Tag Archives: Racism

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.

1474930826314

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.

crazytalk_opt

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.

 

 


Bus Ride Protocol

I entertained doing a political disclaimer on this post but decided not to. I think it’s important for folks to understand the real life implications of language that incites hate, language that makes bigots and racists feel free to avoid any kind of self-censorship, and language that makes my daughter send me text messages about what she’s observing while taking the bus to her tutoring center during our morning commute.

Trump’s antics are making my world more dangerous.

I know we brown and black folks have noticed the remarkable increase in nasty rhetoric. Folks seem emboldened to be outwardly racist, sexist and homophobic. Like just on the street, it feels different. You hear little snippets of language that seems intended to let you know that they don’t like you.

My parents, both in their mid-to-late 60s, remark that it echoes things they heard years ago, during the 50s and 60s.

I’m not a stranger to hearing nasty things, but since Trump came on the scene and has been legitimized as a candidate for president, folks seem really comfortable saying any old thing. If you’re not paying attention or you or your peeps aren’t the “topic of discussion” do you hear it? Do you notice it?

Hope texted me during her bus ride this morning. Here’s our confab.

Screenshot_2016-08-01-09-50-16Screenshot_2016-08-01-09-50-28Screenshot_2016-08-01-09-50-40

So there we were during our commutes, and this is going down.

Now, Hope might talk back to me, but she does NOT like to see other kids talk back to parents or people being mean to other people. She hates this behavior, I mean really hates it, and I see it as such a testament to her inherently kind soul. She also is one who swoops in to defend those who are attacked. She has, on more than one occasion, checked a kid who was too salty to a parent in her presence. I know my daughter and this exchange bothered her; I know she wanted to intervene on behalf of this bus driver. I know she wanted to show care and concern.

Me?

I just wanted her to get to the tutoring clinic safe and sound without using the S on her chest or the cape on her back as the anti-racist superhero, hence my initial response.

As I was illegally texting while driving, I thought to myself, “Dammit, you’ve to be kidding me? I’ve now got to teach Hope a protocol for riding the bus with racists.”

This is some bull-ihitsay, I tell you.

The current climate has emboldened folks who would typically be shamed into darkness by this behavior, but when you have a Twitter/trigger finger presidential candidate who says it’s ok to come out into the light, who retweets things from handles like “whitegenocide,” folks who should be shamed no longer are ashamed.

They feel perfectly entitled (<<<keyword here) to sit on a bus with my daughter, spout foolishness and harass the bus driver. And folks can miss me with that “free speech” mess; all speech isn’t protected.

And if the GOP nominee can claim that words hurt him all over Twitter, then certainly people of color can articulate how disturbing it is to have a candidate who spouts hate, racism, and misogyny in ways that embolden his followers to do the same.

I am trying to teach my daughter to live her values in a peaceful way. I hope that her kindness to the bus driver was noted. I hope it pricked someone’s heart as a bus of people during rush hour said nothing.

I am concerned for my daughter’s safety, but I’m so proud of her for wanting to do/say *something* in the face of foolishness. I hope that making a point to thank the bus driver gave Hope a sense of power to show how to “go high,” when they “go low” (Thank you Michelle Obama!).

I fret about the next few months, and possibly the next 4 years. I worry that there will be more protocols I will have to think through and teach my daughter as she navigates daily life in her skin. She, like all of us, should be able to go through life without all the extra things that require so much cognitive energy.

Can she just live?


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