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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tears in 2012

When folks started warning that this year was gonna be brutal, I figured they were being a little melodramatic.  I saw the signs: the GOP presidential race was heating up, the war on women shifted into high gear, the economy started looking up a bit.

I think it was the economy getting better that really springboarded a lot of people into action.  It carries a ring of ‘Obama got something right’ to it, and there’s no way the GOPers are going to let that fly in an election year.  And now, the Grand Old Party (and friends) has shifted from far-right to bizarro-right (outright asking brown people for papers, eliminating “ethnic studies”, asking Puerto Ricans to JUST SPEAK ENGLISH, ALREADY; and still saying the n-word [or the new substitute: ninja] whenever they can bring it into the conversation.)

I think I’ve become too old and jaded.  34 has done something to me.  Or rather – my 34th year.

I grew up pretty privileged.  Didn’t have it all by any means, but never worried about basics, never had to share a room, always felt safe…shoot – I didn’t even understand that the rules of life [as it is – not how it should be] applied to me.  I don’t even know if I truly know that now.  I’m still pretty doggone blessed.  But part of being a grown-up has been learning about how the real world works.  And the real world – the one my parents shielded me from, but tried from time-to-time to show me glimpses of – is no walk in the park.  Because I didn’t grow up seeing it like that, I still expect the best from people.  I still am a little surprised when people become their worst selves.

So seeing the talking heads and presidential candidates on the “Right” defend Rush Limbaugh (again), seeing them vilify the President for policies that they were in favor of 8 years ago, seeing them spout unadulterated foolishness about poor people, gays, people of color, and women – it brings my spirits low.  I don’t have a lot of hope about our situation.

It seems that the closer we get to the Brown Apocalypse [the moment when white people are no longer the majority in this country], the more desperate and overt white people [in general] become.  It’s trickling down into some day-to-day interactions with people.  I see the fear when some of these folks ponder their retirement years with The Brown Menace.

And then some vigilante had to go kill a child.

It’s too much.

I’ve been following Trayvon’s story for two weeks, and when I first read about it I was outraged.  Now I’m incredulous.  I know more about it and still I see no sense in it.  Because there is none.

This morning I was listening to Blacking It Up from yesterday, and they played the 911 calls in the upfront.  I ended up crying for about five minutes before I could put in my contacts.  And then some more in the shower.  When will it end?  When will people see?

I’ve seen a lot of great writing about this – different perspectives – different ideas – different experiences.  So here are some other places you should look for facts and commentary about the whole Trayvon Martin travesty. May his killer come to justice and his death bring positive change.

Things You Should Know – Think Progress
Being Good is Never Good Enough – Black Snob
Letter to an Unborn Son – Urban Cusp
Voices Roundup – Racialicious
Framing the Story – Shakesville
It Wasn’t the Hoodie that Made Him ‘Suspicious’ – Global Grind
Gun Laws and How Zimmerman Should Thank the NRA – Mother Jones
Last Words, Police Mishandling, and a Slur? – ABC News

Thanks for reading.  Spread the word.

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.

SYTYCD s.7: broken

Lauren 'n' the dudes - rose among thorns

There is a cloud hanging over SYTYCD this season.  In three weeks, 3 dancers have been injured to the point of not dancing.  We’ll see if Billy Bell will leave tomorrow and be the 3rd dancer to leave the show due to injury this season.

I was never into Billy, but I did see him do something with Lauren that was quite good.  I don’t remember much about it, other than the fact that Lauren makes her partners better – incredibly better.  She did it with Jose, too, I think.  Since Alex is gone, I can’t really get into anyone but Lauren.  I think I want her to win just cuz she’s the only girl left.  But also because she’s really awesome.

Having all-stars on this season has served the show well, but I think it’s obvious that dancing with fellow contestants can sometimes make better art, simply because the shared experience develops a camaraderie that shows up in a connection on the stage.  Lauren’s done well with the all-stars she’s worked with, but many of the guys have floundered, in my opinion.

I think I’m figuring out the issues with Tabitha and Napoleon.  They do well choreographing lyrical hip-hop.  So when they take that road, it usually serves everyone well.  But when they try just straight up hip-hop it comes off forced – faked – a poor substitution for the real thing.  It’s really obvious when it’s held up next to decent Dave Scott pieces [SO glad he’s back, but still missing Shane Sparks].  That was completely clear in the Twitch/Lauren number tonight.  The judges don’t know hip-hop from a hole in the ground, so their critiques are meaningless for me when it comes to hip hop.  [Besides, T&N could get up there and pee on the stage and Nigel would just sit and talk about how they have such a knack from bringing the streets to the mainstream in a way people can understand and relate to.]

note – I guess Robert isn’t getting the kick up from Lauren, that he could’ve gotten.  The judges seemed to like it, except for Mia who apparently wants to shoot “ssss!” from her boobs at Lauren.  To me, tho, Robert was too stiff and looked fake through his shimmy.

Adechike and Jose could’ve totally been better if Jose was replaced with some other guy – I SO wanted Jose to leave last week.  I thought Adechike was light years ahead of Jose.  And I’ve never been a fan of Adechike.  He did ok in his piece with Comfort tonight, tho.

::moment of silence please::

First stepping routine on the show is given to Billy Bell and Kent Boyd – the whitest boys on this show since Benji and Neil.  Does this make anyone else nervous?  Since Billy was out of the running due to a funky knee injury, Twitch stepped in. Kent was 100% better than I thought he would be.  I have to give him respect for that.  And Twitch (my man) was completely great.  Tonight’s dancing overall had hits and misses, but it was enjoyable, nonetheless.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In other news, time is flying by and I have been feeling completely overwhelmed at work  – doing 2 other people’s jobs + my own is stressful enough – my last compadre is out for the rest of the week this week as well.  AACK!  Family sitch’s seems completely up in the air right now, I’m losing two more single friends to engagement and marriage this week, and I’m kind of in a funk.  I was a complete spendthrift last month and paying for it now – literally.  It’s difficult.  I dug a pretty big hole for myself.

Not to mention the world is fastly spinning into the proverbial handbasket, which apparently is signaled by great big racial faux pas in rapid succession [from Hollywood (Mel G) to the White House/Dept. of Ag. – effectively “from sea to shining sea”].  Panicky white folks are calling the NAACP racist because they have the word ‘colored’ in their name, the NAACP is calling black people racist because they saw an edited video some racist white person put together – it’s ridonkulous!

Oh and I’ve been having the CRAZiest dreams.  One night, an old friend decided to take things in a completely different direction – which I was totally into in the dream, but is kinda unsettling when I’m awake.  One night my boss and I were trying to train our new person – something weird was going on – something like – I dunno – the Apocalypse, I think.  One night the old friend who’d been randy the night or two before decided to study the Bible with me instead… And I haven’t even been eating anything weird before bed!

So – maybe the heat is getting to me.  Who knows?

deteriorating conversations: to protect and serve

Recently I’ve been pondering the attitudes that I’ve observed and absorbed about the police and the relationship between people of color and police.  Living where I live, I have very little contact with the police – unless the Mustang lulls me into speeding (and I get caught).  Even though my uncle is a policeman, and I’ve had friends on the force, I don’t generally trust cops.  I never really have.  The institution seems to perpetuate the subjugation of people of color, no matter the race of the officers.

There are stories upon stories of police brutality – even killings – and even though these stories really are a minority, harassment is common.  I know that a lot of people who end up in a life of crime have experienced disadvantages that increase the likelihood that they’ll choose that path, and I can sympathize with that in the abstract.  I’ve never really had to exit my abstractions since I haven’t been so closely touched by crime.  [Certainly, the recent theft of all my music was big to me, but in the grand scheme of things – itty bitty.]

Take the recent story of Aiyana Jones.  Awful police mistake ending in the loss of a 7 yr old.  There really wasn’t enough coverage of the story (surmise your own reasons why), but the coverage that I saw generally discussed Aiyana, the police, and/or the reality tv show that was filming the officers involved.  It was much more rare to run across an article that discussed the impetus for the investigation: the murder of a 17 yr old named Jerean Blake.  It seems the perp was in a relationship with Aiyana’s aunt who lived upstairs (in a separate unit).  Both killings were senseless.

Maybe it wouldn’t have been possible for the police to protect Jerean.  But shouldn’t they have?

And I certainly feel for Aiyana’s family, but what of the scum that chose to kill a kid for looking at him?  In a broader view, what of the kids who choose to join gangs and end up being perps and victims themselves?

Having been placed a lot closer to observing violence in the last couple weeks, I was starkly awakened to the fact that this type of crime [senseless killings] is just as much terrorism as anything mounted by Al Qaeda.  Not that we need completely militaristic methods for deterrents – I’m not even sure that works.

It’s complicated.  We need cops.  But what is it about the justice system that skews the serving and protecting to certain neighborhoods, and the arresting toward other neighborhoods?

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.

the j.o.b.

Life without my work-spouse has had its ups and downs.  My bday was pretty awesome, but the rest of it all has been pretty much all downs.  I really miss having someone to talk to that at least partly gets me – and what I’m talking about.  There’s something to be said for not having to explain yourself all the time.

Since he’s no longer here, I’m getting a lot of his work.  Which can be seen positively, as it ensures that I have something to do.  Unfortunately, there was at least one thing he was doing that I really didn’t want to have a part of.  He worked with the most annoying guy in our group for a week a month, basically.  And now I get to do that.  Oh well – life happens.

Anyway, this morning I happened to overhear a conversation between two white dudes that I don’t really know, while waiting on the rest of my coworkers to come out for a break.  It was so startling to me, that I had to tell someone, but I knew I couldn’t really share it with other people at work, because they wouldn’t even get why I was taken aback by the comments in the first place.  I couldn’t update my facebook, because it was too long to text and I don’t have access at work.  I couldn’t update my blog at work.  I wasn’t going to call my sister in the middle of the day – although I may next time.  And it was bursting out of me – I had to tell someone.  So – I did something a tad bit out of character – I emailed the team @Racialicious cuz I was gonna POP!

the email (sans intro):

This morning in my work cafeteria I was sitting by myself, waiting for my coworkers to join me on break, when I overheard two white dudes talking about the tragedy of the shooting deaths that took place in Juarez this week.

white guy #1:  You know, if we had just invaded and taken over Mexico when we had the chance, we wouldn’t be having all these problems out of there right now.

white guy #2:  Yeah. –pause– But then our next president would probably be Mexican.

this movie is a trip.

white guy #1:  Haha.  Well – at least then he’d be American.

Yup – that’s what it’s like around here.  Apparently, there are still folks who don’t believe our president was actually born in Hawaii.  More scarily, some people think we should’ve expanded the imperialist vision of our country by conquering  Mexico.  Which could only remind me of this movie I watched on Netflix – CSA.  Apparently the Confederacy actually did plan on expanding toward the south – toward Mexico – and beyond.

Nice.