hide behind hoods. Today they hide behind systemically crushing policies and keyboards. With Rep. King, we can watch him plant his flag over and over again. We can see that thing and name that thing. And as someone who fights oppression for a living, I prefer tangling with devils I can see.

There is so much to unpack from his commentary, but let me focus on these facts:

  • Rep. King clearly doesn’t understand that adoption is supposed to be child-focused not civilization building.
  • He believes that we should burden our adopted children with *saving* American culture rather than focusing on ensuring they have access to safe, loving homes.
  • King doesn’t have any care for the first parents of the children he thinks should save American civilization.
  • King also doesn’t get that many of those “somebody” families are refugees in Western Europe who would rather not have to flee their countries of origin with nothing but the clothes on their back or to be treated like crap in the places where they seek asylum. They’d also like to raise their own children.
  • There is no appreciation that international adoption is rife with ethical challenges, not the least of which is that the actual number of orphans that need families internationally is far lower than what is often reported.
  • There is an unspoken, yet clearly inferred, charge that brown and black children need to be adopted by white folks so that they can be properly raised assimilated into “western civilization.”
  • Rep. King doesn’t see the value of black and brown lives here or globally; our melanin is blamed for the threatened failure of civilizations.

Oh, I could spend some time breaking Rep. King’s foolery all the way down, but I’m loathe to give this racist more airtime. It’s tough enough to dig through this guy’s public statements about race, poverty, and civics and not walk away wanting to douse yourself in Purell. Now he’s added this idea that Americans should be internationally adopting black and brown children from cultures different than ours in order to indoctrinate them. Sigh.

Just imagine for a minute how he views those of us who are not white and born here in the states.


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.


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.

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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.

Sigh.

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.


Current State

So this happened today.

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It really is just too much.

I’ll just mail in my fine. I’ll do that not just because I really was speeding, but the last place I want to be is in a courthouse swarming with ‘blue lives’ who may not understand or respect my fear.

My current state is scared.


The Threat of Desensitization

Over dinner tonight, Hope and I watched the evening news.  During the news, coverage on the murder of Terence Crutcher was shown.

If you haven’t heard of Mr. Crutcher, here’s the short version of how his life was cut short.

His car was stalled in the middle of a roadway. Police in Tulsa, Oklahoma were apparently on the way to an unrelated police call when they saw him.

Crutcher apparently thought they were coming to help him; they didn’t help him.

Despite initially walking towards the police, likely believing they were there to assist him, he realized that he was in danger and raised his hands above his head.

Helicopter video is online, along with the narration about how Crutcher wasn’t following directions and that he looked like a “bad dude, to be honest.”

He was hit with the stun gun, and shot beside his car.

More than two minutes went by before any life-saving efforts were attempted.

He was unarmed.

It’s just not right. It’s just not right.

I closed my eyes as the nightly news showed the video clip of Crutcher’s body laying alongside his car; it’s bad enough that he was shot and killed but the incessant need to show the bodies of dead people by the media specifically and public in general is just too much for me.

It is difficult enough to know that there is little dignity in life, but to be reminded that there is none in death is just beyond heartbreaking.

As I looked down into my bowl of pasta holding back my emotions, listening to Crutcher’s sister repeatedly say that his life mattered, Hope said, “I wonder what excuse they’ll come up with this time for this killing.”

She then went back to babbling on about band drama.

She didn’t miss a beat.

I read the response as, “This is something that just happens to us.”

And some days, it does just feel like that; this trauma is a chronic experience we are just enduring as black folks.

It’s kind of like what life felt like after 9/11; we begin a life under threat of terror. You go on about your life, day to day, year to year. There will be events, and they will be dramatic and traumatic. Despite our best efforts to “fight terror,” there is an acceptance that to some degree, this is just our life now.

Terrorism can happen at any time, anywhere.

We know that, and we accept it.

Terrorism can happen even alongside your stalled car as you think someone who is supposed to be there to help you, ends your life.

But the thing is, it should not be happening. All of this, the various types of terrorism, should not be happening.

This, this life of feeling like I should be deathly afraid of people who are sworn to help me, is something I do not want to be used to; this is not something I want Hope to accept as normal.

This isn’t anti-police, this is about being pro-life. I do not want to die with the need for an investigation into how and why I died.

Actually, I don’t want to die at all.

How could state sanctioned murder of unarmed black men become normalized? How could the shock of seeing black bodies lying in the street ever wear off.

Sure, Hope could’ve just wanted to get back to her band conversation (with which she seems obsessed!), but it was so jarring for me to think that in the last couple of years, that she might be desensitized to the routine of police overreach, overreacting, not helping, not being the good guys. .

Certainly her own history may numbed her emotional response to these events; maybe it’s Hope’s age that influences her responses. Maybe I read all of this all wrong.

Hopefully, maybe?

In any case, I’ve become acutely aware of a new threat to black lives: the threat of desensitization towards the death of unarmed black folks.

This threat is dangerous; the acceptance of these events as somehow normative can lead to the abandonment of efforts to seek justice. That is tantamount to giving up on justice.

I can’t accept that. How can I teach my daughter that justice…isn’t just elusive, but that because of the normativity of it all, that justice isn’t for us?

I don’t want that for my family.

I won’t talk about it with Hope tonight, but I’ll save it for another day as I ruminate on it. It is a conversation that we’ll have, though. I don’t need for her to emote like me, but I want to be sure that the gravity of this loss of life is never lost on her. I want her to live her life fully, without fear and without ever being used to injustice.

 

 


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