what color am i?

Ever since I was a kid I classified myself as black, even though I was generally socialized in a white world, because my skin was is unmistakably brown. I figure, race in this country (99 times out of 100) comes down to what you look like. The snap decisions that people make are the ones that usually end up affecting you, and those are made before they know you – they’re made when they see you. I’m relatively light-skinned, I suppose (though I never was good at judging), but no one would assume that I was white.

So I figured that was how the categories fell. I might actually be mixed, but my exterior is unambiguously non-(pure)white.

This is why I don’t have a problem with other mixed people claiming one race for ‘practical’ purposes.

We know that we are mixed. We know our racial background, for the most part anyway, but the issues of race in this country are inextricably tied to the visual. Sitting behind the computer screen, I could write a blog which never discussed my race, and possibly pass for white. I could conduct business strictly over the phone and [as I’ve been told I sound just like my mom, who is white] possibly pass for white. And passing is all that matters.

Because the whole race thing is nothing more than about perception. This is why white people have historically been so angry when they find they’ve been fooled by folks who were passing. It shines a bright light on the fact that black people are people and in their humanity are otherwise indistinguishable from whites.

This does not mean that I necessarily become what you perceive me to be. However, your perception of me will highlight traits and circumstances that reinforce your perception. That’s what prejudice is all about. It’s how prejudice can grow into racism.

And so I grew up showing people pieces of who I was, but not everything, because I could tell it wouldn’t have mattered. The seemingly incongruent pieces would fall away unnoticed, or effectively shut down the relationship altogether.

I still remember going to Vacation Bible School with my next-door neighbor. Greater Mount Canaan Missionary Baptist Church. (You guess the majority ethnic group represented.) So there we are, in our class, doing some kind of craft. I guess I was about 10 yrs old, and there was a boy that was kinda cute sitting one chair down from me. We had flirted a couple nights already, and this was shaping up to be a full-fledged 10-yr-old summer crush. My mom came to pick my sister and I up, and when she came in the craft room to get me, the boy said – “That’s your mom?”

I said, “Yeah”. And I got up to leave with her.

The rest of VBS this boy wouldn’t speak to me. At all. And though it means absolutely nothing, he was actually lighter that I am.

Before he know who my mom was, I was passing. Once he knew otherwise, I was nothing.

I think that’s how it works either way, when you’re dealing with racist people. My sister gets it more from white people because she can pass for a white girl with a good tan. She says that being in the Midwest is difficult because it is much more frequent for people to completely flip on her when they find out she’s mixed.

I get it. So when Barack says he’s black – when commentators, pundits, journalists call him black – I get it. If you’re walking down the street in Anytown, USA and people see you, they will automatically assign a race to you, prior to getting close enough to start a conversation. Generally, you’re either black or white. As the numbers for other racial minorities in America increase, the chances for a more-than-binary system increase. But more often, those that don’t fit into the binary are just given a blanket ‘foreigner’ designation, and are dealt with that way.

So it’s not about denying one side or the other. I know who I am. My friends get to see me. But if you’re not interested in my story, I’ll know how to deal with you – because I’ve been doing it all my life.

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BElaTed awards

Totally slept on the BET awards when they first aired. So, since I knew they’d be re-aired from now til the end of the year, I just dvr-ed that sucker last night.

I read a snippet of commentary about Usher’s performance, but I am not otherwise prejudiced about the show.

This is basically the only time of year that I watch BET. Once it changed hands, I decided there was probably no reason left for me to tune in. I actually think i should probably turn it on at random intervals so I can catch some music videos, but otherwise…BET’s never been huge for me.

The show open was spectacular, contrary to what I’d read. Usher was lippin’ it, but his dancing didn’t look like the moves of an old man to me. He did good, and he kept it up throughout the song. I’ve had a crazy love/hate relationship with Usher ever since ‘You Will Know’ & ‘U Make Me Wanna’. His music was cool, and spoke to me in a way other music didn’t at the time, but whenever I read an interview with him, his personality ego came screaming off the page. From everything I’ve seen, he doesn’t need me as a fan, since he loves himself so much. So, for me to say that he did a good job with the show open ~ that’s saying something.

Lovely to hear MC Lyte’s voice – I was actually kinda hoping she’d be the host, but apparently it’s DL Hughley. He’s ok. But he completely ripped off the Daily Show for a joke about that whole Kanye/GWB thing. Wyatt Cenac said it first.

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Repurposing material kinda makes him seem like a hack, but maybe he just assumed that the audiences wouldn’t overlap. Which actually might be worse.

Actually DL is not funny….oh well.

The 1st presenters are Jennifer Hudson and Terrence Howard. They both have albums dropping in September and now it is clear why I had that lovely moment last month at Sony. [I totally forgot to mention this, didn’t I?] When I was in NYC, before we left for Rome, we hung out with a couple of friends who work at Sony, and we took the elevator down to the lobby as we were leaving. As I was stepping out of the elevator, some eager beavers were stepping in, and this tall, fine man bumps into me. Literally inches from his face, I look into the green eyes of Terrence Howard, and he apologizes and excuses himself and continues his conversation with whoever else it was that got on the elevator with him.

So, of course, all I’m thinking as I watch the exchange between Jennifer Hudson and Terrence Howard is – I have a beautiful voice….

But anyway. Chris Brown got best R&B male artist and there’s no argument from me.

Young Jeezy got everybody hyped with Put On. Lil Wayne and Diddy were bobbin’ their heads, but Chris Brown and Rihanna were actually gettin’ crunk. Kanye was ok…but Jeezy was doin’ his thing already, so folks were as hype as they were gon’ be.

Best male athlete: Kobe. [This category seems dumb to me. Why are athletes getting awards from BET??]

Keyshia Cole is not that great a performer. And I wanna like her, so much. I do like her. But the whole performance thing just didn’t cut it. It seemed like she didn’t know when to sing and when to dance. Or maybe she was just so excited she was dancing more than she shoulda been and then lost her breath to be able to sing. Lil Kim was cool in ‘Let it Go’, but I hated that Keyshia ended on a note that was off.

Fitting that MC Lyte introduced Cuba, Nia, and Morris [Boyz N the Hood]. All I could think as I was staring at their old behinds was that I must be old, too. AAaack. That, and Cuba must be high.

Best female hip-hop artist: Missy.

I haven’t seen the video for this Ne-Yo song, so I’m kinda taken aback at his dancing ability. He’s an incredibly talented songwriter, definitely better looking with a hat on, and getting serious brownie points for putting the mack down on Queen Latifah.

Um. Was. ..was that? the Jabberwockeez? woo.

You know what? LL must be getting close to 50. Oy. He and Ashanti are kinda mismatched to present, right?

Best new artist: The Dream.

Alicia Keys pulled out a good performance of ‘Teenage Love Affair’ though I’m not into her hair. And then she starts singing ‘Weak’ – and I’m like what? And then SWV’s on the stage and I’m in a full-on 90s flashback, singing along with ALL the words because I freakin’ KNOW this song. But it’s not over! A few bars and…I know she didn’t get all four of the members of En Vogue back together to sing ‘Hold On’ – what? There’s more? TLC and ‘Waterfalls’? Uh oh. Uh oh. I’ma do the rap – cuz I gotta (from memory):

I seen a rainbow yesterday
but too many storms have come and gone
leavin’ a trace of not one God-given ray
Is it because my life is ten shades of gray
I pray all ten fade away – seldom praise Him for the sunny days

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weird dudes

For some reason, I have had my fair share of ‘weird dude experiences’ (WDE).  In fact, I’m sure if you get a group of women in their 20s and 30s together, you could have a little festival to celebrate surviving multiple WDE.

When I was a young teenager I ran into a lot of the ‘psst’ guys.  Mostly kinda old [20s or older, sometimes MUCH older], sometimes grody-lookin’ dudes who decided that the best method of getting my attention was doing a stage whispered ‘PSST!’ repeatedly, until I looked their way.  The first time this happened to me, naive as I was, I thought there was actually something the dude wanted to tell me.  Like – information or something.

I learned.

And it only took one time for me to begin to completely ignore these weirdos.  Completely ignore in the way of being completely aware of them and their spatial relationship with me at all times until we are no longer in any real proximity, but not actually making any eye contact or speaking.  Not out of fear so much, as just uncomfortable-ness.  I actually tend not to be afraid, sometimes when [in retrospect] perhaps I should have been.

My dad tells me that guys do this because it works.  That’s actually kind of upsetting, if it’s true.

Then, there are other dudes.  Random weird dudes that approach you because – why?  I’m not entirely sure.  Maybe I’m not having enough fun and he’s just the man for me – that could be it, every once in a while I get some old dude hollering at me about how I should have a smile on my face.  That is freakin’ annoying.  That’s happened to me ever since I was a kid, and I don’t really understand it.  Yeah yeah yeah, we all learned that it takes more muscles to frown than to smile – but I had to actually sit my dad down and talk to him about that: “It still takes some muscles to smile.  Why can’t I just not have an expression, sometimes?”

Not to mention the fact that sometimes I am not in the mood to smile, and I believe I have that right.

but I digress.

Weird dudes approach – in any locale – and sometimes get as far as asking for my number.  Now, when there’s forethought, sometimes I can tell a good lie.  ‘Good’ in that it’s believable and delivered well.  But most of the time, in the midst of a WDE, I’m uncomfortable and maybe a little flustered – this is a combination that often leads to the straight up truth.  I think I’ve ended up giving out my real number twice, cuz of that.  Both times were big mistakes, but at least they didn’t turn out to be crazy maniac killers.

Thank God.

My biggest problem was that I didn’t have callerID or screen (w/my answering machine, as I do now) at the time, and every time the phone rang it was a nightmare.

But apparently a poor girl named Olga has won this year’s award for top WDE. (via Shakesville)

(transcript)

That WDE would freak the crap outta me.

dancin’ dancin’ dancin’

I am a dancing show addict, and SYTYCD  feeds my soul.

So, I’m loving tonight.

Kherington and Twitch were great in hip-hop.  Although, I barely saw Kherington, since Twitch was on fire (in his element).  Busta Rhymes, Tabitha & Napoleon, and Twitch.  Perfect combo.

Courtney and Gev made the rumba look like hot sex on a platter.  Seriously.  The slide down Gev’s leg started out so lovely – then it got a little awkward.  It was a beautiful piece, though, and frankly amazing that Courtney could dance with only half a dress on (beautiful tho it was).  All in all, I think the choreography allowed them to shine, because the steps didn’t demand too much.

Comfort and Chris and jazz…to ‘Beautiful People’ by Marilyn Manson?  Weird me out.  Weird me out like crazy.  The judges should’ve talked about the disconnect between the choreography and the music, but I think they went easy on Tyce cuz he was there.

Will and Jessica’s disco.  Seemed a bit sloppy actually.  There were long portions of this routine that fell flat, in my opinion.  There were moments that Will stole the shine in a big way, and I just didn’t think Jess could hold a candle to him.  I wonder who would partner him better…I dunno

Kourtni and Matt do their own genre: contemporary.  Sometimes I don’t get contemporary.  I was looking for the ‘freeze frames’ for the comic book story, but I didn’t quite see them.  The synchrony was lovely, and I like these guys, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re in the bottom 3 couples tomorrow night.

Chelsea T. and Thayne meet the quickstep.  Oh scary.  Not too bad, though.  It seemed slow in places, but the footwork was cooler to watch in the 2nd half than the first.  Quickstep is not my cuppa, so eh.  ‘Nother bottom 3 couple.

Chelsea H. and Mark.  (Mark really looks like this guy that I know who’s in the Navy.  Apropos of nothing, but whatev.)  Woo.  Hip-hop.  I like Napoleon and Tabitha’s routines.  Wow.  They really did it.  And the song choice was su-perb.

This is something I think more of the choreographers need to consider – song choice.  Choosing some obscure song no one’s ever heard, or a song that people do not associate with the emotion supposedly coming from the choreography only hurts the performers.  (I’m lookin at YOU Tyce.)

Katee and Josh do the samba.  Very well.  I’m no ballroom judge, but I thought this was awesome!  Katee and Josh’s personalities mesh so well, they just look beautiful on the floor.  These guys are the couple to beat, IMO.  No one delivers like they do.  NO ONE. [PS – Nigel asking if Josh got his butt from his father?  TMI.  And a tad uncomfortable.  For me, anyway.]

I dunno how things are gonna turn out tomorrow night, but I think there should be an elimination of choreographers who choose awful music, along with dancers who don’t make the cut.  We’ll see.

definitely, maybe: gently viewed

Looking for a movie that’s sweet, low-key, with at least one hot guy? A mellow romantic comedy with some 90s nostalgia thrown in? Definitely, Maybe is it.

With a cast including Ryan Reynolds, Abigail Breslin, Rachel Weisz [who I will always love b-cuz of the Mummy movies], and Isla Fisher [who is apparently starring as Becky Bloomwood when Confessions of a Shopaholic finally debuts next year – yay!], this movie delivers the feel-good you just might need in the growing conflagration of sorrow that seems to be exploding this summer.

As a complete bonus, if you love NYC and you were fond of the 90s, this movie will take you back. Maybe I’m gushing, here, but I feel like this was just what the doctor ordered. It entertained, was aesthetically pleasant, and took me back to my own memories of the 90s – some of which were due for a bit of dusting off.

In summary, Ryan Reynolds is Abigail Breslin’s father, and after much cajoling on her part, he begins to tell her the story of how he and her mother ended up together. It’s a complicated story, and this story is the meat of the movie. Several women come in and out of his life, and we (along with his daughter) are carried along for the mysterious journey to discover just which one became her mother.

This movie was very satisfying for me, and I could see watching it again and again when it inevitably comes on We or Oxygen or Lifetime, or TBS or TNT or USA, or whatever.

Last but not least, this movie revived the memory of that long ago day in my dorm room, when I first heard Kurt Cobain and ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’. That really was the birth of the 90s. A new sound in rock, there were new sounds in hip hop and pop, the world was changing and I believed in everything back then. So before my digression takes over, reminisce with a bud and see this movie.

nothing but the ice

I’ve been mulling over a lot in the last few weeks.  Life is happening, and I’m still kickin’, but I’m battling some severe apathy right now.  Sometimes it gets like that, and I’m not sure if it’s fatigue-related or what, but here I am.

Right now, I’m thinking about how teeth-grittingly peeved I was when I read this.  Commentary from here to there echoed many of my thoughts, and I just wanted to watch dancing shows and not think about it.  (And of course, this means I have the joy of knowing that Susie‘s gone, even though I kinda started to feel sorry for her at the end.  Eh.  I did not like her.  Her dancing was all over the place.)

My point?  I just knew R. Kelly was finally going to jail.  He was on freaking video, y’all.  I didn’t watch the vid, but a friend of mine sent me the stills back whenever they first broke [forgetting that I in NO way wanted to see them].  I’m a believer in the idea of innocent until proven guilty.  But when the defense says to me – “who you gonna believe? Us or your lying eyes?”  I choose my eyes.

Video is a powerful exhibit.  I thought it’d be enough.  I should’ve known better.

When you come out and call yourself something like the Pied Piper, I start thinking that you’re just laughing about getting away with murder child rape.  The story of the Pied Piper is one about how a grown man takes advantage of selfish/ignorant parents and lures children into a situation they think is wonderful, but in reality removes them from their homes and families forever.  Tell me again how that’s not making a mockery of this situation?

Those that have the gall to come up with some victim-blaming excuses are inexcusable, in my book.  This girl was thirteen (13!) at the time the video was shot.  Over and over, though, it comes down to the woman’s responsibility to shut a man down for any type of sexual abuse.

It makes me tired.

And I wasn’t looking for much.
Just. ice.