Me, MomSelf and I

Life's journey is full of twists and turns and sometimes we get lost. This is my journey to rediscover myself.


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Thanks 2016, You Broke Me

I hate The Walking Dead. I’ve never liked zombies or demons or sci-fi anything. I’m a rom-commer or tearjearker emotional TV show/movie watcher. (Hello This Is Us!!!) But my husband tried to convince me to watch “his show,” TWD, by reasoning it was not in fact about zombies, but about how humans respond and react to each other under extreme, dire circumstances. Eventually, in an effort to be closer to him, I gave in and watched. And it was gruesome! But he was right, it’s not about the zombies at all. It is about human survival. And if you are a fan of the show (or not, like me) then you know that 2016 is Negan. Negan is the worst of the worst human. He is cold-hearted, selfish, manipulative, and evil. That bastard is chopping heads off and taking names. Literally. And 2016 is that bastard.

This year, especially around the holidays and the start of a new year, everyone laments about all the celebrities we lost because the In Memoriam reel will be a who’s who in entertainment. There are way too many to name, but suffice it to say, this is the year my childhood died. All the people I grew up watching, being entertained by, inspired by left the earth, seemingly too soon. The reality is that everyone dies at some point. In fact, millions of people die around the world every day, every minute of every day. (And when I think about that too much, it hurts.) I grew up in the ’70s and ’80s watching The Brady Bunch, Growing Pains, Barney Miller, One Day At A Time, the Die Hard movies, Spike Lee movies (Radio Raheem!), Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, listening to Prince and Vanity, in between all of the Miss Cleo commercials screaming “Call me NOW!” Its hard to reconcile the fact that I’m an adult now raising my own kids (REALLY????), but couple that with those I grew up on passing away and it feels like a blow to my armor.

Then there was the election.

I remember being disappointed both times George W. Bush “won” because, like crazy Kanye, I too believed he didn’t care about black people. But this election broke my faith in America. It broke my liberal spirit to see an overqualified woman lose a job-the most important job in this country-to an inexperienced, sexist, racist, xenophobic, imbecile of a man because he was white and had a penis. What does that mean for the rest of us women who already struggle with feelings of self-doubt, and the impossibly high glass ceiling? Where does that leave us when we try to advance to the next level? The message was clear: you can be the worst human being ever, as long as you’re white, rich and a man, you will win every time. And the resurgence (or unearthing) of the spirit of hate has been another gut punch. The rise in reported hate crimes since his election has skyrocketed with his message of deporting immigrants and banning Muslims. Every minority group has felt the sting of hate elevated.

2016 also dragged in “All Lives Matter,” the most concise way to tell black people we are once again 3/5ths of a person, or that Black Lives Don’t Matter. Anyone that tries to argue otherwise needs to engage in some serious self-reflection. Those are the same people who want to be colorblind in a society that is set up to favor one color over all others. It’s a privilege to be colorblind! The rest of us POC (people of color) are reminded daily, hourly of our color, when we’re followed in stores, when people clutch their purses or cross the street when they get near us, when people try to pat our hair like we’re zoo animals, the many ways some politicians try to suppress our vote, or when police officers (and even those wanna-be cops) outright murder us with no consequences. The proof that people do indeed see color is in the pudding and 2016 was a pudding smorgasbord. And the infuriating thing about all lives matter (which there are many) is that people who say it don’t even believe it. Those same people are not against immigrant deportation or banning Muslims. (What about their lives??)  The rationale is that a few bad apples in the bunch have committed acts of terror (nevermind that some bad apples in the white race have also-looking at you Dylan Roof, and Timothy McVeigh) so we have to get rid of those lives to protect all lives (aka white lives). Some of those same people say we need to roll back rights for the LGBTQ population because gay marriage will demean and erode straight marriage, (as if the destruction of marriage wasn’t already happening waaaay before gay marriage was legal). They argue that trans folk can’t use the bathroom of their expressed gender because, pedophiles! and “what about the children??” (as if one has anything to do with the other!) So, we say All Lives Matter-in theory. In practice, black lives, LGBTQ lives, Muslim lives, immigrant lives, Indigenous people’s lives and women’s lives don’t matter.

2016 tried to defund Planned Parenthood too. The nerve! Some of these all lives matter peeps screamed, “I don’t want my tax money to pay to kill babies or pay for condoms!” Nevermind that the majority of services performed  are general women’s health, you know, making sure we don’t have cervical cancer or breast cancer or if we want to avoid an unplanned pregnancy giving us access to birth control. No, they’d rather women have unprotected sex, then have an unwanted pregnancy so they can find the baby a great home to raise it in with all the resources needed for a healthy productive life! Wait, nobody’s going to adopt that baby? So all lives matter until the baby is born, then its every man or woman (or baby) for themselves, walking dead style. And by the way, let’s be clear, all lives matter did not develop in relation to those other lives. It was a direct, counter response to BLM, again, a gentler way to say Black Lives Don’t Matter. (And if you insist on arguing this point, you are not listening and part of the problem!)

Here’s something else 2016 did: break me financially. Its like everything came to a head in 2016. I do not claim to be the best budgeter (okay, I’m clueless). But you throw in stagnant wages, lost overtime, 2 job loses, rising costs of raising 3 kids, a 100-year old house, and you have the makings of a financial breakdown. Its hard not to feel like a failure when your whole family says how much they wished to move to a “better” house, because this one is well past its prime and there is no money to fix-her-upper.(Rational or not, my inner voice whispers that it’s a woman’s job to make a house a home, and if my family hates where they live, then its my fault.) The struggle is real, and it has taken an emotional toll on me. Have I made bad decisions, sometimes robbing Peter to pay Paul? Unfortunately, I have and its a hard lesson to learn that it doesn’t work long-term, especially when I’m old enough to know better. And not to bring it back to race, but the wealth gap in this country is yet another harsh reality. Not only do POC earn less money for the same job as whites, we also don’t have the same resources or access to money. I don’t have family members who can loan me money (or gift it,) because we’re all in the same boat. Banks are not loaning to minorities even if they have good credit and higher incomes. Before you think this is a woe is me, I’m broke because I’m black, that’s not what this is. I’m broke because of three kids, student loans and bad decisions. (Apparently, it costs a lot of money to grow the next female black president, world renown psychologist and the first black EGOT-Emmy, Grammy, Oscar & Tony- award winner! #DrewDoesItAll) But let’s not pretend that there aren’t also systemic disparities at play. Discrimination in all its forms has not stopped, it has evolved, continuing to present challenges for those on the receiving end of it. This is where some people say, “see, President Obama has failed to make things better economically! That is why we voted for change!” And I would concede that people, including me, are still experiencing real hardships, (although I would argue that has more to do with the people who swore to block any initiatives put forth by this administration, than the administration itself.) But the thing about living in a civilized society is that it’s not always about you the individual. President Obama advanced gay rights, positioned America as a leader in climate change, put initiatives in place to make housing more inclusive and affordable, including reducing homelessness, increased funding for Planned Parenthood, and supported criminal justice reform and reentry initiatives. While there were limits to what he could do and definitely other things I think he should have done, he did much for Americans and people living in the United States. But the truth is, to see a black man-THIS black man, who showed intelligence matters, science matters, decency matters, kindness matters-get elected twice in my lifetime and for my kids to have only ever known a black President, well that’s priceless and incredibly affirming.

So what now? I would like to take a 4 year sabbatical to live at a spa retreat, have someone patch up my wounds, massage away my pain, stretch out my kinks yoga-style and let me meditate on all lessons I’ve learned, but ain’t nobody got time for that. I have wallowed in election defeat, but beyond that, real legitimate fear, unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I have felt paralyzed the past few months. Every day, each news report of confirmation hearings, random spastic tweets, and unprecedented political maneuvering feels like I’m watching a scary show about a zombie apocalypse that I can’t turn off. I want to retreat into a bunker and wait for the all clear. But after listening to President Obama’s  farewell speech (and watching the latest keep-in-all-the-way-real Black-ish episode,) I know what I have to do. The pain and frustration I’m feeling, while new to me, is not new to black people. And neither is the hope that things have to get better. Just as much as we have struggle in our DNA, we also have overcoming too. And not just black people, but American people. THIS is us! (See what I did there?) We make a way.

As we begin the new year, the spirit of Negan is still in charge. We have a lot of fighting to do. The zombies are upon us and we have to bandage ourselves up and figure out what kind of humans we’re going to be. Are we going to turn on each other, or turn towards each other and say, hey, how can we make a better way together? Yes, I’ve been broken. But my plan is to heal myself and be stronger for what’s ahead. I’m going to polish up my passions so I have something to contribute to this new world. As my President said, “All of this progress is because of you — because of workers rolling up their sleeves and getting the job done… and because of all of us taking care of each other. Because, when we’re united as Americans, there’s nothing that we cannot do.”

 

How are you feeling after the election? Share your thoughts in the comments!


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Heavy

This is not a happy post. This is not a Susie Sunshine post. This is a heavy post. Heavy with despair about the state of America. Heavy with the grief of so many black lives that didn’t matter to the point of their murder. Heavy with the accepted racism that is rearing its ugly head instead of staying hidden just beneath the surface. (Was that any better?)

I’m supposed to be working right now, but I can’t. I’m just too heavy. I’m supposed to be happy right now, its a “New Year, New You!” But I can’t. My year is just too heavy. My safety and security have been shook. I have seen myself reflected in too many who have lost their lives over a bag of skittles, a toy air soft gun, a loose cigarette, a pack of cigarillos, words. Words. I’m a writer, so I cherish words. So when I see a woman, not unlike myself, questioning a police officer about why she was stopped, using her words, and then see this woman murdered because of her words, I’m heavy. But then when I hear things like “well, if she had just kept her mouth shut…” or “just like a black woman, talking too much…” or “all you have to do is listen to the officer and respond to his questions and nothing will happen to you” type of words, this heaviness becomes too much to bear.

I have been asleep, dreaming that I was like everyone else. Dreaming that because I grew up in the suburbs and went to college that I had assimilated. Dreaming that because I grew up with a father and a stay at home mother, I was acceptable. Dreaming that because I spoke well, and had a diverse pool of friends that I was alright. Dreaming that because I was married, with a house and 3 kids and a dog, and working a full-time job I had achieved the American Dream. Dreaming that because I’m registered to vote and recycle and work in social justice, that I was honoring all those that gave their lives in the Civil Rights Movement. But then Trayvon Martin happened. And then Eric Garner happened. And then John Crawford happened. And then Mike Brown happened.  And then Freddie Gray happened. And then Sandra Bland happened. And then Tamir Rice happened. And countless others happened. And then #blacklivesmatter happened. And then #alllivesmattered happened. And then I woke up.

I woke up to a nightmare. We talk about progress to appease ourselves so that we feel accomplished. We tell ourselves, Martin Luther King Jr. dreampt of equality and now that we have a black President, we’ve achieved it. And that is a lie. I’m heavy with the lies. The level of disrespect he’s been subjected to as the President of the United States is unprecedented. And the disrespect is accepted, because he’s black. Right now today, there is an American City that is poisoning its residents. The poisoned water in Flint, Michigan has been acceptable because it’s mostly being given to poor black people. That water is heavy. Heavy with lead. #FlintWaterCrisis. It’s been 76 years since Hattie McDaniel became the first (of only 12 African Americans) to win an Academy Award yet, here we are in 2016 with no black nominees because #OscarsSoWhite. Some will say, “maybe blacks just haven’t been good enough to deserve a win.” More lies. The justifications for racism always fall back on “blacks aren’t good enough.” No matter what we do, or how we speak, or how we walk, or how we perform, or how we drive, or how we shop, or how we play, we simply are never good enough to deserve equal treatment. The racists say we want special treatment. Perhaps that is because they realize how special they are treated. #WhitePrivilege.

Being awake is not quite as comfortable as being asleep and dreaming. And now I fear I have insomnia. I’m irritable, uncomfortable, angry, sad, discombobulated. I’m heavy. I can’t go back to sleep.

 


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Where are they hiding the black people?

Warning: Awkward Blog post below!

Attention Black People: Come out come out wherever you are!

I am a people person. I love meeting new people and I place friendships high on my important life pyramid, directly below myself (not selfishly, but in the healthy way) and my family. But I’ve come to the realization that my group of friends is pretty homogeneous. In other words, they are predominantly white. That in and of itself does not bother me. I grew up in an integrated community and learned early on to judge individuals by their character and behavior and not by their color. I’ve had friends of various races and ethnicities. What bothers me is the seemingly few black friends I do have.

I went to college with my best friend who happened to be African American. And she was, (and still is) everything to me, so I didn’t feel a need to collect other friends (until much later when she moved away.) I also had many males friendships in college. But somehow as people joined with their significant others, opposite sex friendships became taboo and tended to dissolve. (In my experience, it seemed to bother the women that their boyfriends/husbands were friends with me.) Also, the college I went to was more of a commuter school. A lot of us came downtown to go to class, then went back to our lives elsewhere, so I think I missed some of the camaraderie that usually accompanies college life. I wanted to join a sorority ever since I saw Spike Lee’s School Daze, but their presence at said college was minimal. And even when I did discover the few there, my parents were not into fronting me the money for pledge fees. Towards the end of college, I started doing internships. It was almost culture shock. That was the first time I really realized I was living in a white world. At each different internship, which later turned into jobs, I was struck with the question over and over again of: Where are they hiding the black people? Just about every job I’ve had, I’ve been either the lone black person, or one of a very few.

Once I started having kids, my social circle prominently featured “parent friends”. Most of these friendships developed as a result of school functions, parent committees and the kids sporting activities. I have been very deliberate in making sure my kids attend integrated schools like I did, because I value that experience. But continually, I find myself asking, where are they hiding the black parents? Now, I don’t believe the black parents are absent from parent committees because they don’t care, or not at the sporting events because my kids play “white sports” i.e. soccer, swim team. I believe that they are absent for the same reason my husband is, they are working really hard, sometimes 2 and 3 jobs to allow their kids to have these experiences. They just can’t necessarily be there.

There is something beautiful about having children that forces you to take a closer look at your life and your decisions. I do not want my kids to look at my friendship circle and see this imbalance as a slight to people who look like them. So I realized I have to take action. Which seems kinda crazy to me. I never thought I’d be in this position. But here it is: I am a black person looking for more black friends. And some of my white friends have expressed a sincere interest in expanding their black friends circle beyond me.

Friends ratios

Ironically, I currently live in the 7th most segregated metropolitan city in the country. In my professional life, I educate people on the effects of housing discrimination on our society. Studies show that people benefit more from diverse communities than segregated ones. Because where we live affects who we know, and who we become comfortable with. For many, growing up in a segregated community limits your exposure with dissimilar people. And this goes both ways. If you are black and grow up in a black community, you might be less comfortable around white people because you’re not used to interacting with them. Similarly, if you are white growing up in a white neighborhood, attending a white school, and your only experience with people of color is what you see on TV, then there may be some awkwardness when you encounter them in real life.

All that to say, growing up in an integrated community, I’ve always felt that I could interact with and befriend anyone. So it surprises me to have this particular challenge. (By the way, none of this is meant to discount other races, because I also have those friends, as well as some black friends.) And don’t get me wrong, I have been accused of “acting white” about as often as I’m accused of being “ghetto.” (None of which bothers me. As someone who strives for balance, I consider myself a success!) But what I’m most concerned about is being a great role model to my children. And for them to appreciate all races and cultures including their own, they need to see me not just talk about it, but be about it. So I’m taking suggestions on where to find black people because I’m making a conscious effort to make my friendship circle more diverse. I’m not trying to start a black friends thermometer, (only 14 more black friends to go to reach our goal!) but I do want my kids to see equality in my inner circle.


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What If I Died That Night?

When I was 16, I got my first speeding ticket about half a mile from my house. The police approached my car, asked for my license and asked me to step out of the car to place me in the police car. Maybe because I’m always running late, that was not the last time I got a speeding ticket, nor was it the last time I was placed in the police car as the ticket was written. I thought that’s just what happened. But when I told that story to any of my white friends, to which I had many, they said it was crazy. None of them had ever heard of someone being placed in the squad car as a ticket was being written. They also said as a female, it was crazy that I would get a ticket. I was told if I ever got pulled over again, I should do a number of things to avoid getting a ticket: cry, tell the officer I was on my period, be really apologetic, play dumb, beg. Each subsequent stop, I followed the advice of my friends. Surprisingly, none of it worked, for me.
Sensing a real disparity, with the police and more general situations, I became angry and frustrated. Especially when I watched the Rodney King beating on TV during the LA Riots in ’92. Those feelings are probably why I gravitated toward gangsta rap. My run – ins with the law were very minor in comparison to the experience of NWA, GETTO Boyz and Ice T, but I certainly understood the sentiment in Fuck Da Police!
See, growing up in a racially diverse middle class suburb like Cleveland Heights, I grew up thinking me and my white counterparts were virtually the same, save for our skin color. But the police taught me I was different and should be treated as such. As a threat to be contained.
Once when I was sitting in a police car as the white officer ran my license, and when I was old enough to know better, I ran my mouth. I said, “don’t you have anything better to do, like catch some rapists or murderers, than write me up for not making a complete stop before making a right turn? I guess this makes you feel like a real man to have a young woman handcuffed in your cruiser late at night huh?” I went on and on. And then he took me to jail.
I could have easily died that night. I could’ve been #SandraBland. She was me. At 26 years old, I had seen and experienced enough to justify my anger at the police. I was bold and educated and spoke up for myself. And had I died in jail that night waiting for my parents to bail me out I would never know the pain of a broken heart. I would never know the meaning of soulmate. I would never feel the indescribable bond with a first, second or third child. I would never have met some of the most wonderful people I get to call friends today. I would never understand my place in the world and in my body as a strong black woman. These things came after 26. And it sickens me that Sandra Bland was denied the opportunity to know these things.
The Plain Dealer’s headline back in July of 1999 could have read Darlene Norwood found dead in her jail cell from an ‘apparent suicide.’
I grew up thinking the Civil Rights Movement was so pivotal, so spectacular that most of the fighting for equal rights had been done. That it was smooth sailing for mine and future generations. It wasn’t until my 30s and now 40s that I understand there are all kinds of movements that have to happen before full maturity is reached. We’re in the midst of a growth spurt with the first African American President of the United States and the right for ALL people, regardless of sexual orientation, to marry. But growth doesn’t come without pain and it doesn’t come with out struggles and stumbles. We have to push through the uncomfortableness to become fully realized. There is so much more work to be done, movements, fights, conversations, growth. And since I didn’t die that night I went to jail, it’s my obligation to do what those who did, can’t. Fight.Against.Injustice.