Black Woman Blogging

One black woman's views on race, gender, politics, family, life and the world.

Monday, June 29, 2015

If You Wait Long Enough, Good Things Will Happen (Charleston, Forgiveness, the Confederate Flag, the ACA, Gay Marriage, and Amazing Grace on My Mind)

I'm going to let you in on a little secret:

Sometimes, I think God talks to me.

No.  Really.  Like when I heard a little voice tell me, "Put away some money.  You're going to need it."  I did.  The next month?  BAM!  Hit with major car repairs.

Or when Black Man Not Blogging and I were coming back from a day trip and stopped in a McDonald's in a South Stockton neighborhood.  He went in, I stayed in the car.  A little voice told me, "You need to get out of here."  I called him on his cell phone to tell him to get out of the McDonald's, that we needed to get ghost.  He did, and we did.  The neighborhood just felt unsafe.  If I recall correctly, the next day there was news of shootings that occurred in South Stockton.

When the Charleston shooting occurred, I was at a loss for words.  I couldn't believe that someone would gun down church members at a prayer meeting.  A PRAYER  MEETING! Could there be anything more demonic?

Then, in an act of what can only be called amazing grace, the victims' families started to forgive the shooter.

And that's when I heard the little voice:  "If you wait long enough, good things will happen."  I smiled.

In what appeared to be a whirlwind of good things happening, people began calling for the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina state house and other government buildings.  Ebay, Amazon, Sears, and Wal-Mart pulled Confederate flag merchandise from their shelves or stopped selling them online.  Given Wal-Mart's southern roots, that's huge.  The cynic in me says that it was the fact that black people were killed in a church by a racist who literally wrapped himself in the Confederate flag that moved people to reconsider the flag, but I'll take this reconsideration no matter how it comes, even if I think it would not have happened but for the murders taking place in a church.  It forced white Southerners to choose between heritage and faith.  They chose faith.

The Affordable Care Act was upheld, as well as disparate impact analysis for housing discrimination under the Fair Housing Act.

The President found his voice on race, using the n-word to explain that this country's racial atrocities hundreds of years ago are not yet forgotten, the wounds not yet healed.  In the eulogy for Reverend Clementa Pinkney, President Obama found his voice on race once again, saying that although those who fought for the Confederacy may have been honorable, the cause for which they fought was not.  He  then raised his voice in a rousing rendition of "Amazing Grace."  And the church said, "Amen."

To top it all off, the Supreme Court declared bans on gay marriage unconstitutional.  To some, this may not be a good thing. I don't see how equality under the law can't be.  The southern states, and the Ted Cruzes of the nation, will stand in opposition, just as George Wallace stood in the door of the University of Alabama declaring, "Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever" in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education.  Ted  Cruz will be remembered in much the same way as Governor Wallace would have been had he not had a racial epiphany.  The work of the LGBT community is not done, but there's just a little less of it to be done.

If you wait long enough, good things will happen.  Sometimes you have to wait centuries, sometimes a generation, sometimes a decade.  But if you wait long enough, good things will happen.


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Sunday, June 14, 2015

Mad About the Faux Sistah in Spokane? Really, White People? (White Hypocrisy and the Appropriation of Blackness)

I haven't been following closely the story of the Spokane NAACP president who is allegedly passing for black.  I'm not bothered by it, not at all.  As long as she is working for the greater good of black people in America --- and Lord knows, I wish more people would -- how she identifies is of no moment to me.

What is bothersome is the hype and outrage by the predominantly white media that this white woman is passing for black.


Here's where the hypocrisy and/or lack of self-awareness comes in:  White people have been appropriating blackness for their own for decades, and not necessarily for the betterment and advancement of black people.  At least this sistah faux sho' is trying to do something positive with it.

White people, here's a small list of all the blackness that white people have appropriated with little or no benefit to black people:

You appropriate our language.  Hell, you even trademark it.  You trademarked or appropriated "Let's roll," and "24/7" (talking to you, CNN) and now you're quoting black rappers on the cans of Sprite.  I ain't mad, but just be honest about what you stole.

You appropriate our hairstyles.  From Bo Derek in cornrows and beads running down the beach in "10" to Kim Kardashian trying to wear braids, you covet what you appear in public to disdain -- the versatility and style with which we go from rocking a 'fro to a bob.  Deep down, you, too want to be happy, nappy and versatile with your hairstyle.  Just own it.

You appropriate our physical attributes.  You inject collagen into your lips, implants into your asses, and spray tanner on your skin.

You appropriate our music.  Back in the day, you straight out stole it -- robbed creative geniuses of their copyrights. Hell, even the Master of Funk himself, George Clinton, doesn't own his own music.  What you couldn't steal, you pimped.  You corporatized hip-hop.  I ain't mad because at least Jiggaman got paid.  But at least admit what you did.  And although I'm appreciative that you cashed out Dr. Dre for his Beats empire, I'm getting a little tired of mediocre white singers trying to appear more talented than they are by being backed up by a faux black gospel choir, choir robes and all.  Black Man Not Blogging (BMNB) has a big problem with appropriating black religious symbolism for corporate gain.  It's the Baptist in him.

You appropriate our achievements.  You credit Matthew Henson as sharing in reaching the North Pole first when in fact he got there first.  I don't even have the time or the space to chronicle how many black achievements have been claimed by whites. 

You appropriate our men.  Oh yeah, you're afraid of them on the street, but not between the sheets. I've always believed that love knows no color, but for some of you, let's just say you're just curious, fetishizing, and not loving.

So at least this faux sistah is appropriating black identity for a black purpose.  Perhaps she hasn't been honest about it, but the lack of honesty is at least balanced out by her work on behalf of black people, which is more than what I can say about other cases of white appropriation of blackness that did not benefit black people.

What I find really offensive is the question, "Why would someone white want to pass for black?"

Here's why:  Because we're awesome.  Despite all that has been done to us, we're still here.  Battered and bruised, perhaps, but we're still here in our nappy, creative, persistent, undeniable genius in shades from off-white to blue-black.  WE'RE STILL HERE.  You stand on the economic foundation we laid for this nation, yet you still deny our humanity and question why anybody would want to be us.  Really, white people?  Really?  If you question why anybody would want to be us, you need to do an inventory of all that you copy from us and enjoyed of us.

For those of you in the white media harping on this story, I think you need to have one of those awkward moments of self-awareness and count all the ways white people have and continue to appropriate blackness without any benefit for black people.  And then go on ahead and write out a check to the Spokane NAACP.

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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Fear of a Growing Black and Brown Renter Class (On the Power of Ownership)

As an African-American woman, there are some things I fear more than police brutality.

Like a growing Black and brown renter class.

There's  a relationship here.  Bear with me.

My office is the across the hall from a realty.  There's a Latina realtor there who I speak with occasionally in the hallway.  I can tell she works hard.  We started talking about home ownership among black and brown folks.  She's scared, too.

She's scared that the foreclosure crisis, and the intentional targeting of black and brown people for subprime mortgages by Wells Fargo, Countrywide/Bank of America and other major mortgage lenders, will permanently scare off black and brown folks from home ownership.

She's scared, as I am, that if our people stay away from home ownership, the wealth gap that currently exists between whites and black and brown people will widen even more.

She's scared, as I am, that if our people stay away from home ownership, the harder it will be for them to get into home ownership once they see the error of their ways.

And trust me, folks of any color who dismiss home ownership as "something only white people do," (and yes, I've heard that), are condemning themselves to another form of slavery:  Renting.

Investors at home and abroad are COUNTING on this black and brown growing renter class. I saw a story on the news a while back about foreign investors buying up tracts of brand new houses in Atlanta for the sole purposes of renting to folks who had lost their homes but still wanted to live in quality neighborhoods.  We all know that black and brown people disproportionately lost their homes in Atlanta during the Great Recession.  And instead of starting over and starting with what they can afford, the siren song of renting in an area where you can't afford will lead black and brown folks back down the path of rental slavery.

Investors from China are buying up Detroit homes on the cheap for rental property.  We all know that black and brown people disproportionately lost their homes in Detroit in the Great Recession.

Get the picture?

Allow me to digress again.  I recently had the pleasure of meeting an elderly, white retired U.S. Army colonel while on vacation with Black Man Not Blogging.  We started a conversation with the colonel because he was wearing a Red Tails Society hat and was surprised that we knew about the Tuskegee Airmen and the red tails on their planes.  He mentioned that he was a former Army aviator who was committed to preserving the memory and history of the Tuskegee Airman.  "We're losing them more and more each day," he lamented.

We got on the subject of home ownership.  He said he had been married for 61 years before he lost his wife, and they bought their home in a California coastal town for $126,000 a long time ago, and it is now worth way more than that.  He talked about how he inherited his brother's estate and, with that inheritance, was able to put "5 and a half" of his grandchildren through college without debt.  The half?  "One of my grandkids was stubborn about attending a private college, so we couldn't pay all of her costs."  He then mentioned that his late wife had inherited shares of stock in Caterpillar from her great-grandfather, who bought them when the company first went public.  The shares continued to split over time, and now he gets a check for $5,000 a year in dividends.  He mentioned helping one of his children buy a house in East Menlo Park at a time when no one wanted to live there.  They bought it for thousands, sold it for millions.  The appreciation in the price of his late wife's stock didn't impress him nearly as much as the appreciation in land that he and his family had experienced.  He chuckled, "Some people are paper people; some are land people.  We're land people."

Because of the power of ownership, the Colonel was not only able to put "5 and a half" of his grandchildren through college, but to live a comfortable life in his later years.

I can personally attest to the power of ownership in my own family.  My parents owned their home.  Both sets of my grandparents owned their homes.  Almost all of the aunts and uncle on both sides of the family owned their homes. 

With the house that my parents paid off, my father was able to take out equity and buy a new house when he remarried after my mother's death.  He then quitclaimed the house to my sister.  When the real estate boom happened, she sold the house at the top of the market to my brother, took the profits, and went in with my other sister on a brand new HUGE house in a gated neighborhood.  Not bad for two government workers who had been livin' in the hood.  And it all sprang from my mom and dad paying off their mortgage on their $19,000 house, $133 a month at a time, over twenty years (Remember the twenty-year fixed, anyone?)

That is the power of ownership.  But it starts small, like buying a house in a bad neighborhood to get your feet in the real estate market.

Renters, unless they are investing actively and wisely in the stock market, will have nothing to leave to their children.  No hedge against rental inflation when their incomes are fixed and limited in old age.  Nothing to help pay for their children's or grandchildren's college educations.  And it is higher education that positions people, especially people of color, to take up leadership positions in business, government and society in general.  To solve social ills.

Like police brutality.

Because if you're not in a position of power, you're not at the table where the decisions are made.  And as one of my attorney colleagues once said, "If you're not at the table, you're on the menu."

What black and brown people who swear off home ownership because of their past experiences don't understand is this:

1) A fixed rate mortgage freezes your housing costs over time.  As your salary increases, your mortgage doesn't, increasing your disposable income.  Rents always go up.  If you retire as a renter, your fixed income will always be chipped away by higher rents.

2) Your first home won't be your dream home -- it's your equity building home.  As my Latina realtor friend said, "Buy what you can afford, whether it's the best house in the worst neighborhood or the worst house in the best neighborhood.  If the neighborhood schools are bad, send your child to a charter school.  Live in the house for a while and if you don't like the neighborhood, rent it out and live elsewhere.  At least you're building equity."

3) Most people don't invest well enough so that they don't have to buy a house.  Although stocks have a higher rate of return on investment over time, real estate tends to be safer, especially if you buy and hold.  Shortly after BMNB and I bought our home in 2008, we were $100,000 under water.  Now we have a lot of equity because the market has bounced back and houses in our neighborhood aren't staying on the market very long.  As I said to BMNB when we were under water on our mortgage, "It's a good thing we like our house, because we're definitely not going anywhere."  I'm glad we couldn't.

4) Never, ever buy more than what you can afford, and don't let anyone tell you what you can afford.  During the height of the real estate boom, mortgage lenders were willing to finance BMNB and I for more than $1 million.  We knew we couldn't afford it.  We bought a foreclosure that we could safely afford.

5) If you rent, you are at the mercy of your landlord.  BMNB and I have the experience of being on both ends of the landlord/tenant stick.  When we were renting in Elk Grove, we received a 60-day notice for no reason other than that the landlord lost one of her houses and wanted to move back into the one we were renting.  On the other end, the tenant in our Colorado property is about to get a $200 per month rent increase when the lease expires in August.  Why?  Because she purposefully jacked up our kitchen countertops and DEMANDED granite countertops to replace the laminate -- WTF? -- and because the market has gone gangbusters and we can easily charge and get $200 a month more to pay off the mortgage faster.  THAT is the power of ownership.  I would be lying if I said I wasn't enjoying getting revenge on the tenant, especially since all the while I lived there BMNB wouldn't buy me granite countertops, and I was sleeping with him.

6) Get in where you fit, in however you can get in.  My sisters went in together to buy a house that neither could have afforded on their own.  My niece and nephew-in-law bought in the 'hood until they could trade up to the suburbs.  BMNB's first property, now our rental, was a townhome, because that was all he could afford.  Be creative.  If you can't afford a house, buy a condo or a townhome.  If you're handy, buy something you can fix up and put sweat equity into.  Our neighbors next door are the second generation to own their house.  When their father died, their mother bought a new house and gave the house to them, her sons.  However you get in the ownership game, just get in. Heck, start a down payment sou-sou.

7)  Home ownership takes sacrifice, but it's worth it.  When you're trying to get your credit together and save money for the down payment, you forego things.  You shouldn't buy unless you know you're going to stay in the area for at least three years.  And once you buy, you need to keep a steady job - even if you don't like it -- so you can keep your mortgage paid.  The benefit?  The tax write off for mortgage interest (which has saved us a HUGE amount of money); improvement of your credit -- the first thing that credit applications ask after your job is whether you rent or own; stability for your children, because they won't have to leave their friends or school just because the landlord says so. There are credit cards with credit limits that I couldn't dream of getting ten years ago before BMNB and I bought our house that are offered to me like crack.  My new relationship to credit card issuers is best summed up by rapper Mike Jones:  "First you didn't know me, now you all up  on me."

8)  Even if you lose your home, you can pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try again.  My parents lost a home before I was born.  They rented until the children of one of my mother's friends taunted my siblings, saying, "You ain't got no place to live."  That spurred my dad on to take on extra work to get his family back into their own home.

Wealth grows over generations, with each generation making it a little easier for the next generation -- if they are wise -- to get an education and a toehold in American society.  Wealth buys freedom. 

But you don't accumulate wealth by renting.   That is why I fear a growing black and brown renter class.

But my Latina realtor friend is undaunted. She said she continues to work to get her people into homes.  She said, "It's a lot of work, getting first-time buyers into a home.  It doesn't pay a lot.  But boy is it worth it to me."

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Monday, May 25, 2015

Doesn't Take Much to Make Me Happy

Doesn't take much to make me happy . . and make me smile with glee . . . .

~ "Best of My Love," The Emotions

Although I'm viewed by many friends and family members alike as a driven, high maintenance, Type-A perfectionist with high standards and equally high anxiety, the truth of the matter is this:

It doesn't take much to make me happy.

No, really.

This year, I told myself that I would use what I have and enjoy what I have.  Many of the things that make me happy are low cost or free (at least free to me), easy, and/or within my possession or reach.  In honor of the near-beginning of my favorite season of the year, summer (YAY!), here's a list of the little things that make me happy, in no particular order:

1.  My husband, Black Man Not Blogging (BMNB).  No, this isn't to say that he's perfect or we're perfect, but we're good enough together.  We laugh ALOT.  We have some insider stupid jokes that have been running between us for years.  Never judge a marriage by what you see.  There are things that go on within a marriage between two people that outsiders will never know and, even if they did, they wouldn't understand.

2.  Iced Sweet Tea.  There is nothing like a glass of iced sweet tea with lemon on a hot summer day.

3.  Backyard barbecues.  Gotta love'em.  You set up the grill, and I'll make Memphis Minnie's Rib Rub and slather it on anything that was formerly a living animal and watch you grill it (I'm afraid of the fire, though.  I tried grilling once when BMNB wasn't home, and I almost burned down my backyard tree and fence.)

4.  Graduations.  I don't care if you're graduating from kindergarten or a doctoral program.  Graduations just warm my heart to bits.

5.  My home.  Not because it's big, because it isn't.  Not because it's posh, because it's far from that.  I enjoy my home simply because it's mine.  There are small touches everywhere -- my summer vegetable garden; the roses, dwarf orange tree and jasmine that I planted in the backyard that make the backyard so fragrant whenever I walk out; the artwork and family photos on display; the mostly used furniture that I've spruced up with pillows and whatnot; my piano; the struggling magnolias in my front yard that were a gift from my neighbor; the tons of books on my shelves and coffee table -- all of these things make my home a comfort to me as soon as I walk in the door.

6.  Finding NWT clothing items at the Goodwill.  Here's the context.  Yours truly has a weight problem.  That said, I don't think I should have to look like a schlumpadinka just because of it.  I also don't think I should pay a fortune for clothes for a size that I think is temporary.  For whatever reason, I've been able to find lots of NWT (New With Tags) items from the Goodwill in my size in the clothing brands I like -- Talbot's, Jones New York, Tahari, Liz Claiborne -- for no more than $10 each.  I've even found NWT shoes -- Joan and David, Etienne Aigner, Anne Klein -- for no more than $12.  I like looking nice for work, but I just don't believe in paying a lot of money for things that depreciate, which leads to my next favorite thing:

7.  Free coupons.  The Sacramento Bee newspaper calls me every once in a while to ask me to subscribe, and I always tell them "no."  Why? Because they leave the Sunday coupons in my driveway for free.  Why subscribe to the paper if you can get the coupons for free?  When I'm at the top of my couponing game, I can easily save $8 -20 bucks per grocery trip.  That easily pays for my Roku, Netflix and Hulu Plus accounts.  I know you're thinking that's not a lot of money, but it's free money to me.

9.  Fresh vegetables from my own garden.  Until you've had freshly picked tomatoes, zucchini, carrots and lettuce from your own yard, you really don't know what vegetables are supposed to taste like.  Top off the tomatoes, lettuce and carrots with homemade balsamic vinaigrette dressing ( balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, Italian seasoning and one or two crushed cloves of garlic), some fresh mozzarella, some fresh French bread and a glass of wine, and that's living, my friend.

10.  Reading the magazines to which I subscribe.  I subscribe to a lot of magazines -- O Magazine, Real Simple, Sunset, Essence, More, HGTV Magazine, and Everyday with Rachael Ray -- but I rarely have time to read them when they come in.  Curling up on my sofa with my old magazines and a glass of sweet tea or wine is a good time as far as I'm concerned.

11.  Day trips in California.  No shade on the rest of the 47 continental states, but IMHO California is the most beautiful of the lower 48.  The sad thing is that I don't make time to see much of its beauty despite the fact that I live here.  Daytrips are an inexpensive way to see all of California's beauty if you live here.  In what other state can you trek to mountains, beaches, forests, lakes, various wine countries (even Placer and Nevada counties have vineyards) or the desert and make it back home by dinner?  I've decided that seeing all of California's state parks is on my bucket list.  Need ideas?  Check out Sunset Magazine for some great tips for daytripping or camping in California.

12.  Having friends and family over for dinner.  Again, something that I don't do nearly as much as I would like to, partly because I do have high standards for what I serve to my guests and I end up intimidating myself into inaction.  I'm working on that, though.

13.  Morning coffee on the patio during summer.  I love to have my morning coffee on my patio during the summer and listen to the birds chirping.  The downside of this is that my backyard is so small and my house so close to my neighbors that sometimes I hear things I really don't want to or should not hear.  Sometimes I smell them, too.  Let's just say that some of my neighbors are extremely 420 friendly.

14.  Books.  I love to read, and I don't make enough time for it.  I rarely buy books new, though.  Again, the Goodwill and my local library have been my friends in this endeavor. I haven't bought an e-reader yet, but that's coming.

15.  Trying new recipes.  I have a cookbook collection that is to die for.  I also get lots of recipes from all of the magazines to which I subscribe.  I like trying new recipes and adding to my cooking repertoire, especially since I'm not a natural cook and am highly dependent on recipes.  The folks at O Magazine, Real Simple and Sunset provide killer recipes.

16.  Upcycling.  I like taking used stuff and making it new or interesting again.  I spray painted a used brass floor lamp I got for $10, and its new rubbed bronze color fits perfectly with the finishes in my home. I'm hoping to finish sanding and painting some headboards and tables I acquired used and cheaply.  Yes, I do watch Lara Spencer's "Flea Market Flip" religiously.  I get a thrill out of taking something that someone else has discarded and making it new and fashionable.  Don't judge me.

17.  Massages from Zen Spa in Roseville.  $60 bucks for a 60 minute massage.  No membership fee.  Sweet.

18.  Homemade Limeade.  It's not summer for me until I've had that first glass of homemade limeade.  Cook 2 cups sugar in 2 cups water over a low flame  and stir until the sugar dissolves, then let cool.  Add the mixture to a pitcher along with 2 cups fresh lime juice and 2 liters club soda.  Add sugar as needed to taste.  Enjoy.  Thanks, Martha Stewart!

19.  Hot baths after a hard workout.  Since we're in a drought and I don't work out much, this rarely happens.  However, the feeling of sitting in a hot bath with bath salts, bubble bath, and scented candles burning after a hard workout?  Sweet.  Even sweeter when BMNB is in the tub with me.

20. Writing this blog.  'Nuff said.

Happy Summer!

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Time for President Obama to Return the Favor (Black Folks Ridin' Hard for POTUS)

Dear President Obama,

I listened to your comments on the looting going on in Baltimore yesterday.  All I could think was, "Here we go again."

Let me get to the point:  You're quick to criticize black folks when we don't live up to your standards, but you're slow to criticize non-black folks when their failure to live up to any standard of decency leads to the murder of black folks.

As one reporter noted, you did not walk the streets of Ferguson.  You were silent about Eric Garner.  I've not heard you utter the phrase "Black Lives Mater."

But the minute that black folks -- young black folks at that -- begin to loot and riot in response to the racial transgressions you barely acknowledge?  Then it's on.  You jump on the obvious bandwagon and, despite your race, fail to add anything to the conversation that non-blacks don't already think and say.  You fail to add the context that your experience as a black man in America would cause to come to you naturally.  Or at least it should.

Sure, it's easy to call young black people "thugs."  It's easy to confirm the pre-existing stereotypes.  But you have a higher calling and a greater debt to the very people you condemn so easily.

You have a higher calling because you know better and you were put into office in part because you were expected to lift your voice for black people at most, or at least to make sure that black people are treated equally under the law.  Make no mistake -- many black folks had their doubts about you.  I know for certain that many black women would not have voted for you but for the fact that you are married to Mrs. Obama, enabling you to wear her "race rank," for lack of a better phrase.  The idea behind black folks putting a black man in the White House was that he -- you -- would bring your life experience with you and deploy it for our equal treatment and everyone else's education. For many of us, the reason to vote you in for a second term was to give you the political freedom to speak to the uneasy issue of race that you didn't have in your first term.  The idea was that you'd have nothing to lose and you'd expend some political capital on the uneasy issue of race.  Instead, you chose to use Eric Holder as your proxy.

To make matters worse, your comments on Baltimore embodied Professor Derrick Bell''s Third Rule of Racial Standing from his book, "Faces at the Bottom of the Well, " to wit:

Few blacks avoid diminishment of racial standing, most of their statements about racial conditions being diluted and their recommendations of other blacks taken with a grain of salt. The usual exception to this rule is the black person who publicly disparages or criticizes other blacks who are speaking or acting in ways that upset whites. Instantly, such statements are granted 'enhanced standing' even when the speaker has no special expertise or experience in the subject he or she is criticizing. (emphasis added).
And when the President of the United States disparages black people, without adding the context to their actions that he knows or should knows, this exception to the rule of racial standing becomes all the more stronger.

But you knew that.

You chose to call them thugs when you could have quoted Dr. King about the nature of rioting:  "Riot is the language of the unheard."  You didn't put their actions into context,   You simply brushed all of those who looted with a broad brushstroke, with an easy sound bite, knowing that you wouldn't have to bear the consequences of the condemnation you heaped upon them and those who look like them.

Enough. Is.  Enough.

To borrow a turn of phrase from your girl Ms. Bey, black folks have been ridin' hard for you, Mr. President.  Ridin' hard, even when you've done things that, quite frankly, we and most of the free world didn't understand (like that "line in the sand" with Syria that you couldn't back up).  We understood why you couldn't consistently address issues of race in your first term -- because they would be a distraction from all the other issues you had to tackle -- the economy, two wars, health care reform, etc.  But we put you in a second time in hopes that you would be free to speak about, and do something about, race in America.  Because being the first black President -- hell, being the first black ANYTHING -- comes with its own set of responsibilities.  One of those is to make it better for those who look like you and don't have the same power or platform that you do.  This idea that you have to be a President of all the people and not just one group is undermined by the fact that we're Americans, too, and our race problem is America's race problem.  And yours.

Mr. President, Black America has been ridin' hard for you.  It's time for you to return the favor.  You could start by explaining us instead of being the first to criticize us.


Black Woman Blogging

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Saturday, November 29, 2014

How to Socially Vaporize Inappropriate People (as Well as President and Mrs. Obama Have)

I think we can all agree that the GOP legislative staffer's comments on Malia and Sasha Obama's dress and behavior at the latest turkey pardoning ceremony were  inappropriate and offensive.  What I've found interesting, however, is how the remarks have not even been acknowledged by President and Mrs. Obama (and yes, she's not "Michelle," she's "Mrs. Obama."  She will be the First Lady or a former First Lady for the rest of her life.  If you didn't call Mrs. Reagan "Nancy" or Barbara Bush "Barbara," you don't call Mrs. Obama "Michelle."). 

"Ah," I thought to myself. "Social vaporization."

What is "social vaporization," you ask?

It's the refusal to dignify the offensive actions of a person and, in many cases, the ignorant person who acted, by ignoring them and their act.  Social vaporization to its fullest effect is treating the person who offended you like they don't exist.

There are some segments of our society that have made social vaporization a high art form.  Too often, when someone does something that offends us, we engage in social jiu jitsu -- we attempt to use that person's offensive conduct to harm them.  We deride the offender's conduct in their presence, try to correct the conduct, or inflict the same conduct upon the offender.  We also give the offender what they want:  Attention.

That's just way too much energy.  Social vaporization is so much more efficient.  To see social vaporization at its best, you need to be around old money Southerners.  Of all races.  They socially vaporize people by politely ignoring the conduct, removing themselves from the offender's presence with a polite excuse ("Could you excuse me for a moment?  I need to say hello to a dear friend of mine across the room."), and, depending on the magnitude of the transgression, never making themselves available to be of help to, or in the presence of, the offender.  They stop taking the offender's calls.  They decline social invitations from the offender.  And they do so without expending as much energy as it takes to wipe their behinds. 

I've had to socially vaporize people.  One was a house guest who made inappropriate comments about one of my family members shortly after I had experienced a death in my family.  Said house guest has never stepped foot in my home since.  Vaporized.  I don't even expend energy thinking about relenting and having this person in my home.  I made my Whitney Houston-inspired "Hell to the no" decision years ago.  Poof.  Vaporized. 

I, too, have been socially vaporized.  A lovely lady was trying to groom me for membership in The Links.  I didn't realize it at the time, and with my sense of Delta superiority, I didn't think it mattered.  I didn't respond appropriately to her overtures, didn't make it a priority to attend the right events.  She socially vaporized me.  I deserved it.  I was not ready for what she was offering.  And I learned to respect The Links.

But old money Southerners?  Talk about social vaporization.  They socially vaporize people so well that the people who are vaporized don't even know they've been vaporized.  The vaporized simply think that the vaporizers are just busy, going through a difficult time, or overwhelmed with family obligations.  In fact, vaporized folks often create excuses for those who vaporize them because they can't imagine that they have been socially vaporized.  The vaporizers treat the vaporizees politely when encountered, but that's about it.  Vaporizers don't explain.  That would be an unmerited expenditure of energy for people who don't deserve it.

Why socially vaporize someone?  Because they're probably not going to change, you can't raise them (because we all know you can't raise grown people), and it would raise your blood pressure to be continually assaulted by their inappropriate or insensitive behavior.

So how do you decide whether to socially vaporize someone?  Ask yourself the following questions:

1)  How offended was I by what the offender did?  If the answer is "extremely," then ask yourself:
2)  Do we even have a relationship?  If the answer is "no," vaporize them.  If the answer is "yes," ask yourself:
3)  Is this a relationship worth saving?  If not, vaporize them.

Vaporizing someone is like forgiving someone. Forgiving someone is giving up the hope that the past will ever be different.  Socially vaporizing someone is giving up the hope that the offending person will ever cease to offend you.

May the force of social vaporization always be with you.

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Another Generation of Second-Class Citizens (Ferguson and Lionel Ritchie on My Mind)

Black Man Not Blogging (BMNB) and I are jaded.  Or rather, numb.  We were not surprised by the grand jury verdict in the Michael Brown killing.

We both agreed that it was senseless to loot and burn the businesses of innocent business owners in Ferguson, especially if those businesses employed those in the community and/or were black-owned.

We both agreed that if Michael Brown had reached for the officer's gun, his fate was sealed, not because he may not have been justified in reaching for it, but because, once you do, your killing by a police officer becomes justifiable.

We initially disagreed about the way forward.  Kind of.

"We have to teach our young men to be smarter," he said.

"Smarter?", I asked.

"Yes, smarter." BMNB explained that police officers act out of fear, specifically their fear of black men.  The answer, he said, was to teach all our sons that police officers' fears can cause them to be killed and that, no matter what, there are certain things you as a black man can't say or do to a police officer and expect to live to tell about it.

"Damn," I said.  "Do we have to raise yet another generation of second-class citizens?  My dad grew up seeing black men lynched because they didn't address a white man the right way or they looked at a white woman too long.  Your generation was raised not to run at night or make any sudden moves when stopped by the police.  Black people have always had to raise our sons to expect to be treated as second-class citizens.  Do we as black people have to raise yet another generation of second-class citizens?"

I hung my head.  Then I remembered a story Lionel Ritchie told in an episode of Oprah Winfrey's "Master Class."  He talked about growing up on the Tuskegee University (then Tuskegee Institute) campus and living in a racism-free bubble during segregation until he ventured off campus.  He spoke of how when he was a child he drank from a white water fountain in town, and white men then started to threaten his dad.  He just knew his dad was going to kick their behinds.  His dad only told him, "Get in the car."  Years later, he asked his dad why he hadn't stood up to those white men. His dad replied:

"Son, I had two choices that day.  I could choose to be a man or I could choose to be your father.  That day, I chose to be your father."

It made me realize that it isn't about being a second-class citizen.  It's about having our young black men survive the experience and live to tell about it.  If they don't live, they can't tell the tale of what happened to them.  Only forensics and police officers put on the stand during their own grand jury hearings (WTH?) will tell the tale.  And if young black men don't live to tell what happened to them, it can't be changed for the next generation of young black man.

"We need a protocol for all our young men to follow when they encounter the police.  A protocol that we can all agree on, that's nationally recognized.  I don't know if it's 'Hands up, don't shoot' or what, but we need a protocol that we all train our young black men to follow when they encounter the police. We need to teach that protocol in the churches and the schools."

"Then we need to train the police on that protocol," said BMNB.  And then he said something that made me even more jaded:

"You know that every day there are black men who do all the right things when they encounter the police and still get killed, right?"

"Yes, I know."  But we have to start somewhere.


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