Posts Tagged ‘race’

I went to bed with a heavy heart last night, virtually unable to tell my remote control to shut down the television and resist enigmatic pull of Anderson Cooper and all the madness exploding in Ferguson, Missouri. I even took a shower, convinced that by the time I exited the hot steam and poured myself my favorite glass of milk, it would all be winding down.

It was not.

Amidst videos of people pouring iced water over their heads, a darker tragedy of a volatile nature has reemerged. As Chris Blow, a political commentator for CNN and reporter for the New York Times mentioned yesterday, the nation has essentially been simmering on this issue of race relations, and as previous tragedies have intimated, the pot is preparing to boil over. Trayvon Martin’s tragic situation and the trial that followed, along with other instances around the country, coupled with the immigration beast issues have created a maelstrom of seething anger and divisiveness in the United States.

How will this country withstand so much happening on the homefront, whilst President Obama deals with assaults from Republicans AND all the Middle East issues looming larger each day? Is our African American president really crippled as many seem to think, when it comes to taking a stand on the treatment of Black people in America? I don’t think so. I believe that there is still time for Obama to make his mark in his last years as president, especially since he cannot be reelected. He still has time to shed the politically correct cloak he’s been wearing and roll up his sleeves.

Nevertheless, my milk didn’t taste as delicious as it usually does as I saw the instigators and rabble-rousers manage to achieve their malicious intent to disrupt peaceful protestors and incite the authorities in Ferguson to use their riot tactics before I heaved a sigh and shut it down for the night.

This is another incident where everybody loses. Michael Brown, clearly a lost youth heading down the unfortunate but all too prevalent path towards a jail cell, was breaking the law with petty foolishness and lost any chance he had to live a productive and satisfying life by being gunned down unnecessarily. My partner says he should have been playing football somewhere, using his strength productively, perhaps on a scholarship somewhere. That’s how Mike Tyson got a chance to get off the streets and use his natural talents proactively. But he had mentors and people who snatched him up and steered him towards a better life.

The police officer who shot Mr. Brown also lost, because he is probably going to face charges for this recklessness on his part and his life will never be the same again. I don’t believe he started his shift that day with the intent to “take a nigger down” as someone told me recently. It seems like this situation escalated on knee-jerk reactions, some of it based on the young man’s size and combined with adrenaline, led to an unfortunate end. Clearly police protocol and sufficient back-up personnel were not in place as this nightmare unfolded so rapidly.

From the perspective of humanity, not race factors, both these men have lost their lives.

But who am I? I’m not the mother who lost a son, or the cop who is probably watching everything he had ever hoped for get flushed down the toilet. I’m not even the relative of either of these men.

I am however, the partner and lover of a Black man, who stares racial discrimination in the face every day. I am the mother of two bi-racial girls, girls who I would give my life for, who I fiercely try to protect from a Southern environment where they are judged instantly by White people. Yesterday, for instance, we went to the library and my daughter in her excitement to get in the door, exclaimed that when she grew up she wanted to own her own library (I laughed) because she wanted to be able to walk up and down the aisles and be able to read any book she wanted. For the three of us the online card catalogue is a shrine and we love searching for books that interest us. Sadly, the computer database was down yesterday and we moped over to the librarian at the counter, who was happily smiling at the lady in front of us in line and helping her with her search. When it was our turn however, the librarian’s smile was nonexistent and her answer to our questions were curt and dismissive. Condescending, as though our brown skin would somehow infiltrate the books entrusted in her care.

At a base level, I wanted to leap over the counter and shake her fat face, kick her in her fat ass and tell her, “Do you know who I am??? I have an IQ triple those of you and your whole entire redneck family. I was born and raised in New York City and can crush you. I have defied stereotypes and paid my way through college, survived abuse and given birth to six beautiful, intelligent children. Don’t you dare speak to us this way!”

But my upbringing and my education squelched my baser instincts and forced me to square my shoulders, check myself and enunciate extra carefully to this small-minded librarian our needs.

As the mother of two beautiful brown-skinned intelligent young ladies, and a woman who loves fiercely this strong, proud Black man, who has served his country, educated himself, and is striving to protect and provide for his family, I am a woman who worries.

Ultimately, I also carry guilt because as an educator who has taught in inner city schools and seen the hopelessness prevalent in these teenagers — as I once devoted my life to doing — I feel I should be back on those front lines. I should be using my degree and teaching license to serve those who really need someone to give a damn about them because I firmly believe that education is the key to rising above tragic situations like Michael Brown’s. Education is the key to bringing communities together, to working towards a better life. When you are educated about men like Ghandi, and study cultures who historically have faced adversity through sticking together, then they can inspire revolutions of hope and maybe, just maybe African Americans can begin the process of breaking the hard-wired chains of slavery that still linger generationally and keep them from realizing their true strength and power as human beings.

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My second child is an excellent server in a restaurant called Outback Steakhouse, while she is attending college.  She has a great value for customer service and takes great care of all her patrons.  She shared a story with me on Sunday night after her shift which has been stuck in my mind ever since, and it resonates with the problems as I see them, among minority students in this country.

My daughter had a party of ten coming in and one person in the party was what I tend to call, “the angry Black woman.”  She was angry at the world, angry at my child for some imaginary slight she perceived that was perpetrated against her in another life perhaps.  Using my finely honed Criminal Minds skills, based on my daughter’s description of her, she clearly felt the world owed her something too, because she wanted to make sure she got “extra” of everything Outback offered its patrons, i.e. extra bread, honey butter, not regular butter, extra extra dressing, and croutons, and cheese, and more extra dressing on her house salad, which was her dinner.  This in itself was surprising because she weighed at least 300 pounds.

She ordered a frozen margarita and when my daughter placed it on the table, demanded to know where the bread was.  Then she went outside to take a call.  When she returned, the margarita was no longer frozen and naturally, that was my daughter’s fault.  She yelled at her, “What’s this?  I ordered a FROZEN margarita.  This ain’t no frozen margarita!”

To which my daughter explained, “It was frozen when I brought it to you.”  Probably not a good idea, but she wanted to let the lady know that she did order the correct drink, and it was a warm restaurant and science can explain the rest.

Well, that was the end of an otherwise lovely evening.  Not only did that woman proceed to make my daughter’s life a living hell, she ruined the dinners of all the patrons north, south, east, and west of her loud mouth.  The rest of the party said absolutely nothing, some of them her own children.  One has to wonder, who would impregnate such a horror show?

So, after misery and embarrassment, my daughter finally brings the woman her portion of the check (yes, separate checks are Satan’s creations) and on the check it offers the suggested tip, as it is protocol for a party of eight or more.  The woman threatened my daughter with, “Do you like your job?” and “How long have you been working here?” and “I need to see a manager right away.”

Then she proceeded to ream the manager out, a young guy no older than 30, for at least twenty minutes.  She yelled and cursed obscenities at him in stereotypical “angry Black woman” fashion.

Other patrons in the vicinity of this verbal onslaught had complained to the same manager throughout my daughter’s hellish experience with this woman and told him how horribly the abusive woman was treating her.  My daughter is a tiny little thing and avoids confrontations at all costs.  She was determined not to let that woman defeat her and see her cry.  The woman wanted all the owner’s contact information and assured them, and the entire restaurant that she would be in communication with the owner immediately Monday morning and that my daughter would no longer have her job once she was done with her.

Beyond all the disgust I felt, and the ugliness of the entire debacle, the thought running through my head was, “What were those kids thinking and feeling and absorbing from watching their mother’s antics?”

Would they grow up to be just like mom? Would the daughters become angry Black women, feeling the same sense of entitlement in a world that owes them nothing?

I don’t know what the woman’s problem was, and as it was definitely not an episode of “What Would You Do?” as John Quinones did not come out with a camera crew at any point, it ended with a gut-wrenching, nerve-rattling, slightly bad taste left in the mouths of all those involved, along with the witnesses.

So what is it about minority cultures such as the Black one, that keeps them from performing equally or better than their White and Asian counterparts in the arena of education?  Marilyn Rhames, an educator and journalist, wrote an article in an EdWeek Teacher blog discussing the “myths” of education in America, based upon an article by Michael Lind.

I don’t know who Michael Lind is, but he contends that America’s claim that the public schools are failing is all a lie perpetrated by those who want vouchers and more money.  Further, he wrote that there is only 35% of America’s students who are failing  in public schools, namely Black and Latino students, and they are the guilty ones who are pulling down America’s schools.

Lind also argues in his article, that those Blacks and Latinos are “poor or culturally damaged.”

Here’s the entire article, so you can read Rhaymes’ counter to Lind’s assertions:

http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/charting_my_own_course/2012/08/reforming_the_myths_about_american_public_schools.html

Do you think Johnny can’t read because he’s black or poor, or both?

Well, I can’t buy the poor factor.  Yes, poverty is a huge challenge, but other countries, third world countries, dusty, dry countries, where resources are even scarcer than the worst project in the Bronx, these countries don’t let poverty stop them from giving their children a desire, a spark, something that ignites them into knowing that they will get out of their poverty through their education.

It’s a cultural thing.  My very black spouse tells me every time I try to debate educational theories to him, “It starts at home, with the parents.”  Thus, if we operate from this premise, than whether rich or poor, resources or no resources, parents have the ability to instill a love of learning and work ethic for education to their children.

In the Black communities where I have taught, the kids were the same.  Their conversations were focused on celebrities and athletic superstars, not on the essay they wrote the night before, or the book their mothers read to them.  And I don’t want to hear the stale mantra about single mothers having to work two jobs and being unavailable to read to their kids.  First of all, I was a single mother, and I raised four of my six children on my own.  I taught all day and most nights (not every one) I would snuggle up with them and read whatever they wanted to read.  Secondly, it’s more than just a kid reading.

Kids need to witness their parents reading, wanting to read, finding it interesting.

So, it all returns to the home as I have been told so often.

The culture that surrounds Blacks and Hispanics is about booty-shaking, half-naked women, money throwing, saggy pants wearing and women-chasing men.  As I have said before, I don’t care how many foundations Ludacris supports and funds now with his millions.  If he keeps perpetuating a superficial, demeaning product (his music) than little girls will want to grow up to be big sluts, little boys will want to grow up to be wanna be thugs, who don’t value the magic and nurturing abilities of women, and the “minority problem” will remain the same.  Girls will grow up wanting to use the assets between their legs and dangling from their torso, figuring it might make them rich and famous one day if they shake it to the left just right.  Boys will be convinced making it rain is their goal and they’re all going to get into the NBA and NFL and have the fancy cars and latest booze in their hands.

And White people will continue to look at and treat minorities in a condescending fashion, will try to escape to the neighborhoods where there are no minorities, and they will move as soon as the minorities move in and the chase will go on and on.  The blame will continue to fall on the minorities, regardless of the thousands and thousands who do work hard and succeed academically and professionally.

At Outback, even the Black servers were trying to console my daughter after angry black woman left.  They said people like her make all Black people look bad.  My partner just shook his head and muttered, “My people, my people…we have so much farther to go…”