Disclosure: I received compensation for this post. All opinions are my own since I have too many lofty standards for integrity to write about something I don’t believe in. Plus, this is a legit post in and of itself.
Since moving to New York not too long ago, I’ve stayed in six different homes in three different boroughs. All but two of those places I booked through Airbnb, a peer-to-peer service similar to Uber and Tinder, but not for ride-sharing or getting your freak on. It’s like matchmaking for people with short-term rental property and people looking to rent. I’ve got stories for days about my experiences as an Airbnb renter, but I want to touch on one in particular.
You may be familiar with #AirbnbWhileBlack, the hashtagthat quickly gained traction on Twitter, and attracted coverage from several media outlets. NPR even hosted a Twitter chat on the subject. Tweet after tweet, Airbinb users contributed personal accounts of rental requests being rejected due to discrimination by the host.
Back in 2014, a Harvard study found that: “…requests from guests with distinctively African-American names are roughly 16% less likely to be accepted than identical guests with distinctively White names.”
This data doesn’t surprise me as someone named “Keisha,” born and raised in these United States, where the current presumptive Presidential nominee from the Republican party wants to ban Muslims from immigrating, export undocumented residents – zeroing in on people of Mexican-descent, and refers to Black people as “the Blacks.”
I’ve encountered some roadblocks with hosts – specifically three different White men – whose listings showed their rentals as available on the dates I wanted, but they denied my requests when I inquired. Each claimed their rentals were already booked. I didn’t think too much of it, other than feeling frustrated that they wasted my time. However, when I read that other Black people had experiences very similar to mine, I couldn’t dismiss the issue.
In one particularly glaring example of #AirbnbWhileBlack, a young black man, Rohan, shared his jaw-dropping exchange with a White host who denied his booking, again claiming unavailability. Amazingly though, when Rohan’s White friend inquired about reserving the place for the same dates, miraculously the rental became available! Divine intervention or good old-fashioned racism?
When Black people point out racial bias (of the conscious and unconscious types) and outright racism, we sometimes hear a common lazy retort from the callous and unsympathetic: “Well, why don’t you start your own thing then?”
That’s exactly what Rohan did.
Along with his co-founder Zakiyyah, the two developed a new vacation, and short-term rentals service: Innclusive (formerly known as Noirebnb). This new platform aims to provide a space where people from all backgrounds will feel welcome regardless of what you look like, how you identify yourself, what you believe in, or what name you were given.
The discrimination issues extend beyond Black people, as folks from other marginalized groups (including non-Black Muslims, and a transgender woman) have reported similar issues. They inquire about booking an available rental, only to have the host deny their requests, again responding that the listing is already booked. How curious.
Clearly, something needs to change and short of ending all forms of bigotry overnight, a platform like Innclusive stands to expand access to the home-sharing economy to people who might otherwise be shut out or disadvantaged.
I believe in the concept of home-sharing – despite a few bizarre experiences, including a near poisoning by carbon monoxide! – especially in a society where we’ve become increasingly isolated from each other. When you meet the right host, you have the chance to connect with someone you may not have otherwise met. Other benefits are the comfort of a more personal experience, as well the opportunity to live somewhat like a local – factors which differentiate home-sharing from hotel stays.
As someone who faces potential discrimination by hosts on Airbnb, I look forward to trying out Innclusive. Who needs a side helping of racism when they’re searching for that perfect spot for their next vacation?
Visit Innclusive hereand sign up for an email notification when the site officially launches! You can also follow Innclusive on Facebook and Twitter.
Have you experienced discrimination online? Do you think there’s a need for spaces like Innclusive?
Over the weekend I had the displeasure of reading some of the most insulting, patronizing collection of words penned by a man of supposed higher education.
In an LA Times op-ed Jonathan Zimmerman, a professor at NYU, and judging by his photos, decidedly not Black, deemed it necessary to take to a national newspaper to tell Black students how to behave and advise university faculty and administration on how to treat them. Not only did he step out of his lane to admonish America’s least favorite ethnic minority, he had the nerve to use the name and highly regarded words of Black writer Ralph Ellisonto do so.
Here we go again.
It’s almost inevitable that after each Black Lives Matter protest (or any protest where the majority of the faces are Black), particularly those which the news reports as “violent,” sanctimonious White people will finger wag at Black people, twisting the legacy of Reverend Dr. King to fit their narrative with some variation of: “Dr. King would be appalled by this behavior.”
In fact, there is such a history of white people talking down to their Black peers the same way one speaks to a child, that there’s a term for it: white paternalism. What Jonathan Zimmerman wrote in his needless piece – without irony – smacks of this, no matter how academically he couches it.
Ellison would be appalled by our current moment on American campuses, where the damage thesis has returned with a vengeance.
The arrogance to presume one could know how Ralph Ellison – born only two generations after slavery was abolished – would view today’s Black student rights’ movement. A growing movement with a should-be simple request – to be treated with the same respect, and afforded the same opportunities, as their white classmates.
Zimmerman goes on to say:
I don’t doubt that African American students — and other minorities at our colleges — experience routine prejudice and discrimination.
[But, now I am going to undermine what I just said by dismissing the students’ grievances as simply a matter of hurt “feelings.”]
If we let ourselves be governed by feelings, we’ll go down a rabbit hole of competing grievances and recriminations.
It’s about the same thing it’s always been about: Black people having to fight white systems tooth and nail to get access to the same opportunities and see equitable treatment.
If there’s a competition, Black people have always been at the back of the pack, and the US has a long history of doing everything it can to keep us there.
This isn’t just about “hurt feelings.” This isn’t a game. This is about survival.
This is about people having to demand they be treated as human beings.
It’s about having to prove to people whom – subconsciously or not – think less of you, that you deserve to be where you are.
It’s about having to repeatedly to explain your experiences to those in the dominant racial group whom are all too willing to dismiss them because it makes them uncomfortable to consider.
It’s about having to shout “Hey! Stop talking over us and telling us how to live. WE ARE EXPLICITLY TELLING YOU WHAT LIFE IS LIKE FOR US IN THIS RIGGED SYSTEM.”
To reduce these students’ harmful experiences on college campuses to nothing more than “hurt feelings” greatly underestimates the impact repeated racial macro- and microaggressions have on the mental and physical health of Black Americans.
We are not fragile people, that is true. We have survived centuries of oppression and inhumane treatment. So, if students are “complaining” about the atmosphere at Predominately White Institutions – and so.very.many are speaking out, including alumni – perhaps there’s something to it? Perhaps folks should listen to them.
Why does Mr. Zimmerman weigh his words above those of the students who are telling their own stories?
It concerns me that this professor, someone whose words are consumed by the most malleable minds, seems to have such little interest in listening to (and absorbing) the lived experiences of university students. He is not someone who I would trust as a professsor.
Like Ellison, I “am compelled to reject all condescending, narrowly paternalistic interpretations of Negro American life” from someone who has no idea what it’s like to be Black.
I will never have the honor of meeting Ralph Ellison, so I cannot presume to know how he’d feel about Mr. Zimmerman’s opinions. However, when I consider The Invisible Man, in which Ellison heartachingly details the hard-to-describe, yet nonetheless wholly isolating experience of being a Black American living in world not built for us – I somehow can’t see Mr. Ellison appreciating a white professor using his very personal work to belittle the experience of Black college and graduate students.
Is this the competition Zimmerman means?
What do you think about the recent Black student protests and their demands?
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Since Sandra Bland died (was murdered?) I’ve shed tears nearly every day. I haven’t watched the video of her encounter with the police officer who pulled her over. The police officer who stopped her for failing to signal when changing laneswhich somehow led to her death. It’s too painful to view. I cannot consume more images of Black death by the hands of white supremacy. It’s traumatizing.
Yesterday on my way to drop off my rental car before heading to the airport, I accidentally made a wrong turn and came upon a police blockade. A handful of uniformed officers milled about, weapons encircling their waists, their Black and white Ford sedans forming a passageway wide enough for one car.
Great. Fucking cops. My pulse sped up and my hands dampened with sweat as I quickly considered my options.
The officers were busy inspecting a car in front of me, so while they busied themselves with that driver, I backed up, planning to make a u-turn to get the hell away. I hadn’t done anything wrong – except having a terrible sense of direction – and I had a flight to catch.
The street was too narrow to make a u-turn without at least 15 points. I decided not to draw anymore attention to myself. When I pulled up to the sizable waiting officer, he peered into my rental – my heart threatened to explode – and said with a half-smile, “I saw you tried to turn around there. Where are you headed?”
I quietly told him, my voice wavering, blood pumping loudly in my ears, “I am headed to the airport. Returning my rental car first.”
“There’s no rental agencies this way,” he informed me like I’m an idiot.
He gave me instructions to find the rental car depot and then, speaking to me the way you’d approach a child:
“Don’t just dump the car on the side of the road,” he nodded his head toward the direction of the airport. “The rental company will charge you extra and you’ll get a ticket.”
It never would have occurred to me to dump the car. The rental agency has my credit card on file and my driver’s license information. More importantly, I am not irresponsible. I didn’t need his condescension.
I thought about Sandra Bland and how the police officer who pulled her over had the nerve to act surprised she wasn’t thrilled to get stopped. NO ONE IS HAPPY TO BE PULLED OVER. I wish I had Sandra’s composure when talking to the police officer, but I’ve never been good at hiding my fear.
I drove away, careful not to speed, even though I wanted to get away from them as fast as fucking possible, my hands still shaking.
When my eyes aren’t wet with tears, I’m filled with rage.
When I’m not crying or seething with anger, I fall into hopelessness.
I’ve begun to question what my goal is in writing about racism. What do I hope to achieve? Black people (and others) have been writing about the United States’ problem with racism and white supremacy for centuries.
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. It’s not about killing individual roaches. The problem is larger.
Let’s say I open one person’s eyes. I help them wake up to the reality of our country. Then what?
I’m exhausted by the gravity of the problem.
I’m sick of it all. I’m sick of being racially gaslighted by people who can’t see the world beyond the prism of whiteness, including some of my own friends. Or being trolled on Twitter by angry, racist white men who insist they’re Christian and love their country. These men usually have a bald eagle or American flag avatar – rarely do they show their real face, as they type the bigoted, ignorant drivel they harass Black tweeters with. Even on this blog, I am not safe from the racial harassment of “well-meaning” people.
I find myself seriously reconsidering my personal views on having children. They’ll be born into the same twisted system. I’ll spend a significant chunk of my parenting time not just protecting my Black children from the usual elements of society and the human experience, but also protecting their sense of self-worth, their humanity; working hard to transcend the damage white supremacy inflicts upon black American’s self-esteem and lives.
I’m angry that a world exists where for centuries we’ve lived in a system based on a tremendous lie created and promulgated by greedy white men – that of white superiority. The avarice of these men that’s led to the genocide, murder and oppression of millions of people of color – ALL OVER THE WORLD for centuries.
I’m sick of trying to remain positive and buy into the idea that things will get better one day or “when the old racists die off.” In an interview with Vulture last year, on the topic of racial progress, comedian Chris Rock had this to say:
When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it’s all nonsense. There are no race relations. White people were crazy. Now they’re not as crazy. To say that Black people have made progress would be to say they deserve what happened to them before.
(Some) people, more specifically, (some) angry white people, decried his comments as racist(!). Because that’s what sometimes happens when you call out racism. Instead of acknowledging that there is problem, some white people remain on the defense or mired in their own feelings of guilt.
They’re not racist, no. It’s the Black man who says “white people” who is racist. How dare he bring up race? Meanwhile, Donald Trump is running around saying all manner of racist shit about Latinos and Black people and he’s a leading Presidential candidate for the Republican party.
Chris Rock is right though and anyone who’s being honest with themselves knows it.
Just this past weekend, several hundred angry white men (and a smattering of women) gathered in Stone Mountain, Georgia – former KKK headquarters, to rally to defend their right to fly the Confederate Flag. They maintain that it represents pride in their heritage, not racism. Even though the heritage of which they are so proud, of which the Confederate Flag represents, depended on the free labor of enslaved Black people. The Confederate Flag which in several states saw a resurgence in popularity in response to the ban on school segregation – long after The Civil War ended. But, no. They’re not racist. They’re just “proud.”
20 years from now, those will likely be the same folks, who with the benefit of hindsight, will be ashamed of their actions. Apologizing and contrite like the damage hasn’t already been done. Just like those angry white people who greeted Black students trying to integrate white schools, with hostility, threats and indignant rage.
Despite significant and continued economic, educational and social progress among black Americans, inaccurate and offensive stereotypes persist. In part these myths are aided by the mainstream media (MSM). In reports about the state of “Black America” MSM tends to focus on reporting negative news or framing reports around the pessimistic view.
The MSM holds a lot of power to sway the minds of the American public. Not only does biased reporting reinforce negative characterizations of black Americans, it can also damage our sense of self worth as these images seep into our unconscious. Imagery and terminology that lead some to hear the word “black” and automatically think “bad.”
Black Americans are also routinely compared to white Americans when it comes to presenting measures of progress. These comparisons almost always inherently favor white Americans considering the history and current state of our country. If one group holds economic, political and cultural power over another for centuries – at times actively working to keep the other behind – should it really be surprising that the dominated group struggles to make gains?
This continued differentiation does more harm than good and serves for some to uphold white supremacy – the idea that white is better, black is inferior. It needs to stop. So, here are 5 myths about black people debunked.
1. Fatherless Homes/Broken Families
Just this week 2016 Presidential candidate Rand Paul invoked this stereotype as a reason for the unrest in Baltimore (instead of attributing it to a corrupt police system and systemic racism). Meanwhile, his 22-year old white son just got a DUI after crashing his car while driving drunk, among other dalliances with the law. Glasses houses, Mr. Paul.
According to a study published by the CDC in 2013, across most measures of parental involvement, black fathers are actually more involved with their children than white and hispanic fathers.
Not only that, according to a Pew Research Center report, both black mothers and fathers are more likely to rank providing income as a parental priority than their white counterparts.
In general, across racial groups, the report also highlights that fewer men live with their children than in the past, so it’s not a “black thing.”
Does this sound like people who don’t care about taking care of their children?
Don’t get me wrong, there are a significant number of black fathers absent from their children’s lives due in large part to institutional racism that seems to embody a new form every few decades.
In the early 1960s, about 20% of blacks over 25 obtained a high school diploma. By 2012, that number climbed to over 85%!
When slavery was abolished in 1865 (which doesn’t mean everyone was “free”), approximately 40 black Americans had graduated from a college or university. Nearly 150 years later, over 3 million blacks have a 4-year graduate degree.
A common retort of racists when they have no valid argument, is to carry on about black “welfare queens.” Not only does this serve to demonize the poor and struggling – which is a topic for another post – it conveniently ignores the fact that white people (and other racial groups) also benefit from government assistance programs such as SNAP (food stamps). In fact, whites receive the greatest percentage of SNAP benefits.
In terms of economic gains, the median income of black Americans has steadily increased since the Civil Rights era.
People have to work to make an income. Lazy people don’t usually work.
4. Affirmative Action
Some people hold the false belief that among other “handouts” black Americans receive, we also get preferred access to the best jobs and schools.
Is not a thing. To believe in the myth of black on black crime is to buy into the idea of innate black pathology. That somehow black people are predisposed to be more violent and destructive than people of other ethnic groups. It disregards the truth, which is that most murders are intra-racial in part due to proximity. Many cities the United States are still largely segregated by race, such that white people tend live around other white people, black people tend to live near other black people, and so on. You could say it’s murder influenced by convenience.
As you can see, the plight of black Americans is not as dire as some would have us believe. We have and continue to make tremendous strides and I for one am proud and other Americans should be, as well. Black people continue to survive despite having dogs sicked on us, being whipped like animals, strung from trees like dolls, raped like land to pillage, forbidden from attending the same educational institutions as whites and then mocked for being uneducated, tossed in prison with disproportionately longer sentences for burning rock instead of snorting powder, blamed for our own oppression and WE ARE STILL HERE. Look how far we’ve come!
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I felt the sting of threatening tears as I read tweet after tweet, largely authored by black faces. Individual, collective, virtual protests over the acquittal of the police officer who killed Rekia Boyd. Rekia, a 22-year old, black Chicago resident was unarmed when off-duty officer, Dante Servin, shot her in the back of the head, killing her. Rekia joins a growing list of unarmed black Americans who’ve died as a result of encounters with law enforcement. Rekia Boyd also became another hashtag: #RekiaBoyd.
As the burning tears pooled, I noticed another name repeating in my feed, another black death turned symbol of America’s continued refusal to acknowledge it’s institutional racism problem. This time it was 25-year old Freddie Gray of Baltimore, who suffered a SEVERED SPINAL CORD after an arrest, the cause of his eventual death on April 19, 2015.
Unfortunately many other names accompany theirs on the registry of lives ended by those hired to “protect and serve,” including those whose stories for whatever reason don’t get socially amplified.
All around me life goes on. The media makes a fuss over the usual news of unimportance like fashion at Coachella, Kylie Jenner “lip challenges” or which fast food establishment a Presidential candidate visits. Meanwhile, more Americans get shot by law enforcement and in some cases even pay-for-play officers, and life goes on for every else.
Why does this keep happening? And why do so few people seem to care?
I’m sick and tired of seeing black lives as hashtags.
Every hashtag inflicts another cut on my soul and dampens my faith in America’s ability to overcome it’s oppressive roots.
I’m tired of seeing people erase #BlackLivesMatter with #AllLivesMatter nonsense when we routinely see examples in this county of just how much black lives DON’T SEEM TO MATTER.
It’s evident in the amount of energy some people waste in forming intellectually dishonest comments like:
“Well, why was he running from the cops?”
“If you just obey the law, you have nothing to worry about.”
“What about black on black crime?”
“Not all cops are bad.”
We all know not all cops are bad. Right now this isn’t about cops. This is about a flawed system of government-sanctioned murder. This is about people routinely abusing their power and getting away with it while dead bodies pile up.
I think we’re in the middle of a national crisis and not enough people are talking.
I’m laying low this week, turning away from media, social and otherwise. I can’t handle another hashtag.
Rest in peace to all the black lives lost in this crisis. May their families also find some relief from their suffering.
May more Americans wake up to the reality of what’s going on in our “justice” system.
To think, I almost didn’t write that post. However, as part of pushing through my writer’s block, I’ve realized I’ve got to stop self-censoring so much. It’s damaging to the story and to my contentedness.
I didn’t say yes immediately. I needed to confirm the legitimacy of the show and find out more about what I’d be getting into. In my research, I discovered that one of the show’s previous guests is a writer and activist I follow on Twitter, Feminista Jones, whom I respect. I figured if she did it, it was credible. I listened to a podcast of her stint on the show and got a good idea for what I might be in for with Jesse.
The producer explained that the host, Jesse, would ask me a bit about my background and then delve into questions about the thoughts expressed in my post.
I scheduled my radio début for 8:05am, April 2nd.
The morning of the show, I felt like my heart wouldn’t shut up. Boom, booom, boom at a thousand beats per minute. I forced oatmeal down my throat. It’s good for your brain, they say. I wanted all the brain boosting I could get. Family and friends sent texts of well wishes and affirmations which comforted me. Conducting the interview from the comfort of my couch helped too.
Jesse Lee Patterson is a pastor, baby boomer, and black Republican. He’s known for making controversial statements like:
“Thank God for slavery, because if not, the blacks who are here would have been stuck in Africa”1
“When black liberals say they want to have a ‘conversation’ about race, what they really mean is they want to continue blaming whitey for past racism and perceived ‘white privilege”2
“Barack Obama hates white people — especially white men. Sorry folks, but the truth will set you free!”3
So, I had my work cut out for me.
I remember only snapshots of the experience. I enjoyed the debate. I get a kick out of genuine volleying back-and-forth that doesn’t devolve into name-calling or other foolishness. Jesse did his best to contort some of my statements and paint me into corners, but I think I successfully manage to keep the conversation focused. I agreed with none of his opinions.
Halfway through the show, one of my sisters texted:
“I hate this guy.”
That was around the time Jesse asked me, “What else can white people do for black people, so that black people will finally say: ‘ok you’re not racist, you love me, you’ve given us allllll that we’ve wanted, and we appreciate it, so now we’re going to take control of our own lives’? Is there anything else that white people can do to satisfy black people?”
The discussion lasted for almost the entire hour, broken up by a few commercials. I even got to speak to some callers. One caller tried to trap me by quizzing me on the date of some vague historical event.
My mom texted: “Excuse yourself. You don’t need to be ambushed.”
Of my name, another called commented, “Huh, that’s a good one.” I’m fairly certain that wasn’t meant as a compliment. I could hear him smirking.
As the show neared its end, Jesse thanked me and asked if I would come back. We’ll see. My mom and sister are both adamant that this be a one and done.
Jesse’s approach didn’t faze me. I’ve seen enough talking head interviews and debates to have picked up a few things. Your opponent will always try to distract you with non sequiters. They will attempt to take your words and twist them into a statement so ludicrous you wonder whether your brain sent the right words to your mouth. No distractions. You just gotta stay focused on your mission!
“He’s gonna make me lose my way to Heaven; I’m so angry I’m almost cursing!” My mother didn’t like Jesse Lee Peterson one bit.
You can listen to the show below. Leave your thoughts in the comments!
I’ve written before how I get sick of talking about racism. I just want to live my life. Wake up, do what I do and keep it moving like many other people have the privilege of doing each day. I do not have such privilege, however. Just going to the corner drugstore some days ends with me wondering when the day will come when I won’t have a clerk unsubtly follow me around the store as I shop.
Over the course of my 35+ years I’ve engaged in so many discussions about race, whether I’ve wanted to or not, I should get life experience credits toward a PhD in the subject. I voluntarily attend seminars and talks and I choose to read books on the subject. On my blog I discuss it in hopes of making continued progress, opening minds and presenting a different perspective.
Involuntarily, I’ve been dragged into race discussions with some of my fellow Americans who happen to have paler skin. I’ve fielded questions from those friends along the lines of “Why do black people ___?” as though I am a black American ambassador. I’ll never forget the time a white classmate in high school asked me, “Why do black people have the same color palms and feet bottoms as white people? Why aren’t they brown?” From her question, I extracted the subtext, “My body is normal, yours is different.” Am I responsible for the design of the human body? My birth certificate didn’t come with a guide to “understanding your black body.” How the hell should I know? I hope she attends discussions about race.
So what caused the downturn in my mood on Friday? I read a blog post on race and segregation, called Al Sharpton I Hope You See This, written by a white man, that sent my heart racing, got my hands shaking and my mind reeling with various responses to the elementary logic. This excerpt particularly troubled me:
“Segregation is real. We see it every day without realizing it.
Like a “Miss Black America” that excludes white people. Or a college fund for blacks only. Or a blacks only television channel. Or blacks only magazine. Oh wait…uh oh. I thought we did away with segregation back in the 1960’s? That’s odd, seems segregation and racism are very much alive and thriving. Only difference is, if white people mention it they’re racists. Interesting turn of events. So what if we had a White Entertainment Television? Let’s face it, WET sounds like a fun name for television. “
I decided to respond to the post because I noticed a few people praised the author for his observations and I couldn’t just let that mess of thinking sit there unchallenged.
Below is the exchange. It’s unedited, so please forgive my grammar imperfections, incomplete thoughts, and lack of citations.
Please share your (civil) thoughts below, I’m curious what others think.
Oh, the Talib talk was incredible, insightful and engaging. I’m glad I went and happy with the diversity of the crowd. I hope minds were opened.
“Like a “Miss Black America” that excludes white people. Or a college fund for blacks only. Or a blacks only television channel. Or blacks only magazine. Oh wait…uh oh. I thought we did away with segregation back in the 1960’s? ”
These institutions exist largely because black Americans were expressly excluded from these predominately (or exclusively) white institutions, not from a desire to self-segregate. In other words, segregation of black people prompted the formation of this things.
It wasn’t until the late 60s/70s that some universities even “let” black people enroll. The first black model didn’t land the cover of a fashion magazine until the mid 1960s. That was less than 60 years ago. If I pick up an Elle or a Glamour magazine for beauty and hair tips, I’d look like a clown because usually the tips given work for pale skin and straight hair that hangs down. It has to be pointed out to the editors of these magazines that part of their readership has darker skin tones and different hair textures. Even the PGA is notorious for excluded black golfers.
People like to bring up the example of “WET” or white history month a lot, but they are false comparisons. When it’s no longer a big deal that there’s a black director, a black lead in a TV show (or Asian or Latino), or a first black President, then channels like BET (which is watched also by non-black Americans), HBCUs, and history books that highlight non-white contributions to the development of America would not need to exist. It’s 2015, we have a diverse America, yet Congress is made up of mostly white males, who are incredibly over-represented.
I could spend most of the day listing all the shows, magazines, movies, books or economic realms where white Americans are represented, but for non-white Americans, the list is quite short.
None of the “black versions” of these institutions exclude anyone by race. What they do provide is an opportunity for black Americans to have a space to see themselves recognized and accepted. You’ll see non-blacks on BET, magazines marketed to black audiences that include white and Latin (and black Latin) people and white student at HBCUs. (One young white student actually wrote a great essay about how welcoming she found her fellow classmates at the HBCU she attends). Meanwhile, just last week the young white men of the SAE fraternity at OU delighted in singing about how they would never welcome a “n—.” Doesn’t exactly make a black person feel welcome.
A desire to be included as part of the fabric of America, recognized for your contributions, not devalued, not immediately thought of as suspicious or less than, in a society where you’ve been excluded and treated like the scum of America for hundreds of years, is not segregation.
No black American wakes up and says “Gee, I think I’ll start labeling myself, hyphenating my identity.” We get labeled first, treated as minorities rather than equals and then we adapt. Then we get called racist for it.
Lastly, we hold no meeting of American blacks. So no one elected Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson as king of the black people. I wish the media would stop running to them every time they want a black spokespiece. Most of us don’t care. It’s so 1985.”
I do agree that there was a movement to incorporate black people into these institutions. It was called desegregation.
However, the very act of having institutions such as these that excluded individuals based on color was the very point in desegregation. Integrating society was the reason for it. And society has since integrated. Yet we still have forced segregation.
There were schools and other institutions in which blacks weren’t permitted. A movement was led to end that. So why do we still enforce segregation if it was made illegal? So in the 60’s it was wrong but now that “color exclusive” things exist in the favor of blacks it’s ok?
There is no forced segregation. Comparing the legal, government condoned exclusion of an entire “race” of people from opportunities to forge a livelihood to the creation of a school to educate those segregated people is a not valid comparison.
If a white person isn’t on BET (which is not the case), a white person can check one of at least 30 other channels to find a variety of white people to watch. That’s not exclusion.
Perhaps it’s not that white people are excluded from these forums, but rather that they choose not to include themselves. White students are welcome to attend largely black colleges. They choose not to. It’s like the term “white flight.” Black people do not necessarily choose to live in all black neighborhoods. The term “white flight” exists because once black people moved in, the white people left.
No one has banned white people from anywhere. No white person is in danger of facing meaningful, systematic discrimination from a black american.
Desegregation is a long term process. Surely you’re not saying the day a law passed that everything became okay? Not in a country where it took some states decades acknowledge that slavery was illegal. In a country where people enacted laws via loopholes to ban black people from living, working and exiting in certain areas? Some of those states didn’t remove those laws from the books until decades after the Jim Crow era. These things didn’t occur hundreds of years ago. People alive today are still living with the affect effects.
Everyday, I exist in a world that is largely white. I’m surrounded by white people. It’s unavoidable. Once, I invited a white friend to a largely black church (mind you, white people were welcome, just chose to attend the largely white church instead), my white friend said to me with no irony, “It’s so weird to be the only white person in the room.” “Welcome to my everyday,” I told her.
She said it made her uncomfortable. Had never thought about what it might feel like to live that way everyday.
I think instead of placing the blame on black people for creating opportunity in the absence of inclusion, ask why people feel these institutions still have a place in the world. I’d ask why polls show that white Americans think we talk about race in this country too much, but black Americans think the complete opposite. And it seems that white people expect that to be the end of the conversation. Are we once again being told by white people what we should and should not be doing?
Ok. So, by your reasoning there, segregation is ok so long as it’s condoned by the government. I’m not saying that’s double standard but, well, yeah it is. Which is the point. We passed laws to prevent segregation. Now it’s ok so long as it’s “condoned”. A fight was made for “equal treatment” so long as it means “preferential treatment” as well. I live in a predominantly black neighborhood. I’m literally the only white family within several square miles. I don’t feel out of place. I deliberately bought that house. As such, however, I’m a “minority” in my neighborhood. I don’t expect special reliefs or organizations as a result. Nor do I get offended if someone uses a word around me that’s only “ok” for other white people to use. I honored the laws regarding equality. So what’s equal about “color exclusive” organizations?
“So, by your reasoning there, segregation is ok so long as it’s condoned by the government. I’m not saying that’s double standard but, well, yeah it is. ”
Never did I say this. If that’s what you’ve extrapolated, then you’ve misunderstood what I’ve stated several different ways and provided examples for which did not get addressed in your reply.
I’ve stated multiple times that I don’t believe what you’re pointing to is segregation. Segregation does not exist when people aren’t excluded. You keep saying “color exclusive” as I provide examples that no white people are being excluded. No white people are banned from BET. No white people are banned from being spoken about during Black History Month. No white people are banned from enrolling at historically black colleges. No white people are banned from being in magazines that target black audiences. Where is this exclusion you’re insistent exists for white people?
If white people choose to exclude themselves from environments that aren’t predominately white, that is a separate situation. YOU may live in a majority black neighborhood, but you are in the minority of white Americans, who largely CHOOSE to live in the same enclaves.
Most white Americans only have white friends. Few question this. However, when a group of black people get together, it’s assumed they’re segregating themselves, DESPITE the fact that black Americans are have more white friends than whites have black friends (or friends of any other ethnicity for that matter).
If white people want to say the “n-word’ they can. They invented it for use against black people. That’s kind of why it’s offensive to begin with. No one is banning any white person from saying it. There are now just greater social consequences when one chooses to do so.
The additional points that you’ve added, I never stated. Please don’t make the mistake of assuming all black people are looking for handouts. We fall all across the economic strata. We just want the road to opportunity to not be paved with bombs, traps and ditches.
Have a blessed day!
I believe he replied, but I didn’t read it because I decided it was bad for my health.
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Lately, my dad is prone to falling into reflective reveries during which he shares stories from the past with a forthrightness that is surprising given how miserly he’s been with details previously. He’ll affect what my sisters and I call his “Professor [Our last name]” voice and begin his oration: “You know, Keisha, our family…”
Just last April I learned about the six brothers – including my grandfather several generations removed – who together escaped from the plantation where they were enslaved. Had they not made a run for freedom, an entire family line may never have existed! It awed me to think of the strength and fortitude these men possessed. I’m related to people like that!
Yesterday, I asked my grandmother, who is her late 70s, (she doesn’t look a day over 60 and I told her she could score herself a hot 60-year old boyfriend) about her grandmother, my great-great grandmother. I wanted to know if she could read and write.
A tweet I read a couple of weeks ago reminded me that for some black Americans, they are only the second or third generation of readers in their family! That’s incredible when you think about it. If the idea is that each generation surpasses the one before, boosted by the foundation laid by past generations, not having the basic ability to read and write puts one at an extreme disadvantage.
As it turns out, my great-great-grandmother had basic schooling and could read and write on that level. My great-grandmother also knew how to read and write and my grandmother is a retired longtime educator, so reading and writing was her bread and butter.
I’m pleased to join MassMutual in celebrating Black History Month with their #JourneyofYou campaign. Thanks to the family who came before me, my journey is that much less arduous. I strive to live my life in a way that honors their legacy.
How has your family helped pave the way for you? How do you honor the legacy of your ancestors? Share the #JourneyofYou in the comments. You can also visit MassMutual on Twitter or MassMutual on Facebook and share your story there using #JourneyofYou.
When I created this blog, I never expected to write about race and ethnicity as much as I have. However, 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 change shade 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.
Never was it my goal to become a spokesperson or activist for the fight against racism. It’s an uphill battle that requires a lot of strength of character and resilience.
It takes courage to lay your thoughts bare, opening yourself up to public scrutiny and commentary. In today’s America where just mentioning someone’s race makes you “racist” in the eyes of some, there is risk of being misinterpreted or having your words misconstrued into negativity.
In moments where I feel so overwhelmed by the continued prejudice and racial strife I read about or experience day after day, I wonder sometimes why I even bother. Will things ever get better?
Below is a fairly recent conversation between me and my friend Sam, who like me, often posts articles or discussion starters about race and ethnicity. Unlike me, he is a Korean-American male, so his perspective is different from mine. Often, I feel starved for genuine, productive conversation about racism and prejudice in the United States. Too many people seem happy to remain apathetic, or they’re afraid to discuss it for fear of seeming racist or ignorant, or they hope if they ignore the problems they will go away. Well, they won’t and it frustrates me how seemingly content some are to leave things at status quo. My friend, is not one to shrink from difficult or uncomfortable discussions and I value our conversations.
Have you heard about the movie “Dear White People“?
Yes. Want to see it.
Its “outraging” some people.
Keisha “It’s so racist!” “If this movie was called ‘Dear Black People’ THEY would freak out.” “We’re never going to move past racism if we keep talking about it. Stop blaming white people for your problems!” etc. etc.
Yeah expected as much. In a climate where being empathetic to Muslims is antisemitic, favoritism abounds
This is true. The misguided outrage mimics the past in so many ways and people just cannot see it.
Its based on class I believe. Richer minorities are preferred. Abe Lincoln said he was empathetic to blacks (African-Americans) because he was poor. Their race implies their class as he put it.
Yeah, there’s truth to that.
Sadly to many, when black or dark skin represents aspirations, their views will change. It’s still tied to idea that working class are dark because they work outside
I don’t expect to live long enough to see dark skin represent aspiration.
Noooooo! People like us can change the world in small ways.
It’s just exhausting sometimes, feels like a never-ending battle, one that I never volunteered for. I just can’t keep my mouth shut when I feel things are wrong. But, you’re right, I know. Which is why I am happy that people like you exist.
As we get older we want to make the battle for the next gen easier.
True and I’ll remind myself of that.
Seems like you can’t help yourself anymore. You’re a citizen activist!
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 are supposed to protect and serve their fellow citizens seeming more and more like the aggressor, the opposition. And still no answers. We still don’t know who shot and killed him as the police department won’t release the name of the shooter. Anonymous has other ideas though.
After days of escalating anger, violence, rumors and unrest, traditional mainstream media appeared largely to ignore it (MSNBC and The Washington Post, notable exceptions). This morning I awoke to hear my local San Francisco news station covering the eruption last night, followed by “Breaking News” from “The Today Show” about last night’s events, photos and videos resembling what Americans are accustomed to seeing in “those other countries” where war seem constant. “Breaking News?” This shit started going down days ago!
I know, I know…many stories are vying for our collective attention: the Ebola outbreak, the violence in Iraq, IS(IS), the Ukraine, the deaths of Robin Williams and Lauren Bacall, Syria, Gaza and the everyday ills of the world. But what happened and is happening in Ferguson and elsewhere in the US is important too. I’ve written about how I sometimes feel black Americans are still treated as second class citizens, the scourge of the US; how our voices too often go unheard, cries of racism dismissed with cavalier statements, “Stop playing the race card,” “Don’t be such a victim,” “You’re being racist [by recognizing racism exists],” or “Blacks needs to stop blaming whites for their problems! Take responsibility!” I’m so tired of having to explain to people that racism is still very much embedded in the soil of this country when evidence is right in our faces daily.
Yet, America largely still turns a blind eye when black people are suspiciously killed. Are our lives less valuable than those of other Americans, those with paler skin hues? Why is it that when a black American is killed, people want to play respectability politics? “Well, he was wearing a hoodie.” “He dressed like a thug!” “He threw up peace gang signs!” “She had alcohol in her system.” “He was carrying Skittles!” As if any of this justifies ending someone’s life. Discrediting the statements of eyewitnesses because they don’t speak perfect Standard American English.
I am angry. I am sad. I am tired. I am extremely bothered, but unsurprised that it seems it wasn’t until white people started getting hurt that the mainstream media woke up and decided to do their jobs.
I have so much more to say, but many others have already said so much, so eloquently.
Some folks on Twitter who’ve been doing some real work raising awareness and reporting on the story:
* Elon James White – On the ground in Ferguson; CEO & Writer, This Week in Blackness
* Feminista Jones – Instrumental in organizing tonight’s National Moment of Silence in honor of those victimized by police brutality; Writer, Contributor to Salon, HuffPost
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?”
She thought for a beat and answered, “No. No, I wouldn’t.”
“That’s all I’m saying. You can do what you want. But, if you would think twice about giving your white friend a card with a non-white person on it, why wouldn’t you think twice about the reverse?”
The answer is pretty simple. In our country, the dominant culture is white, of European ancestry. White is considered “normal” or the “default.” To not be white is to be different, other, a minority.
When The Hunger Games movie was released last year, a subset of moviegoers were less than thrilled to discover that two of the characters, Rue and Thresh, were played by black actors. One particularly warm-hearted malcontent tweeted, “Kk call me racist but when I found out rue was black her death wasn’t as sad.”
Well, damn. To me, that comment suggests that this person doesn’t see a black life as valuable as a white life. Seems pretty racist to me.
As Anna Holmes rightly identified, in her article in The New Yorker on the “The Hunger Games” tweets, “…the heroes in our imaginations are white until proven otherwise.” Again, white is the default. Some people assumed Rue and Thresh were white. It should be noted, as people who read the books (including me) pointed out, the young adult novel explicitly mentions Rue “has dark brown skin and eyes” and Thresh has “the same dark skin as Rue.” Why shouldn’t there be black characters in The Hunger Games (or Asians or Latinos)? We exist too and we should also be represented, and not superfluously to fill an invisible quota or to simply play the sidekick propping up the white hero. Also notable about the book, is the fact that Rue and Thresh’s skin color was explicitly mentioned. Often when characters are white, their color isn’t addressed. It’s often only when a character is a person of color or otherwise “different” that their ethnicity or race is explicitly stated.
Many of my friends have heard me rant about the fashion industry’s use of the words “nude” and “flesh” as colors. Those colors are basically tan or beige, maybe peach. When I look at my flesh, it’s brown and decidedly not tan. When I am nude, I am still brown, not beige. Those color terms, as innocuous as they may seem, represent just a slice of how pervasive the dominant culture is in our country. “Nude” and “flesh” are normal. If I want an article of clothing or an undergarment that closely matches my skin tone, the color won’t be called “nude”, it’ll be “chocolate” or “deep brown” (and likely there will only be one dark shade, but many more lighter shades).
Concerning oneself with the lack of ethnic diversity in greeting cards, or taking umbrage at the terms used to describe colors in fashion may seem trivial to some. I very much disagree. It’s all too easy to internalize the idea that you are somehow inferior to the majority or the dominant culture, when you don’t readily see representations of people who look like you. When people who look like you are considered abnormal – outside of the norm.
I cannot count the number of friends of color who have shared with me stories of “the time they wanted to be white.” Their reasons varied from they “wanted to be like everyone else,” to they “wanted their family to be like the white families they saw on TV.” More harmfully, however, there were expressions of the desire to be more “conventionally attractive.” There were fears their nose was too wide, face too flat, butt too protruding, hair too nappy, skin too dark, eyes not large enough and so on. We, the “different ones”, should not have to live in a society where we feel excluded or somehow less than. The prevailing standard of beauty in this country is a European standard of beauty that more often than not, doesn’t include people of color. Yes, there are exceptions, exceptions some are all too quick to name when they want to avoid acknowledging potentially discomforting realities. However, these exceptions prove there’s an issue.
The famous “doll experiment” from the early 20th century aptly demonstrated the internalization and implicit acceptance of a white standard of beauty. A group of black children were given two dolls: one brown with dark hair and one white with blonde hair. They were asked questions such as which doll they’d prefer to play with, which was nicer, which doll had a nice color. The kids showed a clear preference for the white dolls. When the study was repeated in the 21st century, obviously with a different set of children, the results were sadly, quite similar.
I remember being told once as a kid, by a black female relative, “Don’t stay out in the sun too long; you’ll get too dark!” The subtext of that warning was, of course, that being “too dark” would make me less attractive. Internalized racism is real.
I don’t want to take anything away from anyone. I want to be equal. I should be able to feel good about the body I was born into. I deserve to feel good about the body I was born into. It’s real work to feel secure in a society that tells you that you aren’t normal. As much as I’ve built up my self-esteem, I still find traces of that internalized racism lurking down deep from time to time. It horrifies and disgusts me. Even a black woman, who is aware these issues exist, I am not impervious to their power.
It’s not just about a card (or a doll, or birthday decorations, or “nude and “flesh” colors) to me. It’s so much more.
The idea that we’re living in a “post-racial nation” is a bad, bad joke. We are still not equal. As long as these minor, but cumulative signs and symbols of racial power and subversion continue to exist, we are not and will not be equal. In the same way that women fought and continue to fight for equality, including challenging existing male-centered, patriarchal language, we have to do the same for people of color. This is a call to everyone to examine the ways in which our society still doesn’t acknowledge and include all of its citizens and work to change it.
You can find greeting cards for purchase online that encompass diversity. However, it would be nice to be able to walk into a standard drugstore or greeting card store and have a varied, diverse set of greeting cards to choose from. There areSpanish-language greeting cards. Further, Hallmark has a separate line of greeting cards specifically for African-Americans. This is progress. However, these “speciality lines” are segregated in store displays. There are the “normal” cards with images of inanimate objects and / or white people and then there are the “other cards.” Segregation, even among greeting card displays, doesn’t demonstrate inclusion. It should be considered “normal” to have diverse sets of people represented on greeting cards, whether those people are black, white, Asian, Latino, multi-racial, gay, disabled, etc. The faces of Americans are ever-changing and our societal artifacts should reflect as much.
A few days after our greeting card conversation, V and I visited Papyrus. V wanted to find a more suitable card for her friends. I’d picked up some Christmas cards there, one batch of which featured a tall, thin, brown-skinned woman, with long-flowing hair in a fashionable outfit. She didn’t look anything like me other than the brown skin, but it was a close enough representation for my satisfaction. We weren’t able to find a card representative of her friends, unfortunately, so she ended up purchasing a card without people on the front flap. Problem solved…for now.
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.]
My sister asked me to go with her to an album release party for Big Sean‘s album release party earlier this month. We arrived just in time to see him being hustled from his outdoor stage into Brooklyn Circus to sign CDs. The crowd was large, super hype and pushing and shoving trying to sneak in behind him. The bodyguards weren’t having it. It was a disorganized mess. No one seemed to know how we were supposed to get into the signing. Some people had wristbands, others didn’t. If there are two things I can’t stand: crowds & chaos. As the crowd started to form a line, I overheard this exchange between a girl who appeared to be in her early 20s and two older teenagers:
Girl: “Y’all want some pills?”
Boy 1: “You got mollies?”
Girl: “No, but I got those Obamas and McDonalds.”
Disappointed, the boys shook their heads no.
Obamas?! My sister joked, ‘That must be some Presidential-grade shit!”
I looked at my sister, pleading with my eyes to leave. This isn’t my crowd. I don’t pop mollies, Obama or McDonald’s. I am not here for that business. I’m too old for this shit. We didn’t get to see Big Sean perform, but we did see him. I didn’t need an up close and personal experience.
I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of Los Angeles by the time I left in 2012 after over 10 years of calling it home.
My biggest complaint about L.A. is the heinous, constant traffic. It’s terrible and it’s a regular topic of conversation in L.A. Few cities in the US compare.
I moved to San Francisco full of hope and relieved to live in a true walking city. No more daily near-death incidents on the freeway! No more road rage! No more wondering why everyone in a BMW seems to drive like a tool.
By the end of the my second month in San Francisco, I was pretty depressed. I had no friends, the job wasn’t what I thought it would be, my apartment building is old and seems to have no noise insulation whatsoever. I pay what’s essentially a mortgage to hear my upstairs neighbors’ every elephant-ine moves and sometimes entire conversations (sadly, nothing interesting).
In a very dense city of close to one million people, I felt lonelier than I have in a long while.
Around the same time, I had to head back to L.A. for my dear friend’s bridal shower.
It was exactly what I needed.
Three months in San Francisco allowed me to see Los Angeles with new eyes again.
When I picked up my rental car at LAX, the agent asked , “What kind of car would you like? Do you want a car that gets good mileage?”
“No, I don’t care about that! Which is the fastest in this class?”
He pointed me toward a cute, gray VW Jetta with a V6 engine Sorry, Earth.
As I sped toward my old neighborhood, in the warm sunshine, with the windows open, letting the breeze circulate, singing at the top of my lungs to a song on Power 106, shaking my booty in the seat, I felt so at peace. On the freeway. On the awful 405 freeway that I’ve written scathing yelp reviews about and I felt at peace.
It was comforting. I missed the benefits of solo time spent in my car. I can’t sing at the top of my lungs in my current apartment – everyone would hear. I still have my car, but I drive so rarely these days. I didn’t realize how important that personal time was.
The palm trees were as gorgeous and magnificent as I remember thinking they were when I’d moved there over a decade ago.
I thought: the sun really does love this place! How can it be so impossibly beautiful, warm and bright?
A friend who’d lived up in Berkeley for undergrad warned me when I told him I was considering San Francisco, “You’re going to miss the weather.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know, everyone says, ‘the weather is so amazing.'”
I liked it, some days even deeply appreciated it, but, I realize now just how much I took it for granted. I really think the sun sets up camp there and just visits other cities from time to time.
The trip went by in a blur. I met up with former co-workers and other close friends, including my older friend J___ who is almost like a surrogate mom to me. We, the bridesmaids, pulled off an excellent bridal shower and made the bride happy.
I’m so glad I went back.
I released the pent-up emotion that had built since I moved to San Francisco. Being back in L.A. made me feel normal. My friends’ warm welcomes reminded me that I I’m not alone. I am loved. That I am someone people want to befriend.
I understand Los Angeles. I once functioned as part of the city. A sense of inclusion in your city is more important than I ever realized.
When I left L.A. that weekend, I said and felt something that I so rarely did in the time that I lived there: “I love Los Angeles!”
I love that in a city largely ruled by the entertainment industry, we clap as the credits roll at a movie’s end.
I love that there is so much amazing food of all types of cuisines.
I missed the unique/break-the-rules/bold/relaxed/trend-setting fashion. I forgot how seeing the way others dressed inspired me to push beyond my fashion boundaries.
Was it my imagination or did some of the guys get cuter since I left?
I miss the train-wreck-style “entertainment” of high-speed car chases.
I liked that I didn’t see hipsters every.where.I.looked. Hipsters have their own neighborhoods in L.A.
Hearing people argue about which eatery in the city has the best Mexican food never stops being amusing.
One thing that hasn’t changed: I still hate LAX.
I knew I didn’t want to move back though. At least not until I give San Francisco at least a year. Even then, I left Los Angeles for a reason and I didn’t make the decision lightly. Moving back might feel comforting at first, but eventually the same elements that made me want to leave will probably arise again. It hasn’t been the easiest move, but I know that the experience is good for me.
I really needed that trip. I needed a reset. I needed closure with Los Angeles.
When I returned to San Francisco, I felt reinvigorated.
I owe Los Angeles an apology. I didn’t appreciate it enough when I lived there. I spent most of my 20s in L.A. and I will forever be linked to the city via my memories.
I now find myself protective of Los Angeles. I will defend it.
It’s not the kind of city you can live in for a year, or even three years, and think you get it. You cannot possibly get it. The city is huge!
If you’ve only been to Hollywood, Santa Monica and Venice, you probably don’t know Los Angeles. What about Echo Park, Monterrey Park, Baldwin Hills, Burbank, Studio City, Leimert Park, Pasadena or Highland Park?
There’s an ad that plays here in SF, sponsored by Discover Los Angeles. I used to think it was beckoning me to return. A female voiceover says – and I’m paraphrasing:
Just when you think you’ve seen all I have to offer, there’s more.
Thank you, Los Angeles. I owe you a lot. Now, it’s San Francisco’s turn.
I’ve been living in San Francisco a little over four months. I had five immediate goals when I arrived:
Unpack box-partment and decorate within six weeks of move in – Did it in five.
Don’t get fired (or maybe it was “do well at work”. Still, end result is, don’t get fired.)– still employed
Find a gym – found
Make friends – well, see…so…but I, err…
Possibly finally trade in bitchy, useless, freeloading, ungrateful second cat.*
*still debating this one
Numbers 1, 2 and 3 are going well. Number 4 hasn’t been as smooth, which I foolishly did not anticipate. When I moved to San Francisco, I was full of hope and enthusiasm. In just two months, those feelings were replaced by boohoo and what the hell did I do?! Los Angeles was a perfectly fine place with beautiful weather, wearing of open-toed shoes and sleeveless tops almost year around and a world I understand, for good and for bad. I miss my friends, my burger places, Koreatown, ramen, mid-priced quality sushi, seeing and hearing Spanish everywhere, cheaper rent and not sobbing when I write out my rent check and not being the only upwardly mobile black person for miles. So what if I felt suicidal in traffic some days? There are plenty of doctors willing to prescribe me drugs to handle those emotions!
I get asked a lot whether I like it here. Sure, it’s a beautiful city. But so are many others I’ve been to or lived in. What’s got to make San Francisco stand out from the places I’ve lived and visited is the people. My default answer is usually, “I don’t know yet,” and I’ll explain that I’ve found it difficult to meet people. I’m either met with looks of confusion (how is it possible that you don’t love it here?!), nods of understanding and agreement or the not at all novel: “Have you tried meetup?” An L.A. friend who is a former SF resident shared that it can be hard to break into a clique in San Francisco, but once you do, the friendships you make will be more genuine than you’ll find in Los Angeles. That’s…comforting?
Volunteering a couple of weeks ago, I went out for lunch after with some of the other volunteers. I met a lifelong Bay Area resident who, once I told her I moved here from L.A., delighted in telling me how much she hated SoCal and the people in it. “They’re so fake.” You know how you can talk all kinds of shit about your crazy uncle who wrecks family events on the regular, but let someone outside of the family chime in and you’re cracking your knuckles, ready to throw down? That was me; hiding my hands under the table. I can talk shit about L.A. all day. I earned that right as a long-term resident. She, however, visited once or twice and dismissed it. Humph!
“What are you unsure about?” she asked me.
“Well, it’s supposed to be diverse here, but there are no black people here (I waved my hand around the black-less the restaurant as I said this) and that’s kind of uncomfortable for me.”
I laughed to lighten the weight of my words. Uncomfortable chuckles from the group followed. It’s funny how awkwardly some people react when a minority brings up race, especially blackness. Sometimes I just wanna say, “Blackitty black black afro negro blackish black black blaaaaack. I AM BLACK! Feel better? Now can we move past your discomfort and talk about this?” It’s like they’re afraid you’re gonna know they secretly rap the “n-word” in hip-hop songs when no one black is around. The SoCal-hater had an immediate solution to my discomfort, “It’s plenty diverse here. Just go to the Tenderloin. Ha!” I thought to myself, “Did this chick really just tell me to go to the Tenderloin to see black people? The Tenderloin where everyone warns you away from due to the huge likelihood of being asked repeatedly for money, seeing someone pooping on the sidewalk or seeing a drug deal go down, Tenderloin? Does she think it feels good for my soul to see downtrodden black people?”
I told her, “Yeahhhh, there’s that…but, I think we have different interests.” This dumb, clueless chick. Diversity isn’t just about counting numbers of people of the same group. How well are those people represented and integrated among the population being measured? I just can’t with her foolishness. But, when meeting new people it’s better just to grin and bear it, put on your happy face and complain to your out-of-town friends about her flippant tone. I don’t tell her I’ve heard complaints that San Franciscans can be snooty and pretentious and that her bitchery isn’t helping to disprove that stereotype. Be nice now, save Keisha Fierce for later.
In response to one of my posts a few weeks ago, a blog reader suggested I check out Rachel Bertsche’s blog (thanks!), which led me to her book: MWF Seeking BFF (I recommend it if you’re in the friend-shopping business). In the non-fiction book, Rachel is a late twenty-something relatively new to Chicago, having moved there to be with her husband. Upon realizing she’s lonely and lacking in close girlfriends, she vows to go on one new friend date a week for a year. Throughout the book she details – often hilariously – the women she meets and their dates. Interspersed throughout the book are interesting friendship factoids and tidbits such as: “minorities are more open to friends outside their race than white people are” (ch. 7). Did I mention that San Francisco is almost 50% white? Oh, this will be fun. Good thing SF has a large Asian population and a smaller Latino population!
A co-worker moved here a little under two years ago. She told me that while she’s met people through activities here and there, she hasn’t yet found anyone that she’d call up for last-minute plans or to confide in. That’s…sad, and unacceptable for me. Another couple of women told me they felt it took them three to four years (one said six!) to feel they had a good circle of friends and felt comfortable here. Ain’t nobody got time for all that! I know there are other places where the weather is warmer and so are the personalities of the residents.
Inspired by Rachel Bertsche’s tenacity and my own rebellious nature that refuses to accept it taking years to find good friends, I decided it’d be fun to see just how many friends I can amass in a year. If I make it a competition (with myself), it’ll be more thrilling. Because, trying to make new friends once you’re out of school, is not really a joyride. Once it becomes a conscious effort it becomes work, especially when you’re seeking to create a social circle you don’t have. When you’re hoping to meet at least one person to be the Gayle to your Oprah (or better yet a Blanche, Sophia, Dorothy, Rose quad!), you’re putting in work!
I’ve been friending my ass off. Well, maybe not friending as much as meeting-new-people my ass off. I was out socializing five out of seven days last week and I had a couple of moments of fun, but mostly it was work. Last week alone I met or re-met so many new people I was exhausted come Thursday and I wasn’t even done! Sunday was my day of rest, cocooning in my box-partment. The groundwork I laid a couple of months ago is finally paying off. When I started my job, I made it a point to eat lunch with people I want to get to know at least twice a week. Every meeting is a chance to show off my stunning personality. People need to know what richness they are missing.
At a work Valentine’s Day party, we had to meet at least one new person to be allowed to enter the raffle. I used it as an opportunity to speed meet people. People are starting to wave and smile at me in the halls! I’ve even gotten a few lunch invites. Unexpectedly, a co-worker, L – with whom I’ve rarely interacted except during a training class and a few run-ins in the kitchen – invited me to happy hour last Thursday. My first happy hour invite! I could have cried. I double-checked the IM to see if she really meant to send it to me and not someone else. She meant me! At happy hour, K, with whom I’ve gone to lunch once and was also in training with me and L, told me, “I loved how during training you told HR “no” when they asked if we thought the training was helpful. That was awesome! You go, girl.” L, the girl who invited me, nodded in agreement. Yep, that’s me: no bullshit. This no-bullshitter could be your friend!
A few weeks ago, I joined a women’s group that helps connect women looking to build female friendships. I’ve been to a couple of small events and met some cool women. A few of them have given me their phone numbers and invited me out outside of the group – unprompted. If I were a straight dude, I’d really be feeling myself. I’m getting those digits! I also joined an adventure group that seems promising. My calendar is slowly filling up again.
One of the new women I’ve met asked me to go for coffee sometime. Coffee is not an activity, it’s a beverage. It’s the means to a caffeinated end. Why coffee? Why not drinks? I’m skeptical when people suggest going out to drink beverages and the beverages don’t include at least the option of alcohol. Recovering alcoholics get a pass. But, I’m wary people who don’t drink because they just don’t drink. I don’t drink anywhere near as much as I did in college or in my mid-20s when I was trying out every single club in L.A., but that party girl is still in there. She’s lying dormant, judging my more sober lifestyle, my “please God don’t let my friend have her birthday party at a bar-ness” and old lady o’clock bedtime. But, she’s ready to get the party started if the moment presents itself. It’s fine though, as the intro to MWF mentions, there are different types of friendships and they are all valuable. Maybe she’ll be my friend I do healthy, productive stuff with. Like I’ve said before, friendless beggars can’t be too choosy.
At the same volunteer event where I met the snooty, clueless girl, I met A. I liked A right away. She was warm, lively and very sharp. When we talked about diversity in San Francisco she passionately said, “Oh, it’s bull! Everyone talks about how many Latinos are here, but they’re all Mexican. I’m from Central America. I’m from the East Coast where there are people from different Latin countries all over the place. And the food? I can’t get good Central American food to save my life! My boyfriend’s family has lived in the Mission for generations and the techies with money are probably going to price them out.” She worked in youth outreach in Bayview-Hunter’s Point and has seen first hand just how segregated and economically lopsided this city can be. With each word, I swooned. She gets it!She gets me. We exchanged numbers and email addresses. A few days later, I emailed her offering to grab a drink (with alcohol) or dinner. It’s been a month and she hasn’t replied. Maybe I scared her off? Maybe she thinks I’m a lesbian, read my email and thought, “Oh hell no!” Or maybe she’d rather go out for coffee? Can’t win ’em all.
Who Will Stand Under My Umbrella (ella, ella)?
All the people I’ve met have been nice, but as Rachel said in her book’s introduction, “I can be nice, but I don’t want nice friends. I want funny, gregarious, sarcastic and smart friends.“ To that I’d add: socially conscious, opinionated, adventurous and easy going. If you’re a pop culture fan we’ll probably be insta-besties. My ninth grade English teacher lectured “nice” out of our arsenal of adjectives. And she was right too: nice is fucking boring. However, I know it can take time for some people to warm up, chill and let their good crazy show. I am learning to be patient.
I haven’t yet hit that pivotal moment of friendship with anyone, when you crossover from perfunctory greetings and awkward small talk to this is my homegirl, ride or die. You’ve heard of Bonnie & Clyde? We’re Bonnie and Bonnie! Psychologists call it: self-disclosure. I can vividly remember those tipping points in many of my cherished friendships. You feel all warm and fuzzy and bubble up with joy around your buddy. It’s a wonderful feeling. I can’t wait to experience it again.
Despite this not being the smoothest transition, I’m glad I moved here. Shaking things up is healthy. I’ve amped up my friendmaking ventures. I am meeting people, I’m not exactly having fun yet, but it’s gotta pay off at some point. I eagerly await the moment when I can rush up to a new friend and say, “You will not believe what just happened to me! I couldn’t wait to tell you about it!”
I'm Keisha ("Kee-shuh", not to be confused with Ke$ha). I am a (later) thirty-something, non-mommy, non-wife, who lives in San Francisco, California New York and has lots of opinions on lots of things.