Category Archives: Uniquely Made

The Un-Birthday Party

 

You’ve seen/read Alice in Wonderland, where nothing makes sense, and the inhabitants are happy about it. Welcome to America. Every summer, we throw our own un-birthday party.

 

The Fourth of July is almost here. It will be the most telling one we’ve had to date. What are you celebrating? Freedom? Independence? How proud you are to be an American? Beer & Fireworks and you don’t have to care? It must be nice to be you. To be someone who doesn’t care.

The idea of Independence Day is in and of itself an example of white privilege and blindness. I’m not suggesting anyone not celebrate or enjoy themselves. But realize, you are celebrating white people white-peopling while ignoring the harm they bring to others.

The rest of us will eat burgers and watch the light displays, but we won’t be celebrating America’s Freedom. The fact is, we don’t have as much to celebrate as you do. 

The fourth of July was never for black people anyway. We weren’t included in that whole,  Americans are now free, thing. And now, we have an onslaught of angry white people who will do anything to get us back into submission or, failing that, killed. (Calling the police on an eight-year-old selling water or a twelve-year-old mowing the grass is exactly what it is. No justification necessary.) Please excuse us, but celebrating America’s freedom amid a racial war to keep us from freedom and equality sounds like a horse-shit plan. But, you go ahead; eat your hotdog and pretend it’s fair.

By the way, it wasn’t freedom for the Indigenous people either. For them, America is the opposite of what it claims to be. 

Now, we’ve got the border crises. Separating families, kidnapping children, punishing those in need because…feeding supremacy makes certain types of people happy. Shouting Freedom for America while America denies freedom to others is hypocrisy beyond my personal endurance, but for those who don’t mind waving flags while abusing children, have at it.

Let’s not forget the Muslim ban. I guess for some, nothing says freedom like locking brown people out. 

Then there is the question of Patriotism, Nationalism, and Christianity. All these are used to justify racism, xenophobia, and plain ‘ol hate.  While some people put on the red, white, & blue as a badge of assholery, the rest of us are trying to make it stand for something a little bit better.

We currently live in two Americas. There is the white privilege America where everything fits into a whitewashed box and anyone who doesn’t is the enemy. An America where hate for others is the order of the day. That is what’s Wednesday’s party is about.

And then there is the America of accountability. Where truth is truth and doing what’s right is always the goal. An America whose patriots demand she live up to her name. Those who live in that place know the fourth of July is just another un-birthday. We’ll come to the party, but we won’t linger because we have real work to do.

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What They Can’t Have

Fourteen-year-old Brennan Walker almost lost his life for having the nerve to ask for help. That’s all. Pure hatred and projected fear, put it in a man’s heart to shoot at a black person for ringing the doorbell.

Nope. This is not an isolated incident.

Nope. This is not a fluke.

Nope. This is not out of the ordinary.

What’s out of the ordinary is (thank God the safety was still on) Brennan is alive, and (thank God for porch surveillance) Jeffery Zeigler is being charged. I, personally wish his wife would get charged too, as it was her racist rant that caused this to happen.

During his interview, Brennan made the comment, his mom says, he doesn’t look his age.

This pisses me off to the core of my being. Not that his mom told him that. That misunderstanding is a common ideology ingrained in people of color. Black moms and dads have to go above and beyond to instill caution in their kids because black children are prey.

Moving beyond trying to get along and be acceptable, by who’s standard, does he not look his age? Uhhh… that would be the white-stereotyping-judgmental-standard, of course. White equals young and innocent, black equals old and dangerous. No matter, their age, height, weight, dress, or situation, black children are assumed to be something not normal.

The only reason for that is to make it okay to hate.

It’s time to stop. Our children don’t need the burden of justifying other people’s hatred.  As if their height, or strength, or beauty is some sort of freakish anomaly that makes white people afraid. No. The height, and strength, and beauty of a black child is part of the package that makes him or her a king or a queen. A proud, strong, beautiful member of a royal people— not subject to anyone’s down-putting judgments.

Brennan doesn’t need to be self-conscious about his looks. He looks his age. He looks exactly the way God made him. It’s not up for debate. The idea that weak and puny is the only way a black person can be acceptable and safe is bullshit. Fourteen-year-olds can’t be tall and strong and healthy? WTH?? White comfort is not on the agenda. White perceptions aren’t the rule. And, nobody asked for your racist judgments anyway. So, why don’t you take your assessments of black folks— black children in particular, and file it under: Yet, Another False Narrative You Can’t Push Anymore.

The sick, sad, truth behind it all is, it doesn’t actually matter what Brennan or any child of color looks like; those who hate will hate us anyway. The Zeiglers hated him before he stepped foot on their porch. Regardless of how meek, or humble, or how accommodating we are trained to be, they are going to see a problem. But, it’s not the height, or the strength, or the beauty that causes the outrage and fear. That’s just an excuse. The problem is and always has been the black skin.

They hate what they can’t have.

My Cheesy-Ass Stereotypical Grin

I went grocery shopping because lack of food makes me do that from time to time. The store wasn’t crowded but I managed to bump into everyone who was there. Literally.

I did the cart-dance with a guy in a gardening hat. We laughed and sidestepped.

While searching for—I don’t know what— something, something in a chicken package, I almost had a three-way collision with two other women; one searching for something, something in a beef package, and the other searching for something, something, something. We laughed and admitted we didn’t have a clue to share.

My journey continued and I met the Twirly-girl. She was about five or six. Spinning, spinning, singing and giggling. Her ponytail was just three rotations from becoming a memory. Her face was gooey, her hands were sticky, and her shirt had evidence of a recently devoured purple popsicle. She was missing a flip-flop. Somehow it got stuck on the rack under the cart. She didn’t care, she was twirling and she was the perfect picture of summertime. I had to pull some serious maneuvers get out of her way (you don’t mess with happy twirlers).

She was so adorable, I was still smiling when I rounded the corner and HE almost bumped into ME. This twenty-something…something shook his head, rolled his eyes and said, ‘Cheesy-ass, Stereotypical grin.’

He was around the corner and gone before I could make a helpful suggestion of where he could go and what he ought to kiss. I stood frozen, debating going after him.

For what purpose? I know what I heard, but could I have been mistaken.

What proof did I have? None.

What could this lead to? That is a very real point to ponder for a person of color. I live in an area where I am outnumbered and I didn’t recall seeing any other minorities in the store.

Finally, he didn’t say or do anything illegal. Or, even, to me.

I chose to let it go. I accepted the damage. Hate won.

I didn’t ‘bump’ into anyone else. I didn’t have any more light, pleasant exchanges. My smile was gone. I didn’t make eye contact with anyone and I suspected the motives of every person I passed. I wondered who was a President ‘Mean-Girl’ follower and how they would justify the incident and/or blame me.

With head bowed, I finished my shopping and made my way to the checkout.

The lady behind me had a basket full of items, I had a cart full. I let her go ahead of me. She was genuinely surprised and thanked me. When it was my turn, the cashier and I exchanged pleasantries but were interrupted by a crash. The person behind me dropped a jar of jelly.

There were no other lines open and no available associates to help. The customer was apologetic, the cashier was full of assurance, but it was a sticky mess.  As it was just the three of us, this was the time for action.

I jumped in with the plan. “You get the stuff to clean it up, you go get another jar, I’ll hold the fort and keep people out of the way.”

“Are you sure?”

“You don’t mind?”

“Nope. It’s a race. Go!” We made it fun.

A guy got in line, and after hearing my explanation, offered to drop a jar of peanut butter so we could all have a snack.

Next came Twirly-girl and her mom. I immediately warned her of the glass and pointed to Twirly’s missing shoe. Mom didn’t know the shoe was missing. She scooped Twirly up, deposited her in the cart and thanked me.

The Jelly-lady returned and thanked me for watching her cart and holding her place in line.

The cashier came back, made quick work of the cleanup and thanked me for waiting so she could get it done.

And right at that moment, the woman I let in front of me, came over to thank me once again for being so nice. For some reason, she was extra appreciative. The cashier said that I was really nice and helpful. The other patrons agreed.

I thanked them for thanking me and the last thing I saw as I left the store was that Twenty-something, last in line, frowning as the people around him imitated my cheesy-ass stereotypical grin.

Hate did not win.

ME

I have a need to explain myself.

No. No, I don’t. I have a desire to address a few nonsensical individuals who have been emboldened by their leadership.

Dear Sirs,

Pleased be informed, your time trying to derail my postings has been wasted. I realize, when you friended me, you were expecting a much better behaved HN. I appreciate your gratuitous use of capital letters and exclamation points when you chastise me. And, your lengthy paragraphs full of stupid shit…err…deep wisdom on subjects beyond your comprehension.

I know, writing about the topics you suggest would help me earn your approval (Seriously, using that Jamie Foxx, Django Unchained interview, where he said he gets to kill white people, as an example of the suffering of whites, was eye-opening. Clearly, more important than the real issues affecting my family).

Obviously, I don’t understand my purpose. I was supposed to be your ‘black friend’. Your silent, accommodating, black friend. I messed up accommodating; totally blew silent. Friend is such a strong word. Gee whiz. The only part I got right was ‘black’.

I’m divisive. I say mean things. I intentionally antagonize people who have only shown me love (they’ve shown me some other things too but that part doesn’t count).

I know, I know, I’ve hurt you..mocked you…betrayed you… (All on purpose, I confess.) But, sadly, there is an unavoidable reason your efforts to train me, teach me, get me in line are failing.

I do not give a damn.

Call me flawed, but meeting your standards just so you can feel good about your judgments is not on my itinerary. Ever. Also, cracking your rose-colored glasses is my gift to you.

Sincerely,

Notyourblackfriend

*

I do my thing and you do your thing

I am not in this world to live up to your expectations,

And you are not in this world to live up to mine.

You are you, and I am I,

And if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful.

If not, it can’t be helped.

(Fritz Perls, “Gestalt Therapy Vervatim”, 1969)

I don’t know anything about Gestalt or this therapy. This was on a poster my brother had on his door when I was three-years-old. I memorized it, impressed visitors with my reading skills and let those words become a part of who I am. Deal with it.

Speaking of who I am…

For the first twenty years of my life, I lived under liberal influences. For the next twenty, under conservative influences. And, the last ten, detoxing from both. I don’t base my political opinions on the news, social media, or religious understanding. I am guided by personal experience. I have sat around enough dinner tables listening to ‘the other side of the argument’ long enough to have developed a decent sense of truth. When I take the time to call your hypotheticals and judgments BS, it’s because, while you are having a cup of coffee and a second helping of assumption, I am putting real names, real faces and real situations to your wrongful conclusions.

That twenty, twenty, ten breakdown applies to my Christianity as well. No religion, too much religion and now proper religion. By proper religion, I mean love, not control. Respect not manipulation. Help not hurt. Truth not lies. Living by a code that makes me a better human being rather than a code that places expectations on others. That’s what my Bible teaches. (My Bible also taught me not to put up with BS from people playing God. It was a good lesson. Just saying…)

I have lived in the ghetto. I have lived in my car. I have gone without food and wore safety pins in my shoes. I have been beaten, I have been sexually assaulted.

I have lived in four different states and another country. I’ve hung out in the homes of the wealthy. My wedding reception was held in the backyard of a retired Westinghouse VP. I have interacted with Bishops and Archbishops, and more than a few successful entrepreneurs. Single mother, suburban homemaker —yes, I’ve even made cookies for the bake sale.

I was married to the Military for seven years. I can give you a list of things true heroes and real patriots don’t do.

I grew up among the disabled and handicapped, watching them accomplish more in a day than some of their full-body counterparts could accomplish in a month. Eating crabs with a quadriplegic or having my ponytail adjusted by a lady without arms was not an oddity.

I lived with a murderer and was surrounded by all manner of criminals. Urban fiction writer, Donald Goines, based his stories on real people/events. His work was required reading for my survival, because a few of those characters were in and out of my mother’s kitchen, regularly.

They weren’t the only people in my house. Diversity was the norm. Different races, different religions, different levels of understanding. I repeat, in my house-not on my television. Ever ate with a Muslim? Worked with an illegal immigrant? I have. Under all those labels and judgments, they’re sooo… human.

I can tell you all about the benefits I received from being married to a white person…and all the things (and people) he lost because he married me. I could just as easily tell you about the things (and people) we’ve lost because we fight injustice…and everything we’ve gained in pursuit of the truth. When I say something is white-privilege or supremacy, it’s because I have experienced it first hand. Not one iota of your surprise, shock, denial or outrage can change that.

Finally, I am a writer. That means, I read. I research. I listen. I learn. I am required to see the world through a thousand eyes. I have to live a hundred different perspectives, searching for what is right about each one. I don’t get to enjoy a history of control, the luxury of fearing others, or the desire to throw people into boxes (that would make for some flat, boring characters).

I’m not talking about myself because I need attention. I don’t. This is who I am. This is what I bring to the fight: personal experience. I am diversity. I am racial. I am proof that your locked-in, blocked-in understanding is limited. If your comprehension of the subjects I write about does not reach any further than your comfort zone, social circles or the news, I’m not the person you should attempt to enlighten.

I choose truth, so, of course, I am divisive. Yes, I say mean things. And, no, I am not going to fix your rose-colored glasses.

Would you like that in caps, or perhaps with a few exclamation points?

The Cookout

 

Yesterday, Matt and I took advantage of the unusually nice seventy-degree weather and took a walk through the park in Frederick. Rather than compete with traffic, we parked on a side street and cut through a bit of downtown. We happened by a rundown apartment building and some houses in need of attention on a sadder street just as the occupants were setting up for a neighborhood cookout. I was struck with a note of longing.

Poor, black neighborhood cookouts were a way of life for me, growing up. There was no money for family vacations (most people didn’t have those kind of jobs anyway). There was no money for a lot of things. But what you could do, was pool your resources, hang out, let the kids go wild and catch-up on community.  When black people get together, anybody walking down the street can eat. I missed that.

Especially given our circumstance. We don’t live in a neighborhood that favors block parties. I offend half the people we know, by virtue of my existence (I’m okay with it. Most of the people I offend, need it). They only party with people who agree with them, and BS overload gives me indigestion, anyway.

We enjoyed our walk and detoxed a little from the acid we’re constantly wading through, but that cookout lingered in my thoughts. It was a classic example of the ‘Gutter Flowers’ I’m so into. The area wasn’t pretty. The people didn’t appear to have much, and yet there was laughter and fun and the camaraderie that comes from having to make do with what you have. There’s no one-upmanship. No, who-has-what that’s better. Your job or your look didn’t have anything to do with what went on your hotdog.

On our way back to our car, we caught sight of the party in full swing.

They waved us over.

They would not take no for an answer. Because when black people get together, anybody walking down the street can eat.

It was a moment. We didn’t have to. We didn’t know these people. We had things to do. The area wasn’t pristine. It wasn’t racially balanced… We had an arsenal of excuses at our disposal. We ignored them all.

There were three older guys sitting on a tailgate. One of them may have been white or mixed. I’m not sure, but my husband is white. He had a burger. Because they didn’t have a preference on who was welcomed. It didn’t matter, that I was a black girl, with a white man instead of a brother. What mattered was, where I put the ketchup when I was done using it.

We talked and laughed and looked and listened. I wanted to take a picture, but I didn’t see a cellphone anywhere. If you’ve ever seen a group of ten-or-more people not on electronic devices, it’s a work of art. That’s not to say, they didn’t have them. But, they were doing community, it wasn’t worth a picture to interrupt that. I left my phone in my pocket.

Ernestine a.k.a Tater, has seven kids, twelve grandkids, and eight great-grandchildren. She drove an over-the-road rig for ten and a half years- the first year, without a CDL license. She says she didn’t have a choice.

Charlie and Wilder took turns manning the grill and Gwen sat there, nursing a beer. She told me, she didn’t contribute a thing- she couldn’t. She lost her job two months ago, but everybody made sure she had food…and today, a beer.

As far as the state of the nation, they had opinions. But only a few. Ferguson is like a third world country, somebody said. The racial divide is one of the reasons they came out and fired up the grill. They hoped, they prayed, somebody like my husband-somebody white would rather eat than fight. That’s as far as politics went.

Just as we were leaving, a lady with two kids were being wooed by the aroma coming off the grill and the temptation of games.

Those awesome neighbors, who clearly had less than many, put a table full of love in the midst of a time of hate. They challenged us to trust. They rewarded our effort with acceptance and food…good food.

There’s your Black Magic.

YOUR WAR

If you think this is only about politics, you have abandoned the truth. Democrats and Republicans have been running the country in turns for years. Ford to Carter to Regan, Bush to Clinton to Bush; that, is not this. Politics just happens to be the stage on which this latest power struggle has been set. President Obama’s birth certificate was not politics. His religious affiliation was not politics. Placing Mr. Trump in office was not about politics-he’s not a politician. This is not politics. This is war.

A war you incited. A war you wanted. A war you’re going to have to learn to live with, because it’s not going away. All of your weariness, all of your attempts to disconnect, all of your pretending it’s politics, is just your privilege kicking in. Only, this time, it’s not working.

Let’s get your favorite tactic out of the way so we can get on with business.

Diverting. Please, stop diverting. As I said, it’s not working.

Dealing with Mr. Trump’s actions/behaviors by focusing on what President Obama did doesn’t change Mr. Trump’s actions/behaviors. Tit-for-tat is petty. Always has been. It means, you are intentionally avoiding the truth. And, while we’re on the topic of what President Obama did: According to my calculations, you’ve had eight years to discuss President Obama. That’s 2,922 days (including two leap years). Over 3,000 if you count the time leading up to his first election. That’s a lot of hours to complain, resist, organize, whatever. But, that time is over. What President Obama may or may not have done, is neither an excuse nor a justification for Mr. Trump. (But, you already knew that.)

Today, we’re taking about you and your war. This is about supremacy. Nothing more. Nothing less. Nothing else. I think most of the people who support Mr. Trump have one thing in common: they wholeheartedly believe he will advance their particular form of supremacy.

You have to give credit to the White Nationalist, at least they own it. They aren’t pretending it’s something other than what it is. If you support what they support, you are supporting them. Period. …for whoever is not against me is for me. I put it in red because Jesus said it. Mark 9:40

For extreme conservatives, it’s about preserving an ideal and a lifestyle that is beneficial to them… regardless of the cost to the rest of us. Until now, America’s greatness has been at the expense of minorities. Only a supremacist (closet/subconscious/outspoken) believes that’s a good idea. Only a supremacist (closet/subconscious/outspoken) would think the rest of us should sit down, be quiet, and accept it.

And finally, the Christians who don’t know the difference between Christianity and white privilege. They believe it is God’s will- and their duty- to force everyone to live according to their understanding. Your entrance into heaven or banishment into hell is dependent upon their interpretation of the bible. And, whether or not the country is ‘blessed’ is determined by how a situation affects white-people. (You know America was founded on Christian principles…and stealing land and making slaves.)

Supremacy doesn’t get any more supreme than that.

So, here we are. Fighting your supremacy in all it’s forms. It doesn’t matter how many times you divert. It doesn’t matter how political you pretend this is. It doesn’t matter if you claim God is on your side (screw the rest of us). This is a war you created and catered to when you chose supremacy over love…again.

Since we know your game, it’s only fair for me to tip our hand. Just this one time. Mr. Trump is making America great again. Not by returning us to some period of white-only prosperity. But, by giving us the incentive to rise. America’s greatness comes in large part, by way of it’s minorities. Race, religion, orientation, whatever. We, the minorities, are also, We, The People. We know how to fight -some of us have been fighting this particular war since the beginning. We know how to get along and see equals rather than less-thans. We see potentials not problems. We don’t live in fear of others (we are others). Because, we are true Americans of the United States.

You don’t have to like us, we accept that. Regardless, we’re not coming under your supremacy ever again. You’ll have to accept that.

Veterans Day

So, I saw two memes this week about Veterans. Expected. Veterans Day is coming up. Unfortunately, the memes were being used as a bullying technique.

One was a picture of a wounded soldier walking through a battlefield with this comment: Before you go idolizing some jerk wearing a football uniform disrespecting the national anthem try understanding what that anthem stands for.

Another was a grieving woman beside the open casket of a decorated soldier with this sentiment attached: Tell all the protesters in the NFL to put on this uniform and then they might understand why we stand.

I don’t buy into the ‘sincerity of the message’ because the NFL protest has nothing to do with the military. They know that. They just don’t care.

The second meme was entitled: This is why we stand.

Well, this is why we kneel.

The people of Standing Rock, the people of Flint, The victims of the SC church shooting, The Mississippi church vandalism, Tamar Rice, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Korryn Gaines, Freddie Gray, Laquan McDonald, Walter Scott, Terence Crutcher,….and so on, and so on, etc., etc… There are just too many to count. But the list includes the six officers killed in Texas and the two officers killed in Iowa.

We kneel for injustice.

1-

I choose to kneel because I do not believe honoring heroes –make no mistake, our troops are heroes- is more important than defending victims. I show my love for our troops by imitating them. I’m a civilian-solider. They fight and they die so that all (and by all I mean ALL) Americans can benefit from liberty. If we are not getting that liberty then they fight and die in vain… But not, if I can help it. I don’t have military weapons or training, but I do have a conscience and a voice. You mock their purpose when you use their images to try to silence me.

2-

I choose to kneel because the brave men and women in our Armed Forces are adults who have made a conscious choice, knowing the possible outcomes, including injury and/or death. Though not nearly enough, those men and women receive a paycheck for their service. Five-year-old Kodi Goines and four-year-old Dae’Ann Reynolds didn’t choose to fight a war. They weren’t trained for the horrors they witnessed. The innocence taken from those babies is as disturbing as your insinuation that their lives are less important than symbolism. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful those soldiers choose to fight and I am truly sorry for their family’s loss. We will be forever indebted to them, but, that indebtedness does not, for me, supersede doing the right thing.

3-

I choose to kneel because my father, four of my brothers, and numerous family and friends are Vets that no one bothered to stand for. Despite fighting in every war America has engaged in, soldiers of color have never been exempt from racism. They bled and died and showed their patriotism while being treated as less than human (I’m not even going to get into how degrading it is to apply the Anthem’s third verse to them). Their sacrifice demands acknowledgment and respect. Along with the bullets, they have taken abuse and hate and criticism for me. I’ll take a knee for them.

4-

I choose to kneel for homeless Vets who don’t get to make it into pictures because they are hungry and dirty. After serving their country, they are left to beg without their promised benefits. Flip through my blog. I’ve spent time with a couple of them. They’re not nameless faces. Their plight is real to me. I would not be the least bit surprised if some of the people driving by, belittling and calling them names, stand for the Anthem because, you know, the troops…

5-

I kneel because I can. It’s not illegal. It’s not immoral. For me, it’s not wrong. You stand, because it is your right and your choice. I do not judge you or get in your way. (Fyi-wanting to control what other people do is a supremacy-thing.) But, I will not accept your passive-aggressive BS. Yes, passive-aggressive. Yes, BS. People who peddle the idea that kneeling for the National Anthem has anything at all to do with the military are either fighting to hold on to their ‘America is perfect’ image (that’s the passive-aggressive part) or they have no legitimate argument for the real reason we kneel so they throw out something that sounds good (that’s the BS part).

As you roll out your judgmental, name-calling memes, realize it amounts to the petty-people version of stamping your feet and sticking out your tongue like a spoiled rich kid. (Don’t forget to pout.)

I’ve heard it claimed, our Vets fought for my right to protest. I don’t disagree but, I’m not convinced there was much battle-line conversation about the importance of standing during a song. However, I feel very strongly that fighting oppression was a key focus. That would include all oppression…even when you label it patriotism.

As Veterans Day approaches, I would love to see pictures and stories of our heroes…the non-white ones too. Hopefully, the posts will be more about appreciating the troops rather than belittling and using them to further personal agendas.

I know, I’m an optimist.