Browsing Tag

racism

Guest Posts, motherhood, Race/Racism

Warnings For My Sons.

February 24, 2015

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By Seema Reza.

The first time I read about the murder of Tamir Rice, a 12 year old boy shot by Cleveland police for waving a toy gun at a playground, I tell my sons, eight and fourteen, to pause the television. We are watching a show called Once Upon a Time, based on fairy tale characters who are dealing with the ultimate curse: reality. I read them the whole article, word for word, from the link I clicked on my Facebook feed. I read them Tamir Rice’s father’s words, “He didn’t know what he was doing. He was only twelve.”

They pay attention to my words in the way they do only when I am telling them something in this tone of voice–a voice I cannot fake–the scared quivering that sounds like a squint. We are cramped on the couch in the apartment we moved to when I left their father, our legs piled on top of one another. The television is paused on one or another fair-skinned, flowing-haired heroine. On this show, every rescue emerges from doing the easily identified right thing, every curse is broken by the everlasting magic of true love.   Continue Reading…

Abuse, Binders, Guest Posts, Race/Racism

A Glossary of Ambiguous Terms for Difficult Situations.

February 5, 2015

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By Laurence Dumortier.

Cocksure (adj.):

In September I arrive in Italy for my Junior Year Abroad thinking I know a thing or two about life. I have had two “big” relationships, each lasting about two years. I’ve had sex a lot, mostly with my boyfriends, but also a few weird one-night stands. I’ve also been hurt, and this makes me feel tough. I’ve been alone since the summer and liking it. I don’t need anyone. I just want to learn Italian, eat with abandon, drink it all in.

In truth I know nothing about a million things—including love and sex—I just don’t know that I don’t know them.

Infatuation (n.):

When I first meet Arthur he seems shy but friendly, and with a winning smile.

Everything feels new and exciting, though, so there isn’t a lot of excitement left over for boys. I’m more intrigued by my flat-mate Carolyn. She seems even more knowing than I think I am. She grew up in New York; she is knowledgeable about art; she studies film and semiotics and in an argument she can make her point with deadly accuracy; she is on the tail end of a painful breakup and looking for distraction; she is devastatingly funny and beautiful. I don’t know it yet but she will become, and remain to this day, one of my closest friends and co-conspirators.

Tight (adj.):

There is a lot of drinking in Italy, but it feels joyous and grown-up. We make dinner in our tiny Italian kitchens and though we are inexpert, it all somehow ends up tasting delicious. It’s hard to go wrong with tomatoes and zucchini and whatever is in season, all ripened to bursting, glorious with flavor, picked up from the little fruit-and-vegetable man down the block.

Our little group of Junior-Yearers is intimate and funny. It feels safe somehow to flirt, to laugh, to begin new adventures. There are a few outliers in the group, doing their own thing, but there is no hostility, we are chill.

Thirst (n.):

On Halloween we dress up. This is over twenty years ago in Italy, in a town with few Americans or Brits, so Halloween is just our little group. We party. I end up on the balcony of one of the flats with Arthur. We are kissing and it is surprisingly, electrifyingly, good. Back in his bedroom we take off our clothes. I notice his body which is beautiful and strong in a way I never knew I would care about. His beauty, and his interest in my body, the way he looks at me, makes me feel beautiful too. I have never felt that way before, I’ve always thought of myself as okay, cute-ish, verging on ugly at times. It is a strange thing to feel beautiful. In his bed, his face, which had earlier struck me as pleasant, looks beautiful too. It’s like love at first sight, except we’ve been exchanging pleasantries for months.

In the next weeks we spend whole days curled up in bed together, laughing, fucking, sleeping, listening to music. I feel like I’m on the drugs. The feel of his skin under my fingertips is like that weird velvety buzz of being on X. Continue Reading…

Fatherhood, Guest Posts, healing, parenting

How To Parent On A Night Like This.

November 25, 2014

 

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By Carvell Wallace

My son is home from school. He stays in bed while I take his little sister to her 4th grade class. He watches about 8 hours of television. I have to work. We watch Skyfall together in the morning. The violence is a little beyond what I would normally allow, but something about a father and son watching a spy thriller together…I can’t resist. A Final Showdown at the Scottish Manor. Helicopters and explosions. Cars with semi automatics in the headlights. Sawed off shotguns.

I pick my daughter up at 3:30 while he stays at home. I take her to the grocery. We talk about persimmons and how to tell if they’re ripe. She asks me how I decide which chicken to buy. I explain about air-chilled, and free-range, and grain fed, and hormone free. I realize that I don’t actually understand “air chilled.” I send her clear across the store to go find peanut oil. She does. I am impressed.

In the car, she asks about her brother. I tell her he’s home alone. She is quiet for a few more minutes. Then she tells a story of the time her mother went to the store and left them home alone. And they heard a sound. An explosion of a kind. And her older brother started panicking, telling her it was gunshots, telling her to close the blinds and hide on the floor. And how she became terrified and FaceTimed Mommy from her iPad. And Mommy tried to calm her down, but eventually came right home, leaving a cart filled with groceries in the aisle.

Helicopters are already circling downtown.

She tells me that she now knows that they were overreacting. That it was probably fireworks. It didn’t sound like real gunshots. She’s heard real gunshots. They happened one afternoon while she was playing on the schoolyard. The teachers told them to run inside and they didn’t even have to line up. That’s how she knew it was serious.

We come back home and the kids are reunited. Rare is the day that one has school and the other doesn’t. They are so used to being together in the same cars on the same schedule, even at different schools, that when they see each other, there is awkwardness. They want to check in. If they were adults, they might say “how was your day?” and “I missed you!” But they are not adults. So they argue about who is the worst teacher at the elementary school, and then reminisce about funny episodes of sitcoms that they’ve watched. She quizzes him on his menu, keen to make sure that he didn’t get an ice cream or a cookie on his day off. She’s always keeping track of things like this. Everything must be even.

Grand Jury Decision is expected to be read at 8pm CST.

She begins her homework. He watches vaguely racist and sexist youtube videos.

I make her a snack of plain yogurt and granola.

Rumors are starting to spread that there will be no indictment.

I already know there will be no indictment. I’ve been a black man in America for a long time.

The house is quiet, everyone engrossed in their screens. I am agitated. Scrolling social media, lead in the pit of my stomach.

We’ve been here before. As a family.

We are black people in Oakland. We talk about race a lot. We talk about gender a lot. We discuss transphobia and homophobia a lot. We discuss capitalism and civil rights a lot. We’ve heard helicopters and chants and seen the streets burn. We’ve been to protests. We’ve held signs and played drums. We’ve had our car broken into and our heart-covered backpack and pink size 3 trench coat stolen from the front seat on the first night of Occupy. We’ve driven past armies of cops in riot gear in our minivan. We’ve been here before. We are black people in Oakland. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts

To Be Made Whole.

November 5, 2014

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By Melissa Chadburn.

My weight fluctuates a lot— I’d say I gain and lose between 20 and 30 lbs. every year. I think there is a story my body is trying to tell. I think perhaps my body is storing too much pain at times.

The things that weigh on me:

The time I wanted back in with my foster family— so I met my foster parents at their job at the ad agency and gave them a presentation on why they should let me come back. The presentation was complete with ways I would financially contribute to the household, and ways that I would be good, and how no one would hardly notice me.

I only ever hit my mother once. It was a reflex. She was in a wild angered frenzy and threw a T-shirt at me. It had my favorite Superman button on it. A metal button the size of a cheeseburger. Somehow the weight of it landed on my nose and I bled. The shock of it all— my crying the blood, she ran to me, full of remorse. The second she was close I socked her in the stomach. Her face, the face she showed me, is the one that haunts me. My face and her face are so similar that the punishment is simple, it’s the look I give myself when I think no one likes me or that I’ve done wrong. Continue Reading…

Fatherhood, Guest Posts, Inspiration, Truth

Now Is An Uncomfortable Place To Be. By Carvell Wallace.

September 29, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-blackBy Carvell Wallace. 

Sometimes I have dreams where I wake up crying. Intensely. Childishly. These are dreams about a broken heart. Usually at the end of a love affair.

But last night I dreamt about Ferguson. We were there. My kids and I. There were railroad tracks. Singing. Candles and crepuscular bands of light silhouetting black bodies against the sky. I don’t remember what happened, but in the dream we failed. Somehow we failed. And I was wailing alone like a motherless child.

I kinda stopped posting about Ferguson or about police. Because there’s so much. So many unarmed people shot, killed, and beaten by police. I mean, we’re all kind of scrolling past now, aren’t we? Video shows police shoot unarmed man. Video shows suspect had his hands up. Video contradicts police story, Man in wheelchair beaten by police. See the shocking video. Woman kicked in the face by police. Pregnant woman slammed to ground by police. See the shocking video. Police arrest woman waiting for her children to use the bathroom, Police taze man waiting for his daughter to get out of daycare. See the shocking video. Police shoot man for following the directions The Police gave him. My feed would be 100% this. There would no longer be a Carvell. Just post after post after post to prove that it matters. That it’s happening and it matters. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts

Jumping To Conclusions & Racism. By Amy Roost.

July 26, 2013

 Jumping To Conclusions & Racism. By Amy Roost.

In remarks he made last Friday in response to the George Zimmerman verdict in Florida, President Obama asked to us all to “do some soul-searching…be a little bit more honest,”  and ask of ourselves “am I wringing as much bias out of myself as I can? Am I judging people as much as I can, based on not the color of their skin, but the content of their character?”

That very same night…

I was picnicing with friends at a concert in the park when I noticed a black man with a beautifully sculpted physique. As I admired him, I caught myself thinking “he must be a professional athlete”. I say “caught myself” because I recognized the thought was a stereotype and knew that had the man been white, I probably would have thought something more along the lines of “he must work out a lot.”

When George Zimmerman saw a black boy wearing a hoodie walking through a neighborhood that had experienced a spate of break-ins, he thought to himself “he must be a criminal”. Unfortunately, for Trayvon Martin, Zimmerman did not catch himself.

Because most stereotypes have a kernel of truth to them, they can be useful shortcuts for making sense of the world around us. But as anyone who has ever spent time cooking knows, shortcuts can sometimes lead to disastrous outcomes.

Prior to my parents adopting me, they adopted Rebecca, who they discovered–weeks after bringing her home from the hospital–was half black. For years I’ve wondered how my father and our family minister could have argued for returning Rebecca to the adoption agency and how my mother could have capitulated.

All these years later, I’m beginning to understand. It’s bad enough that people stereotype an adoptee; it would have been even more difficult to have been the brother, mother or father of a half black child in an all white suburb of Chicago in 1961. I see now my father was not just being callous. He was also being realistic, trying to protect us from prejudice that would have surely come our way.

We’re still struggling with the issue of racism in this country, and many of us still can’t assimilate a biracial family into our world view as evidenced by a recent Cheerios television ad depicting just such a family and causing so much invective on Cheerios’ YouTube channel that the comments section had to be turned off.

Directly on the heels of the Cheerios ruckus came news of a man in Virginia who was questioned by police for allegedly kidnapping children from a Walmart. The children were biracial. Turned out the children were also his.

These types of incidents are what my father feared would be directed at his family. His antennae were no doubt much more sensitively attuned to the potential for the destructive impact of prejudice having lost nine of ten aunts and uncles in the Holocaust. He learned the hard way that common sense and goodness do not always prevail over hatred and evil.

Stung by the loss of Rebecca and seeking redemption for her complicity, my mother became active in the Civil Rights movement. She made headlines in Deerfield, IL leading picket lines at a de facto segregated housing development, and later marched in Selma, AL alongside Martin Luther King. Until now, I’d scored her as the winner, and the brave one in the family’s drama. And she was brave indeed.  I saw my father as the loser in this exchange and the coward.  Maybe I was wrong.

Now that I have the wisdom to understand the complexities of the situation, I ask myself what if my parents had kept Rebecca rather than returning her to be placed in another home. For starters, my older brothers probably would have been teased and called names. My mother would have been the recipient of scornful sideways glances in the grocery store. Rebecca would likely have been shunned and bullied and possibly accosted by a neighborhood watch patroller. My father would possibly have lost business, and certainly face, in his community.

As a parent myself, I “get” why my father didn’t want to serve as a civil liberties test case that early in the game.  It would have been a rough uphill battle even today let alone then. I also “get” why my mother lost something of herself when she lost Rebecca, and why she went looking for it as a Freedom Rider.

I’m saddened that as a society we’ve not come farther in the past half century. That we are still jumping to conclusions about others based on the color of their skin. I’m ashamed to admit I still occasionally catch myself resorting to coarse stereotypes as shortcuts in my own life. My hope is that the Trayvon Martin case will teach us all to pay closer attention to our own reflexive assumptions about others and begin to take the high road even if it’s not the shortest route.

 

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Her multi-dimensional suchness, Amy Roost, is a freelance writer, book publicist, legal and medical researcher, and vacation rental manager. She and her husband are the authors of “Ritual and the Art of Relationship Maintenance” due to be published later this year in a collection entitled Ritual and Healing: Ordinary and Extraordinary Stories of Transformation (Motivational Press). Amy is also Executive Director of Silver Age Yoga Community Outreach (SAYCO) which offers geriatric yoga teacher certification, and provides yoga instruction to underserved seniors.

Click here to connect with Amy.