I told someone recently that fighting racism is like trying to kill roaches. You kill a few and then 50 million of their disgusting relatives appear. Let’s say I open one person’s eyes. I help them wake up to the reality of our country. Then what?
A few days ago, rapper Nicki Minaj tweeted out her frustration that her big booty-full, controversy-generating Anaconda video was overlooked for a Video of he Year Award by MTV. Soon after, media darling and America’s archetypal sweetheart, singer Taylor Swift, inserted herself into the situation, which was NOT ABOUT HER, tweeting Minaj with her hurt feelings and ivory tears.
Her death didn’t come as a complete surprise. A cancer diagnosis six years ago was only the first of three. Three times my poor friend had to endure intensely draining – in all senses of the word – cycles of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. I saw her when she lost her hair and covered her head with baseball caps, generally opting out of wigs.
I’ve been in San Francisco for two and a half years and I feel I am withdrawing. I don’t think I fit in here. I spend a lot more time alone than I did in my former life in Los Angeles.
This past year has been particularly isolating as America’s longstanding simmering racial tensions bubbled up to the surface with a vengeance, ignited by Michael Brown’s murder last summer. After which, conflicting emotions of hopeless grief and building fury alternately gnawed at me.
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“Girls! Girls!” a large, middle-aged man in a bright yellow safety vest hollered at me and my new friend from across the parking lot as we walked away from my rental car.
I turned slowly around, cocked an eyebrow and didn’t begin moving in his direction until my companion did.
“Yes?” I asked with a touch of attitude as we neared him. He’d yelled out to us like we’d done something wrong.
“Where are you girls going?”
So far I liked nothing about this encounter.
As my 40th year grows nearer, my dad insists that I need to consider buying property. To him – and many other Americans – owning a home is one of the cornerstones of success. I remember when my parents bought their first home. It was a source of pride for the whole family – a huge achievement. Owning a home was a visual representation of having “made it.”
Nearly 200 million people in the world identify as African or African-descended. Like Europeans, Asians and other “racial” groups, our culture, languages and experiences are extremely varied, despite the fact that, especially in the United States, we’re often seen as one large, indistinguishable group.
For my first guest post, I’ve asked Mary from Verily Merrily Mary to share her experiences growing up as a Nigerian-born black woman in North America. I met Mary through a bloggers group and enjoy her thoughtful and absorbing writing. I hope you enjoy it too!
Last week I sat in a meeting where the word “slave(s)” was said at least 20 times.
No, I wasn’t involved in a discussion on slavery or history, as someone asked when I tweeted about it. I was in the office of a tech startup. [I’m contracting in my old career until my new one takes off.]
Each time “slave” escaped someones’ lips, I cringed internally, trying hard not to externally display my discomfort. However, with each “slave” uttered, I sank deeper in my chair as my tension found other ways to release itself: a bouncing foot, a tapping finger, shifting positions in my chair. With every vocal release of “slave” it was as though someone tossed the sharp-edged word directly at me. A lashing by lexicon.
Though my flight from San Francisco was only a little over an hour to Palm Springs, turbulence plagued the last 15 minutes. As I gripped both arm rests, wondering if this might be where it all ends, I scolded myself for not having made friends with the guy next to me. He might be the last person I see. I should at least know his name. I silently protested: “I’m not ready to go yet. It’s not time!” I heard a small child cry: “Mooom, I don’t like this!” Kid, we are on the same page.