I’ve been dying to find time to write. This new job is a huge adjustment. I have so much to learn and if you know me you know that I want to know it all yesterday. I don’t have time to do anything personal at work because I am trying to learn all of the things and because we have a real deal IT department here and I’m scared of their tracking software. LOL I have yet to manage being able to carve out time to write at home and parent. I sit at the computer at home and she has a million things she has to tell me and about 3 million questions about what I am doing.
Today, my supervisors are in meetings, the office is quiet and I finally have time to write. I sit down excited and open my word doc.
Isn’t it funny how that happens? And by funny I mean infuriating. Hmph
So I guess I’ll tell you all about the new gig. I’m working for an established nonprofit organization. It started out as an orphanage in the 1800s and has grown in to a huge company that provides services to kids, families and people with developmental disabilities. I am proud to work here. Amazing work is being done here daily. The emphasis is always on the people we are serving. Training is continuous and thorough. Ethics run through every single policy. This work matters and although I’m not working directly with the people we serve I am so proud to be a part of the process.
The department that I work in is all about quality improvement. We help all of our programs to stay in compliance with local, state and federal regulations. We conduct all internal and external investigations. We write manuals. We make recommendations for places where programs can improve. Yup, everyone hates us. LOL It’s like working in internal affairs. All of my coworkers have been super welcoming and it’s always so funny to watch their reactions when I tell them what department I work in.
I walk around the campus at least twice a day. I make small talk with the kids who live on campus and those who attend school here. I’m grateful to be here. I’m excited about this new adventure and I wake up excited to come to work each day. But it’s early yet. Giggles Check back with me in a few months. J
Yesterday my four year old asked me why people kill other people. I thought she was sleeping. I had the news on. She must have been awake and listening for a while. I had no clue. Her innocent little voice broke the spell that I was under. I had been transfixed to the television listening intently to the stories of the people who lost their lives in Paris. I turned to her. I opened my arms so she could climb in to my lap. I kissed her forehead. I inhaled deeply and said a quick prayer for guidance.
I was so unprepared. We have been so vigilant with the t.v. and news coverage. We have worked hard to keep it all away from her. We have taken turns going upstairs to watch the news while the other parent keeps her occupied. Innocence is so fleeting. The ugliness of the world will touch her eventually, but not yet, we kept thinking. Not yet. But here it was. She had heard. She wanted answers.
I rambled. I spoke about good and evil. I leaned on our faith and our trust in God. I spoke about love being stronger than hate. I spoke about angry people who make angry choices. I simplified it so much that my words were honestly a lie. But how do I explain Syria and terrorism to a 4 year old when I barely understand it myself? It was beyond me in that moment but I tried.
“But when people die they are gone forever? Why would someone do that to people?”
The lump in my throat and the pain in my heart precluded conversation.
“I don’t know baby. I honestly do not know.” I cried. Quiet tears running down my face as I held her and rocked her.
I keep thinking about that conversation. My Little Bit is a thinker and I know she will have more questions for me soon. I want to be ready. I’ve been practicing answers in my head and in my journal. See, I want to be honest with her. I want to share as much truth with her as she can handle. I don’t want her to have to unlearn the things her Mommy told her. I don’t want her to bump in to the ugly truths of the world on a college campus or in a high school classroom. I want to be honest.
So, here’s my answer…
“Babygirl people can be incredibly mean to each other. It’s always been that way. Remember that little girl on your bus who hurt your feelings and made fun of you? There was no reason for her meanness. You didn’t do anything wrong to her. She was mean. And it was wrong. Remember how we talked about how sad it was that she didn’t give you a chance to be her friend? Remember how we considered that maybe someone in her life was mean to her? Maybe no one taught her how to make friends. Maybe she was sad and angry inside and she just took it out on you.
Sometimes that happens with people. Some people grow up in other countries where they are treated unfairly. Some people live in places where it is incredibly dangerous to live. Sometimes they watch people they love get hurt or killed just because they live there. It makes them hurt and sad and angry. And they have every right to feel hurt and sad and angry because what is happening to them is wrong.
And some of these people blame us. They are angry that we don’t do anything to stop the people who are hurting the people they love. They are angry that our government helps the people who are hurting and killing the people they love. They are angry that their kids are growing up scared. And they aren’t wrong. We didn’t hurt their loved ones but we didn’t stop it either.
These people want to hurt us. They want us to feel what they feel. They want us to be scared. They want us to know how it feels to lose people we love. They want us to make the people hurting their loved ones stop. It doesn’t make sense to us. Why would they hurt innocent people? Why would they hurt people who didn’t hurt them?
It doesn’t make sense to us. But it should. If we took a moment to think about what it’s like to live where they live and to watch the world ignore your pain we might understand their anger. If someone hurt you or someone else I loved it might make me incredibly angry.
What they did is wrong. Killing people is always wrong. But their pain isn’t wrong. Their anger at us for ignoring their pain isn’t wrong. Their anger at the people in charge of our country isn’t wrong. People kill people because they are angry. They are hurting. People kill people because their pain is ignored. They kill because the world isn’t paying attention to their pain and it seems to just go on and on forever.
You see how sad everyone is about what happened in Paris? I don’t know how much you heard on the news but everyone is sad about the people who died. People are leaving flowers and notes. People are crying and hugging each other. And people are angry about what happened. The people in charge of Paris are already dropping bombs and hurting the people who live in the country the killers came from. No one is crying for them. And this just makes more angry people who want to kill.
The world has always been like this Little Bit. I don’t know how long it will take for the people in charge to realize that hurting each other doesn’t fix anything. I wish I could promise that it won’t happen again. All we can do is try to fill the world with as much love as possible. All we can do is try to tell the people in charge of our country that we don’t want to be in the business of hurting people. All we can do is focus on the humanity of every person.
And Little Bit, we trust in God. We believe that it is our job not to be afraid but to trust in God. We believe it is our job to spread love. We grieve for the people who lost their lives but we believe that they are in heaven. Sometimes the world is full of scary things but we trust God. We will be okay Little Bit. We will always be okay. Bad things will happen but we will trust in God.
So the topic of the moment is “the Black experience” and what that means. I’m not even going to get started on how that conversation is only happening because a white woman tried to co-opt Blackness. I’m not going to mention that the only reason that some White people are even ASKING this question is because they are fascinated and appalled that someone WANTED to be Black. I’m not going to talk about how this question being asked and answered is steeped in white supremacy and systematic racism. Nope. I’m not going to talk about any of that. Nope. Not today.
I do want to talk about the Black experience. I want to describe it. I want to explain why it can’t be stolen. I want to explain why it isn’t a costume a person can put on and become real.
Black childhood is an integral part of Black experience. We all start off innocent. Race is something children see but it doesn’t impact them. It’s just what we are. I watch my almost 4 year old play with her friends of different races and ethnicities and the differences don’t matter to them. They might remark on differences in skin tone or hair color but there is no malice in it. Kids are kids. Race is irrelevant unless they have been taught that it is not. As we grow up and interact with the world we bump up against the world at large and it’s perceptions of race. I remember the first time I heard the n word. I was in 3rd grade. I came home and asked my Mom what it meant. I knew it was an insult from the way the person said it but I didn’t know why.
Depending on how the world highlights your Blackness to you it molds us all differently. Some of us strive for acceptance, some fight and indict the entire system, some try to assimilate, some give up. Having your innocence broken by the racist systems of this country is a part of MOST if not all Black coming of age stories. I remember the first time a teacher hurled my Blackness at me in the classroom. I remember the feeling. I remember realizing that this person didn’t like me simply because of the color of my skin. I remember the hurt. I remember it vividly. I can tell you what color his tie was. That’s how vividly I remember it.
To be Black in America is to be simultaneously hated and envied by others. The Black experience is beautiful in our enclaves where we eat great food, laugh, listen to music, support each other and speak life to each other. The Black experience is watching that truth be lost and lied about in main stream media which reduces us to thugs and hoes and claims us all illiterate and illegitimate. To be Black in America is to be held down and held back and made an exception to some racist rule when we succeed in spite of the boots on our neck.
To be Black in America is to start behind the rest of the folks at the starting line. Money can move you closer to the start line. If you come from money and you are Black you get a little closer but you are still Black. You are still starting behind. Does this mean we can’t win? Nope. We prove it all the time. We can and do win in spite of the obstacles in our paths but even on the winner’s podium people will deny that you had to run harder and faster while dodging obstacles your opponents didn’t have. To be Black in America is to be forced to cling to your truth in the knowledge that others may NEVER embrace it.
The Black experience is schizophrenic in many ways. I’m proud and happy and grateful to be a member of this group. But I’m also always in a rage against the many micro and major aggressions we face daily. Have you ever had a drip in your faucet? Those little drops of water can stain your sink basin. Just little drops of water hitting the same spot over and over and over. That’s what microaggressions are like. Things like people touching your hair, questioning your background, being shocked that you attended college, making assumptions about your marital status, asking questions about the hood etc etc etc. These things have a way of constantly othering you.. Constantly letting you know you are different. And most of these are delivered with a smile. If you dare to be angry well then you are overreacting and now you have become the angry Black woman. It’s exhausting ya’ll.
The Black experience is to know that we have no rights that cops or really anyone is bound to accept. The Black experience is feeling unsafe when a police cruiser passes you. The Black experience as a parent is knowing that you can not protect your child from overzealous police officers or neighborhood watch men with guns. It is a powerlessness that renders you impotent. So you instruct your child on ways to survive these encounters, knowing that even compliance will not guarantee their survival.
The Black experience is a choice between white washing our names or knowingly facing housing and employment discrimination.
The Black experience is more than hair or music. The Black experience is more than adopting Black children. The Black experience is NOT a feeling it’s an actual thing. And although there is variety in it (like any other culture) it is a very real thing. You can not co-opt it. You can not wear it like a costume. You can not lie your way in to it. It’s all bad and all good at the same time. And THAT is the truth.
And even writing all of THAT you won’t understand it if you don’t LIVE it
I’m going to buy some sage on Monday
a million little things
are attacking me
every freaking thing I do
I’m going to buy some sage on Monday
and I’ve changed my Pandora playlist
Because I know
I am AWARE
minds and hearts are where our power lies
and negativity/darkness/sadness tries
to gain a foothold there.
I’m going to buy some sage on Monday
I’m going to listen to Smokey all day on Sunday.
I am going to get my mind right.
I am going to bathe myself in light.
Smoke away all the little voices
“Well who did you think you were?
“Sit down, be safe, stay small.”
And I’m going to smote myself,
my very being.
Because I am
the common denominator
I am seeing.
And maybe I am
I’m going to buy some sage on Monday.
I am Royalty.
Destined for greatness.
Bigger than my problems.
Blessed IN my mess.
Mother of the future.
I am unbreakable.
I rebuke mediocrity.
I had an opportunity to do something big and it didn’t come together. I let that hurl me into the depths of self doubt, despair, and hand wringing. I punished myself by not making time to write.
That was a lot of honesty right there. Here’s some more, I want BADLY to delete that.
Life happens. Most of the time we can not control what happens to us in life. What we can and do control is how we respond to it. I had a disappointment and my response was to have a temper tantrum that has poisoned every area of my life. I did that.
I have been a crappy Mom, a crappy friend, a crappy girlfriend and an all around crappy person because I made a choice to wallow in disappointment, fear and depression. I struggle with depression every single fall. When the leaves start to change I have to work harder to find my smile. I have to work harder to feel my joy. I know this. It’s been this way forever. But this year I just slid in to it. I didn’t fight or resist at all.
On the surface I probably looked the same. I stayed busy. I wore my public smile. I showed up to most of the places I am supposed to show up to. I started house hunting. I started the process to get a NACA loan. I did stuff. But inside? Inside I knew exactly what was happening and I let it.
I put my pens and my journals away and I slid in to this depression. I welcomed it. It’s been so long since I truly stopped fighting and just let it be. And I know. I know the consequences of falling to the bottom of the pit of depression. I know how much longer and harder I have to swim to make it back to the surface. I know how impossible that swim feels when I am exhausted by simply breathing. I know it all. But I still did it. I still let it happen. I shut off the voice that keeps me treading water and I just slid down in to the water.
Here’s the thing….I can’t breathe underwater. So now it’s time to swim or drown.
And I can’t drown. I have two big beautiful eyes watching me navigate life now. I have a precocious, beautiful, strong little girl learning how to deal with life from me. And I’ve been giving horrible lessons lately. I’ve been yelly and disengaged and miserable. sighs I own that too.
So today, I’m typing these words without proofreading. I’m ignoring the work on my desk.
Last night I watched Iyanla Vanzant in Ferguson. I honestly didn’t want to. I knew it was going to be a train wreck. I loved Iyanla before her reinvention. I healed and learned a lot from her books. I honestly feel her strength was speaking to women about the things she lived, the mistakes she made and the lessons she learned. Since her re-emergence I have been disappointed time and time again with her and her show. She is claiming to be an expert in waters way too deep for her. In her attempts to “heal” or “fix” people she has exploited hurting people in their most vulnerable moments. I’m not here for it.
Last night she was a prime example of how racism can effect Black people. She showed her entire viewing audience (of 5 people) exactly what it looks like when Black people internalize all of the negative scripts pushed to the public about us. She asked the chief of police what he wanted. He asked for 2 weeks to complete the investigation. Iyanla was quick to comply and encourage each person she interacted with to comply as well. The rest of the show she touted this 2 week deadline, emphasizing that there should be peace during this time period while the police work. *Record scratches* Is this the same chief of police who released a video of Mike Brown in a convenience store to tarnish his reputation? Is this the same man who released this video on his own volition after being advised not to by his superiors in law enforcement? Is this the same man who allowed the officer who shot Mike to get away with NOT filling out an incident report? Is this the same man who sicced a militarized police force on citizens who protested peacefully? With all sincerity, I have to say, “Girl bye!”
She sat down with a group of young men whom she, “picked up off of the street,” (her words, not mine). She repeatedly said she was there to listen and then talked over, interrupted and corrected each person she interviewed. She asked them over and over if they thought they were responsible for their own murders at the hands of those sworn to protect and serve since they, “kill each other.” Come on son. Seriously??? Iyanla has so completely brought in to the manufactured term Black on Black violence that even in the midst of the palpable pain these people are experiencing she blames them. I’m going to say it once again for those of you who are new to reality. Black on Black violence is a manufactured term. Crime is about proximity and opportunity. EVERY race of people kills their own because we still live such segregated lives. And Black crime in America is actually on a faster decline than White on White crime.
Crime is a problem. Peace loving, law abiding citizens everywhere are bothered by crime. Crime is not specific to Black people. We are not inherently more violent or criminal than any other race. Some of you are itching to disagree with me right now. What about gangs? What about what I see on the media? There is a purposefulness to the narrative we are being fed by the media. I don’t purport to know with certainty their motivation but I have some theories. I am not saying that Black America is innocent. My heart breaks when I see the headlines about children shot and young men murdered. But I am aware that the story is more complex than the media is willing to address. Our children are criminalized from a young age. Suspension and expulsion rates for Black children soar above those of White children. Arrest, prosecution, and incarceration of Black people is disproportionate to that of their White peers. Studies have shown time and time again that White people walk for things that Black people are locked up for. Systemic racism has consequences and casualties.
Blaming Black people for their own murders by the people sworn to protect and serve is a blatant display of Iyanla’s sickness. It is a clear that she has swallowed the false narrative written about us. I wanted to scream at her time and time again as she interrupted these young men to ask them leading questions, “How many of you have been arrested?” Really Iyanla? Really? “How many of you know your fathers?” Bitch please sit down. All communities have issues. Black America has many. Yes, we need people to come together and work towards filling in the gaps but I sincerely believe that was not the time nor the place. She missed the forest for the trees. It hurt to watch. She exploited those people and their pain to reinforce a false narrative that has made it okay for cops to murder us with impunity.
The ONLY ray of light in her hour and a half long show was her 4 ps. Pause, Plan, Prepare, Participate. This movement was born from pure emotion. There is value in organization. There is value is affirming the goals and how we are going to accomplish them. I’m glad she asked them THOSE questions. That was helpful.
I honestly wish I hadn’t watched. Iyanla pimped her people’s pain last night. She danced for the system and encouraged them to dance along. I’m not here for it.
I have a litany of affirmations that I whisper in her ear daily. I tell her, “You are smart. You are beautiful. You are strong. You are brave. You are the best daughter ever and I love you forever.” Sometimes she will run up to me and demand (in all of her toddler exuberance) “tell me a secret Mama.” I know exactly what she is asking for and I always comply. I’m never too busy to build my little girl up. A few months ago she started whispering the same affirmations back in my ear. She has an amazing ability to know just when I need them. “You are the best Mama ever! You are beautiful. You are smart. You are strong. You are brave.”
We giggle and hug and kiss and return to what we were doing.
Every single day when I am about to walk out of the door to head to work she has something important to tell me. I lean down for my kiss and my hug. I whisper her affirmations in her ear and I head towards the door. She’s usually playing or getting ready to eat breakfast but as soon as I reach the door her little legs bring her barreling to the hallway to impart some words on me before I leave. Sometimes it’s toddler babble. A collection of words that make sense to her. “Watch out for snakes Mama. Don’t forget to jump high.” Sometimes it’s a story from a previous day that she has already told me. Sometimes it’s a promise to, “be a good listener.” Sometimes it’s a teary, “I’ll miss you mama. Have a good day.” But it’s always something.
I have to remind myself not to rush her. I have to remind myself that being late for work is not important in the great scheme of things. I have to remind myself that I can’t just tell her that she is the most important thing in my life. I have to SHOW her. So I stop. I listen. I smile. I respond. I give more kisses and more hugs. I always walk out of the door smiling. Sometimes I’m smiling AS I run down the stairs and pray that I’ll make my bus but I am always smiling.
She is the most important person in my life. I want her to KNOW that. I want to SHOW her that. My love for her colors every single decision that I make in my life. My love for her has changed the way I see the world. My love for her has infused me with a DESPERATION to make this world a safer place for her. My love for her makes me a better person every minute of every single day.
I believe in the power of love. I have seen love perform miracles. I was raised that to believe that if I followed all of the rules and if I was pleasant and palatable to people life would be good. I would be safe. I would succeed. I was raised to believe that I have a responsibility to my community to represent the best of us. I was raised to believe that if I performed well I would be accepted and thereby earn further acceptance for all of my people. I have tried for a long time to make my people proud. I have tried in my work and school life to be a good ambassador. I have swallowed my anger when confronted with outright racism and the micro-aggressions that Black people encounter regularly. I have attempted to explain, educate, justify. I have agreed to disagree with people who were DEAD wrong. I have arrived early and over-tipped and not eaten fried chicken in mixed company. I have tried.
I resigned from my self imposed role as ambassador when Trayvon Martin’s murderer was set free. I realized that the people whom I interact with daily were not learning any lessons about my people from me. They had cast me in the role of “other.” They saw me as, “different from other Black people.” They were comfortable enough in this assessment of me to speak ill of a murdered young man and to praise his murderer in front of me. I quit. I realized that trying to be non-threatening was not helping. I realized that packing up the pieces of me that make me me gave them a false sense of who I am. So I quit.
Now I have this little girl. This innocent and beautiful little girl who looks to me for everything. I don’t know what to teach her. I keep praying about it and writing in my journal about it. How do I prepare her for a world where her chocolate skin frightens and offends some before she even gets a chance to open her mouth? How do I empower her to shine her light in a world where people who look like us are murdered with impunity? How do I keep her safe in a world where she can’t get in an accident and knock on a door for help without being shot dead? How do I keep her alive? I’m struggling.
I believe in the power of love. I know people who are all shades of the rainbow who embody love. But how do I protect her from those who present themselves as friends only to later reveal that they don’t see us as American citizens worthy of all of the rights and protections as White citizens? How do I protect her from that hurt or at least build her strong enough to over come it? How do I lead her when I feel so very lost myself?
People who don’t know better will call this blog race baiting. They may accuse me of playing a mythical race card. Their denial of my reality doesn’t make it untrue. Their denial just allows them to dismiss me. But I’m still here. I’m still struggling with these questions. I’m still trying desperately to raise a beautiful, smart, brave and strong little Black girl.