Monday, November 14, 2016

Election Reflections – Part 2 – What Hillary Clinton’s Loss Means to Me

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Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 presidential election. She failed in her chance to make history as the first woman to become President of the United States, but the reasons why sound like nothing more than excuses.

Hillary did not clinch the nomination because she is a woman. She’s strong. She’s independent. She definitely has her issues, but compared to Donald Trump, she should have been our next president. She is the better qualified of the two, and yet she was defeated by the likes of Donald Trump.

The race should not have even been close with the type of campaign that Trump ran. But her brand of womaness was ultimately her undoing. This begin to sink in for me on Election Day as I quietly listened to men around me speak. There was the “conscious Black man” from my dance class who said he was going to vote for Trump because he was anti establishment. Trump is a rich white man, how is he considered an outsider? There were the men in Whole Foods talking about voting for Trump. I was confused. They were Black men, too. Surely they had been hearing and seeing the same things I had. Even if it was a man thing, they were still Black and they had mothers, wives, sisters and daughters.

Then the day after the election, I was having a conversation with my 8th graders, and I was surprised at how many of my boys supported Trump. My students are African American and Latino. They said Trump said what he needed to say to get elected. They said they didn’t understand why immigrants just didn’t come into the country legally. They said the world would not respect a woman president. And there it was: the real reason why Hillary was not elected. It was that v-shaped space between her legs.

At first, I tried to remain neutral, but I had to speak. My girls  were afraid of a Trump presidency, but wouldn’t voice their fears. They acquiesced to the boys in the room. My class is only an hour, and we didn’t really get into the conversation, but I have spent the last few days mulling over what I’ve heard. And I came away with two things: I’m going into my classroom with an assignment to give my students better insight into what the election means for marginalized people. And I also came to understand what the results of this election might mean for me on a personal level.

I am a single woman. Like Hillary, I am strong and independent. I am not currently dating, but I was hopeful that I might meet a man of my liking. Now, I’m not so sure. I’ve never married, and I don’t have children, so I have always had to take care of myself. I’m strong because I have to be. I’m independent because I have to be. But I’ve come to realize that these might not be desirable characteristics to a man. Many of them are still looking for damsels in distress to rescue. I’m middle aged. I stopped looking for Prince Charming a long time ago. 

I’m looking for a partner. I need a man who respects my strength and my independence. I need a man who understands that my strength and my independence don’t mean that I don’t need him; I do. I need a man who’ll be there for me; who’ll allow me to lean on him when I need to. But in the meantime, I still have to take care of me.

So, Hillary might not be our next president. She still has a chance if the electoral college delegates decide to listen to the voice of the people.  And just maybe I still have a chance to meet a man who is right for me. This election was quite eye opening, and I'm still learning as I go. Let's see what the end result is for the strong, independent women.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Election Reflections – Part 1: Thoughts from a Black Woman in the Trump Age

It’s Tuesday night of Election Day 2016. America is voting for its next President. I’m antsy. Do I really think the American people will vote for Donald Trump? I do. In the back of my mind, I think it’s possible. But I push it way down in my subconscious. I try to bury it, but I know it’s there.

 I have an application to complete, so I don’t bother to watch the returns, but my nieces are texting back and forth like crazy. So, I turn on the TV. It’s not looking good for Hillary. I talk to a friend on the phone for over an hour before deciding to go to bed. I’ll find out in the morning. Maybe she can do what the Cubs did and bring home a victory in the 11th hour.

I wake up at 5:00 am. I check my phone. Donald Trump is the president-elect. I think to myself, This is not real. I must be asleep. The American citizens did not vote this man in as leader of the free world. It’s a late work day. I don’t have to be there until 11:30. I try to go back to sleep, but sleep evades me. I don’t know what this means. I don’t know what it says about the country I live in.
I call my mother. She doesn’t answer. She lives in the apartment upstairs from me, so I take my keys and left myself in. She is tiptoeing from the kitchen carrying a bowl of cottage cheese and peaches. Pooch, the dog my nephew left behind is by her side.

Image courtesy of Getty
“You know Trump won,” I say.

“Yea, I been up all night. I ain’t been to sleep yet.”

“What we gone do?”

“I don’t know,” says the woman who always has an answer. My mother is an elder, and she is one of the wisest women I know. She has lived through some stuff. Surely she can give me some direction and guidance. 

She sits on the bed. I sit next to her. Neither of us has answers, but I have my mother, and she has me.  We are each others’ comfort in this storm that is raging. The sun is not up and she has already spoken to two of my siblings. Family is where we seek refuge. My brother (who rarely texts) sends a group text about the future of uncertainty. My sister (who rarely texts) sends a Bible scripture to help us make sense of what doesn’t make sense. We are all stunned. But we know we have each other. And we know that though this battle may be hard, it is not impossible. 

I take Pooch out. It’s still dark. I stand on the porch. And nothing is changed—on the surface. But it feels like everything has changed. The silence of the early morning leaves me alone with my thoughts. I was never afraid of Trump, but of his supporters. I knew that he could not be a hate monger by himself. That fear is now my reality. There is a strong aversion to “Other” in this country, and in some ways I am that Other. I am a Black woman, and for the first time in my life I am afraid—really scared about what going’s to happen next. 

I’m hoping and praying that over time, these feelings subside. But for now I will sit with them and learn from them, but I will not be consumed by them. I have always loved the activism of the 1960s and believed that I grew up in the wrong decade. I wanted to be an activist. Be careful what you wish for; it just might come true. Perhaps the election of Donald Trump is the call to action that so many of us need to truly Make America Great once and for all. But for that to happen, we have work to do. So much work to do. I’m ready to work? Are you?

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Stupid Ish Men Say

I’m over stupid ish that men say to muck up my head. A conversation with a guy I know took me back into the hard drive of my mind to a number of stupid comments that men have made to me over the years. I met this guy a few years ago. We had gone out a couple of times in the past, but that was it.

Flash forward. He reaches out to me and we reconnect. During the course of a conversation (in which he asked me to listen to what he had to say without speaking ), he told me, “You’re heavier than when I first met you. I guess that means there’s more of you to love.” Really? Was that supposed to be a compliment that he was willing to love me even if I was a fat girl? When he was done talking, I didn't give him the answer he was looking for, so he abruptly ended the conversation. And I was left with the “more of you to love” comment just dangling over my head. I knew I had gained weight. I didn’t need him to tell me. I sent him a text message, and he texted back that he was sorry and would call me and we could talk about it. I saw no need to talk; he said what he meant to say. And that’s my problem with some men. 

Over the years, men have said some things to me that made me scratch my head and wonder—why they were even talking to me? We like what we like, and if something is a deal breaker, then all bets are off. We can’t look at a person and see what we want to see instead of who they actually are. We can’t go into a relationship expecting them to change. But men seem to do it all the time. And they have absolutely no shame in sharing their vision of who a woman should be in their mind.

There are men who like their women bigger and men who like their women smaller. Some men like long hair, others short. Make-up, no make-up—the list goes on.  I want men to stop pursing women who don’t meet their qualifications. I was dating a guy who liked his women petite; I’m not. We had been dating for awhile when he said that he usually dated petite women to which I replied that I was used to dating big guys, so I guess we were both outside of our comfort zones. Another guy told me I needed to gain about 20 pounds. And the best one of all: a guy stalked me until I agreed to go out with him, only for him to tell me that I wasn’t that cute; I just had a dominating physical presence. I sat across from him in the restaurant thinking that he looked like a weasel. But I kept that to myself. First date; last date.

Then there is the hair—or lack of it. I’ve been wearing my hair natural for years. When I was wearing a fro, this guy told me I’d be perfect if I did something to my hair. When I went real short, I had two men  tell how much better I’d look with hair and when was I going to grow it back. Mind you that when I met both of them, my hair was super short and I wasn’t wearing a hat. I told one of them that if hadn’t been looking so hard at my booty, he might have noticed that I didn’t have much hair.  

Here’s the thing; I have preferences, too. I like well-built men. I like bald, short hair or locks. I don’t like overweight guys or braids. But I dated a guy who was overweight and one who had braids. They had other qualities that outweighed the things that I didn’t like. I never said, “Hey dude, you know you’d be really hot if you dropped 50 pounds.” Or “You’d be so much better looking if you stopped wearing braids.” "You know I really don't like the way your ears stick out from your head. Every guy who had something to say about me, I could have said something about him; I didn’t.

Self esteem fluctuates. And a man’s comments can send a woman’s self esteem plummeting if she’s already struggling. On a good day, I can flick the comments away. On a bad day, they sting. Sometimes they hurt like hell!  I’m learning to be perfect in my imperfections. I’m trying to feel good in my skin more days than not. And the truth is I like my short hair. I am a curvy woman. And if I’m not what a man wants, he needs to keep it moving. No more mucking up my head with the stupid ish they say.

Friday, October 21, 2016

I’m Better Than A Text Message

There were two, not one but two men vying for my attention. We spoke on the phone, and they sent cute “thinking of you text messages.” Initially, I smiled and responded. Then I’d see a message pop up on my phone, and that warm and fuzzy feeling turned cold. Because matter how many times we talked or texted, what I could not get between the two of them was any face time. None. Nada. Zero.

 These were men who marveled at the fact that I’m still single. These are men who are constantly telling me how wonderful I am, and yet they could never find time for even a cup of coffee or tea. My plate is full, and I get that many of us are often times juggling more than we feel like we can handle. But I also know this: We make time for the people and the thing that we want to make time for.

Looking back over my dating life, I remember men who were more interested in me than I was in them, and no matter what, they always found a way to reach out to me. When my level of interest didn’t match theirs, I always let them know. I never liked leading anyone on because I never liked being anyone’s default. These men taught me that a man who wants to spend time with you will find a way.

So, even though the two men vying for my attention claimed they wanted to get to know better and explore the possibilities of where we might go, the reality was I was not a priority. So, I had to let both of them know that I was moving on. I believe that men and women can and should be friends, so they’ve moved out of the romantic realm and into the friendship zone.

This is the generation of text messaging relationships. I have a friend who is younger, and she says that texting back and forth is one of the ways that she and her husband communicate. They fight and make-up sometimes via text messaging. That’s not for me.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m old school. I like good old-fashioned two-way communication.  Texting is fine later in the relationship, but it’s not the best way to begin a relationship. Texting leaves too much to miscommunicate.

I’m more mature now, and I’m going to date on my terms. It’s not that I’m inflexible. I’m open to something new and exciting. I’m open to someone who values me. And a man who values my time knows that I am better than a text message.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Black Men Rape, Too.

Black men rape, too. I’m just going to let that sink in for somebody who has formed an opinion about this piece based on the title. I ask you to continue reading and hear me out. This is NOT an indictment against Black men, but an unearthing of a topic that has been buried too long.

We need to talk about sexual assault in the Black community at the hands of Black men. I know our history. I know the hypocrisy of holding up the sanctity of White womanhood while defiling Black womanhood. I know that Black men and boys have been the strange fruit of southern trees for nothing more than mere rumors. I’ve read the Kissing Case.  I’ve heard Emmett Till’s story. These tragedies are part of the history of racism. But this history does not erase the fact that some Black men are rapists and/or sexual predators, and that sexual abuse in the Black community is in a shoebox under the bed or in the back of the closet. We know it’s there, but we don’t want to talk about it. 

Statistics show that rape happens most often intra racially, not interracially. The narrative of the Big Black men preying on defenseless White women is a false as is the narrative that Black women are so sexually insatiable that we cannot be raped. These narratives are rooted in racism, and it’s time to change the story and tell the truth. 

In light of recent headlines involving well-known figures in the Black community, it is time that we pull that box out and examine its contents. We need to consider the real possibility that even those we admire can be capable of rape. Even those we love. Rapists don’t fall out of the sky. They breathe and live among us.

We need to address male privilege in a patriarchal society and what that looks like in our community. We live in a patriarchy with some misogyny thrown into the midst. Men feel entitled to sex, and Black men are no different. In my life, I have had some scary experiences that make me question how we raise boys. I definitely believe that American culture is rape culture. And Black men are not immune.
In 6th grade, a boy and his friend walked into the kindergarten class I was watching while the teacher stepped away. He turned off the lights and said, “It’s time to fuck.” Time stopped.  They were looking at me, and I was looking at them. My stomach knotted. After a few minutes, but what seemed like an eternity, they walked back out of the room. I didn’t report the incident.

In high school, the security officer harassed me every time I passed him in the hall. He’d stop me and asked for my pass while letting others pass freely. He looked me up and down salivating like a dog to a bone. Though he made me very uncomfortable, I didn’t report him. When I was growing up we didn’t have language around sexual harassment, and rape was something that happened to women who were snatched into dark allies. And somewhere I took to heart the message that Black men and boys were to be protected even at my own expense.

As a young woman, I went to visit my friend who lived out of town. She was older and like a bigger sister, so I trusted her judgment. She introduced me to a guy that she knew. I went out with him, and while we were in the car talking, out of nowhere he says, “How do you know I won’t rape you?” I didn’t. This was back in the day before cell phones and I was in a different state at the mercy of a man I did not know. Nothing happened, but it frightened me that he even said it.

I was dating a guy, and we were having sex. At one point, I said to him that I wanted to take a break from sex. I thought it was a reasonable request. After all, it is my body, right? Well, since we were dating and were sexual, he said that the least I could do was provide him with oral sex; I owed him that. I laugh now as I did then at the audacity of his statement. I did not owe him anything, nor did I oblige him.

Too often men think that women owe them sex. If we “go too far.” If we drink too much. If we’re wearing something sexy. If we had sex with them previously. If we are in a relationship. These things mean he can take it. Sex is not ours to give. We have no agency over our bodies. Because of this women give in when we don’t want to. Whores are not born; they’re made. (But that’s another post for another time)

Statistics say that 1 in 6 women will be sexually assaulted and the rate is even higher for Black women and girls. Rape against Black females is easily dismissed. I’ve had conversations with women and girls who said they were raped and were not believed. I remember reading an excerpt from Eldridge Cleaver’s Soul on Ice and being horrified by the notion that he said he went into Black communities to “practice” raping Black women before raping a White woman as a revolutionary act.

When the internet was ablaze with people arguing about Nate Parker’s rape allegation, a Facebook Friend, Floyd Webb posted this: “The conversation needs to be about how do we stop young men from thinking that rape is not a crime against a woman. That their machismo is really the lowest of cowardly and abusive behavior.”

We believe what we believe. But we should know better because we know what happens in our communities.  So, why do we think people like Bill Cosby, Nate Park or Derrick Rose are any different? I am not saying that any of these men are rapists. But I am asking why so many of us won’t even consider that one of them or all of them might be?

It is urgent that we teach our children about consent. No means no. Maybe means no. And yes means proceed with caution because yes to one sex act does not mean yes to all sexual activity. Yes, there are false allegations, but the statistics show that false accusations are the exception and not the rule. The number of sexual assault cases is actually under reported. It happens more than we want to admit. 

Webb went on to say, “’Taking the pussy’ is not a laughable action.  No means no. Consent is only by consent. Getting women drunk to take advantage of them is CRIMINAL.” Webb thinks rape continues to be pushed aside because a large number of men in power have at some point engaged in the same type of behavior. I have to agree with Webb. But I don’t think it’s always men with power. I think that any man raised in this society is capable of rape because of the messaging. Some recognize that the messaging is wrong; others act on it.

So instead of arguing for or against people whose lives we don’t really know anything about, let’s have a dialogue about sexual abuse community. I’m ready. Who’s with me? Awareness is the first step toward change.

Monday, September 5, 2016

I Should Kill Myself Today

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 I should kill myself today. Just take myself out the game. Do away with the pain and misery. I mean, what’s the point of living? I woke up to a story about adults calling a child ugly because her beauty is too big for the box they put it in. Hell let the world tell it, Black women are uglier than sin! Angry, mean, and ungrateful, too. 

We are bitches, hoes, gold diggers and Baby Mamas served up as Internet fodder for media consumption for the world to devour. People say if that ain't you, they ain't talking about you. But perception becomes realty right? Which means that we are a monolithic mess! Not allowed to be me--individually because we are always WE. 

Everybody wants somebody to love and appreciate them. But since it ain't no love for Black women and girls in the world why not give myself wings and take flight from the ugliness of this life? I think I should kill myself today. 

I'm single for real. Ain't got no man. No side dude, no playmate, No nothing. Did I mention that I ain't got no any kids? None. Nada. No man. No kids. I have no place. I mean I really should kill myself for taking up space. Tell me somebody, by society's standards, what's my worth?

I'm a teacher in a public school no less.  If a child does well, the parents did something right. If he fails, I did something wrong. Failure of students is my fault as teacher competency (or lack of) is the automatic default. No matter that I'm on the bottom rung of the education decision- making ladder, I should have some magic up my sleeve or a pull a miracle out of hat. But my mere mortal status doesn't allow me to do that. I should kill myself today.

But wait! Good news. We are highly educated women according to the stats, but oh, it's still not being translated into us getting paid. We make 64 cent to every dollar, the lowest wage for all women of color. We have a slew of health problems, too, so let’s just do away with the formalities of acting like we need to exist. I should kill myself today. 

You know what's the ugliest thing of all? People who look like me co signing on this foolishness. Ain't that some ish? A series of YouTube videos telling me how undesirable I am. I mean damn! I googled to see if such videos existed for other ethnicities. And guess what? There are none to see.
Treated like trash, some of us don’t know what to do with the anger and the pain, so we lash out at each other. Instead of coming together we clash, and then crash into anybody on our path. Yea, today is a good day to kill myself. 

But wait! Can we be in this world, but not of it? We have always moved through this world differently than the rest—marching to the beat of our own drum. And that never stopped us in from doing our best. We have to get back to the days of old. Bring the light back into our darkened souls. We need to look no further than those around us for inspiration and motivation.

My mother has lived longer than eight decades on this earth and rises every day to celebrate her birth. Her legacy lives through her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. As a branch of her family tree, I don’t have time to be blue because I know that I still have work to do.  I can live another day.

When I can go back and forth on Gates Girl Rock with six of the most intelligent, thoughtful funny, and fiercely loyal women I have the pleasure of sharing blood with, I’m reminded that I am blessed to experience such bliss. I can live another day. 

When young people remind me of my worth through listening ears or a comment on my blog that shows that I too have a legacy because a commenter "admires my strength and transparency because not everyone has that," I think I can live another day.

When I go interact daily with an amazing group of women who keep me grounded and remind me if the magic we do, I can live another day. I have a multitude of friends who are an essential part of my life. I can trace true friendship back to elementary school. I'd be a fool not to live another day. 

 I am a member of a group who has faced unspeakable horror and terrible hardship, who get up every day to do it all over again; I owe it to them to keep pressing forward. It's not easy being a Black woman in this world, but I've heard that anything worth having is worth fighting for.

So, today I fight for me, and for the other Black girls and women who are not feeling the love and are contemplating killing themselves. No, I won't kill myself today. I’ll look at all I've been through, and all that I'll have and know that my riches yield the highest stock.

I look at Black girls who Rock, and I swaddled myself in Black Girl Magic. I’ll remember to breathe and seize the moment because I know that THIS is a gift from above. And everything God makes comes from Love. So, I got this. And if you're reading this, you got this. WE got this. And today, I know I'll live another day. 

What makes life livable for you? What gets you through the bad days? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.