These Things Need to Disappear in 2017

The year 2016 has definitely been a “WTF” year for me and for many people I know.  Some events floored me, others made me shake my head, but most of the big news stories of 2016 angered me—made me want to pack all my stuff and “go back to Africa”, as the white people say.  As I watch the year come to a close, there are some things I really hope don’t carry into 2017.

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  1. Cultural Appropriation

Marc Jacobs, a popular American fashion designer, caused an uproar when his white models marched down the runway in his Spring/Summer 2017 fashion show wearing locks in their hair.  His initial response to the backlash was “All who cry ‘cultural appropriation’ or whatever nonsense about any race or skin color wearing their hair in any particular style or manner-funny how you don’t criticize women of color for straightening their hair.”  Mr. Jacobs clearly lacks knowledge in the diversity department because people of color have all types of hair textures.  To use a style that is unique to Blacks and not use ONE Black model in the fashion show was a serious violation.

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Then we have these “boxer braids”, better known as cornrows.

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Baby hair or “slicked down tendrils” as Lucky Magazine called them.

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….Annnnddd this abomination, also known as Rachel Dolezal.  She’s been fairly quiet this year, and we, the people, would like to keep it that way in 2017.

 

See, cultural appropriation is not the same as cultural appreciation.  People of color are the originators of everything flavorful, so we understand why people would want to emulate our style.  However, stealing and renaming Black trends in an attempt to erase the history and claim them as your own isn’t going to go over so well—shame on the white media.

 

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  1. The Hunting of Black Bodies

Blacks are literally being hunted down by police officers.  Officials entrusted to uphold the law and conduct themselves responsibly have long been killing Blacks, but this year, a week didn’t go by that we didn’t hear about an innocent Black man or woman being gunned down by a racist, cowardly police officer.  Several instances were even caught on tape—people all over witnessed numerous Blacks being murdered in cold blood, for no reason at all.  It got so bad that it started to feel like a trend.  Traffic stops are now potential life or death situations.  We fear for our innocent children, that they will be gunned down by a uniformed coward for looking older or bigger than they should.  I was so sickened and saddened by this year’s events, and in 2017 it needs to stop—it better stop.  We are not wild game.  We will not accept being hunted.  I REPEAT, WE WILL NOT ACCEPT BEING HUNTED.

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  1. Pokémon GO and every other timely distraction

Every time a major social injustice issue arises, the media somehow introduces and glorifies its next big thing.  As a result, the same people who were enraged and planning a rally, protest, or some other necessary action end up with their faces in their phones aimlessly searching the streets trying to capture cartoon characters.  Don’t be distracted, friends.

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  1. Donald Trump

Every night I pray this nightmare will go away.  I still have hope that, somehow, he won’t make it into the White House in January.

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  1. White Tears

I know that 2016 has been devastating for white people.  The country is overrun by Blacks, Muslims, and Mexicans, the Blacks have practically ruined the White House, and now about half of you are being called racists for voting for and supporting a presidential candidate who has a history of racist business practices, inciting violence, groping women, talking about groping women, and using racial slurs.  I’d like to assure the whites that it will be ok—2017 will be your year!  So dry your tears; you won’t be a victim much longer.

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So, About Last Night…

Many of us know the details surrounding the horrors of slavery, Jim Crow, mass incarceration, the war on drugs (a.k.a. the war on Blacks), and institutional racism in America.  However, some were so deluded by the idea of America’s first Black president that they seem to have forgotten that this country was built on hate.  There are some who actually believed (and some who still do) in the existence of a post-racial America.  Though I don’t consider myself a part of this ingenuous group of citizens, I still, somehow, had hope that last night’s election would result in a win for the Democratic candidate.  It wasn’t so much that I wanted Hillary Clinton to win as I wanted hate to lose.  How naïve of me to believe, even briefly, that the same practices instrumental in constructing this “great country” would be the underdogs in this presidential race.  A platform filled with hate, bigotry, racism, prejudice, misogyny, homophobia & sexism prevailed because, sooner or later, America had to come full circle and revisit what made her tick in the first place.  America needed a serious purge of the message of hope that came with the election of a Black president, the sentiment of Black Power that comes from the Black Lives Matter Movement, and the false idea of the acceptance of diversity some held in this country, which is made up of so many cultures.  See, every once in a while, whiteness has to remind everyone who’s boss.

Over the past 8 years, white anger grew, and resulted in “whitelash”, a term coined just last night by activist and CNN commentator Van Jones.

“We don’t want to feel that someone has been elected by throwing away some of us to appeal more deeply to others.” -Van Jones

It was cute at first, electing the first Black president and all, but that bright-eyed newness has slowly turned into a white person’s worst nightmare—let’s call it a whitemare, in the spirit of coining terms.  Every time they turned on the TV they saw a Black man in power, speaking at press conferences, addressing large crowds, smiling, waving, breathing, addressing the issues of their country, as if he knows what it means to be an American; moreover, Beyoncé and Jay Z were always at the White House.  Then, to top it off, Black people had the nerve to complain and protest about being targeted and killed by the police—the nerve!  This isn’t what they signed up for; a Black president should equal Black contentment, right?  So they secretly and silently endorsed their great white hope.  Make America great again—yes!  Build a wall to keep out the “bad hombres”—yes!  Blacks and Hispanics are to blame for the nation’s violent crime—yes!  Muslims are terrorists, and terrorism has no place in this country—yes!  They knew all along that they were going to support Trump, but since explicit racism is no longer in style, they kept it a secret and feigned support for Hillary Clinton instead.

There seems to be a formula that America observes: whenever X amount of “minority” victories occur, no matter the magnitude, the follow-up is systematic whitelash.  Honestly, we should have seen this coming, but that doesn’t mean it should hurt any less.  Black people in this country have never been afforded the right to grieve, our mental health is a myth to whites.  Our superhuman bodies and otherworldly brains must make grief, despair, and hurt feelings inconceivable to the white bigot; they think this while simultaneously calling us “too sensitive” for speaking out about blatant injustices and inconsistencies of policies in this great country of theirs, but I digress.

Though I will keep pushing for greatness and will conduct my business as usual, not letting hate get the best of me, my feelings were hurt last night when they shouldn’t have been.  So stop smiling at me, America, just so you can stab me in the back.  Take notes from your new orange leader and tell me you hate me to my face.  Stop trying to disarm me with that fake tight-lipped grin and your fake interest in my Blackness served up with an under-seasoned side of micro-aggression.  Stop trying to convince me that we live in a post-racial society.  Back away from my children—I will raise them the way I see fit.  Keep your murderous police officers out of my community—we got this.

America, last night you were exposed to all those who forgot what a nasty woman you are.  Stay true to your colors, back up off me, and let me be great, because everything that makes you “great” has finally come out of hiding.  Congrats, girl!

#PressPlay Nooo 😩😩😩 via: @alldefdigital

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I Can’t (Comfortably) Send My Black Child to a White School

Growing up, I lived the Black middle class family dream.  My parents were (and still are) unapologetically Black, in every way possible.  In fact, Dead Mike’s song, “I’m Black Y’all”, from CB4 loops in my head every time I see one of them walk into a room.

 

My dad, a retired Baltimore City School teacher born in 1935, is super old school.  He marched with Dr. King, fought with Malcom X, and is an avid reader of the Honorable Minister Farrakhan.  He has seen, first hand, what many of us have only read excerpts about in history books.  Culture and travel were of great importance in my household; my parents believed these to be two of the main contributors to a great upbringing and fundamental to my development into a well-rounded Black woman.  We went to plays, operas, and every African American History Black Wax monumental memorial site on this side of the U.S.  My parents took me around the world on educational trips and showed me how people in other countries differ from Americans, who, according to them, aren’t as civilized as they think.  I was taught a different history lesson than what we learned in school—at a very young age, I learned that America was built on savagery.

 

My parents even had their own business—a photography studio at the Avenue Market on Pennsylvania Avenue, located in west Baltimore.  They chose this as their place of business because, even though we lived in the county at this time, they needed to be close to the community they grew up in.  At the time, there were no professional photography studios in the hood, so they built one.

 

I am very proud of my parents and the knowledge they instilled in me at an early age, but only seeing life through their Black-colored lenses, they did me a huge disservice.  They were so proud to be Black, and felt such a great sense of Black superiority that they forgot about white supremacy, and the way it’s ingrained into every aspect of American life.  My parents sent me to an all-girl’s prep school, and it went downhill from there. Now, I wouldn’t dare blame my parents for my downfalls, but I wasn’t ready for this; I wasn’t prepared.  They didn’t teach me this part of the game.

 

Maryvale Preparatory School for Girls has got to be the whitest place in the world.  There were about five Black people in the entire school, including me.  Throughout my four years there, from the 6th to 10th grades, I was always an outsider—singled out, never invited to sleepovers, always asked about my hair, asked how my parents could afford my tuition, got in trouble for the most trivial of things—the list can go on.  I was miserable.

 

See, my parents taught me the history of white supremacy, but never told me that it was still very prevalent.  I didn’t know that some white people, especially the adults, would actually bully a child because they are uncomfortable with having me in “their space”, a space they thought a little Black girl didn’t deserve to be in.  I was confused.  Unable to piece together what was happening in my life, I mistook their discomfort for my own inadequacy.  There was something wrong with me.  All these issues eventually led to my expulsion from school.  I labeled myself the “bad kid” and I was determined to live up to that title.  A series of unfortunate events followed and it took me 7 years to even begin to piece my life back together.  Clearly, one must understand all aspects of white fragility and white supremacy in order to move around it.

 

It’s easy to say that I’ll just be more supportive of my son and make sure no one is messing with him.  I’ll teach him about white supremacy, white discomfort and fragility, micro-aggressions, “accidental” racism, etc., which I fully intend to do, but it goes deeper than that.  There is something special and empowering about being around your own people, at least for me.  I want my son to feel the sense of belonging I never felt attending a predominately white school.  My being the “minority” was too much of a distraction for the faculty, staff, and students, and I did not get what I needed out of my education.  The psychological damage I experienced in school isn’t something I’m willing to expose my child to.  So, for now, he will be attending predominately Black schools.  Right now he’s still in pre-K, and attends a nice private school that is 60-70% Black, though the faculty and staff are about 95% white—but it’s a start.

 

In her article, “Dear White Racists, Apology Not Accepted”, Stacey Patton writes that a central facet of white supremacy is “denying innocence to Black children.”  Children, naïve and new to this world, should not be expected to undergo any type of abuse, especially at the hands of an adult.  What I experienced in prep school gave my antagonists great pleasure, and I’m sure they felt triumph following my expulsion.  Therefore, again, I refuse to expose my child to such fuckery.

 

Yes, I’m raising someone who will eventually become an intelligent Black leader, but today, tomorrow, and for years to come, he deserves my protection—white supremacy cannot have my baby.

SNL Finally Went There

I watched a Saturday Night Live skit yesterday that has been trending for a few days now.  The skit (possibly even more popular than the debate skits with Alec Baldwin and his much-too-accurate Donald Trump impression) was an episode of “Black Jeopardy.”  I don’t regularly watch SNL, but from my understanding, “Black Jeopardy”, featuring Darnell Hayes (Kenan Thompson) as the host, is a skit in which Black people play Jeopardy, answering questions that play on stereotypes in the Black community.  Some stereotypes that stood out to me were Black people’s inability to properly manage money, when a contestant elected to buy scratch-offs instead of placing her money into a 401K, as well as Black people’s love for the character “Madea.”

This particular episode featured Tom Hanks, an acclaimed actor and director, often described as the “nicest guy in Hollywood.”  Hanks, sporting a “Make America Great Again” cap played a rural, presumably lower-class white guy named Doug.  It was clear to me within the first two minutes of the show that this skit was an attempt by SNL to show how Blacks and non-elite whites are connected in more ways than they may think.  This is a concept I briefly touched upon in my earliest blog post when I explained the three-tiered caste system in America, established at the very beginning of slavery.  Elite whites are at the top tier, followed by poor whites, and Blacks, no matter the status are at the bottom.

This system is what separated indentured servitude from slavery—poor whites, though facing some form of oppression, were separated from their alliances formed with Blacks after Bacon’s Rebellion in order to further empower the elite whites and to ensure no further alliances were formed against them.  Poor whites were reminded of their superior advantage over Blacks solely based on their skin color and non-African roots.  Though the elite whites made them work for free and moved them to the mountains so they could have the rich land all to themselves, poor whites still considered Blacks to be the enemy.  We see this same thing occurring in present times.

The host and contestants were initially very unwelcoming toward Doug until he answered a question that seemed to “unify” everyone on the show.  In the category “They out here saying”, the answer was “The new iPhone wants your thumbprint ‘for your protection’”.  In a mumbled southern drawl, Doug answered “I don’t think so; that’s how they get ‘ya.”  The host, Darnell Hayes, seemed shocked that he and Doug, a white man wearing a Trump hat, could possibly share the same sentiment about conspiracies and hidden government agendas.  Doug then goes on to explain how he purchased the Madea box set at Walmart because he loves movies where he can “laugh and pray in 90 minutes.”  A little later in the show, Doug and Darnell bond over the fact that they both have a “guy” that fixes everything for a discount.  Then, Doug slipped up and said “you people”, but immediately gets a “pass”, presumably because he racked up enough cool points—how accurate!  The show ends with a new category, “Lives That Matter”.  Everyone looks sternly at Doug, and Darnell comments, “Well it was good while it lasted, Doug.”

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I can see why this skit has gained so much popularity.  In six minutes, SNL was able to accurately explain the complicated relationship between Blacks and poor whites in America.  The stereotypes between the two are extremely similar, and it shows that, while Blacks and whites in America are able to get along, race is one topic that will always divide us.  No matter how poorly white Americans are treated by the white elite, they will still support their agendas, agendas that may not even serve them, while completely separating themselves from Blacks and our agendas, such as Black Lives Matter, police brutality, and the boycott of the National Anthem.  It is clear that the three-tiered caste system in America isn’t going anywhere.

Dreaming of My Blunt Response to Subtle Racism

Today, I read an interesting article on Romper.com by a woman named Margaret E. Jacobson called “I Recorded the Racist Things People Said & Did to Me for 2 Weeks”.  During this two-week period, Margaret would tackle, head on, the daily micro-aggressions that white people aim at her.  A micro-aggression is a term used to describe subtle discrimination against another individual, particularly a minority, in the form of a clever comment or observation.  For example, when a white person comments on how shocked they are at your eloquence, or asks how you are able to afford an item when you make a big-ticket purchase, you can be certain that you have just been a victim of a micro-aggression.  I love how Margaret describes the term in her article as “racism, tucked right beneath the surface.”

For 14 days, Margaret’s experiment was to respond to micro-aggressions in the exact way they were aimed at her.  If someone touched her hair and commented that they didn’t expect it to be so soft, Margaret would, in turn, touch their hair and comment on the stringiness or oily texture.  It’s needless to say that by using this technique, Margaret was drained by the end of the experiment.  As I read her narrative, I wanted to shout, “You’re doing it wrong!”.  She speaks of her experience below:

“I don’t think it’s OK to speak to anyone in a way that’s demeaning, no matter what their race is, and the fact that I was just doing what had been done to me hung heavy on my heart. If I’m honest, I think that I’ll just go back to ignoring the things that people say and the way their words make me feel. It’s how I know to protect myself.”

I was so disappointed by the end of the article.  I really wanted Margaret to be more sagacious and assertive with her retorts instead of taking the passive-aggressive route; I wanted to celebrate a victory with her.  Instead, we both felt defeated by the time I’d reached the bottom of the page.  The results of Margaret’s experiment left me feeling so unfulfilled that I will attempt to conduct the same experiment over a 30-day period, but I will have to modify it a little.  Margaret’s experiment had no measurable results.  It seemed that her only goal was to gain the personal satisfaction of making white people equally as uncomfortable as they made her, which is great; but how does one measure that discomfort to determine the success of the experiment?

I’m going to alter Margaret’s experiment and call it a “quest”—a quest to educate people on “coming correct” when they speak to me and those who look like me.  There are times that I absolutely detest the efforts of some to educate whites on interacting with Black people because it excuses their racism for lack of knowledge and displaces the responsibility, shifting it from the oppressor to the oppressed.  Nonetheless, I feel that education, or at least a response, is necessary in this situation because I excuse and ignore these micro-aggressions more often than not, instead of opening up a dialogue and correcting my antagonists.  I usually encounter micro-aggressiveness at work, an environment where I constantly have to check and correct myself in order to keep my job, and I’m still grappling with whether this is conducive to my Blackness—it’s probably not.

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My mom once told me about an experience she had in Florida.  This story isn’t a solid example of a micro-aggressive comment, but her response made me chuckle.  We lived in central Florida in the early 90s, Seminole County to be exact—the place where Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager, was hunted and killed by a grown man who was found “not guilty” of the crime.  Anyway she worked at a Social Security Administration field office and a customer told her that the “other colored girl” had assisted him the last time he visited the office.  She replied, “And what color would that be?”  Whatever term one would use to describe the tone of my mom’s response is what I want to use while on my one-month quest to respond to micro-aggressions, right before I correct and educate a person on why they should never, ever say [insert stupid, subtly racist comment here] to me or any Black person again.

Overall, I’m excited, as was Margaret, to embark upon this journey.  I would like to feel more empowered when interacting with ignorance sprinkled with racism instead of shutting down in order to keep my short, explosive temper at bay.  I am more than capable of handling micro-aggressions with a shrewd response, and should give myself more credit and a chance to do so.  So, here goes nothing!  I will set out to conquer and educate these small-minded racists once and for all, and will be sure to share all the juicy details in an upcoming post.  Get your lemonade ready!

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Freddie Gray Didn’t Exist to the Other Baltimore, but the Soldiers Were Pretty Cool

I’ve been fairly uninspired and unamused by everything this past week.  Every time I get into my sporadic funks, I try to identify the source in order to help me work through my mood.  I’ve been out of work for a little over a month due to some health issues and today is the day I am supposed to return—Bingo!  My issue is that I don’t want to go back to work.

I’ve been a professional makeup artist for about six years and a licensed esthetician (skincare specialist) for three.  Working for one of the largest cosmetics brands in the world is both exciting and rewarding, and the perks seem endless.  Every day, my coworkers and I come to work all dolled up with what feels like 5 pounds of makeup strategically placed on our faces, necks, and sometimes décolletés so we can be sure to receive ample compliments throughout the day, which result in sales; looks sell!  Unfortunately, with the notion that human worth is dependent upon how physically attractive one is perceived (or how well one can get their makeup to transform their appearance), some of my coworkers have developed a condescending attitude when it comes to customers in need of makeup tips and skincare advice.

My job is located in a yuppie section of Baltimore City, close to the Inner Harbor and even closer to one of the largest housing authorities in the city.  Last spring, during the Freddie Gray protests, I became disgusted with the neighborhood.  Freddie Gray was a 25-year-old Black man and resident of Baltimore City who was severely injured in police custody while being transported in a police van.  Mr. Gray succumbed to his injuries a week later, igniting a series of protests and arrests.

The national guard came out in droves, and stood around for weeks so the residents and patrons would feel safe from the “dangerous rioters and looters” the media had warned them of.  People took pictures with the uniformed, armed saviors, struck up long conversations, and really enjoyed their company.  Business owners and employees even partook in the fun since business was down due to the city’s unrest.  It seemed that no one cared that a young man who was arrested for having switchblade in his possession was fatally injured while being arrested by six police officers.  When I looked out the window of my store, I saw people who were truly unbothered.  It was almost like they were celebrating.  These people will never know what it is like to be targeted by the police, nor will they ever have the fear that one of their beautiful Black children will be gunned down for “looking like a grown man”.

They live and shop blocks from a neighborhood where everyone is a target, but they refuse to believe that their next-door neighbors in the projects even exist.  These people walk around aimlessly, spending their days (and their paychecks) at Whole Foods and their nights at the taco bar while others are literally fighting for their neighborhoods and their lives.  I resent the fact that I have to interact with and service those who view my people as thugs that deserve to be killed because of the color of their skin.  Some customers place their money on the counter instead of placing it in my hand; some comment on how surprised they are that they were able to have such a pleasant interaction with me.  So, in conclusion, I cannot wait for work this evening!  (Major eye roll.)

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