When I created this blog, I never expected to write about race & ethnicity as much as I have. But like I say in my blog summary, being a black person in America, my “race” has an undeniable impact on my life. I’m not going to wake up one magical morning and discover that I can hide my blackness when I walk out in the world. Cloak myself in a different skin color, so I can experience what it’s like to walk through this world free from all the invisible pressures of the expectations of blackness.
Culture + Society
I’ve been glued to Twitter the past few days. Twitter is how I first heard of the shooting of Michael Brown, the unarmed, black, 18-year old, Ferguson, Missouri resident, shot multiple times and killed by a police officer. Yet another “shoot first, ask questions and apologize later” incident. Yet another unarmed black American killed. Another life taken too soon, a child snatched from his devastated parents who surely didn’t expect to have to bury their own son, the people whom…
It’s 2014 and people are still squabbling over the meaning of the Confederate Flag. Currently, the flag is a topic of contention in a Virginia town, where an “activist group” raised the Flag on a 90-foot tall pole on private property, visible from a freeway. According to an article from The Washington Post, one of the activists from the Virginia Flaggers, shared his perspective:
when he sees the giant flag along the interstate he feels pride and reverence
“Go Keisha! Go Keisha!”
It’s a college party. I’m in a Soul Train line, surrounded mostly by white people, and it’s my turn to dance. A popular rap song is blasting from a giant stereo and people are losing their collective shit, arms flailing, bouncing up, down and around, shout-rapping (“shrapping?”) along but skipping the word “nigga”, some glancing at me out of the corner of their eyes. An expression that says, “See? I didn’t say it! Aren’t you proud?”
A few days ago I was at my local greeting card store picking up what seemed like stacks of birthday cards because I tend to befriend and befamily* a disproportionate number of Pisces/Aries/Taurus people (those born in March and April, for the non-astrology folks). As I approached the cash register to pay, I kind of hoped that I wouldn’t be helped out by the somewhat eccentric older woman with the Thelma Harper hair and with whom I’d had an off-putting encounter around the Christmas holidays.
Earlier this year I was lounging at Starbuck’s with my friend V, who is Chinese-American. A friend of hers, also Chinese-American, was getting married to a half-white/half Japanese-American man.
She told me, with some sheepishness, “You’re going to kill me, but I bought a card for ___ and ____ with white people on it.”
“Why would I kill you? It’s not like I’m some militant “black power” chick. ‘You must only buy cards with people of color on them!'”
She chuckled and nodded.
“But, let me ask you this,” I continued, “would you give one of your white friends a wedding card with a happy Asian couple depicted?”
Last night, my sister, my friend “Mercy” and I were on the bus returning from Oakland’s First Music Festival (a blast!). We were exhaustedly babbling, trying to figure out what to do for dinner (sleep sounded like a great option!) when a young guy behind us interjected:
“Excuse me ladies…”
Oh lord. Don’t let this be some lame line. I am too tired.
“Excuse me ladies, but I just have to tell you how refreshing it is to see three African-American women on this bus. On any bus here really.”
“I don’t pop molly, I rock Tom Ford.”
– Jay-Z, “Tom Ford“, 2013
If you listen to hip-hop these days, you’ve no doubt heard all the references to molly (basically ecstasy): “I Can’t Seem to Find Molly“, “Popped a molly, I’m sweatin‘” or maybe you’re even listening to Miley “cultural appropriation” Cyrus’ latest song. She sings about poppin’ mollies in “We Can’t Stop“. [She told producers she wanted “something that sounds black.” Girl, get your life! I give major side-eye to people who reduce blackness to the sliver of sub-culture of which they are aware. You need to diversify your black exposure. 13 million black Americans aren’t all the same. It’s like if Rihanna said she wants a “white” sound for her next album and had bagpipers all up in her video. Have a seat with your pancake booty that has no business twerking.]
A couple of weeks ago, it surprised me to hear Attorney General Eric Holder say: “Too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long, and for no truly good law-enforcement reason.” I wholeheartedly agree. I’m not a fan of our prison system; it’s broken.
Damn my need to experience things for myself.
[For those unfamiliar with the area, here’s a simple analogy. San Francisco is like Manhattan. It’s the flagship city of the area. Oakland is like Brooklyn, a sister city across the water, that is sometimes very underrated, a city ‘snooty’ residents of the flagship city wouldn’t consider even visiting, and one that has its diehard fans who will passionately defend it’s superiority. It’s affordability. It’s lack of pretentiousness. Both cities are experiencing a growing gentrification that dismay it’s original residents and is often attributed to the uptick in the overflow people who can’t afford to live in Manhattan or San Francisco. Then there are the other ‘boroughs’ like Berkeley and other surrounding small towns. ]
Racists really need to update their stereotype references. When it comes to black people at least, they seem stuck on…well they’re stuck on stupid, as we all know, but also stuck in the old days. Music evolves, the amount of clothing women wear (or don’t wear) evolves, our language evolves, yet racist Americans don’t appear to take pride in their racism enough to keep up with the times.
For example, Jennifer Olsen, chairwoman of Yellowstone County’s Republican committee in Montana, allegedly shared the following “hilarious” image with her Facebook followers:
I spent my last weekend in Tanzania in Zanzibar. Zanzibar is actually a collection of a few small islands off the coast of Tanzania including Pemba. There are a few ways to get there from Moshi, with a flight being the fastest. There’s also the option of taking an 8+ hour ride on a dhow, but I wasn’t interested in a potential repeat of my seasickness bout in Pangani. A few hours after teaching my last class on a Thursday (tear), I boarded a Precision Air plane for the hour-long flight to the island.
At times I feel very unwelcome in my own country. I’ve worked and continue to work hard. Once I left my parent’s house to attend college, I was fully on my own. I worked an average of 30 hours a week while taking 12-15 hours a semester and still managed to have an active social life and hold leadership roles. I’ve struggled through jobs that I didn’t like or that didn’t pay well, usually both at the same time. I am an active contributor to American society. I volunteer my time, I give to charities, I give money to the homeless. I pay what seems like more than my fair share in taxes. Yet, there will still be people who look at me and assume the worst.
I’ve been thinking about my weight since I was 13.
One day I ate everything I wanted with abandon and the next, the size of my thighs were cause for angst.
Thirteen is about when I started working out. My mom had a catalog of Jane Fonda videos from the 80s and I was Jane Fonda’s devoted follower. She looked hot in spandex and my thighs did not. Jane still looks hot today. It’s unreal. I also became a devotee of Joyce Vedral and her fat-burning workout. I thank her to this day for my interest in being fit and toned.
I’ve been known to get a little intense about my interests. My poor parents. As a teen, upon being presented with “soaked in the deep fryer” chicken for dinner, I exclaimed with dramatic horror: