Friday, July 19, 2013

Don't Let Racists Scare the Faith Out of You


I've dropped a few tears here and there during this entire Travyon Martin tragedy. But tonight it got unexpectedly ugly. The breakdown I had is the kind you only want to have alone, where no one can see just how out of control you are. What, you ask, can trigger this level of despair in a recovering control freak such as myself?

These vile racist social media posts about President Obama's commentary on Trayvon Martin and racism. 

What terrifies me is the very real possibility that sometime in her life, my beautiful, smart and witty child may encounter one of these people and have to be wise enough to free herself from a life-threatening situation. Can I teach her to observe and listen for the nuances in approach, body language, conversation, and environment to recognize when she's dealing with such a person - especially if they are not so obvious in their warped perspective?

What are my qualifications to instill in her these necessary skills? I didn't march with Dr. Martin Luther King like my mother, or fight and sue for civil rights like my grandfather, or face frequent racial strife like my elders or even my contemporaries who grew up in more challenging situations than me.


The shortened life of Trayvon Martin and the powerful national conversation that is escalating via Obama's commentary has forced me to take stock of my own "privileged" experienced. I've had a few uncomfortable conversations and encounters about race with people who didn't look like me. But I can't say that I ever felt I was in danger of bodily harm. And that is certainly a blessing.

But I am concerned that even if we - me, her father, and those experienced elders we enlist to help - do our best to educate my daughter, will learning those skills protect her?

These hateful comments shook me to my core - so much so that they almost scared the faith right up out of me. But that's when I started to pray - in the midst of that soul-crushing fear. Listen, I'm not a preachy person or a Bible thumper. There's lots of spiritual work I need to do. And I don't think that Christianity is the only way for everybody. But honestly, I would just be lost without my faith because I don't know everything and I am not in control. Just like many of you, when I send my child off to school, camp, dance, chess, whatever- I hope and pray she's there, safe and happy when I pick her up.

Raising a child of color in this world littered with every kind of landmine imaginable can be frightening.  So parents, people, don't let racists - or any dangerous folks - scare the faith out of you. In the battle between faith and fear, let the former win. And don't beat yourself up for having a crisis of faltering faith. Embrace your humanity and you'll recognize and appreciate it in others, which hopefully can diffuse scary situations.

As always, keep Enjoyceingife. It's a gift.



Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Fair Vs. Light-Skinned


After I used the word “fair" to describe black women who had light brown complexions, an interesting conversation developed in my office today about the usage of the terms “fair" and “light-skinned."
After a 15-minute discussion, our group of a half-dozen women from mid-30s to mid-70s and of various shades (cream to cocoa) realized that our perceptions and reactions to the uses of these terms were based in our age, experience and region of upbringing in the United States. Even the etymologies of the words and the influence of how our parents used them were explored.
This was an excellent, positive and understanding conversation. I wish more complex subjects were explored in this manner. We enjoyed, appreciated and honored each other’s opinions. And then, we went back to work. 

I hope you're Enjoyceinglife in all it's wonderful shades! #WordsMatter

Monday, July 15, 2013

Parenting Advice: What to do when someone pulls a gun on you....


Three hours after the Trayvon Martin verdict was delivered, I finally remembered that a gun had been pulled on me once. At my front door. By a police officer.

I'd called to report a break in that happened while I was upstairs in the home I own in a working-class, all-black neighborhood. While I was preparing for bed, an intruder had removed a screen and opened a window to enter into my kitchen downstairs. When the alarm went off he apparently fled (though not immediately). Thanking God that my child was not in the house, I was afraid to come downstairs. After waiting for 20 minutes on hold with 911 on my landline, I dialed emergency services on my cell. Forty minutes later, with both phones to my ears, I answered the door.

An African-American police officer had his gun pointed at me. I don't remember the conversation. I do remember being frozen in my PJs and night hat, not wanting to move a muscle, and answering "Yes, sir" and "No, sir" to his questions. Much later I wondered if he really could have thought that I was the intruder. And just now I'm wondering what his experience must have been like policing a relatively high crime neighborhood for him to respond to a breaking and entering call by aiming his gun at the person whose doorbell he rang. 

I have a habit of blocking out - submitting to self-imposed amnesia - traumatic events in my life. Lots of high school experiences, along with that night with the policeman and his frightening gun, live somewhere locked inside my subconscious. Those imprisoned memories escape sometimes when they are unleashed by emotional occurrences that render my defenses useless. 

Yes. I could probably use some (more) therapy.

 

This Trayvon verdict triggered a prison break - jogged a purposefully banished memory of my own interaction with someone who'd pointed a gun at me. Someone who looked like my brother. It's still fuzzy, but whatever my reaction was to this threat, I survived it because of any and all of the following: God's protection, my parents' coaching, my common sense, the policeman's effectiveness and maybe even luck. I'm thankful for all. 

But I'm also scared, saddened and disappointed that I and every other parent of a child of color - especially those raising black boys - has to teach their children what to do if someone means to do them harm because of the color of their skin and their gender. 

I'm smart and I'm not naive. But I honestly was not thinking I'd have to hammer this point home as hard as my parents did with me and especially my brother in the eighties. 

I'm up for the challenge and the responsibility because 1. It's the cost of parenting a black child, and 2. I really don't have a choice. You have to teach these hard lessons and pray, pray, pray to God that the stars align and your child will live to thrive, be happy, pursue their passion, and make a difference in this world. 


I was all twisted up inside tonight listening to MSNBC commentator Joy Reid, an African American parent of two sons age 11 and 13, discuss what to tell her children about the verdict. Her pre-teen son actually asked her what he should do if someone was following him and I identified with her feeling of helplessness as she struggled to come up with an answer. 

I also identified with my mother's response to the verdict: "I'm in total sadness, and motherly grief." As a parent, I was immediately moved by her words. The level of parental grief felt by Trayvon's parents must be a powerful hurt scraping the depths of their souls. I don't know how they bear the loss of him or this verdict. 


Parenting in general is no joke. In my book there is no more important and rewarding responsibility you can undertake. Some of the most serious parenting lessons that black parents MUST teach their children are those about how to be safe in this racially charged society. I think having to have these hard discussions makes some of us stronger, but they can also be damaging to our spirits. 

Race matters, people. It always has. And I don't see it changing in my lifetime or that of my daughter's. So to stay encouraged and vigilant, we have to keep ourselves around positive people, influences and organizations who are committed to justice, #Justice4Trayvon and everyone.

Listening to this panel on the Melissa Harris Perry Show discussing what it means to raise black children today, I am more conscience than ever of the need to stay engaged, active and prayed up. Because, like several of my Facebook friends who posted about arming their sons with a list of what to do when pulled over by the police, I have to be thorough in preparing my child for the dangerous situations she'll probably encounter.

Below is an article where a parent discusses how he is continually educating his black son about staying safe in this world.  Please share what you're teaching the children you parent, as well as the actions you're taking to stay positive, effect change, and continue Enjoyceinglife. 

Peace. 




Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Guess how long it took for women tennis players to get equal pay at Wimbledon?


Nearly 40 years. From 1968 to 2007. From activist-athletes Billie Jean King to Venus Williams. That's how long it took for women tennis players to receive equal awards for winning Wimbledon.


If you get a chance to watch the fabulous documentary "Venus VS," directed by wonderful filmmaker Ava DuVernay and airing on ESPN, you will be moved. King's and Williams' brave stances and activism resulted in a groundbreaking change in women's rights that took entirely too long to come to fruition. The film, part of ESPN Film's Nine for IX series, chronicles the important physical, emotional, traumatic and socio-political challenges that Williams faced and overcame during her rise to the pinnacle of women's tennis. It was just riveting. I learned so much. 


Here are a few tweets I sent during the premiere via @Enjoyceinglife

"'Venus VS' came from Venus' ultimate game - & her relationship to ."-filmmaker

Why does it take so long 4 people 2 recognize there should b equality across the board?-filmmaker on

How must it feel 2 b 1 of those 1999 male tennis players watching urself saying women players should b happy being paid less?

I think we are in a bygone era of athletes & activism...branding & endorsements discourage that. -  dir.


Wow. RT : RT : 2013 marks the first without since 1996.

: How has the world of sports changed 4women over time? & sit down w/




See a preview of the documentary here. And keep Enjoyceinglife!

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