Why This Internet Thing Works – For Me

I first got online in 1995, when AOL was sending those CDs to your house like you had joined a Columbia House for the Internet. I never officially learned to type (since I didn’t get that in school), but I was 15 and bored, so I got into chat rooms, and learned my own way of keeping up with the conversation without writing in l33t speak, or similar. That skill is one I still use today.

When my parents got divorced 2 years later, the friends I made online served as my escape from the weirdness in my house. I even ended up meeting one. I soon moved on to things like LiveJournal and OpenDiary, and made more friends and wrote out the very corniest, angsty, teen diatribes in my various blogs. (I think MySpace was the worst – I had teenage angst beyond my teen years).

But it wasn’t until I moved to Podunk, SC, 8 years ago, that I really learned how valuable this whole internet community really is for me. I didn’t pay much attention to formal blogs until I read a piece in B*tch about Carmen Sognonvi and her blog Racialicious. It just so happened that earlier that week I had read in the local paper about 3 teenage boys who had been arrested for “lynching” someone in a nearby town. (The SC definition of lynching is any act of violence by two or more people against another, regardless of race. This was not the definition I was familiar with.) That story shocked me, and I knew that I needed to have some outlet to read and talk with people like myself, than those I encountered when I first moved here.

From there, I found SO many blogs and I learned SO much. I never took any critical feminist or race theory classes in college (in part because they weren’t offered), and a lot of the discussions I stumbled upon were completely new. In a new place, semi-friendly place, the internet became my link to the “outside world”.

I devoured Racialicious, and from there found zuky (who’s now on tumblr) and resistance and SepiaMutiny and brownfemipower and shakesville and nezua and a bunch of others, really. Too many to count – many no longer write. I learned about intersectionality, I found out that there were waves in feminism (and that I am somewhere around wave 2.5 with womanist leanings) – oh yeah – I found out there’s something called womanism and hip-hop feminism.

I witnessed lots of disagreements – this is the internet! There were all kinds (feminist ones, anti-racist ones, womanist ones, scandals centering around one person or another [Marcotte, Schwyzer <I&II>, DiFranco, the Walkers]. But I saw how people helped each other pick up the pieces and regroup, and turn out the lights or move on as the case was at different times.

In the mean time, my life changed. My sister went to law school and took critical theory classes and we discussed academic terminology I still wasn’t fully familiar with, but now I knew the concepts they referred to (more than just those I’d already lived through). I went through all kinds of weird stuff at work, and gained crazy responsibility with no training or experience, and I heard about a podcast that sounded interesting. I don’t even remember how Blacking It Up appeared on my radar, but it did.

I didn’t have the energy to maintain a blog anymore, but listening to a podcast was just my speed, and TWiBIU hit the spot. I never could listen live, so when Google+ came along, and the community from the chat room migrated there, I joined. It was my only connection to a huge group of folks that I understood on multiple levels. An online family. I began listening less regularly over the last year, but still connect with folks on G+ on a regular basis. But the Trayvon Martin verdict last year had me shook, and though they were on hiatus at the time, TWiB did several live weekend shows. I listened and cried for two days, along with the many who called in. And if I never listen to another show, if I never get on G+ again, the community I felt a part of those days were worth it.

Living where I live, people often make comments about “that gay marriage thing”, or how “they’re letting boys in the girls’ bathroom in California”, or how the country is going to hell because of Obamacare. I spend a lot of time actively ignoring the news when I am around other people because I don’t want to get pulled into discussions I know will quickly devolve. My diplomacy skills have grown by leaps and bounds, but it’s still a tightrope walk.

Even the brown people here are conservative. I work with a black guy who has some serious issues with gays, an Indian guy who has issues with the poor, and a Mexican guy who doesn’t understand why poor people have kids. They’re all in their early 50s, but this is common even for young people.

So the online community I have fashioned for myself, while it has changed and always will, is an enhancement of my home. My refuge. And my connection to the world. It challenges me, teaches me, makes me laugh, cry, think, and sometimes even change.

I am more aware, more accepting, and more educated than I was. I am better. Because of this internet thing.

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put your war clothes on

After a basically funky month, I am tired.  Work has been busy and bananas, as I lost an employee today, after the most bizarre manner of resignation I have yet observed.  Not that I have the most experience.  Anyway, I had to travel for work, and ended up in New Orleans during the week before Mardi Gras.  That’s actually kinda fun.  And I got beads.

went for work - came home with beads.

Got sick on the plane ride home and it lasted through the beginning of the week.  Really, I’m still occasionally coughing now, so I suppose it’s lingering.  Anyway – because I needed so much sleep at the beginning of the week I was completely behind on my Blacking It Up/AfterBlack listening this week (I’m still not done).  So a lot of news got to me in a short period of time.

And apparently it broke me.

In fact, I’m not altogether sure I wasn’t already broken earlier this year when my idiot friend proclaimed on FB that she doesn’t believe in Civil Rights legislation.  But then there were 20 GOP debates, Newt dogwhistling everything, Santorum considered an actual real candidate, Arizona’s taking text books away from children, Texas wants to end affirmative action, and mother-effing Virginia literally wants to institute state-sanctioned rape in order to limit abortions.  Yeah.  Trans-vaginal ultrasounds involve the insertion of a wand into a woman’s vagina.  There is no medical requirement that this (by definition) invasive procedure be performed prior to abortion.  It is simply a law the VA state legislature wants to mandate for any woman planning to get an abortion in the state.  Regardless of whether the woman wants the intrusion.

Coerced vaginal insertions = rape.

Just so you know.

This war on women isn’t even underground anymore.  It’s freaking blatant as anything.

The racism hasn’t calmed down either, though.  Some doofus called Whitney a stupid n-word, and two different racist videos from doofus high school students have been in the news this week.  Not to mention the Linsanity business.

Newt’s moonbase is actually starting to sound good, right about now.  Cuz Earth has too much crazy to be sustainable.  Speaking of sustainable – I almost forgot about the Cult of the Green Dragon.  Sigh.

Thanks to TWIBIU for keeping me informed.  This was kind of a depressing news week, though…maybe next week I’ll eat candy and dream about unicorns or something.

shy history book review: falling for the girl who fell

Have I mentioned how awesome my bday month has been?  There were, of course, the gifts – and the friends – and the homemade red velvet cake – all delightfully spread throughout the month to give a special savor to March, this year.  Shoot, even Psych got in on the act, saving the best episode this season (Mr. Yin Presents) for my actual birthday.

It began in February, when I inexplicably went on a book-buying frenzy [a few times a year it must be done], and randomly picked up a slim, dark blue, hardcover with a simple cover art and an intriguing title: The Girl Who Fell From the Sky.  I hadn’t heard of it, but read the blurb, and paged through to get a feel for the writing.  [This is how I choose all the books I read.]  The blurb grabbed my attention, immediately:  “Rachel, the daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I., becomes the sole survivor of a family tragedy after a fateful morning on a Chicago rooftop.  Forced to move to a new and strange city, with her strict African American grandmother as her new guardian, Rachel is thrust for the first time into a mostly black community, where her light brown skin,  startling blue eyes, and beauty bring a constant stream of attention her way.”

Maybe it shouldn’t have – but it’s so rare that I come across a book with a biracial heroine …umm…I can’t even think of another one right now – but maybe I’ve read one…I’m sure I have…I think.  Anyway, I read this book (this month) and really enjoyed it.

The style of writing make the book an easy read, even with some heavy stuff going on – and I have to admit there was a moment when I put the book down and just cried.  That’s not normal for me.  I was crying on behalf of the father, and I couldn’t stop.  So there I sat, in the Ford reading room, as I waited for my car’s oil change/checkup to be completed, crying over a book.

There are a few similarities between the protagonist and I, considering we have white moms and black dads, and our parents met in Germany.  But this girl who fell – while I see some aspects of myself in her, her story is miles apart from my own.

I remember growing up not-quite-white.  To borrow a quote from Thea I just saw tonight:

I definitely got the “the world will be yours message!” from my white mama. Imagine how confused I was when it didn’t work out. But I digress.

This is exactly the message I got.  The message Rachel’s mama started out believing.  The message Rachel started out believing.  I’ve been muddling my way through this race-crazy world ever since I landed on solid ground.  My head sometimes still likes to take off for the clouds, but it’s different now.  When I was little, sometimes I would actually forget I was brown.  And I wasn’t prepared for the way the world worked.  I’ve always been optimistic, prone to giving people the benefit of the doubt, and willing to be friends with anyone who wanted to be friends with me.  This often lead to overlooking comments, or the trends of who my friends’ friends were.

Our ideas of what life is like – what our lives will be like – are so shaped by the pictures we get from our parents, and mine was no different.  I imagined great and wonderful things – a possible presidency even, prior to understanding the hellacious nature of the job.  And really, when I was very young, most of what my parents focused on was teaching me that no one could keep me from doing whatever I wanted to do, just because I was a girl.  We didn’t really talk about color in our house until I was older. And even then, it was only dad, saying that he wanted to prepare us for things that mom hadn’t had to go through – for a world that would see us differently that it had seen her. But by then I was unreceptive, largely because we hadn’t talked about it when I was younger, and I was inclined to disbelieve comments about prejudice inherent in the system.

I finally started catching glimmers of de facto life in seventh grade, when my best friend in school – a fellow nerd – and I were talking about people in our class we thought were cute/we’d like to date.  He suggested a 10th grade boy for me, because he was one of the only two brown guys at school [the other being in K4]. (I decided not to mention my crushes on guys that were actually in our grade.)  Then, when I called a friend from my first yr in college and she told me they’d brought another brown girl into the program to replace me/fill the quota, I laughed.  She didn’t.  She told me she was serious.  But I was just scratching the surface.

I’ve learned a lot in the meantime.  Nothing like real-world demonstrations [i.e. The School of Hard Knocks] to speed your education in the ways of privilege. And being able to talk about issues with my dad [even though his feminism is full of holes] helps me get perspective on a lot of things that I’m just beginning to understand.  But I’m still optimistic.  Hopelessly.

And I notice the girl who fell has got two long braids just like I used to – and I’m glad my daddy was there to catch me when I fell.

embarrassment

i love enrique vasquez, wish i coulda seen him as angel

i love enrique vasquez, wish i coulda seen him as angel

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve had a really hard time dealing with embarrassment.  Sometimes I think I handle my own better than other people’s.  This causes problems for me when I’m watching movies.  I can’t take a lot of scary movies – but normally, I can watch them if I put the movie on mute.  I do this with embarrassment, too.

So this evening, I’m watching He’s Just Not That Into You.  This movie is almost hurting me.  It starts off with a tiny homage to the book [which didn’t totally suck] basically saying that dudes that don’t call, aren’t interested.  It’s true that culturally [that would be USAmerican culture], women are taught to obssess, to build up all the nothings into something.  But the foolishness in this movie?  Unbelievable.

I spent about half of this movie completely uncomfortable.  On mute.

It’s just disappointing…when you chuckle twice in a ~2hr movie.  And when a movie that’s (marginally) aimed at your demographic spends more time making you uncomfortable than making you laugh, or identifying with the characters….oooh wee.  Best part of the movie?  Getting to see Wilson Cruz again.  He doesn’t get enough work.  I hate that I missed him in Rent.

I just can’t stand watching women being portrayed as stupid and desperate over and over.   I had higher expectations.  Not really high.  But higher.

it’s only logical

I’ve been catching hell at work lately.  The last week and 1/2 have been SO way better.  But there’s no telling how my review is going to go next month.  Let me explain.

No, there is too much – let me sum up.

I’ve been working on a project for over a year.  One specific test [Fe content] will not work.  The method isn’t complicated, it just doesn’t work.  I’ve had other people try it, and they’ve gotten the same results that I got.  I’ve gotten pointers and suggestions – nothing helps.  My boss has been content to let me spin my wheels, until the end of last year.  There wasn’t much in the way of support from her.  She applied more pressure as time went by, coming up to most recently saying that I need to stop “messing around”.  [Like I enjoy working on something and failing every single day.  Oh and getting yelled at every day.  In front of my coworkers.]

I planned to visit NYC to see my sister, and got my vaca approved in Feb.  Later my boss said I wouldn’t be able to go unless the project was completed.  Finally, she took this test away and gave it to someone else – along with way more support than she’d ever given me.

I can go on my trip [I leave tomorrow after work], I’m getting way more done [I have 3 other projects at work, besides this], but because she took the project from me, my review will most likely be really crappy.  My only consolation is that the test isn’t working any better for my coworker than it was for me.

I haven’t needed a vaca this bad since last year when my boss was being awful.  But I am SO glad to be going.

in-the-heights1I’ll be seeing a few shows and eating phenomenal food and having a great time – cuz I need it.

One more day of work – and then I’m R-U-N-N-O-F-T.  For a few days, anyway.

Maybe sometime I’ll delve into the reasons that whenever I mention issues with my boss, people make comments about her being a woman, as though her erratic/mean behavior is connected to her two X chromosomes.  Or they posit that it’s a hormonal issue.  AAAAAAAAAAAACK!  Yes, she’s bizarre and randomly heinous, but I don’t think it’s linked to gender, people.

quick shout-out

b-word is my total FAVE magazine and they’re in trouble.

I don’t wanna tell folks how to spend their money – ‘specially when we’re in such dire financial straits as a country – but folks, this publication is worth your help.  We all need a hand every once in a while, and these gals are in the non-profit, tryin-not-to-be-beholden-to-the-man, business.  It’s a tough business.  Lehman Brothers couldn’t hack it without help, why would you think a small, independent, feminist magazine could?

That’s right – if you have a dime you can send their way – please do so.  If not – send happy thoughts, and tell your rich friends to send some money for you (and them too).

Also, don’t forget that you can give the totally painless way: GoodSearch.com.  Click on the link to GoodSearch and click in the box that says ‘enter your charity here…’. 

Type in bitch and click the ‘Verify’ button.  Search away to your heart’s content, and each search gives a

penny to the magazine.  Make GoodSearch your default search engine for your browser and use it every time you’re looking for something – every little penny adds up!