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Black in America: Here’s my story

Yesterday I read a post by a good friend of mine. A good man father of two husband to one a law abiding, tax paying, highly educated black man. While picking up his children he was belittled as a white woman yelled at him calling him a Nigger, telling him to get out of her neighborhood. I felt his pain and confusion as  he tried to navigate his rage while still holding the responsibility of responding as a Christian man in front of his girls.

What befuddles me about this, is the question, why all the anger? Why all the hatred? Why would a grown woman find it to to be socially acceptable to belittle a man who has done nothing to her in front of his children.

Hot on the trail of Beyonce’s Politically charged video “Formation” along with an equally symbolic Supper Bowl performance all of a sudden my social media is a vortex of erupting old wounds, bearing new ones and two side who don’t seem to get each other. I have no answer to the issue at hand. I have only bewilderment, only questions, only a lack of understanding.

So in light of it all I figured what they hey I should share my story. I am black. Born to a light skinned mom and a darker skinned father. I grew up with brothers and sisters who were all lighter than I with green eyes. I knew I was different.

I attended a school that was culturally mixed but majority white. I saw the popular girls. In particular there was one she had crystal blue eyes and straight blond hair. She was beautiful and I wanted to be like her.

When I was in the 4th grade I rushed to perm my hair so it could be more straight just like her. No one ever told me my hair needed to be straight but I just knew it deep down that is what it supposed to be.

My parents are well educated and I grew up in a middle class home. We speak properly and I was told that I talked “white” by my peers.

When my mother had her first child she named him Michael David. At our neighborhood pool a white woman told her that, that was a white name.

I was a proud member of the girl scouts in a majority white troupe. We had a lot of fun together. When the girls asked me where I lived they told me that my neighborhood was dangerous. The same neighborhood where I road my bike and walked my dog and knew my neighbors and was never threaten, I learned was a dangerous place.

I transitioned to a majority black middle school where I quickly took to the task of redefining myself. I think this is where I first learned that I could have two sides to who I am. I wanted to talk black, I wanted to dress black I wanted to be accepted.

When I came home I was told that my diction had worsened due to my school.

I played soccer the majority of my life. I love the game and I was good at it. One year I played for a majority white team and it was fun. During one intense defensive exchange with another player from a different team, the girl called me a monkey. I was rightfully upset but when I shared this with my teammates they said I was making something out of nothing.

On a family trip we begged the truck drivers to honk their horns for us as many children do. Instead of a honk the drivers held up middle fingers. I watched the man’s snarling face. He was so pleased with himself. Giving the F U sign to a kids seemed like the highlight of his day.

In college I was spat at. In college I was called a nigger. In college there were no repercussions for those who did these things. I was disillusioned.

I hung out with a white guy from my dorm. He wasn’t my first white boyfriend but he would hang out with me in private but when we crossed paths on campus he wouldn’t speak.

One time while in the car with my dad he got stopped for a routine traffic stop but they asked him to step out of the car. They then seated him in the back seat of the cop car to run his plates. I sat anxiously awaiting and praying.

I was in TJ max one day and the sweetest little girl came up to me and called me a Nigger. Her mother apologized profusely. I knew that she learned this from the very person who apologized to me.

We vacationed in Hilton Head. I was told by a white friend of mine that what looked like racism was really classism. It was a pretty silly idea to begin with that the two are not intrinsically tied together but I humored his argument.  But Hilton Head is known as a vacation hot spot for the elite. Here we were among them. My dad dropped us off at a public swimming pool near our own villa, me and my two sisters. When our hands touched the gate people got quiet. We were children. A man on the balcony called security. Apparently there was a pool designated for our cluster of villas. A reasonable thing but we were carted off. I couldn’t help but feel the disgrace.

Here I sit now. Watching some police officers act without accountability. Watching judges dismiss cases without having to give a rationale. Watching a lack of due process applied to even a criminal who has basic rights under the law. Watching a child with candy in his hand and nothing else killed. Watching others call him a thug and digging up how many detentions he attended to defame his character. Watching a man being shot and left in the street like a dog. Watching a 12 year old boy shot in the park, watching a young man shot and killed at the gas station for playing his music too loud. Watching the disparity  of unfair sentencing. Watching my friends family and neighbors telling me that everything is ok. That there is nothing to be concerned about. That racial tension is dead. Watching the republican candidates address a question about police brutality not by suggesting higher accountability for those who abuse their powers but taking the time to applaud the police with no mention of change. (Don’t get me wrong honest law enforcers should be praised)   All I am doing is watching. All I am doing is waiting. Everything disillusioned…. I can’t understand why you can’t see the problem.

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Dear White People: I’m black and I need tips doing my multi-racial Child’s hair 

I giggle as I write this because I am in a major role reversal when it comes to hair sos calls.

Most white people run to the Internet or black friends to figure out what to do with their adoptive or bi-racial children. I’ve read fantastic stories of white patents working hard to learn the mystery of our thick tress. But here I sit on the other side of the grass and it’s not so green.

Here is the thing, my lovely chica has very fine whispy hair. Its got a bit of a curl to it but won’t stay in one place. It won’t hold hair clips or ties and head bands slip off like crazy!

What to do!!!!! I’ve tried brushing it with a little water to lay the curls down to no avail. I’ve tried frizz control and curl boasters with no luck. We wash her hair about every other day and use conditioner.

Now don’t get me wrong baby girl would be cute wearing a burlap sack but every once and a while I’ve taken her out only to notice all the other girl’s hair looks like their parents did something to it….. I’m over here like……well I tried.

Since little mama’s hair is fine it’s taking longer to grow in so there is no pony tail swag and certainlyimg_3506 no braiding. I am certain the answer is out there. Maybe this time from a white mom who can help this black mom with some tips????

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3 years and 2 babies later…. Happy Anniversary boo

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Oct 4th 2011 a couple of friends sitting around the table, Primanti Bros Sandwiches, and a bit of liquid courage and a young man decided to direct message a young maiden saying “I think your beautiful.”

August 24th 2015, a wedding, lots of fights, lots of laughter, lots of praying 3 years and 2 babies later here we are.

I lay next to him on a sleepy Saturday and propped my arm up over his chest. He snores.  My arm moved up and down with each long breath. I stared at his whispy beard, he is always threatening to grow out but he always cuts it off after a month. He has a fragrance about him. Not a bad one, not a particularly good one just a him one.

There was something about the concrete density of his body under my arm that reminded me that he is real. That we are real, that my life was real.

But Oct 4th 2011 friends, burgers, beer… and now you are mine and I am yours.

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thoughts on the confederate flag

thoughts on the confederate flag: Should it be outlawed of course not! that would be against one’s civil liberties. Should it be flown outside of a government building on government ground OF COURSE NOT that would be akin to allowing the British flag to fly on Plymouth rock. A flag that that represents a war against the very institution upon which the flag is planted. That just doesn’t make much sense. In that time what did the British flag mean to those who fought and died to free themselves from the British oppressors? Now for the very reason why it should not be outlawed for private citizen use (civil liberties), those who support the flag have no right to be mad at private sector companies who decide not to sell it. Just as you have the civil liberty to fly it, they have the civil liberty to stop selling it. The very same law that protects you also protects the private sector business. So unless you are a major share holder complaining about walmart and ebay will do you no good and its antithetical to your point. Lastly if you personally fly the confederate flag that’s cool for you, I am all about southern pride and we can go in circles about what the civil war was fought about but it really doesn’t matter. But what does matter is that when I look at the flag I am reminded that so many years from the abolition of slavery many people fly that flag in fond memory of a state that would have me enslaved. It reminds me of the fact that my aunt Betty while living in Mississippi was forced to go to a vet instead of a doctor because they wouldn’t see her. It reminds me of my grandpa who saved to get his family out of the south so that we could have a better life. It reminds me that slavery was not too long ago, my great grandfather was on my mom’s side was most likely born into slavery or at least directly after abolition. Some of you know know who your great grandfather is some are still living mine was most likely a slave. It also reminds me of my neighbors house in college. There weren’t many blacks on campus aside from a couple of racial incidents we went about as coexisting for the most part. But our neighbors who lived next to the only house with blacks in it put up the confederate flag. They attributed it to southern pride, maybe, maybe not it seemed like a stretch. We saw it every day as a separation between them and us, as if to say hey there you only blacks on the street we know you are here and we don’t like you. It reminds me of the fear I had when my dad was pulled over for a routine traffic stop while on our way to vacation. Instead of being allowed to stay in his car and show licence and registration like a normal traffic violation he was asked to step out of the car, once he was taken to sit in the police car while they ran his plates. I had a helplessness in that moment, knowing we were at the mercy of this man. One false move by my dad and things could have ended differently. As a child one day I was looking out of the window of our SUV I signaled for the semi truck next to us to beep his horn like so many children do. I waited in excitement and he gave me the middle finger. It reminds me of my friend who got spit on in college or that time some frat guys drove by and called me the N word just because they thought it was funny. It reminds me that some people are afraid of me, some think they are better than me, some assume I am uneducated or a hood rat. It reminds me that no matter the southern pride you feel from that flag, if the flag would have seen victory, my ancestors, my great grands, and grands would have continued to be beaten, raped, killed and sold like animals for who knows how much longer.

Here is my point its your prerogative to fly the flag but know this when people like myself see it this is what one is reminded of. If you fly it in spite of what it conjures up, or you do not think that evoking these memories is of any importance to you than just be honest that you do not care. I am ok with you not caring, just be honest about it. My feelings wont make the news, my feelings are certainly subjective to my point of view, but to those who care my feelings are valid.

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Why I may stop telling my daughter she is pretty

Recently the obsession of beauty and self esteem has haunted me. Maybe it is because I am hyper analytical and I want to be able to unteach my daughter what I learned. It may also have something to do with the fact that after having 2 babies in less than three years time I am 75 pounds heavier than I was the day I got married.

Regardless I have resolved to do better concerning how I feel and talk about myself starting now. This buzzfeed video caught my eye “What does it mean to be pretty.” As the girls explained when they learned that pretty mattered it all started in childhood.

Get this, My siblings all have green eyes! Yes blacks with green eyes is the Holy Grail of beauty right! My brother (whom I love dearly hehe) even has a beauty mark! Like who are you Cindy Crawford!? Regardless to say I didn’t share these traits with my siblings. In fact I distinctly remember an older lady at the church when I was about 6 years old asking me, “And where are your pretty eyes little girl.”  Even though I was young, I was wise. I politely smiled and thought, “Lady you clearly don’t have it all.”

Gabourey Sidibe is famously quoted for saying, “If they never told me I wasn’t beautiful, I wouldn’t have ever had to look for  my beauty.” It makes sense right!  I don’t think we come out of the womb wondering if we can cut the mustard when it comes to looks. We learn that we are not good enough.

This brings me to my point, after watching the video and contemplating these things I don’t want my daughter to focus on how pretty she is. I don’t even want her to think about it really. Especially as a young child! She should be more concerned with making mud pies, and throwing imaginary tea parties.

Like every mother I think my children are the best thing on earth! I think they are beautiful, lovely, pretty and every other adjective I can come up with to this end. Yet I have witnessed a pattern that I do not want to perpetuate in my own children. My baby girl Lily always get’s compliments on her “good hair” and my son too. People have complimented their light complexion. (that’s kinda strange…)

Lily (5 months) and Jude  (2 years) both have show stopping looks. Their smiles light up the room, but every where they go we undoubtedly hear the words. “They are so pretty.”  Now please understand I am not complaining that people wish to compliment my kids, I think they are beautiful children. But isn’t it true, if that is the only praise they consistently hear while growing up that they will begin to associate their value with it?

I want their value to be associated with their virtue, integrity, honesty, courage, kindness and love. So I am going to make a conscious effort to compliment them on these things. I need them to know that their good looks are not what matters most.

On more than one occasion people have said to me of my son, “He is so pretty he can almost be a little girl!” Ummmmmmmmmmmmm OK! What does that mean! Men are beautiful too you know.

The other day a grown woman in her late 50’s said that she wished she had my daughter’s hair! Excuse me lady? You have hair envy of a 5 month old? You may want to check your life.

Here’s an interesting one, may daughter is a thumb sucker. I’ve been told “she is too pretty to suck her thumb.” What does that mean people? We have to be careful what we say because it implies that the converse is true. That some children are so unattractive that it doesn’t matter what habits they pick up? Isn’t that absurd?

Please note these are simply confused rants of a mother who desires to provide balance for her children. But let it be known that my daughter will understand that her looks do not define who she is.

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On raising multiracial kids

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If you would have asked me 20 years ago what I envisioned my child would look like I would probably think…yeah he will look like me. You know the same amber brown skin, dark eyes and negro hair :).

Now at almost 30 with a 9 month old I love more than life itself I find myself walking in a restaurant watching the eyes and my subconscious thinks…They think he isn’t yours!

I once had someone look at Jude’s picture, then back at me, then back at Jude and ask “Who is the baby.”

Or even while holding him people asking me if he is mine….

I want to shout to the world “He is all Mine! He sprung forth from my womb and I still have the baby fat to prove it” lol

So I find myself thinking what does it mean to have a child who doesn’t share my sun kissed hue? How do I raise him to be proud of everything he is, proud to be a man of color, and know that in our so called post racial world he is a Black Man and he has to know and understand what comes along with it.

So here’s the run down on my son’s racial and cultural milieu: I am black, I have black mom, I have a black dad, but of course like any other family we have a lineage that comes from Africa, Scotland, England, Native American, Asian and the West Indies. All my bothers and sisters have “light eyes” (except for me that that is for another blog), I am often told that I am mixed because of my long thick hair, I have been asked countless times if I am part Asian, a comment that I just cannot wrap my head around. (Did I mention I’m Black… Like…just regular Black)

Ok and here is the fun part culturally I have been a mixed bag that continues to shape who I am today. I am fluent and Spanish I lived in various countries, met my husband in Puerto Rico and I am a self proclaimed Bla-tina. I have spent some time in Asia and my nephew and his family who are now like family to me are Vietnamese. (Its pretty cool, as a black girl, to walk int Lee Pho’s Sandwhich Shop Downtown Cincinnati check it out! and be treated like family and get the strange looks from all the usually customers hehe) So I grew up with predominately Jewish friends (I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t going to temple in 3rd grade!) And now my husband and I fellowship with a group of Christian’s mostly comprised of South East Asians. (I asked and I was told that I can get my Indian card 🙂

And the fun doesn’t stop there! My husband is half Italian and half black, but every where he goes people think he is Mexican. He was adopted into a German and Romanian family and was raised in the Romanian orthodox church. My husband while bearing black genetics is culturally the furthest from it that I have ever seen. ( Before he met me he did not know what a YAM was… Yes people a YAM).

Is anybody else’s head spinning? So what will life for my son be like who is surrounded by cultural diversity and looks Hispanic but is more black than anything else?

I was once told that racism only persist to exist because people like me keep talking about it but I beg to differ. I think it still exist because when I was in the 4th grade a little white girl called me a derogatory term and her mom apologized to me for it as if she didn’t learn it from her.  I think it still exist because when I was 20 years old in college I was called the N word and spit at from a car. I think it still exist because just the other day my sister and I saw a white couple clutch their belongings and draw to the other side of the road when a young black boy crossed their path.

A friend recently told me “We will all soon be a pleasant shade of beige”

Will there be any rules I have to tell my little beige baby whom I love dearly? Will he ever be degraded as I have been?

The fact is I do not want people to not see color… I want Jude to see color and celebrate it. I want him to see his cultural background and enjoy the fact that diversity is a revelation of a God who has STYLE!

I don’t know all the answers but the one thing I will tell my little one  is this… Love God and Love Others the fullness of the law is fulfilled in these.