Archive for August, 2006

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The Obstacles of White Friendship and The Politics of Being “The Only”

August 26, 2006

When you are a Black woman who lives and works in the Midwest it is not unusual that somewhere in your daily life you are “the only”. You are the only Black face in the grocery store, your school, the library, the deli, and especially in your job. It can get to a point where you being the only Black person everywhere all the time becomes an intrinsic part of your identity. As an only, its almost as if you have that special responsibility because like or not you are the representative for the entire Black race to a great number of white people. You begin to feel like you are the agent, the promoter, the spokesmodel, and the PR rep for everyone with a hint of melanin in their skin. Next thing you know your friends are white, your co-workers are white, the baker is white, the guy who washes your car is white and you walk around every single moment of every single day knowing that you are always the ink spot.  Always.  As whites around you feel more comfortable, they let their lips get a little too loose and they get sloppy about letting their white privilege show through. They ask you the most insane questions that are totally inappropriate, as if you have “1-800-ask-a-negro” imprinted on your forehead. They make comments that at worst are racist and at best culturally insensitive and they don’t even seem to realize their error. When this occurs, as “the only” you basically have three options:

  1. Go scary black woman on them until they cry in the broom closet.
  2. Ignore totally and move the fuck on for the sake of keeping the peace and not being labeled the scary black woman obsessed with making everything about race.
  3. Use the instance to provide a learning opportunity and open up some dialogue and educate them.

At various times I have done all three. After being back in the Midwest for 2 years, I’m fucking exhausted. I’m tired of being the angry Black woman always bringing up that uncomfortable issue of race. I’m tired of having to educate white folks all the time on how to not be assholes, and why what they said or did is actually an asshole comment or action, and the history behind it.  And I’m tired of saying nothing in order to keep the peace, my job, or a friendship.

Not that this doesn’t occur all over the country,……or all over the world for that matter, but it’s a particular brand of ignorance and covert racism that you deal with when you deal with people who have honestly never actually had a conversation with a person of any color, much less a actual relationship. This is why I left this god-forsaken place in the first place. It is even more difficult to be back home after going to undergrad at Howard in the middle of chocolate city, where for four years I didn’t have to deal with being the inkspot.

Example: on at least 5 occasions in the past two years a white stranger has put their hands in my natural. It has happened in line at the grocery store, restaurants, bars, and on an airplane. I am shocked and stunned every time it happens to me. When it happens my mouth just sits agape and it’s as if a part of my brain shuts down from the shock and horror from the realization that I have just been petted. What the hell is up with that any fucking way? Did you really just put your white fingers in my fro and expect that to be okay with me? Do I look like horse to you? Did I make a wrong turn and I am actually at a petting zoo ….because I thought that I was in line at the grocery store just trying to buy some fucking fruit snacks? After my mind recovers from the shock the offensive white usually receives option #1: the angry black woman.

The trickier part is when a situation happens and it’s with a friend, a co-worker. To be a white friend of mine you have to be a lot more socially consciousness than the average. But even supposed conscious whites make the mistake of not respecting boundaries and playing into typical stereotypes at some point. This is where it becomes sticky territory. Co-workers and friends who feel like they have a certain level of friendship with you conveniently forget that you are Black and say the craziest shit to you on a regular basis. Time to apply option #3 and use it as an educational opportunity? Maybe, and I have. Maybe that is the stately, I’m the bigger person, very Martin Luther Kingesque way to go about things…..but let me just say this as someone who is young, black, and angry at heart….. I’m so fucking tired of educating whites on every goddamn thing from don’t touch my fucking hair…..to please don’t believe everything about Black people you see on T.V…….and yes just because your boyfriend is Black, you too can be a racist asshole….. to no affirmative action is not in fact ruining your life. I’m tired and disgusted beyond explanation.

However, I struggle with my disgust. As “the only”, if I don’t point out their missteps then who will? Isn’t the purpose of friendship so that you can learn from each other? Don’t we fight to end racism by education? Haven’t I learned so much from my diverse group of friends from other countries, cultures, religions, etc.? I know it’s a different situation because part of what is so offensive is that its coming from this place of white privilege and power and that it perpetuates the notion that anything non-Anglo is at best exotic and “other” and at worst vile, dangerous, and ugly. However, these are people I care for and while I don’t tip toe around anyone nor do I babysit my white friends on issues of race, it can still be a sticky situation trying to determine how and when to call someone on their racist shit. Some people deserve to cry in the broom closet for being called a racist, others just need to be corrected.

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So Apparently Sunday School Teachers Are A Threat To Jesus As Well……

August 21, 2006

When Mary Lambert, who has taught Sunday school for 54 years is fired for having a vagina I begin to be convinced that the world might indeed be coming to an end. Now see this is why my hellish nightmares consist of Pat Robertson taking over humanity versus satan…..(or are they the same thing? hmmm). Apparently it isn’t enough to be Christian and love Jesus in order to teach about Jesus…….you must also have a penis like Jesus in order to fully qualify. The church board voted UNANIMOUSLY to dismiss her on the grounds that her vagina did not make the cut and they sent her a letter telling her such and quoting the bible as backup.

The letter quotes 1 Timothy 2:11 -14 of the New Testament: “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.”

Hmmm, to learn in quietness and full submission. Is it just me, or do I hear the echos of Ike Turner smacking the hell outta Tina screaming “Sing the song like I wrote it Ana Mae!!!”? I swear women kind just cannot seem to pay enough for the fairytale of Adam and Eve.  Never in the history has a fable been solely responsible for the oppression, humiliation, and degradation of an entire gender.  While we are at it, correct me if I am wrong, but the way I remember the creation story Adam was decieved and was just as much as the sinner…… she gave him the apple, he is the fool who bit it.  Furthermore, if man is so easily deceived by a lie, how does that make him more fit to teach and influence the minds of others in the way of the Lord? Seems to me that a fool should never guide the mind of babes.  I first caught wind of this story on World News Tonight where they interviewed the pastor Tim Labouf saying that their church strictly adheres to the “special” and very specific roles God has laid out in the bible. He went on too say that it isn’t exclusion because there are other roles for women in the church, just not preaching ……teaching …….leading …….speaking……breathing heavy, etc.

Herein lies the fundamental reason I turned away from “Christianity” (because apparently there are 500 different versions……just pick the one that works for you). How can I embrace a religion with fundamental principles that hate my vagina and make it clear that my vagina will always be a second class citizen? Who can truly find fault with a woman teaching Sunday school class purely because of some obscure archaic bible verse? Screw somebody’s garbage about a woman’s “special” place, there is no such thing as seperate but equal. We all know what the deal is…….. men rule the roost…… women shut up, stay in your place and provide the casserole. Reminds me of segregationist insisting that there is merely a natural order to things supported by bible versuses that point to the notion that races should be seperated. Funny though, us colored folk was just sho nuff tired of whistlin dixie in the back of the bus…..even though it was our ‘”special” place. Not exclusion…..just “special”.

Tim LaBouf, who is also a member of the Watertown City Council, did not respond to repeated attempts for comment.

So, this man was actually elected to sit on a city council?….Are you telling me that this man has the ability to not only oppress vaginas inside his church…..but in the entire city as well? Who gave this man power? Who wasn’t paying attention?!! How do things like this occur Amerikkka?!!!! Who are the people voting for these neanderthal politicians? This nonsense deserves a new category, because crazy Christians scare the hell out of me.

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Guidelines For Temping

August 7, 2006

So my new gig is working as a temp at the world headquarters of a major telecom company here in town. I work on what is called a “corporate campus”, i.e. a women’s prison…..the difference from a men’s prison being that you are allowed to walk around from building to building. There are 14,000 employees, 14 parking lots and more buildings than my undergrad university had and after 2 days I am o so clear about why they have such a high turnover rate. O the things I do to get to South America!….But never you mind, I’m a pro at this whole temping thing. I’ve got it down to a science.

Day 1: Come in ready with proper temp bag which contains the following:

1. a clock radio (to make corporate america bearable from 8-5),

2. a book (sometimes they can’t figure out what you are there for right away),

3. an apple (to replenish your energy after you shake hands with 30 Jennifers, and 20 Toms)

4. lubricate, Lubricate, LUBRICATE!! bring chaptstick (to rehydrate your lips after all that smiling (nobody likes a cranky temp), lotion, and eye drops to help while your body adjust to those corporate temperature gages…..your new manager is going through menopause ya know)

The first day also usually includes finding the restroom, the coffee pot, the cafeteria, and how to not lock yourself out of the building. It is also critical that a temp determines who not to piss off (i.e. figure out who your supervisor is, surprisingly this is not always as obvious as it seems) on the first day…..but it’s ok, your just a lowly temp, you probably won’t see them much anyway. The key to being a good temp is to work effectively….but temper your efficiency. Strive for staying under the radar. You have to make yourself useful enough to validate your presence, but not so useful that you make everyone else look bad or run out of things to do. Don’t get involved with people who work there, and certainly don’t indulge their office drama…..come in, do your work, and get the hell on.

This is a delicate juggling act that I manage by balancing my online time. Some jobs are 15% work and 85% surfing the web, and other jobs are 99% work and 1% surfing the web. One must learn what is expected of them and meet that bar exactly, working too little will get you the infamous “well….you know how temps are” title which will make your agency less likely to place you, and working too much will get you a shitload of work without the payoff of regular jobs like health insurance, 401K, respect.  But if you only remember one thing, remember this……….if you let them they will work you like a packmule, after which they will cheerily congratulate you and tell you that the assignment has ended, followed with a “Good Luck”, and a “Fuck You Very Much”.

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Giving Myspace The Finger

August 5, 2006

Ok, now I admit it. For three weeks I was a myspace stalker. I was out of work at the time, so I literally spent hours of my day for a couple of weeks looking up every person I ever met in life on myspace.com. Then a funny thing began to happen, I began to check in on people I hadn’t spoken to in years…….old childhood friends, ex-boyfriends, old neighbors, roommates, etc. As I started to fill my boring days reading the myspace pages of people I knew and those that I had never met, I began to have a more profound understanding of how small the world really is. I went from someone who was like “myspace what?”, to someone who was looking up people I hadn’t spoken to since the 80s on a regular basis. Every time I would meet someone new, I would run home and look them up on myspace. I would wake up and leave my bed if I thought of someone new to look up. Then I began to become obsessed with the myspace friends list. After stumbling across a few friends that I had no idea knew each other through the friends list, I became fascinated with this whole six degrees of separation philosophy, which in the land of myspace seems to only be 3-4 degrees of separation. After I started making a little mental map of all these connections, I freaked…because I realized that I was indeed a MySpace stalker.

Eventually, after a couple of weeks I was able to put the crack of myspace down, and I’ve been pretty much cold turkey every since. However, in those few weeks, I learned a lot about people that I was probably never even supposed to know. Myspace is a huge interpersonal Rubik’s cube. It is not the individual squares that tell the story, but once arranged in the proper perspective….it’s the entire cube that gives away the tale.

I vacillated about whether or not to create my own page. I understand the pull of myspace, it’s the equivalent of having your very own shop window on Park Avenue where you get to display yourself and your thoughts however you choose for all the world to see. But the problem with being so public…. is that it’s so public. I’m hesitant to give people (those I know and those I don’t) the opportunity to sneak intimate peaks at my life. I have already done my time with stalkers, and there are some people to whom I need to remain lost forever and plastering myself all over myspace didn’t seem like a good way to ensure that. While I was pondering the construction of my own page, I had to sign up for one eventually just to read the blogs of others, but nothing except my zip code and where I did my education was on there. …. And low and behold, a couple weeks later I was “found”. Mind you it was by someone I was glad to be found by, a friend from college that I had lost touch with during the hustle and confusion I call the past couple years of my life. But still. I was found. Too freaky for me.

After finally deciding that I am still too much of a scaredy-cat to create a myspace page (yet, anyway), I was still attracted to the whole concept of myspace. I liked the idea of having a space where I can rant and rave as I please about whatever I please. So here I am, a newbie in the blogosphere of land owners.